The year is 1966. It’s the 8th of September, and an ambitious TV show on a tight budget has just made its debut. The Man Trap was generally well received, and Star Trek went into production.
The original series was groundbreaking. It pushed boundaries and explored themes that were more or less taboo in the 60s (such as racism) in clever ways. The message was of equality – after all, the show gave us a black woman (in the 60s, at a point when being black automatically meant you were a second-class citizen, and women’s rights were still developing), a Russian (especially noteworthy given Cold War tensions at the time), an Oriental man (such characters had previously been stereotyped as bumbling assistants), all in positions of authority. This was unfathomable, yet Star Trek did it.
Themes of war, leadership, diplomacy and bettering one’s self became the main stay of Star Trek, but we mustn’t forget the characters! The mere presence of Uhura, Chekhov and Sulu was vital to the show, but characters of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and to a lesser extent Scotty, were the main focus of the series. In particular the trio of Kirk, Spock and McCoy formed a major dynamic of Star Trek, and when people think of Trek, they’ll think of those characters. Sadly DeForest Kelly (McCoy) and Leonard Nimoy (Spock) are no longer with us (and James Doohan, who played Scotty has also sadly passed away), but their legacy is secure.
Star Trek was bold and brave but perhaps it was too controversial for its time. It was originally cancelled after two seasons, but a passionate writing campaign from the fans brought about a third season – however the show would still struggle, and the third season didn’t reach its conclusion and it seemed the saga was over.
Except it wasn’t. Star Trek would become mightily popular in syndication and would even spawn an animated series. Such was the growing interest in the show that the show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, would look into a ‘Phase 2’ project – a revival of the TV series. This plan changed with the 1977 release of the movie Star Wars, and instead, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was made, released in 1979.
From there, Star Trek has spawned 12 more films, and five further TV shows (yes five – Discovery is out next year). It’s continued to tackle challenging and difficult themes and continued to try and show us a better vision of the future. I feel privileged to call myself a Trekkie (I can thank my mother for introducing me to The Next Generation, which is where my personal journey began), and I can’t wait to see what happens next!