Created by Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek was one of the most culturally influential
television shows—and perhaps the most influential science fiction TV series—in history. The
original series, which aired in the late sixties, has since spawned five successor series, eleven
movies, a plethora of merchandise, and a multi-billion dollar industry collectively known as the
Star Trek franchise.
The original Star Trek series follows the adventures of the starship Enterprise and its
crew, led by Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), first officer Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy),
and chief medical officer Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley). William Shatner's voice-over
introduction during each episode's opening credits stated the starship's purpose:
“ 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. “
Star Trek During its initial run from 1966 to 1969, Star Trek did not garner substantial TV
ratings and was almost canceled after its second season. A letter-writing campaign by fans,
unprecedented in television, prompted network executives to reverse their decision and
renew the series for a third season. NBC put the show in a disadvantageous timeslot, and TOS
was finally canceled after its third season.
After its cancellation, Star Trek took on a life of its own, becoming more popular and
reaching a much wider audience than when it had originally aired. In the early seventies, a
group of fans decided to hold a convention featuring the original actors: hundreds were
expected, but thousands arrived.
Sometimes anger, sometimes cantankerous McCoy frequently argues with Kirk's other
confidante, science officer Spock, and occasionally is bigoted toward Spock's Vulcan heritage.
McCoy often plays the role of Kirk's conscience, offering a counterpoint to Spock's logic.
The Star Trek franchise has anticipated many current technologies, including the Tablet
PC, the PDA, mobile phones, and the MRI (similar to Dr. McCoy's diagnostic table). It has also
brought to popular attention the concept of teleportation with its depiction of "matter-energy
transport." Phrases such as "Beam me up, Scotty" have entered the public vernacular. In 1976,
following a letter-writing campaign, NASA named its prototype space shuttle Enterprise, after
the fictional starship. Later, the introductory sequence to Star Trek: Enterprise would include
footage of the shuttle, along with images of a naval vessel also called the Enterprise, depicting
the advancement of human transportation technology.
Beyond Star Trek's technological innovations, one of its greatest and most significant
contributions to TV history is its creation of a cast of different races and cultures in the sets.
This became common in television shows in the 1980s, but was controversial and daring in the
1960s. On the bridge of the Enterprise was a Japanese helmsman, a Russian navigator, a black
female communications officer, and a Vulcan-Earthling first officer - among other members.
Also, controversial at its time (in the episode Plato's Stepchildren), was Captain Kirk's kiss with
Lt. Uhura which became a defining moment in television history as it was American TV's first
scripted interracial kiss; there had already been footage of 'real-life' interracial kisses, such as
on news footage and in documentaries.
NASA also employed actress Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura to attempt recruiting
African-Americans and women to become astronauts. Nichols considered quitting her role on
Star Trek during the second season to pursue a different acting job. She was talked out of this
decision by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., who told her that a show that depicted a black
woman working alongside whites in a position of importance helped further the goal of racial