Trek: The Original Series is a science fiction television series
created by Gene Roddenberry and aired between September 8, 1966 to
June 3, 1969, with a total of 79 episodes produced. Although
cancelled after its short run, the program was placed in syndication
and spawned a strong fan following. The success of the program was
followed by five additional television series and ten theatrical
movies. The Guinness Book of Records lists it as having the largest
number of spinoffs. As it was released as Star Trek, in order to
distinguish this first series from the sequels which followed (all of
which comprise the Star Trek universe or franchise), it has acquired
the retronym Star Trek: The Original Series (sometimes shortened to
ST:TOS or TOS).
a utopian vision of the 23rd century, Star Trek follows the
adventures of the starship Enterprise and her crew, led by William
Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk and Leonard Nimoy portraying his
first officer, Mr. Spock. Shatner's voiceover at the beginning of
each episode - with the exceptions of both pilots, "The
Cage" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before" - stated the
the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship
Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to
seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man
has gone before.
Star Trek debuted on NBC in 1966, it was not successful; ratings were
low and advertising revenue was lackluster. For the show's second
season, it was moved to Friday nights at 8:30 P.M. and the threat of
cancellation loomed. The show's devoted fanbase conducted an
unprecedented campaign, petitioning NBC to keep the show on the air,
succeeding in gaining a third season. This was an early example of
television activism. But after the show was moved from 8:30 P.M. to
10 P.M. on Fridays (the 'Death Slot', so named because relatively few
people watch television at that time), ratings remained poor. The
series was cancelled at the end of its third season.
longtime fan of science fiction, in 1960 Roddenberry (above) put
together a proposal for Star Trek, a science fiction television
series set on board a large interstellar space ship dedicated to
exploring the galaxy. Some influences Roddenberry noted were A. E.
van Vogt's tales of the Space Beagle, Eric Frank Russell's Marathon
stories, and the 1956 science fiction film Forbidden Planet.
Roddenberry also had extensive experience in writing westerns that
were particularly popular television fare at the time, and pitched
the show to the network as a "Wagon Train to the stars."
1964, Roddenberry secured a three-year development deal with leading
independent TV production company Desilu (founded by comedy stars
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz). In Roddenberry's original concept, the
protagonist was named Captain Robert April of the "S.S.
Yorktown". Eventually, this character became Captain Christopher
Pike. The first pilot episode, "The Cage", was made in
1964, with actor Jeffrey Hunter in the role of Pike .
envisaged a multi-racial and mixed-gender crew, based on his
assumption that racial prejudice and sexism would not exist in the
23rd century at a time when racial segregation was still firmly
entrenched in many areas of the United States. He also included
recurring characters from alien races, including Spock, who was half
human and half Vulcan, united under the banner of the United
Federation of Planets.
innovative Star Trek features involved solutions to basic production
problems. The idea of the faster-than-light warp drive was not new to
science fiction, but it allowed narrative device that permitted the
Enterprise to quickly traverse space. The matter transporter, where
crew members "beamed" from place to place, solved the
problem of moving characters quickly from the ship to a planet, a
spacecraft landing sequence for each episode being prohibitively expensive.
Star Trek pilot was first offered to the CBS network, but the channel
turned it down for the more mainstream Irwin Allen production, Lost
In Space. Star Trek was then offered to NBC (NBC executives would
later be quoted as saying that the initial pilot script was 'too
cerebral'), and executives were favorably impressed with the concept
and made the highly unusual decision to commission a second pilot:
"Where No Man Has Gone Before". Only the character of Spock
(played by Leonard Nimoy) remained from the original pilot, and only
two cast members (Majel Barrett and Leonard Nimoy) carried on to the
series. Much of the first pilot's footage was utilized into a later
two-part episode, "The Menagerie".
the second pilot, the main characters, Captain Kirk (William
Shatner), chief engineer Lieutenant Commander Scott (James Doohan)
and Lieutenant Sulu (George Takei) were introduced. Chief medical
officer and the captain's confidante Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest
Kelley) replaced Dr. Piper from the first pilot. Lieutenant Uhura
(Nichelle Nichols) became the Enterprise communications officer.
Yeoman Janice Rand (Grace Lee Whitney left) was also on board but at
some point, for reasons never explained on screen, she disappeared
from the show right in the middle of the first season. The Rand
character later returned to the Enterprise in 2271 to serve as a
transporter chief aboard the refitted vessel as seen in Star Trek:
The Motion Picture.
Roddenberry's inclusion of the Asian Sulu and black Uhura, both of
them intelligent, well-spoken professionals, was a bold move when
most television characters of the time were white and those who were
not were often presented in a highly stereotypical manner. Members of
Roddenberry's production staff included art director Matt Jefferies.
Jefferies designed the Enterprise; his contribution was commemorated
in the so-called Jefferies tube, which became a standard part of the
(fictional) design of Federation starships. Jefferies' starship
concepts arrived at a final saucer-and-cylinders design that became a
template for all subsequent Star Trek space vehicles.
also developed the main set for the Enterprise bridge (based on an
original design by Pato Guzman) and used his practical experience as
a WWII airman and his knowledge of aircraft design to come up with a
sleek, functional, ergonomic bridge layout. Costume designer William
Ware Theiss created the striking look of the Enterprise uniforms and
the risqué costumes for female guest stars. Artist and
sculptor Wah Chang, who had worked for Walt Disney, was hired to
design and manufacture props: he created the flip-open communicator,
the portable sensing-recording-computing tricorder and the phaser
weapons. Later, he would create various memorable aliens, such as the Gorn.
series introduced viewers to many ideas which have become common in
science fiction films: warp drive, teleportation, wireless hand-held
communicators and scanners, directed energy weapons, desktop computer
terminals, laser surgery, starship cloaking devices, and computer
speech synthesis. Although these concepts had numerous antecedents in
sci-fi literature and film, they had never before been integrated in
one presentation and most of them were certainly new to TV. Even the
ship's automatic doors were a novel feature in 1966.
Trek made celebrities of its cast of largely unknown actors. Kelley
had appeared in many films and TV shows, but mostly in smaller roles.
Shatner and Nimoy also had previous TV and film experience but
neither was very well-known (although Shatner had starred as the
terrified air traveler in the classic Twilight Zone episode
"Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"). After the episodes aired, many
performers found themselves type-cast due to their roles.
three main characters were Kirk, Spock and McCoy, with writers often
playing the different personalities off each other: Kirk was
passionate and often aggressive, Spock was coolly logical, and McCoy
was sardonic but always compassionate. In many stories the three
clashed, with Kirk forced to make a tough decision while Spock
advocated the logical but sometimes callous path and McCoy (or
"Bones," as Kirk nicknamed him, short for
"sawbones," a traditional pejorative nickname for doctors)
insisted on doing whatever would cause the least harm. McCoy and
Spock had a sparring relationship that masked their true affection
and respect for each other, and their constant arguments became very
popular with viewers. The Spock character was at first rejected by
network officials who feared that his vaguely "satanic"
appearance (with pointed ears and eyebrows) might prove upsetting to
some viewers. The network had even airbrushed out Spock's pointed
ears and eyebrows from publicity materials sent to the network
affiliates. But Spock went on to become one of the most popular
characters on the show as was McCoy's impassioned country-doctor
personality. Spock, in fact, became a sex symbol of sorts, something
nobody connected with the show had expected.
series was created during a time of cold war politics, and the plots
of its episodes occasionally reflected this. The original series
shows encounters with other advanced spacefaring civilizations,
including the Klingons and the Romulans, both of which were involved
in separate "cold wars" with the Federation.