Star Trek is an American media franchise based on the science fiction television series created by Gene Roddenberry.
The first television series, called Star Trek and now known as “The Original Series” or “Star Trek: TOS”, debuted on 08 September 1966 and aired for three seasons on NBC.
It followed the voyages of the starship USS Enterprise on its five-year mission, the purpose of which was:
“to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before!”.
The USS Enterprise was a space exploration vessel built by the United Federation of Planets in the 23rd century for Starfleet.
The Star Trek canon includes the Original Series, an animated series, six spin-off television series, the film franchise, and further adaptations in several media (such as books and video games).
Starfleet is a fictional organisation in the Star Trek franchise. Within this fictional universe, Starfleet is a uniformed space force maintained by the United Federation of Planets as the principal means for conducting deep space exploration, research, defence, peacekeeping, and diplomacy.
The United Federation of Planets
In the fictional Star Trek universe, the United Federation of Planets (UFP), commonly referred to as The Federation, is a form of interstellar government.
It is an organisation of numerous planetary sovereignties, and although viewers are never told about the internal workings of the government, many episodes refer to the rules and laws that The Federation imposes on the characters and their adventures.
It is a Representative Republic led by a President based in the capital in San Francisco, California, Earth. This is also were Starfleet headquarters is located.
The survival, success, and growth of the Federation and its principles of freedom have become some of the Star Trek franchise’s central themes.
The general premise of the original series was to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations, to boldly go where no man has gone before!
Although the Star Trek franchise has encountered a plethora of alien species, there are a number of recurring cultures encountered:
- The Dominion.
- And many more.
Star Trek TV Series, Films & Documentaries
You can find a full index of the Star Trek franchise here.
Trivia (Original Conception and Setting)
- As early as 1964, Gene Roddenberry drafted a proposal for the science fiction series that would become Star Trek.
- Although he publicly marketed it as a Western in outer space – a so-called “Wagon Train to the Stars” – he privately told friends that he was modelling it on Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, intending each episode to act on two levels: as a suspenseful adventure story and as a morality tale.
- Most Star Trek stories depict the adventures of humans and aliens who serve in Starfleet, the space-borne humanitarian and peacekeeping armada of the United Federation of Planets.
- The protagonists have altruistic values, and must apply these ideals to difficult dilemmas.
- Many of the conflicts and political dimensions of Star Trek represent allegories of contemporary cultural realities.
- The Original Series addressed issues of the 1960s, just as later spin-offs have reflected issues of their respective decades.
- Issues depicted in the various series include war and peace, the value of personal loyalty, authoritarianism, imperialism, class warfare, economics, racism, religion, human rights, sexism, feminism, and the role of technology.
- Roddenberry stated: “[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.” “If you talked about purple people on a far off planet, they (the television network) never really caught on. They were more concerned about cleavage. They actually would send a censor down to the set to measure a woman’s cleavage to make sure too much of her breast wasn’t showing”
- Roddenberry intended the show to have a progressive political agenda reflective of the emerging counter-culture of the youth movement, though he was not fully forthcoming to the networks about this.
- He wanted Star Trek to show what humanity might develop into, if it would learn from the lessons of the past, most specifically by ending violence.
- An extreme example is the alien species, the Vulcans, who had a violent past but learned to control their emotions.
- Roddenberry also gave Star Trek an anti-war message and depicted the United Federation of Planets as an ideal, optimistic version of the United Nations.
- His efforts were opposed by the network because of concerns over marketability, for example, they opposed Roddenberry’s insistence that Enterprise have a racially diverse crew.
Trivia (TV and Film)
- In creating Star Trek, Roddenberry was inspired by C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower series of novels, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, and television westerns such as the Wagon Train.
- These adventures continued in the 22-episode Star Trek: The Animated Series and six feature films. six other television series were eventually produced: Star Trek: The Next Generation follows the crew of a new starship Enterprise, set a century after the original series; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager are set contemporaneously with the Next Generation, and Enterprise is set before the original series in the early days of human interstellar travel.
