back to article Forget Khan and Klingons, Star Trek's greatest trick was simply surviving

Thirteen films, TV spin-offs, millions of loyal fans and the ultimate of accolades for any work of science fiction – spoofs. Confirmation indeed of Star Trek's status as a cultural force. Fifty years ago this week, the genesis of that legacy played to unsuspecting and uninitiated US viewers. Star Trek the original TV series …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I sense a Microaggression, Captain!

    Nazi rocket man Werner Von Braun’s White Sands Missile Range, calling for Star Trek to be saved

    Please don't bring SJWarriors down upon us all!

    1. Simon Harris

      Re: I sense a Microaggression, Captain!

      I see what you did there, changing the emphasis with the omission of "staff at former".

  2. Mage Silver badge

    that really gave Star Trek muscle was, in a word: science.

    Oh come off it.

    It was fun, but Science? No. Definitely not. Though far closer to SF than ST-TNG or Star Wars.

    ST TNG was even less scientific.

    1. Danny 14

      Re: that really gave Star Trek muscle was, in a word: science.

      science fiction with less "look it just does ok?". Of course it isn't real science but at least there was a stable surface and framwork for writers to work with.

      1. Kiwi

        Re: that really gave Star Trek muscle was, in a word: science.

        science fiction with less "look it just does ok?". Of course it isn't real science but at least there was a stable surface and framwork for writers to work with.

        I actually preferred Blake's 7's "We found this ship, don't really know how it works but can learn" over ST's (esp TNG and DS9) stuff. B7 focused on the plot (even with the rather crap SFX!) rather than ST's "Lets take a 45min episode, dump in 43 mins of technobabble and a couple of mins of story (with TNG it may've been 30 mins technobabble and another 10 of lame psychobabble from "DoYouWanna Try" (sorry, can only recall the name from, er, another "TNG")..

        Even worse is the recent JJ "3 billion lens flares per frame" Abrams crap. Where the original network failed to kill ST, as did DS9, surely he will succeed.

    2. IsJustabloke

      Re: that really gave Star Trek muscle was, in a word: science.

      "ST TNG was even less scientific."

      I'm just re configuring the inverse reverse springent bracket to emit a wingwang beam captain!

    3. KH

      Re: that really gave Star Trek muscle was, in a word: science.

      Indeed. I quickly grew tired of every problem being solved by Wesley hitting console buttons in a new novel way.

      1. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

        Re: that really gave Star Trek muscle was, in a word: science.

        Oh good grief. I'd forgotten all about Jar Jar Crusher, did you have to remind me?

    4. LDS Silver badge

      Re: that really gave Star Trek muscle was, in a word: science.

      With your meter, is Bradbury SciFi? Asimov? Dick? SciFi is part Science, part Fiction. The positronic brain by Asimov is really not more "scientific" than the warp drive or the teleporter. In "Martian Chronicles", there's very little of "modern science". ST made a bit attempt to try to imagine a future based on actual science (read "The Physics of Star Trek", if you don't believe me), although there are of course mistakes due to the needs of a TV/theater show. The farther is the future you imagine, the more difficult is to imagine that future science. "2001" used a much closer future, and it was much easier to imagine it somehow, and still uses a lot of pure "fantasy" tricks.

      1. JEDIDIAH

        Re: that really gave Star Trek muscle was, in a word: science.

        Star Trek is a space western. The "physics" of the show serve the plot and the budget. It's nominally sci-fi because of the "tech getting us new places" angle but it's pretty thin really. Without a few good brawls and space battles Trek would have died a long time ago. If anything, the pretense gets in the way.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          @JEDIDIAH -- Re: that really gave Star Trek muscle was, in a word: science.

          Star Trek is a space western.

          Indeed. Roddenberry sold the series on the concept of "Wagon Train in space." It wasn't supposed to be about space battles, etc. but characters and storytelling like the Wagon Train series.

        2. DortchOnIT

          Re: that really gave Star Trek muscle was, in a word: science.

