“To boldly go where no man has gone before.” First, Star Trek split the infinitive. Then they split open the entertainment world with a franchise that’s included several TV series, movies, video games, and William Shatner albums.
Hard to believe, but the original series only lasted three seasons. It premiered in 1966 and wasn’t an immediate hit. In fact, the ratings were so low after the first season that there was some discussion within Desilu, its production company, about pulling the plug. But, according to one story, Star Trek was saved by one of the earliest Trekkies – Lucille Ball, who persuaded NBC to keep the series alive. It limped through two more years, a total of 79 episodes in all, before succumbing for good.
For what was by measurable standards a mediocre program, Star Trek managed to inspire the imagination of millions. Much of the credit has to go to the characterizations communicated by its stars. William Shatner has never been the most remarkable actor, but you did believe he could have been the captain of the Enterprise. Leonard Nimoy was completely believable as the half-human, half-Vulcan Spock. And DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, and George Takei made up a convincing supporting cast.
Star Trek was the brainchild of Gene Roddenberry, who had a vision and saw it through to its success. Roddenberry had extensive experience writing the westerns which were a huge part of TV programming at the time, so he pitched Star Trek as “Wagon Train to the stars.”
Many of the original episodes are available in their entirety on YouTube. Here’s the introduction to the original series; maybe you’ve forgotten how incredibly cheesy the original theme music was.