1 9 6 6 – 1 9 6 9 (USA)
79 x 50 minute episodes
The original Star Trek series was clever, engaging and now, campily classic. Having said that, the series almost did not get made.
The original pilot episode, ‘The Cage’, was dismissed by NBC as “too cerebral”. An unprecedented second pilot was made and the series ultimately went ahead. The rest, as they say, is history.
Gene Roddenberry intended Star Trek to be a space-age western with the action switched from the wild west to the final frontier of space in the 23rd Century.
The new “cowboys” of space were Captain James T Kirk (The “T” stood for Tiberius by the way) and the 438 officers and crew of the 190,000-ton Constellation Class Starship USS Enterprise, from the United Federation of Planets.
Most notorious of the “Indians” in this new space western were the Klingons and the Romulans.
Amongst the crew serving under Captain Kirk (William Shatner) were: First Officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy) who was half-human, half Vulcan; Communications Officer Lt Uhura (Nichelle Nichols who had been a singer with Duke Ellington); Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott (James Doohan); Ship’s Doctor, Leonard “Bones” McCoy (DeForrest Kelly) and Oriental helmsman Mr Sulu (George Takei).
In season two, Russian Ensign Mr Chekov (Walter Koenig) was added after complaints from the USSR newspaper Pravda that the first nation in space was not represented aboard the Enterprise.
The Enterprise set forth on a five-year mission to seek out new life forms, new civilizations, propelled by a split infinitive to “boldly go where no man had gone before”.
This was changed in the Eighties series Star Trek: The Next Generation series to be less sexist – another victim of invidious political correctness.
To be fair, women did not fare well aboard the Enterprise. Lieutenant Uhura was little more than an intergalactic telephonist and other female characters were usually just adornments for Captain Kirk.
The special effects were cheap but ingenious for the time – except perhaps the cast throwing themselves backwards and forwards across the bridge (not always in unison!) when the ship is under fire.
The transporter effect of dissolving and reassembling atoms was achieved by throwing aluminium dust into a beam of light. The phaser blasts were animated.
My personal favourite episode was the one in which the crew travelled to a parallel universe where everyone is just the same – only bad (or in Lt Uhura’s case, gagging for it).
To indicate to the puzzled viewer that this was a parallel universe, the bad Spock had a beard. And Doctor McCoy just had a huge rotating dildo made of gold instead of a tricorder.
Star Trek was cancelled by NBC in 1969 due to gradually declining audiences and the heavy proportion of teenagers and children in its viewership, which made it unattractive to network advertisers.
Actor James Doohan, who played chief engineer Montgomery Scott, died at the age of 85 on 20 July 2005. Doohan, whose role was immortalised in the line “Beam me up, Scotty”, had been suffering from pneumonia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Star Trek websites abound on the Internet (something about computer geeks and Star Trek) so we will not devote too much more space to the series here. We will leave you instead with some interesting trivia:
The first interracial kiss on American TV took place on 22 November 1968 between Captain James T. Kirk and Lt. Uhura (pictured below) on an episode of Star Trek.
James Doohan only had four fingers on his right hand. While this was mostly disguised in the show, you can see it if you look carefully at Scotty. Doohan lost a finger to machine-gun fire during WWII, where he was one of the first Canadian officers to wade ashore on D-Day.
Captain Kirk was originally going to be called Captain April. The USS Enterprise was originally to be the USS Yorktown.
NBC wanted to axe Spock in season one as they believed the character was not sympathetic!
Capt James T Kirk
Dr Leonard “Bones” McCoy
Montgomery ‘Scotty’ Scott
Yeoman Janice Rand
Grace Lee Whitney
Ensign Pavel Chekov
Nurse Christine Chapel