Star Trek History

Star Trek History

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  1. In the early 1960’s Gene Roddenbury began talking to friends about an idea he had for a science fiction series that would be a spin-off of Johathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. He proposed that each episode would have a dual purpose representing an adventure and a moral issue. He pitched the original Star Trek idea to DesiLu Studios in 1964 as “Wagon Train to the Stars” a western in outer space. The pilot episode was “The Cage” featuring Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike of the Enterprise.

    He had pitched an alternate title, “Horatio Hornblower in Space.” Roddenbury wished to demonstrate racial  issues by providing a crew from unique and socially different racial backgrounds. He introduced a Japanese helmsman,  a Russian navigator, a black female communications officer and a character who was half Vulcan-half Earthling, thus laying the precedent for inter-racial casting. He wanted to reflect political and  cultural issues, wartime issues, diverse governmental protocols, economic and social class distinction and prejudicial issues, religious differences, human rights, women’s rights, sexual distinctions scientific and technological achievements and possibilities and personal loyalties.

    DesiLu rejected Roddenbury’s first attempt but decided to produce the series as “Star Trek” with a pilot called “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” which aired on September 8, 1966 as an American television series running until June 3, 1969. The stars were William Shatner as Captain James T. (Tiberius) Kirk, Leonard Nemoy as “Spock”, DeForest Kelly as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, James Doohan as Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, Nichelle Nichols as “Uhura”, George Takei as Hikaru Sulu and Walter Koeneg as Pavel Chekov.

    The series was set between the years 2364-2370 and won two Hugo Awards for its episodes “The Menagerie” and “The City on the Edge of Forever.” The series presented the first interracial kiss in “Plato’s Step Children,” when Captain Kirk kissed Uhura. The line “To boldly go where no man has gone before” was taken with very little altering from a U.S. White House booklet that was printed in 1957 after the Sputnik flight. Reruns started in 1969 and over the next ten years more than 150 episodes found domestic buyers with 60 international markets purchasing programs.  The result was the birth of a cult following with fans called “Trekkies”, “Trekkers” and even “Niners.” T. V. Guide named Star Trek as the “Top Ranked Cult Show” on the air.

    The original series was scheduled for cancelling in its second year but fans waged a huge mail campaign sending letters and petitions to NBC. The show stayed on but was moved from its primetime slot and its budget was cut. Roddenbury protested by pulling back his assistance which brought about his replacement by Fred Freiberger. The show was eventually cancelled during its third season.

    Star Trek: The Animated Series a product of Filmation in a co-effort with Paramount Television aired on Saturday mornings on NBC in 1973 and 1974. Twenty-two half hour episodes aired. This program won a “Best Series” Emmy on May 15, 1975. Most of the original cast used their own voices in producing the series. Writers included D. C. Fontana, David Gerrold and Paul Schneider from the original series. Nickelodeon played the Trek Animated Series (TAS) for a short time during the 1980’s. Viacom the producer of Nickelodeon purchased Paramount in 1994. The sci-fi channel ran TAS in the 1990’s after the purchase. All twenty-two episodes of TAS were released in 2006 on DVD.

    Paramount Pictures with Roddenbury’s assistance began the creation of a new series just before Paramount Television service collapsed. The first full length movie, “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” aired in America December 7, 1979 produced by Paramount Pictures based on their original efforts toward the new television series. After the filming of this first motion picture Roddenbury began to be relieved of his control.

    There have been twelve Star Trek movies produced to date. The second motion picture “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan” aired June 4, 1982. The third Star Trek movie  “Star Trek: The Search For Spock” hit theaters June 1, 1984. The fourth was “Star Trek: The Voyage Home.”  aired on November 26, 1986. It was the success of these first four movies that brought about the creation of a new television series.

    “Star Trek: The Next Generation” hit television screens across America on September 28, 1987 and ran for seven series. It was the first syndicated Star Trek broadcast. It was set on a new “Starship Enterprise-D” depicting the years 2460-2470. The last show in this series ended on May 23, 1994. This series won the highest ratings of any Star Trek series. It won a Peabody Award for outstanding television programming for the episode “The Big Goodbye.” The Next Generation was the only Star Trek series to ever win a Hugo Award. The Next Generation won multiple Saturn Awards and placed as the best television series twice.

    The series featured Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, and Jonathan Frakes as Commander William Riker. Marina Sirtis portrayed Deanna Troi ship’s counselor a half Betazoid. Michael Dorn played Worf the first Klingon officer in the Star Trek fleet. Gates McFadden played Dr. Beverly Crusher. Wil Wheaten played her son Wesley Crusher. LeVar Burton portrayed the Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge. Brent Spiner was the unforgettable android Data. During the running of this series Gene Roddenbury  died from heart failure at the age of 70 on October 24, 1991. He had previously granted Rick Berman of The Next Generation control of the Star Trek franchise.

