50 Years And Beyond
The original Star Trek series is fifty years old! The series portrayed images of space exploration, starships, phasers, and Vulcans.
Created by Gene Roddenberry in the 60’s, this series set a precedent for being the first show to have two pilot episodes filmed. The network executives loved the concept of the show, but did not like the way the first pilot turned out. The second pilot was well received and because of that, a legacy was born.
The series ran for only three seasons but spawned a cult following of rabid fans. These fans, having the nicknames Trekkers, or Trekkies, have kept this series and its legacy alive for all these years.
Star Trek has, also, spawned six television series, thirteen movies, hundreds of books, and as many if not more fan films and fan fiction. One spin-off of the television series was an animated program featuring the voices of the original cast. Like the original series it did not run very long, but it lives on in home video formats such as DVD, and streaming services such as Netflix.
The original series was responsible for bringing the science fiction genre out of that dark corner of pop culture reserved for the very low budget B movies. It used “hard” science fiction where it took the technology and advancements of the day and projected them forward. It tried to paint a picture of what society would be like in the future based on these indicators.
For the most part, it succeeded.
One example that could be taken from this series is that today most people have a personal communicator or rather a cell phone.
It is interesting to think that without this cultural event, shows like Battlestar Galactica and Stargate and possibly even Quantum Leap, or Sliders might not exist.
He’s Dead, Jim
The mega-phenomenon known as Star Wars owes some of its existence to Star Trek. As mentioned earlier, Science Fiction is now a genre that is a force to the reckoned with. It is openly discussed and can produce compelling stories. Secondly, the rabid fan base of Trek has shown the world one no longer has to be a closeted geek.
One can display their geek pride without feeling ashamed or embarrassed. One can discuss in detail the finer points of an episode, or debate the cultural significance of the episode, such as “The City on the Edge of Forever.” The science fiction conventions that are held today originated as Star Trek conventions and slowly gathered other popular fare like Star Wars, Doctor Who, and even anime.
Star Trek has become a huge and lasting presence in pop culture. With famously quoted lines like, “live long and prosper,” and “he’s dead, Jim,” and “beam me up.” The show will continue to live on in the hearts and minds of generations to come. It has produced its own semi-official language: Klingon, spoken by those fierce warriors with the ridged brows. A whole dictionary was produced and published for people interested in learning the language. And many people have.
With the new movie, Star Trek Beyond, coming out soon, it will mark the third adventure of the rebooted series. Though with the death of Anton Yelchin (the new Chekov) it may be the end of this series, or at least the character. The character could be written off, or perhaps have someone mention Chekov was transferred to another ship as in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn.
At that time Chekov was serving aboard the USS Reliant and eventually met up with the crew of the Enterprise. The traditional answer Hollywood gives to this dilemma is to recast another actor in the role. Sometimes this works, but many more times it fails, or at the very least seems awkward.
Recasting a part is an extreme action.
The Harry Potter movies are a good example of this. Dumbledore was a significant character. He had to be recast because the original actor died. Chekov, while not as significant a character is still memorable. Having another actor come in to play the part would change the dynamic of the current team. Maybe the new actor would be better, but usually this turns out just the opposite.
Another thing that will make this fiftieth-anniversary celebration unique is the revelation of Hikaru Sulu being homosexual. A series known for breaking boundaries in the 60’s and 70’s is now adding a character from the LGBT community. One could say this is a bit late – but better late than never? While this is being done to partially honor George Takei, it seems like it was just thrown in at the last minute.
The debate is raging as to what should have been done about an action like this; should Sulu be homosexual, or should another character have been introduced? Both sides present great points, but it is now in the past, so does it really matter?
Best Of the Original
Celebrating this momentous occasion, the following is a list of the best and most important episodes from the original series.
Space Seed – This episode introduces an adversary well known to Trek fans. It is the first meeting between The Enterprise crew and Khan Noonian Singh. Played famously by Ricardo Montalban, he brought a certain charm and wit to this character. He would later reprise the character in the classic movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. His sometimes melodramatic performance gave Star Trek its first real nemesis.
The Cage – The first pilot of the series with a mostly different crew. The Enterprise was led by Captain Christopher Pike. They encounter a planet in the Talos star system where they believe survivors from a long-lost expedition are stranded. They investigate and discover it was a ruse. Pike is captured by the natives and held in a cage for study. This episode is important mainly because it is referenced in a later episode. The character Christopher Pike is used in the reboot series of movies. He is the one that convinces Kirk (Chris Pine) to join Starfleet and live up to his father’s legacy.
