Star Trek’s magic number is you guessed it, 47. And today, the classic series and the franchise is 47 years old. The 8th September 1966 saw the inaugural broadcast of the iconic series, with Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) tackling “The Man Trap”. This was the seventh episode of the first season but the actual pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, or second pilot as Jeffrey Hunters’ “The Cage”, though one of the best, was rejected, wasn’t shown until week three.
Here’s a brief look at the long running TV and Movie history of the franchise, from its humble beginnings in 1966, to the summer blockbuster which it is today.
- STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES (3 SEASONS) 1966 – 1969 Often regarded as cheap and cheerful, there was a lot more bite to this than casual fans and none fans will acknowledge. Saved from cancellation by the famous letter writing campaign, all seemed to be lost in 1969, the same year that Star Trek was first broadcast here in the U.K.
- STAR TREK: THE ANIMATED ADVENTURES (2 SEASONS) 1974 – 1975 Seemingly finding new life as a Saturday morning cartoon series, the original cast were all back, with the exception of Walter Koenig (Chekov), but this was much more mature in nature than the simplified dialogue and animation would imply.
- STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE 1979 (The Director’s Edition – 1979/2001) (9/10) Following the success of Star Wars (1977), Trek was revived on the big screen, after a planned new series, Star Trek: Phase 2 was retooled for The Motion Picture. The film was a hit though is not considered the best by any stretch. Stilted and cold performances and production design hampered the original cast’s return, but the story at the heart of the film was actually really good.
- STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN 1982 (The Director’s Edition – 1982/2002) (10/10) The best Star Trek film to date, taking inspiration from the first season episode “Space Seed”, The Wrath of Khan was Nicholas Meyer’s first of two films from the director’s chair. The magic was back but augmented by epic visuals and scope. This was a real feature film interpretation of the classic television show.
- STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK 1984 (7/10) With Spock supposedly dead, Leonard Nimoy (Spock) takes to the director’s chair and even though the film was not the best, some moments are iconic, such as the introduction of the Klingon Bird Of Prey, originally designed as Romulan vessel, the stealing of the enterprise and its ultimate destruction. But the scale was vastly improved here and finally Starfleet was finally looking like a The United Federation Of Planets as well as the Cantina scene from Star Wars (1977)!
- STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME 1986 (9/10) Considered to be one of the best, Nimoy was back to both direct and star in this more conventional fish out of water comedy set in 1986. Topical, witty and reasonably well conceived, this is certainly in keeping with Star Trek at it’s best.
- STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION (7 Seasons) 1987 – 1994 Returning to small screen, Star Trek was back and bigger than ever!. Patrick Stewart would lead a new crew set 78 years future from classic Trek as they embark on new missions but also changing the face of Sci Fi television for years to come.
- STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER 1989 (2/10) The worst of all the Star Trek films and some would argue, film of all time! William Shatner (Kirk) took the director’s chair for this one but his ego did all the work. Nonsensical and plain stupid, this is not what Star Trek is or was ever all about.
- STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY 1991 (10/10) The final classic film and directed again by Nicholas Meyer, this is my second favourite Star Trek film. Completed after creator Gene Roddenberry’s death, this attempted to and successfully bridged the gap between the two generations and said goodbye the original crew.
- STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE (7 Seasons) 1992 – 1999 The beginning of the 1990’s style of Sci Fi drama, moving more towards character based serial and away from week by week television stories. This may well be the best series in terms of quality and ambition and the heaviest in tone.
- STAR TREK: GENERATIONS 1994 (6/10) In an attempt to literally bridge the generation gap, the team behind The Next Generation series, moved into the motion picture business. The tone was all wrong and seemed to be a TV episode with millions of dollars splashed all over it. Not as bad at it first looks but there are too many nods and contrivances and not enough weight to justify a cinema ticket. Oh and they killed Captain Kirk! “You bas**rds!”
- STAR TREK: VOYAGER (7 Seasons) 1994 – 2001 The final Next Generation era series was launched in the summer of 1994 and after starting with promise, it would change its tack completely throughout it’s run, but luckily they would manage to pull it off. Not the best though and Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) was like the Margaret Thatcher of female captains. Sounds good but not so much…
- STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT 1996 (9/10) The first true Next Generation movie was one of the best of the series as a whole. Following in the footsteps of Star Trek II by going back to series for inspiration, this time with the Borg, and Star Trek III by appointing a series star to the director’s chair in the guise of Jonathan Frakes, First Contact ensure The Next Generation film series’ future as well as a lasting Borg legacy in the ongoing series, Voyager.
- STAR TREK: INSURRECTION 1999 (6/10) Another weak entry but it has it moments. But by this point, the series is becoming somewhat derivative, both on TV and the pearl screen.
- STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE (4 Seasons) 2001 – 2005 The final television spin-off began life as simply Enterprise in an attempt to distance the show from Star Trek on the whole. Set before the original series and trying to ground itself a little. But by this point Star Trek was dying, primarily from over exposure and after over 700 episodes and a lack of new ideas. In August 2005 it all ended and Star Trek as we know it fell in to limbo.
- STAR TREK: NEMESIS 2002 (9/10) But before that, we have the last Next Generation movie and one which seems to split its audience. I loved it and think that it’s one of the best and is certainly one of my favourites. It big, bold and theatrical but it does steer away from the tidy Star Trek that we’d come to know. Also boasts an early appearance from Tom Hardy.
- STAR TREK 2009 (7/10) J.J. Abrams, at this point known for Lost, Alias, Mission: Impossible III (2006) and producing Cloverfield (2008), brought Star Trek back from the brink and into the mainstream in ways that no-one else ever had. But he did so by sacrificing much of Star Trek is.
- STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS 2013 (8/10) A solid entry, better than the first but still lacking something of the classic spirit. It’s too derivative for my liking but action adventure films go, its great fun. It’s alos ten first 3D Star Trek film ever! Not that it matters…
Star Trek has evolved over the years, from its subversive beginnings, to its solid preachy period on the 80′ and 90’s and the misguided period in the 2000’s but it has a loyal fan base and thanks to Abrams, who is now directing the next Star Wars movie, Star Trek is back on the map and may yet find a new lease of life on the small screen.
Happy 47th birthday.