“Star Trek” (1966-1969), a television show created by an old boyfriend of Nichelle Nichols, Gene Roddenberry, was the first true science fiction show on US television. It did not do well at the time, but it lived on in reruns and in time gave rise to 13 films, hundreds of books and five other television series – with a sixth one on the way. It all began 50 years ago tonight: September 8th 1966.
The television series, listed by when they first appeared:
- 1966-69: Star Trek
- 1973-74: The Animated Series
- 1987-94: The Next Generation
- 1993-99: Deep Space Nine
- 1995-01: Voyager
- 2001-05: Enterprise
- 2017-??: Discovery
Listed by when they take place:
- 2151-55: Enterprise
- 2256-??: Discovery
- 2266-69: Star Trek (exactly 300 years after it first aired)
- 2269-70: The Animated Series
- 2364-70: The Next Generation
- 2369-75: Deep Space Nine
- 2371-78: Voyager
“Star Trek”, the original series, was about the adventures of the starship Enterprise (pictured at top). Each show opened with:
“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.”
NBC wanted to kill the show after the first year of its five-year mission: not enough people were watching. But so many fans wrote in that NBC kept it on for two more years, yet it never did get a large audience in the 1960s. But throughout the 1970s it seeped into the culture through reruns. By 1976 its most devout fans had become known as Trekkies, now a word in the dictionary. By the 1980s, with the rise of cable television, it no longer needed a huge audience to remain on air.
The three main characters of the first series:
- Captain Kirk (William Shatner) – the captain.
- Spock (Leonard Nimoy) – his science officer and best friend.
- Bones (DeForest Kelley) – the ship’s doctor.
- Kirk: Beam me up, Scotty.
- Bones: He’s dead, Jim.
- Bones: I’m a doctor, not a …
- Spock: Fascinating.
- Spock: Live long and prosper.
To keep costs down and keep it interesting:
- Aliens are humanoid: beings from other worlds are roughly human in mind and body – and speak suspiciously good English.
- The Enterprise has:
- warp drive so it can travel faster than light, but
- shockingly bad transporters that fail at the worst possible moment.
Race: “Star Trek” was one of the first shows on US television to show Black and Asian Americans in a non-stereotyped way. It did that with the characters of Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) and Sulu (George Takei).
That said, there are some racist tropes:
- White paternalism – Kirk thinks he knows best, upending those new civilizations. Not unlike what the US was doing in Vietnam at the time.
- Ethnic Girls Are Easy – Kirk has no trouble getting with women on other worlds.
- Ethnic Sidekick – Spock, who is half human, half Vulcan.
- Humans Are White – Most humans on the show are White. Sulu and Uhura are tokens, Uhura herself is a double token, not unlike those Black weatherwomen on the evening news.
– Abagond, 2016.
- Star Trek: The Doomsday Machine – one of the best episodes.
- Nichelle Nichols
- How to tell if a character is a stereotype
- White paternalism
- Humans Are White: