Star Trek has been around for almost 50 years, but unbelievably, there are people who still haven’t heard of it. Here’s a little background on the franchise to get you up to speed if you’re a new fan.
What The Heck Is It About?
Star Trek is a sci-fi franchise that covers five different and distinct television series’, 12 full-length feature movies, an animated cartoon series, and games, books, and comics.
The storyline for all things Star Trek, however, is surprisingly consistent. The crew are always out exploring the galaxy in search of new life and are all part of the same organization called the United Federation of Planets.
Its mission is to keep peace and explore.
In the first series, the mission is laid out clearly in the show’s credits: “To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
Even before it became famous, the show’s writers wanted to make sure it wasn’t just another “human vs alien” series where humans were battling creepy and hostile aliens in outer space. That had been done before. Gene Roddenberry wanted to depict a future full of hope rather than fear.
It was a huge success, but it took the first show’s canceling to realize it.
The Star Trek episodes timeline shows its meager beginnings which explode into a massive franchise.
Star Trek was one of the most diverse mainstream television series of its time, and smashed stereotypes by including a black woman and Japanese man in serious roles. Roddenberry envisioned a future where humanity’s problems were gone, and were replaced by a kind of utopia in space. This was very radical in the 1960s.
A regular feature of the show was the introduction of new types of technology – gadgets that were originally conceived as a production cost-saving measure. For example, it would have been expensive to shoot crew members getting into a ship and traveling to the surface of planets. So, instead, they devised a transporter system to “beam” character to another location.
The phaser pistol was also devised as a way to save money over shooting blanks on screen, and the communicator was an easy way to send messages to other crew members. These bits of fiction became inspiration for some of today’s technologies, like high-powered lasers and modern smartphones.
One of the show’s most iconic inventions, the replicator, is now in its early stages of development – the 3D printer.
A Brief History Of The Franchise
The show was originally conceived by Gene Roddenberry and set in the 23rd century. The ship that’s made the focus of the series is the U.S.S. Enterprise. It’s a highly advanced spaceship that carries a crew of hundreds of members.
It has a five-year mission to explore the stars and interact with new life forms, explore the cosmos, and collect information while also keeping the peace with other alien nations.
When it first aired in 1966, there was nothing like it. For the next three years, the show slowly gathered a loyal following. But, the series always a niche show – gaining only a cult following at best.
After three seasons, it was cancelled. Those three seasons were enough, however. It was syndicated and made the actors stars in their own right. During the 1970s, the show was revived and replayed on television. Its newfound fame gave birth to a new sci-fi movie franchise – Star Trek: The Motion Picture
The original cast would return to do a series of films throughout the 1980s which would form the foundation for Star Trek: The Next Generation, which was to be set a century after the original series.
Other series would follow, like Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise (set as the prequel to the original Star Trek).
Where To Start?
With more than 500 hours of Star Trek to explore, it’s hard to know where to start. If you want to get a feel for what the series is all about, go with the original. Star Trek: The Next Generation picks up where the old series leaves off, but comes with a much more modern feel and a new crew (obviously).
It still manages to push the boundaries of popular culture, and introduces interesting storylines, making it a show worth watching. The first season is a bit rough, but the second season on feels very solid and the characters take on a life of their own.
Many fans of Star Trek don’t like the Voyager series. It’s not required viewing but, if you want to see the “edge” of the Star Trek ethos, here it is.
Enterprise feels nostalgic without actually being nostalgic. it’s set in a time prior to the original series, so the ship has a very clunky feel. The tech is rather pedestrian by Star Trek’s standards, but it shows you the history of warp engines, and lays the groundwork for future tech you saw in earlier series.
David Murray is living the dream in some respects as he works in the aerospace industry and is a confirmed Sci-Fi fan. He enjoys sharing his passion for great franchises like Star Trek with an online audience and writes for a number of Sci-Fi websites.