On this day, 50 long years ago, “The Man Trap,” the very first episode of Star Trek, was broadcast on NBC. The show aired on a Thursday night in the 8:30 slot and was received with mixed reviews: some reviewers liked the show, while Variety insisted that the concept “wouldn’t work.” Against all odds, the show became popular, and would go on for three seasons (out of a conceived five, as the Enterprise was meant to be on a “five-year mission” and presumably one season corresponded to one year in space).
The show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, had conceived of Star Trek as “Wagon Train to the stars” (Wagon Train being a Western tv show that ran in the late 50s to the early 60s). In the show’s first pilot “The Cage,” the show looked rather different. While Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is present, his character is not as refined as it would be in later episodes. The Enterprise here is commanded by Captain Christopher Pike (Jeffrey Hunter), with a female Number One (Majel Barrett, who would later play Nurse Chapel and voice the computer in later Star Trek series as well as play Lwoxana Troi) as second in command. NBC rejected this pilot and called it “too cerebral.” But amazingly, Roddenberry was given the go-ahead to create a second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” (though this was a pilot episode, it was ultimately broadcast third on September 22nd). This pilot was approved and the show was off and running.
I have literally been watching Star Trek for as long as I can remember. I have dim memories of watching the last few episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation as they broadcast (I was 5 when the show went off the air) and even stronger memories of watching reruns of the original series on TVLand and the SyFy channel. I was easily caught up in the world of the 23rd century, where people could transport from ship to planet in a flash of light, and visiting other planets and various alien races was a common thing. I remember being shocked that the original series only ran for three seasons (I was sure there had to be more than that) and feeling delighted when I was introduced to the Star Trek movies.
Of the Star Trek series, my favorites (by a mile) are Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation. As my parents tried (and did not like) Deep Space Nine (or Voyager for that matter), I didn’t discover either until both had long since ended their television runs. I actually watched a large chunk of Deep Space Nine several years ago during my first year of graduate school and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it (“The Trouble With Tribbles” DS9 episode is something everyone needs to see, just saying!!) Voyager has its moments as well, it’s just not my favorite. And as for Enterprise….I really tried to get into that show, I really did, it just didn’t work for me.
More random thoughts
My favorite Next Generation villain is The Borg (which makes my favorite episode “The Best of Both Worlds”)
I love any Next Generation episode that has Q in it
I love any Next Generation episode that features a guest appearance by an Original Series cast member (“Relics” with James Doohan is a lot of fun)
“The Squire of Gothos” remains one of my favorite Original Series episodes, but my ultimate favorite from that series is “The Trouble With Tribbles.”
The WORST Star Trek episode I ever saw was “Genesis” from season 7 of Next Generation. The premise: the entire crew (minus Data and Captain Picard) de-evolve into less primitive forms of life and the non-affected pair must race to find a cure before it’s too late. How an episode with THAT premise got into the SEVENTH season, I don’t know, but it reeks of something they might have done all the way back in season 1.
Except for the last five minutes, I actually don’t care for the series finale of Next Generation (it involves Picard skipping between three timelines, past, present and future). The changes were so random (and generated so many awkward moments for Picard) that I can hardly bear to watch it unfold.
I ignore the existence of Star Trek: Generations (1994), just as I generally ignore (tolerate at best) the existence of the Kelvin Timeline.
And I’m eagerly waiting to see if Star Trek: Discovery will be any good. I certainly hope so, but if not, I’ve got every season of the original series and four of the seven seasons of Next Generation in my collection 🙂
Here’s to another 50 years of awesome Star Trek (I hope!!!!!) -Becky