- The most recent Star Trek television series, Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard, air exclusively on the digital platform CBS All Access in the US.
- The adventures of the Next Generation crew continued in four additional feature films.
- In 2009, the film franchise underwent a reboot with the creation in an alternate timeline, or the Kelvin Timeline, named after a starship featured in the film Star Trek.
- This film featured a new cast portraying younger versions of the crew from the original show; their adventures were continued in Star Trek Into Darkness (2013).
- Its sequel, Star Trek Beyond (2016), was released to coincide with the franchise’s 50th anniversary.
- An additional television series is in development, Star Trek: Lower Decks.
- Appearing on CBS All Access, it is scheduled to debut in 2020.
- Eight television series make up the bulk of the Star Trek mythos:
- Original Series, Animated Series, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, Discovery, Short Treks and Picard.
- All the series in total amount to 766 episodes across 35 seasons of television (as of January 2020).
Trivia (The Original Series: 1965-1969)
- In early 1964, Roddenberry presented a brief treatment for a television series to Desilu Productions, calling it “a Wagon Train to the stars.”
- Desilu worked with Roddenberry to develop the treatment into a script, which was then pitched to NBC.
- NBC paid to make a pilot, “The Cage”, starring Jeffrey Hunter as Enterprise Captain Christopher Pike.
- NBC rejected The Cage, but the executives were still impressed with the concept, and made the unusual decision to commission a second pilot: “Where No Man Has Gone Before”.
- While the show initially enjoyed high ratings, the average rating of the show at the end of its first season dropped to 52nd out of 94 programmes.
- Unhappy with the show’s ratings, NBC threatened to cancel the show during its second season.
- The show’s fan base, led by Bjo Trimble, conducted an unprecedented letter-writing campaign, petitioning the network to keep the show on the air.
- NBC renewed the show, but moved it from primetime to the “Friday night death slot”, and substantially reduced its budget.
- In protest Roddenberry, resigned as producer and reduced his direct involvement in Star Trek, which led to Fred Freiberger becoming producer for the show’s third and final season.
- Despite another letter-writing campaign, NBC cancelled the series after three seasons and 79 episodes.
Trivia (Post-Original Series Rebirth: 1969-1991)
- After the original series was cancelled, Desilu, which by then had been renamed Paramount Television, licensed the broadcast syndication rights to help recoup the production losses.
- Reruns began in the fall of 1969 and by the late 1970’s the series aired in over 150 domestic and 60 international markets.
- This helped Star Trek develop a cult following greater than its popularity during its original run.
- One sign of the series’ growing popularity was the first Star Trek convention which occurred between 21-23 January 1972 in New York City.
- Although the original estimate of attendees was only a few hundred, several thousand fans turned up. Star Trek fans continue to attend similar conventions worldwide.
- The series’ newfound success led to the idea of reviving the franchise.
- Filmation with Paramount Television produced the first post original series show, Star Trek: The Animated Series.
- It ran on NBC for 22 half-hour episodes over two seasons on Saturday mornings from 1973 to 1974.
- Although short-lived, typical for animated productions in that time slot during that period, the series garnered the franchise’s only “Best Series” Emmy Award as opposed to the franchise’s later technical ones.
- Paramount Pictures and Roddenberry began developing a new series, Star Trek: Phase II, in May 1975 in response to the franchise’s newfound popularity.
- Work on the series ended, however, when the proposed Paramount Television Service folded.
- Following the success of the science fiction movies Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Paramount adapted the planned pilot episode of Phase II into the feature film Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
- The film opened in North America on 07 December 1979, with mixed reviews from critics.
- The film earned $139 million worldwide, below expectations but enough for Paramount to create a sequel.
- The studio forced Roddenberry to relinquish creative control of future sequels.
- The success of the critically acclaimed sequel, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, reversed the fortunes of the franchise.
- While the sequel grossed less than the first movie, The Wrath of Khan’s lower production costs made it net more profit.
- Paramount produced six Star Trek feature films between 1979 and 1991.
