Today is the fifty-fifth anniversary of the premiere episode of Star Trek. The series follows the crew of the starship Enterprise as they explore strange new worlds seeking out new life forms and new civilizations boldly going where no man has gone before.
The series was the brainchild of Gene Roddenberry, who characterized the series as "Wagon Train to the stars." He wanted to combine the storytelling style of western shows from the 1950s and '60s with the visual style of science fiction films such as Forbidden Planet. Thanks to a partnership with television icon Lucille Ball, Roddenberry was able to develop a pilot for the series. However, the episode did not impress television executives. But, in an unprecedented move, a second pilot was ordered. The second pilot was more action oriented and less cerebral. The series used then-revolutionary special effects. Every season ended with the possibility of cancellation, and it was a fan-inspired campaign that saved it twice.
In its short time it literally changed the face of television. It was the first series to prove that television was not just for lowest common denominator entertainment and could be enjoyed by intelligent people, as the studio was bombarded with mail from highly intelligent people including professor and scientists. It inspired the people at NASA and attracted high profile talent like Harlan Ellison. Fans, dubbed Trekkies, were the ones to popularize the fan convention and inspire fan fiction.
The series only lasted three seasons and was constantly threatened with cancellation, but continued to have an impressive following. It became extremely popular in syndication. Trekkies got the first NASA space shuttle to be named after the series' iconic ship. The series also holds the world record for most spin-offs having inspired an animated series, The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, Voyager, Enterprise, Discovery, Picard, and Lower Decks along with the upcoming series Prodigy and Strange New Worlds. The original cast returned for six films that was followed by four films for The Next Generation crew and three reboot films. The series was so notable that the original set's captain chair and model for the Enterprise are in the Smithsonian Institute.
The series featured the talents of Nichelle Nichols as communications officer Lt. Uhura, George Takei as helsman Lt. Hikaru Sulu, Gene's wife Majel Barrett-Roddenberry as the original pilot's unnamed first officer and later head nurse Christine Chapel, Ted Cassidy as Balok's puppet, Vic Perrin as Metron, John Colicos as Kor, Michael Ansara as Kang, Iona Morris as a little girl, Phil Morris as a little boy, Jeff Corey as Plasus, Walker Edmiston as Balok, Johnny Haymer as a constable, Keye Luke as Cory, William H. Marshall as Dr. Richard Daystrom, and Joseph Ruskin as Galt. Dorothy Catherine Fontana wrote a number of episodes while Harlan Ellison wrote the iconic episode "The City on the Edge of Forever".