Star Trek was the first in a long-running series of science fiction television programs, all based on a concept by Harlan Ellison and Lorne Greene. Originally devised as a foolproof way to keep actress Majel Barrett Roddenberry gainfully employed for the rest of her life -- provided she never grew tired of saying things like "Hull integrity at 72 percent" -- it has evolved into an all-consuming, worldwide obsession for millions of people who would probably otherwise be having sex on at least a semiregular basis.
In 1966, Greene pitched NBC executives his vision of a science fiction television series, which he described as "Bonanza to the stars." Executives were initially dismayed when Greene showed them concept drawings of covered wagons with rocket engines, pulled by teams of oxen wearing tiny space helmets, but warmed to the show as Greene brought on sci-fi author Harlan Ellison. Ellison smoothed out relations with the television network and further refined Greene's original concept.
A pilot episode was shot, featuring the adventures of Captain Christopher Pike and his female first officer, Number One. Executives dismissed the concept as too far-fetched, citing the impossibility of a woman ever rising to so high a rank aboard any respectable sort of starship.
Greene and Ellison struck gold with the concept that finally made it to the airwaves in 1967. A small but devoted audience embraced his vision of a future in which all the species of the galaxy could be united by their use of cardboard sets and their participation in a series of obvious moral allegories and cliched tropes swiped from pulp science fiction stories. After two seasons, the series was cancelled by NBC, only to be resurrected for a third and final season thanks to a fan-driven letter-writing campaign and executives' realization that they didn't have anything better to put in the time slot anyway.
In its brief but memorable three-year run, the original Star Trek captured the imagination of millions and built the foundation of a highly lucrative franchise devoted to separating nerds from their money.
Cast and CharactersEdit
- Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner): As captain of the starship Enterprise, Kirk wages a ceaseless one-man mission to bring peace to the galaxy by sleeping with as many alien species as possible, and killing the rest. Shortly into the first season, Shatner was diagnosed with a rare, bizarre, but ultimately harmless psychological condition in which the subject is compelled to devour scenery. He would often be discovered huddled in a corner of the studio during breaks in filming, gnawing shamefacedly on a torn-off piece of control panel or bulkhead. In one memorable incident, it took five burly grips to pry his jaws off the armrest of his captain's chair.
- Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy): Spock is the Enterprise's science officer, and Kirk's closest friend. Apparently, he just likes to watch. Following the conclusion of the series, Nimoy spent the better part of a decade insisting he was not Spock; then he was Spock; then he wasn't again; then he was, maybe, if he felt like it; and finally, he declared that he was Spock, but only on odd-numbered days of the month that did not coincide with Jewish holidays. Forever typecast as the eminently logical, pointy-eared Vulcan, Nimoy was unable to find other work following the series, and now suffers through the arduous task of artfully photographing beautiful naked women in order to eke out a living.
- Leonard "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley): McCoy is the Enterprise's chief medical officer, on board to catalog and study the various venereal diseases Kirk contracts in his pelvis-first charge across the galaxy. McCoy's debonair Southern charm is manifest in his love of mint juleps and his racist hatred of Vulcans. One of the series' famous running jokes, now a staple of fan-convention skits, involved McCoy's frequent and unsuccessful attempts to lynch Spock in the middle of away missions.
- Montgomery Scott (James Doohan): An inveterate liar and drunk, as all Scotsmen are, Scotty runs the Enterprise's transporters and engine room. He is a terrible engineer, unable to hold the ship together for more than five minutes at a time, and his maintenance is so slipshod that Enterprise's warp engines are always on the verge of breaking apart.
- Uhura (Nichelle Nichols): The beautiful ship's communications officer, who conceals an entire civilization of miniature beings inside her hairdo. Nichols reportedly wanted to leave the show after the first season, but was persuaded to stay by a personal plea from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who told her there were not nearly enough strong, foxy, miniskirt-wearing black women on television. As a reward for her perserverance, she was later forced to kiss William Shatner.
- Hiraku Sulu (George Takei): The ship's weapons officer, Sulu was capable of repelling entire armadas with the sheer persuasive force of his silky baritone voice.
- Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig): The lovable helmsman Chekov was added in the second season, in an attempt to cash in on the so-called "Russian Invasion" then popular among the nation's teenagers.
- Samuel J. Redshirt (Guy Fleegman): An immortal being cursed to endure an endless cycle of death and reincarnation, security officer Redshirt did penance for the crimes of past lives by invariably giving his life in defense of Kirk, Spock and McCoy on a different alien planet every week, only to rise anew the following episode.
Star Trek Physics (and Economics)Edit
Star Trek's chief science consultant Gene Roddenberry had originally studied in school to become a physics professor, but was kicked out halfway through his second semester for 'obstinate disassociation with reality'. He want on to write a treatise on communism and physics, which he used as the basis for much of the background in his Star Trek series.
- Sound in Space - According to Gene Roddenberry, sound can (sort of) travel in space -- by converting to light first. Apparently, he postulated that bright enough explosions would create enough light to rattle people's optic nerves, and thus create an explosion sound even without air to conduct sound waves. Because the networks refused to let him transmit intense light to hisi viewership (to cover for cheap explosion effects), he settled for simulating the sound effects instead. In producing Babylon 5, he admitted his theory may have been wrong, but went back to his original ideas with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (one of his reasons for abandoning Babylon 5).
- Lack of Money (and Tea) - Gene Roddenberry believed that a society without money would be perfect, since nobody would be able to afford anything and would thus be required to pretend they had stuff using the Holodeck. This is one reason for his creation of replicators -- devices that would have been efficient enough to consume only an entire star's energy (rather than a galaxy's) to create enough matter for a cup of Tea! Earl Grey! Hot! for Captain Picard. Since there are only about a billion stars, the Federation had to stop producing Picard's favorite tea. This was the reason for the cancellation of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- Positronic Brain - Data, an android, has a brain which defies conventional physics (because he's just that smart). He had originally planned to include the realistic cooling system for Data's brain, but there wasn't enough funding in the USA's national economy to build the set for the cooling device. Gene Roddenberry tabled the idea for a while, coming up with the explanation that the cooling source was remote and used a miniature wormhole to connect with Data's brain. He had originally intended to reveal that the Dyson Sphere was actually Data's brain cooler, but the script writers had a grudge to settle.