- In response to the popularity of Star Trek feature films, the franchise returned to television with Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1987.
- Paramount chose to distribute it as a first-run syndication show rather than a network show.
Trivia (Post-Roddenberry Television Era: 1991-2005)
- Following Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Roddenberry’s role was changed from producer to creative consultant with minimal input to the films while being heavily involved with the creation of The Next Generation.
- Roddenberry died on 24 October 1991, giving executive producer Rick Berman control of the franchise.
- Star Trek had become known to those within Paramount as “the franchise”, because of its great success and recurring role as a tent pole for the studio when other projects failed.
- The Next Generation had the highest ratings of any Star Trek series and became the most syndicated show during the last years of its original seven-season run.
- In response to the Next Generation’s success, Paramount released a spin-off series Deep Space Nine in 1993.
- While never as popular as the Next Generation, the series had sufficient ratings for it to last seven seasons.
- In January 1995, a few months after the Next Generation ended, Paramount released a fourth television series, Voyager.
- Star Trek saturation reached a peak in the mid-1990s with Deep Space Nine and Voyager airing concurrently and three of the four Next Generation-based feature films released in 1994, 1996, and 1998.
- By 1998, Star Trek was Paramount’s most important property; the enormous profits of “the franchise” funded much of the rest of the studio’s operations.
- Voyager became the flagship show of the new United Paramount Network (UPN) and thus the first major network Star Trek series since the original.
- After Voyager ended, UPN produced Enterprise, a prequel series.
- Enterprise did not enjoy the high ratings of its predecessors and UPN threatened to cancel it after the series’ third season.
- Fans launched a campaign reminiscent of the one that saved the third season of the Original Series.
- Paramount renewed Enterprise for a fourth season, but moved it to the Friday night death slot.
- Like the Original Series, Enterprise ratings dropped during this time slot, and UPN cancelled Enterprise at the end of its fourth season.
- Enterprise aired its final episode on 13 May 2005.
- A fan group, “Save Enterprise”, attempted to save the series and tried to raise $30 million to privately finance a fifth season of Enterprise.
- Though the effort garnered considerable press, the fan drive failed to save the series.
- The cancellation of Enterprise ended an eighteen-year continuous production run of Star Trek programming on television.
- The poor box office performance in 2002 of the film Nemesis cast an uncertain light upon the future of the franchise.
- Paramount relieved Berman, the franchise producer, of control of Star Trek.
Trivia (Kelvin Timeline, Reboot: 2005-2016)
- In 2005, Paramount’s parent company Viacom split into two companies, the CBS Corporation owner of CBS Television Studios, and Viacom owner of Paramount Pictures.
- CBS owned the film brand while Paramount owned the film library and would continue the film franchise.
- Paramount was the first company to try to revive the franchise, which it hired a new creative team to reinvigorate in 2007.
- Writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman and producer J. J. Abrams had the freedom to reinvent the feel of the franchise.
- The team created the franchise’s eleventh film, Star Trek, releasing it in May 2009.
- The film featured a new cast portraying the crew of the original show.
- Star Trek was a prequel of the original series set in an alternative timeline, later named the Kelvin Timeline.
- This gave the film and sequels freedom from the need to conform to the franchise’s canonical timeline.
- The eleventh Star Trek film’s marketing campaign targeted non-fans, even stating in the film’s advertisements that “this is not your father’s Star Trek”.It also would not interfere with CBS’s franchise.
- The film earned considerable critical and financial success, grossing (in inflation-adjusted dollars) more box office sales than any previous Star Trek film.
- The plaudits include the franchise’s first Academy Award (for makeup).
- The film’s major cast members are contracted for two sequels.
- Paramount’s sequel to the 2009 film, Star Trek Into Darkness, premiered in Sydney, Australia, on 23 April 2013, but the film did not release in the United States until 17 May 2013.
- While the film was not as successful in the North American box office as its predecessor, internationally, in terms of box office receipts, Into Darkness was the most successful of the franchise.