    During The Next Generation two new movies hit American screens. The fifth in the series of motion pictures was “Star Trek: The Final Frontier” which aired across America on June 9, 1989. The sixth movie “Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country” was released December 6, 1991.

    “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” was released as a television series on January 3, 1993 and ran seven seasons through 1999. It was syndicated in the United States and Canada. The theme was set after “The Next Generation” and was primarily about life on a Cardasian space station named Terok Nor. This space station was designed by the United Federation of Planets. DS9 was located near the planet Bajor with a not always stable wormhole that provided access to the “Gamma Quadrant.” The cast consisted of Commander and Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), Jake Sisko (Cirroc Lofton), Major Colonel and Bajoran Militia Officer Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor), the changeling Odo (Rene Auberjonois), Chief Medical Officer Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig), Quark (Armin Shimerman), Quark’s brother Rom (Max Grodenchik), Rom’s son Nog (Aron Eisenberg), Worf ( Michael Dorn), Chief Operations Officer Miles O’Brien (Colm Mealy), Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell), Ezri Dax (Nicole de Boer), Grand Nagus Zek (Wallace Shawn), the villain Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo), Dukat’s aide Damar (Casey Biggs), Elim Garak the tailor ( Andrew Robinson), Klingon Commander Chancellor Gowron ( Robert O’Reilly) and Klingon General Martok (J. G. Hertzler.) DS9 was the last series which Roddenbury had any connection with. The seventh in the series of motion pictures was released during the running of DS9. “Star Trek: Generations” hit box offices on November 18, 1994.

    “Star Trek{ Voyager” was released under the new United Paramount Network (UPN) on January 16, 1995 and ran concurrently with DS9. It ran for seven seasons through May 23, 2001. It was set in the time period 2371-2377. The Stars included Captain Kathryn Janeway ( Kate Mulgrew), 1st Officer Chakotay (Robert Beltron), 2nd Officer Tuvok (Tim Russ), Medic Torn Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill), Chief Engineer B’Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson), Operations Officer Harry Kim ( Garrett Wang), Chief Medical Officer “The Doctor” (Robert Picardo), the cook Neelix (Ethan Phillips) and Nurse Kes (Jennifer Lien). Both Kate Muldrow and Jeri Ryan won Saturn Awards for best actress in Voyager. During the filming of Voyager the eighth and ninth motion pictures were produced. “Star Trek : First Contact” was released on November 22 1996 and “Star Trek : Insurrection” was released on December 11, 1998.

    “Star Trek: Enterprise” was the final television series and ran for four seasons from September 28, 2001 until May 13, 2005. It was written to precede the original series by ten years. With the ending of this series Rick Berman was relieved of his control of the Star Trek franchise. The cast of this series consisted of Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula), Sub-Commander T’Pol (Jolene Blalok), Chief Engineer Charles “Trip” Tucker III (Conner Trinneer), Tactical Officer Malcolm Reed (Dominic Keating), Communications Officer Hoshi Sato (Linda Park), Helmsman Travis Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery), Chief Medical Officer Dr. Phlox ( John Billinsley).With the last airing of Enterprise 727 Star Trek episodes had been produced in six television series across thirty seasons of television runs. The tenth motion picture was released during the running of “Star Trek: Enterprise. “Star Trek: Nemesis” was released on December 13, 2002.

    On December 8, 2009 the eleventh movie was released  called simply “Star Trek”. Its writers included Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman with producer J. J. Abrams. The twelfth  movie went public in May of 2013 “Star Trek: Into Darkness”.  The thirteenth Star Trek Movie is scheduled for release in July 2016 “Star Trek: Beyond”  and will celebrate the Star Trek franchise’s 50th anniversary.

    When DesiLu merged with Paramount in 1967 they took ownership of the Star Trek franchise which they owned until 2006 when it was sold minus feature film and DVD distributorship rights to CBS. The Star Trek series has won 31 Emmys. Star Trek the 2009 motion picture won the Academy Award for best make-up.  Star Trek reaches far beyond its various television series and way beyond its motion pictures. It is a true media and mass production franchise. There are Star Trek video and computer games, novels, comic books, conventions and more. The Star Trek franchise has been the influence for Tablet PC’s, the PDA, mobile phones and the MRI which was fashioned after a replica of Dr. McCoy’s diagnostic table. Most of the world still recognizes the phrase “beam me up Scotty”. NASA named a space shuttle “Enterprise” and a Naval vessel was also named “Enterprise.” Both were filmed and used in the introduction in the last “Enterprise” series. 

    Parodies have included Star Wreck, Stone Trek, Galaxy Quest, “Where No Fan Has Gone Before” and the song “Star Trekkin”. There have been Star Trek episodes in Family Guy, Star Gate SG-1 and the Simpsons. The original series won a Saturn Award for best DVD release. The full length films have won Saturn Awards for best actor, actress, director, costumes and special effects.

    Works Cited

    Star Trek, Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, modified 8 November 2015





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