THE HUMAN ADVENTURE IS JUST BEGINNING…
It all began not in 1966, but 1964 with Gene Rodenberry’s first pilot, “The Cage”. No Kirk, but instead the Enterprise’s maiden voyage was helmed by Jeffrey Hunter, when he was not play Jesus Christ, King Of Kings (1964) of course.
Even though, this is possibly one of Classic Star Trek’s best and smartest episodes, after being branded “too cerebral” for first time in U.S. TV history, Star Trek was given another shot and second pilot, this time starring William Shatner as Captain James T Kirk…
So, on the evening of September 8th 1966, 50 years ago today, Star Trek began its three year run in the U.S., but not with the second pilot, this would air two weeks later, but with a monster of the week romp, “The Man Trap”.
After two years of success, though flagging ratings, Star Trek’s third season would be moved to a Friday night slot, which at the the time in the U.S. signalled the end of the show as everybody was out enjoying themselves and lets not forget, 1968/69 was a decade before video recorders, so if you missed it, you missed it!
The stories became sillier and Shatner’s acting, way over the top and by the end of the 24 episode season, it was all over.
But fans began to fight back and the infamous letter writing campaign was conceived, conventions began and there was a short lived and underrated Saturday morning cartoon series, Star Trek: The Animated Adventures, all leading to the planned Star Trek: Phase II. The series was set to return with an updated ship and crew but all that ended in May 1977, when a little Sci-Fi adventure turned up called Star Wars.
As almost every major studio began to cash in the revolution begun by George Lucas’ Star Wars, Phase II morphed into Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), with The Sound Of Music’s director Robert Wise on board, though that is a bit unfair as he had also directed the classic Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) and The Andromada Strain (1974).
Considered boring but beautiful, this is underrated but more Science Fiction that Star Trek, something remedied by the 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, considered to be the best Star Trek movie of all time by many fans.
Leonard Nimoy would sit in to direct the next two, with Shatner almost derailing the franchise with his poor Star Trek V: The Final Frontier in 1989, but it was back to Nicholas Meyer, director of Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982) for the final Classic movie, The Undiscovered Country (1991), in which we bid farewell to most of the classic cast, along with the creator, Gene Rodenberry who also passed away earlier that year.
PASSING TO THE NEXT GENERATION
Just after Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home’s release in 1986, The Next Generation (1987 – 1994) ushered in Star Trek’s return to the small screen in 1987 and after a successful seven year run on TV, The Next Generation would cancel itself in 1994, as its replacement, Deep Space Nine, which was now entering its third season, was established.
INTO DEEP SPACE
1992, in the midst of the sixth season of TNG, Deep Space Nine (1993 – 1999) premièred and though it would take a few seasons to find its feet, it would divide fans even to this day, with many like myself believing that this was possibly the best Star Trek series to date, to those comparing it to a Soap opera, rather than a Space opera.
The jury’s out…
BEYOND THE FINAL FRONTIER
After a year on its own, Deep Space Nine was about to share the screen with Star Trek again, welcome Star Trek: Voyager (1994 – 2001), the tent-pole for Paramount’s new station UPN. The show would fail to live up to its predecessors though it would certainly improve in leaps and bounds as the seven season run continued. This would be the last Star Trek series to date to run for seven years.
THE NEXT GENERATION OF MOVIES
Continuing the trend of graduating Star Trek to the big screen, The Next Generation crew enjoyed four features on the cinema screen, with Generations in 1994, passing the torch from Kirk to Picard.
But it was not until 1996’s First Contact that this crew feel comfortable on the silver screen, with what is considered to be the best of their run. The final two, Insurrection (1999) and Nemesis (2002) are considered to be poor by fans, though personally I think that Nemesis is much better that fans and critics have judged it.
BACK TO THE BEGINNING
So as Voyager ended in 2001, Enterprise (2002 – 2005) was ready to replace to it, but the franchise knew that it was in trouble, opting to drop the name Star Trek from the title for the first two seasons, hoping that it would attract more casual viewers. By the fact that “Star Trek” was back on the title card by season three, I can only assume that it did not work.
Enterprise was good, inventive and different but it was still mired in 35 years of Trek lore and it would eventually drown in it, ending the franchise once and for all.
So, with the final movie being released in 2002 and Enterprise concluding in 2005, it was not until Alias creator, J.J. Abrams revived the franchise with Star Trek in 2009, though it was due for a Christmas 2008 release originally, that Star Trek gained a new following.
Cleverly setting the new films, prequels in effect, in an alternate universe connected to the Star Trek universe which we all know, Abrams has turned Star Trek in to summer blockbuster, but at a cost.
Losing a lot of what makes Star Trek, Star Trek, he lacks respect for the franchise, feeling that it needed a face lift for its embarrassing self. He was wrong. It needed modernising but paying lip service to a series which had revolutionised TV and had managed to maintain an international following for decades, seems to be a little patronising.
But after his second movie, Into Darkness (2013) failed to live to to the first in 2013, he jumped ship and went on to do a much better job reviving Star Wars with The Force Awakens in 2015.
Star Trek Beyond made its way on to our cinema screen this summer and it was great, a real taste of Star Trek from days gone by.
But as of next January, Star Trek is back on the small screen again, with Star Trek: Discovery (2017 – ). Apparently set in the “Prime Universe” and not J.J. Abrams “Kelvin-verse”, as it has been dubbed, this will also be set ten years before classic Star Trek and feature a female lead who will NOT be the Captain. They are clearly taking a new approach and only time will tell how that will work out…