- The thirteenth film, Star Trek Beyond, was released on 22 July 2016.
- The film had many pre-production problems and its script went through several rewrites.
- While receiving positive reviews, Star Trek Beyond disappointed in the box office.
Trivia (TV Streaming Originals: 2017-Present)
- CBS turned down several proposals in the mid-2000’s to restart the franchise.
- These included pitches from film director Bryan Singer, Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski, and Trek actors Jonathan Frakes and William Shatner.
- The company also turned down an animated web series.
- Despite the franchise’s absence from network television, the Star Trek film library would become highly accessible to the average viewer due to the rise of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
- To capitalise on this trend, CBS brought the franchise back to the small screen with the series Star Trek: Discovery to help launch and draw subscribers to its streaming service CBS All Access.
- The first season premiered on 24 September 2017 and a second season premiered in January 2019.
- A third Discovery season was announced on 27 February 2019.
- While Discovery is shown in the US exclusively on CBS All Access, Netflix, in exchange for funding the production costs of the show, owns the international screening rights for the show.
- A second All Access series, Star Trek: Picard features Patrick Stewart reprising the show’s namesake character.
- Picard premiered on 23 January 2020.
- Unlike Discovery, Amazon Prime Video will stream Picard internationally.
- CBS has also released two seasons of Star Trek: Short Treks, a series of standalone mini-episodes which air between Discovery and Picard seasons.
- Additional All Access series are under development including the Star Trek: Lower Decks adult animated series, and a show centred around the Discovery character Philippa Georgiou.
- CBS’s goal is to have new Star Trek content year-round on All Access.
- Star Trek has been a cult phenomenon for decades.
- Fans of the franchise are called “Trekkies” or “Trekkers”.
- The franchise spans a wide range of spin-offs including games, figurines, novels, toys, and comics. Star Trek had a themed attraction in Las Vegas that opened in 1998 and closed in September 2008.
- At least two museum exhibits of props travel the world.
- The series has its own full-fledged constructed language, Klingon.
- Several parodies have been made of Star Trek.
- In addition, viewers have produced several fan productions.
- As of July 2016, the franchise had generated $10 billion in revenue, making Star Trek one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time.
- Star Trek is noted for its cultural influence beyond works of science fiction.
- The franchise is also noted for its progressive civil rights stances.
- The Original Series included one of television’s first multiracial casts.
- While more common in subsequent years, in the 1960s it was controversial to feature an Enterprise crew that included a Japanese helmsman, a Russian navigator, a black female communications officer, and a human–Vulcan first officer.
- 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 included footage of this shuttle which, along with images of a naval sailing vessel called Enterprise, depicted the advancement of human transportation technology.
- Additionally, some contend that the Star Trek society resembles communism.
- The Star Trek franchise inspired some designers of technologies, the Palm PDA and the handheld mobile phone.
- Michael Jones, Chief technologist of Google Earth, has cited the tricorder’s mapping capability as one inspiration in the development of Keyhole/Google Earth.
- The Tricorder X Prize, a contest to build a medical tricorder device was announced in 2012.
- Ten finalists were selected in 2014, and the winner was to be selected in January 2016.
- However, no team managed to reach the required criteria.
- Star Trek also brought teleportation to popular attention with its depiction of “matter-energy transport”, with the famously misquoted phrase “Beam me up, Scotty” entering the vernacular.
- The Star Trek replicator is credited in the scientific literature with inspiring the field of diatom nanotechnology.
- Computer engineer and entrepreneur Steve Wozniak credited watching Star Trek and attending Star Trek conventions in his youth as a source of inspiration for co-founding Apple Inc.
Trivia (Actors & Tradition)
- Star Trek has an on-going tradition of actors returning to reprise their roles in other spin-off series.
- In some instances, actors have portrayed potential ancestors, descendants, or relatives of characters they originated.
- Characters have also been recast for later appearances.
Production & Filming Details
- Creator: Gene Roddenberry.
- Release Date: 08 September 1966.
- Running Time: 50 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.