Dammit Jim! Star Trek is Fifty!

“Live long and prosper.” That was Spock’s  Star Trek catchphrase, words immortalized in Leonard Nimoy’s deadpan delivery, matter-of-fact, with hidden layers of emotion. And boy, if anything has lived long and prospered, it’s the Star Trek franchise. Six TV series with a seventh on the way, and thirteen films. It’s hard to believe it all started way back on this day in 1966, fifty years ago.

Star Trek barely made it out of the gate, let alone boldly going where no man had gone before. NBC took a chance on Gene Roddenberry’s futuristic vision of a utopian society exploring the universe, and the network was never comfortable with the show. Deeply rooted in ideas of peaceful coexistence and rational problem solving, Star Trek was an odd duck in the tumultuous latter sixties, juxtaposed against race riots, assassinations and the Vietnam Nam war. Inspired by Westerns, Rodenberry pitched the show as a “Wagon Train to the stars”. What he really wanted was to show how humanity could move past conflict, that our greatness would be found in working together. A very hippie ideal, but one that’s resonated for decades.

The show gave us William Shatner’s iconicly brash and clever man-ham  Captain Kirk, Spock, the wry Dr. McCoy, Scotty the Chief Engineer, Chekhov, Sulu and Uhura, a racially integrated crew for the ages. It launched the many models of the Star Trek Enterprise, the most rebuilt and redesigned flagship ever. And birthed all those other Trek vehicles, The Next Generation and Voyager and so many movies.

But from the get-go the show was on life-support, and limped along for a brief three seasons. While it debuted strong, Star Trek was very middle of the pack for ratings, sitting 52nd out of 94 shows by the end of its first season. NBC wanted to cancel it, but fans’ letter-writing campaigns saved it for a third season outing. After its final cancellation, the show found its true legs in syndication in the early seventies.

Taken as a whole, there’s so many standout moments in the Trek universe. There’s Kirk and Uhura’s kiss, the first interracial kiss on network TV:

There’s Patrick Stewart’s incredible Captain Jean-Luc Picard, and his chilling first appearance as Locutus of Borg:

And of course, in the films, is there anything that can top “KHAAAAAAN!!”?

What are some of your fave Trek moments and recollections? Post em in the comments below!

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