In 1966 a new TV series started its run. No one could have predicted that this science fiction show, described as a “Wagon Train to the Stars” would develop a huge fan following. After its three-year run it would have been even harder to predict that “Star Trek” would eventually lead to four other live-action series, a cartoon series, and 11 movies. It’s understandable that when “TV Guide” came out with its list of Top 25 Cult Shows Ever, “Star Trek” claimed the number one spot.
Last week the newest Star Trek movie opened, bringing in over $75 million dollars on its opening weekend. A reimagining of the “Star Trek” universe, its success showed that “Star Trek” is not quite ready for mothballing. The famous characters created by Gene Roddenberry still have a cultural impact.
Captain James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock; everyone in our culture, even those who have never watched a minute of the Star Trek series or movies, knows who they are. It’s hard to believe that the original pilot for “Star Trek” had Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Pike commanding the Enterprise (Captain Pike shows up in the new movie, played by Bruce Greenwood), his second in command was a woman – played by Majel Barrett, who would marry Gene Roddenberry and also play Nurse Chapel in the regular series – and there was this Martian guy who had no problem showing emotions, Spock (Leonard Nimoy).
When the show was picked up by NBC, Jeffrey Hunter was no longer involved, and William Shatner was cast to play Captain Kirk. Spock became a non-emoting, logical Vulcan, and the U.S.S Enterprise boldly went where few other series went before: it had a diverse crew beyond the typical white male kind seen in other TV shows.
For all the cheesy scenery, klunky fights, and awkward special effects, the series fired and enthusiasm on its fans. Made during the Cold War, the show offered hope that we could survive and eventually travel peacefully to the stars. And yes, aliens may try to steal Spock’s brain or mini-skirted women would need rescuing by Captain Kirk, but the show also gave us a goal that humanity could strive towards.
The canceled series shows its age now, but its themes and characters keep fans wanting more. Mr. Spock made it to #6 on “TV Guide’s TV’s Greatest 50 Characters.”
Now a new movie gives a younger generation a Mr. Spock, seen in a new vibrant way. Captain Kirk is still the smart-mouthed leader he always was. And Dr. McCoy, Uhura, Scotty, Sulu, and Chekhov still keep the Enterprise humming along at warp speed.
“Star Trek” survived into the 21st century and continues its mission to boldly go where no one has gone before. Who could have predicted?