Tuesday, January 19, 2016

To Boldly Go: Star Trek The Original Series

The year 2016 will mark the 50th anniversary of one of the most influential--and longest running--science-fiction franchises: Star Trek. In honor of such a momentous year and a wonderful franchise, each month on The Fangirl Initiative will be dedicated to discussing one aspect of the Star Trek phenomenon. This month, of January, will be dedicated to what started it all: The Original Series.

The History
In 1964, Gene Roddenberry--now known as the creator of Star Trek--pitched the idea for a western in outer space and modeled it after Gulliver's Travels. He wanted every episode to include a suspenseful adventure story and a morality tale. He even first called the show "a Wagon Train to the stars," which was a reference to the 1950s-60s TV show, Wagon Train--a popular western. He had high hopes for the show, wanting it to address current political and cultural issues as well as depict the possibilities of what humanity could become. This included anti-war messages and a racially diverse crew within the show.
"[By creating] a new world with new rules, I could make statements about sex, religion, Vietnam, politics, and intercontinental missiles. Indeed, we did make them on Star Trek: we were sending messages and fortunately they all got by the network."
-Gene Roddenberry

NBC greenlighted the show, and the original pilot, "The Cage," was filmed. This pilot didn't have the famous Captain James Tiberius Kirk or other notable characters like Scotty, "Bones," or Uhura. Instead, the Enterprise was captained by Christopher Pike. The only main character from the original pilot episode to continue on through the show is Spock. (Though, originally, he was considered half-Martian instead of Vulcan.) However, NBC didn't like "The Cage," but they were intrigued by the idea of the show. So they commissioned for a second pilot to be made, "Where No Man Has Gone Before." This episode introduced Captain Kirk and the beloved crew (except for Chekov, he came later).

However, the pilot wasn't the first episode to air. "The Man Trap" was, which aired September 8th, 1966. And that is where Star Trek began. And the rest is history. Or the future, depending.
"Space: 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."

Originally, the show received high ratings. After all, it was one of the first shows of its kind. However, by the time season two rolled around, NBC almost canceled it. A group of fans petitioned the network to keep the show on. So Star Trek lived, for a time. NBC moved it to air on Friday nights, which was considered the "death slot," and reduced its budget. By season three, Gene Roddenberry had resigned as producer in protest. After three seasons and seventy-nine episodes, Star Trek was canceled.

Yet Star Trek continued to live... through the fans (known as Trekkies or Trekkers). Paramount leased the rights and began to air reruns. By 1970, the show had reached a cult phenomenon among the fans. The first Star Trek convention was held in 1972 in New York. Originally, it was estimated a few hundred fans would show up; however, several thousand arrived. Following this, the Animated Series and several movies were created to keep the franchise going. In response to such popularity, The Next Generation was created in 1987.

And the rest is history. Or the future, depending.

The Show
The Original Series follows the five-year mission of the USS Enterprise and its crew, captained by James T. Kirk, during the 2260s. Other crew members include: first officer, Spock; chief medical officer, Dr. McCoy; chief engineer, Scotty; communications officer, Uhura; helmsman, Sulu; nurse, Christine Chapel; yeoman, Janice Rand. Ensign Chekov arrived in season two.

These missions include aliens, planets, and lots of crazy conflicts. From salt-sucking vampires to the Borg to tribbles, there's plenty of excitement on and off the Enterprise. Usually someone dies (usually someone in a red shirt, which coined the term "redshirts"), usually Kirk gets in a fight or he is swooned by a beautiful woman, most of the time there ares jokes and fun dialogue. The show focused so heavily on dialogue, one could simply listen to it like a radio show and it would still reveal a comprehensible plot. It's one of the earliest science-fiction shows to enlist the help of well-known contemporary science-fiction writers.

The show was a blend of action/adventure--with plenty of fist fights, space battles, and explosions--and comedy with witty lines and banter or bickering between characters, especially between Spock and Dr. McCoy.

Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura, was the first African-American woman to hold such an important role in American television. In addition, Star Trek recorded the first interracial kiss on television between Uhura and Kirk.

The show was nominated for many Emmys, won several Hugos, and was ranked the greatest cult show ever.

The Legacy
Thus, Star Trek, despite its rocky start during The Original Series, continues to live through six TV shows (a seventh arriving early 2017 via CBS), multiple motion pictures, comic books, novels, video games, actions figures and other collectibles or toys, and Trekkies across the globe.

Perhaps watching the old 1960s show will make you laugh at the cheesy special effects or over-dramatic acting (Hi, William Shatner). Or maybe you're a true Trekkie and could sit and watch the old episodes for hours on end (like my dad). Either way, something about Star Trek struck a cord in fans during the 60s. It wasn't just a bunch of fangirls or fanboys gushing over outer space adventures; many people who petitioned to keep it on air were doctors or educated scholars such as scientists, university professors, and museum curators.

These fans--despite over-the-top acting or strange new worlds and civilizations--gave Star Trek a chance. Because of them: it still lives today. It's the fandom that just won't die. It's garnered recognition throughout pop culture, developed its own language (Klingon), and inspired technology we use today, like the cell phone. It was definitely a show ahead of its time. It changed the strange new worlds of TV, science-fiction, and pop culture forever.

And the rest is history. Or the future, depending.

(All facts and information comes from Wikipedia. All opinions are my own. Kirk out.) 


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