The Menagerie (pt 1 & 2) – These episodes reference the unaired pilot. Spock disobeys orders and hijacks the Enterprise. The course: a forbidden planet in the Talos star system. Spock is court marshaled and during the hearing Spock pleads his case. It is revealed why Spock risked court marshal and initiated the actions he did. The unaired pilot, The Cage is referenced here illustrating Spock’s case. It is a classic Star Trek episode and a nice way of incorporating the events of the pilot into the show.
City on the Edge of Forever – the Enterprise experiences strange disturbances in space while exploring a remote system. A crew beams down to the planet where they have traced and determined the source of the disturbances. They discover the Guardian of Forever on the planet. He is a time portal in which one can visit any moment in time just by stepping through at the right moment. McCoy steps through and accidentally changes the future by saving a young woman from dying. This has severe ramifications on the future as the Enterprise and her crew disappear. The only ones who are unaffected are the members on the surface. Kirk and Spock travel back to the era where McCoy landed and try to correct the events. This is a powerful episode and probably the best of the series. It is the best example of the way science fiction can blend elements of other genres into an exciting and emotional roller coaster ride of a story.
The Doomsday Machine – The Enterprise encounters the USS Constellation wrecked and battered in space. The only survivor is Admiral Matthew Decker devastated by the loss of his crew. He commandeers the Enterprise and sets out to pursue the thing that did this. It is a large machine which consumes planets for fuel. It is essentially Star Trek’s take on the book, Moby Dick. Decker as Ahab is ready to follow his whale to the ends of the galaxy to destroy it. It is a well-crafted episode giving a literary legitimacy to this classic show.
The Squire of Gothos – The bridge crew are captured and held as “guests” by a powerful being by the name of Trelaine. He is a near-omniscient being who is obsessed with Earth culture, specifically from the late 1800’s Western Europe. A very friendly and boisterous fellow, It seems Trelaine is lonely and wants company. He holds the crew prisoner and forces them to entertain him. Trelaine is the forerunner of another menace in the Trek universe which vexes Captain Picard and the crew of The Next Generation.
Mirror, Mirror – This episode is about a journey to a different and twisted dimension, so twisted around that most things are menacing or evil. This is the first time this alternate universe is seen and it establishes the concept of a reverse dimension. Everything that is good and clean in our reality is evil and messy and so forth. Kirk, McCoy, Uhura, and Scott, are trapped in that world and try to blend in until they can find a way to get back to their correct dimension. Not only is it a fun episode, but it is visited many times in the later series and in the novels. It presents different takes on the various characters and gives the audience a “what if” scenario that challenges the perception the audience may have of the characters and their actions.
Where No Man Has Gone Before – This is the second pilot ordered by the broadcasting network. This was not the first episode to be broadcast; “Man Trap” and “Charlie X” preceded it. It did feature most of the now familiar cast in a thoughtful and gripping story. In this episode, the Enterprise travels to the galactic edge where it is bombarded with a strange radiation. It only affects certain people and it nearly kills Kirk’s close friend, Gary. When Gary wakes from a coma, he discovers he has God-like powers. With each passing hour, he grows stronger and more paranoid. Soon, Gary holds the ship hostage. What will Captain Kirk do? How will he battle a friend and survive against someone with near infinite powers? This episode was the piece that won over the network and set the tone of the series. This is also the first time the famous Kirkian Double-handed Karate Chop is seen in a fight. It will be employed several more times in later episodes and even in the climactic fight in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
The Balance of Terror – The Enterprise crosses the Neutral Zone between the Romulan Star Empire and the Federation space. Breaking the treaty that establishes a fragile peace between two of the major powers of the Galaxy. In this episode, the Romunlans are seen for the first time along with the elusive warbird starship. It is a tense episode that is well written and executed.
Amok Time – Spock needs to travel to his home planet, Vulcan to meet his betrothed wife. In this episode, Vulcan is seen for the first time. The Pon Farr is established in the mythology and Spock and Kirk must fight each other to the death using traditional weapons from Vulcan’s past. Pon Farr is the Vulcan need to procreate and they find themselves fighting over Spock’s betrothed. Much about Vulcan is learned in this intimate episode.