s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: A brief history of Star Trek

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A brief history of Star Trek

It has recently come to my attention that a close friend of mine has a woefully inadequate knowledge of all things Star Trek. Mind you, I don't care that she hasn't actually watched the show (in any of its incarnations), much less that she isn't a "Trekkie" (or "Trekker," or a person who can wage a long argument over the difference between the two), but I feel it's the an important part of our cultural heritage, not to mention an institution that strongly appealed to me at a formative period of my life. As luck would have it, she reads my blog, so I have some hope of righting this wrong.

I don't intend to write anything like a definitive history of the franchise. (There's no way I could compete with Wikipedia, much less Memory Alpha.) Instead, I plan on cranking out a few posts which summarize my own history with the shows, and what I think are some key points.

So, let's start at the very beginning (a very good place to start):

In 1960, television writer Gene Roddenberry came up with a proposal for a new TV show. A fan of sci-fi with experience writing westerns, Roddenberry conceived of his new show as a combination of the two ("Space the final frontier . . ."), with a dash of naval bravado. Six years and two pilots later, Star Trek premiered on NBC.

The basic plot of the show is that the crew of the starship Enterprise, led by the daring and dashing Captain James T. Kirk, fly around the galaxy, looking for trouble if it doesn't find them first. Along the way, they meet aliens, robots, and deal with technological malfunctions.

One of the striking things about Roddenberry's Star Trek was its utopian vision of the future. In the middle of the Cold War and at a time when much of the United States was still segregated, the Star Trek crew was comprised of traditional rivals working harmoniously together: men and women, black and white, Russian and American, human and alien, Scottish and Japanese. (OK, I may be overstating the "traditional rivalry" in that last case.)

The show lasted for two full seasons and was canceled in the middle of the third, after only 79 episodes had been broadcast. Truly an unlikely beginning for a franchise that would eventually include six TV series, 10+ films (the 11th is in post-production), and hundreds of books and other media, not to mention a thriving fanbase with its own subculture.

3 Comments:

At January 30, 2009 4:03 AM, Blogger Queen Zippergut said...

The original StarTrek sometimes scared me as a kid (wimpy, I know) but they are pretty funny now. I will herein admit that I was definitely a Next Gen fan and enjoyed the others, too, but didn't watch Enterprise. Did I miss something good?

 
At January 30, 2009 7:58 PM, Blogger Katya said...

Mmm, I liked Enterprise better than DS9, but I didn't watch it all the way through.

 
At February 04, 2009 1:59 PM, Blogger Ginsberg said...

I'm excited to read future Star Trek posts. But I'm not sure how I feel about this new Star Trek movie, the trailer seems too. . . how do I put this? . . . sexy.

Was Sulu really supposed to be Japanese? (He must be--his name has two syllables in one word, right?) I never thought very much about that when I was watching the show, even though he was one of my favorites (for reasons that aren't entirely clear to me now). I guess I just always thought of him as vaguely Asian and that was enough. What an ignorant, Eurocentric practitioner of orientalism I was back when I was 11 years old.

Keep 'em coming, Katya.

 

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