          In the 1968 book "The Making of Star Trek," Gene Roddenberry was quoted as describing "Star Trek" as "Wagon Train to the stars," citing the western series "Wagon Train" as a primary influence. Both shows involved a large group of people traveling into unknown territories, which created opportunities for new stories every week.

          According to that same book, Roddenberry spent four hours pitching "Star Trek" to CBS before NBC, only to be told by CBS execs that they already had a space-based series in the works. Of course, that series was "Lost in Space."

          Now, if I could only find my first-edition paperback copy of "The Making of Star Trek..."

        3. LDS Silver badge

          Re: that really gave Star Trek muscle was, in a word: science.

          Yes, and Daneel Olivaw and Elijah Baley stories are detective stories set in the future. The AI robots serve the plot. Same for most of Susan Calvin novels. Is Hari Seldon Psychohistory and telepathic powers of Second Federation members "science"?

          "Martian Chronicles" is mostly about the settling of humans on Mars displacing the natives - very much alike the USA "building". There too, very little science.

          Dick's "The Man in the High Castle"? Lots of true science there, in the plot...

          " Without a few good brawls and space battles Trek would have died a long time ago"

          Are you sure? That's exactly what people forget or often laugh about of ST (especially Kirk and his broken shirts). What people really like about ST is using an acceptable futuristic environment to discuss actual issues - which is was best SciFi always did.

    5. fnj

      Re: that really gave Star Trek muscle was, in a word: science.


      ST TNG was even less scientific.

      ST TOS was simple golly gee whiz kid's adventure with plenty of militarism. ST TNG was about social development, understanding, humility, and human (and non-human!) performance, leadership, and sacrifice. As such it stands up very well in the company of such towering works as Command Decision and Twelve O'Clock High (both the movie and the series).

    6. MrXavia

      Re: that really gave Star Trek muscle was, in a word: science.

      Sometimes science fiction doesn't have to make sense, just give the scientists and engineers something to dream about and they will find a way to make it happen (well matter transporters might be the one staple star trek tech that is practically impossible)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: that really gave Star Trek muscle was, in a word: science.

        > "...matter transporters might be the one staple star trek tech that is practically impossible."

        And in fact the original plan was to have only physical shuttlecraft to deorbit the crew, but it wasn't working out well for the show with the tight budget and all, so Gene whomped up the transporter to get stuff done on the cheap. Turned out to be the main plot device for the entire show, go figure.

        Okay, they did keep the shuttlecraft and attempted to 'use' them in a couple of episodes. Came in handy too!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So how do you rate this 'success'?

    "The most successful Star Trek film of all time, JJ Abrams’ 2009 reboot, made less than the least successful entry from Star Wars – $299m versus $450m."

    Most successful? Or did you mean to say "most grossing"? And even if you refer to that then I think you're comparing apples and oranges. For starters you should take inflation into account. Since most people have more to spend these days in comparison to last century I don't think it should come as a surprise that movies today make more money in comparison. But does that really mean being more successful?

    I somewhat beg to differ, I think the most successful movie is still Wrath of Khan, whereas the most successful era being the original. Even the modern reboots couldn't stop referring back to the original era, including Khan.

    And well, wouldn't you call it a success if people still talk about something 34 years later?

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: So how do you rate this 'success'?

      maybe true, i think Star Wars wins , both culturally and financially though. Its not clear which figures are being referred to there though - gross earnings from all films? or ones mentioned?

      and have they been adjusted for inflation?

      I seem to remember the first Trek film in Guinness book as "most expensive of all time" at some point. ( at 45m i think)

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Simon Harris

        Re: So how do you rate this 'success'?

        IMDB estimates a production budget of $35 million.

        Just out of interest I made a time-line of some of the major series (or what turned out to be) and a few other notable movies to see how their budgets varied - inflation adjusted to 2016 in brackets:

        2001 $12m 1968 ($83m)

        Star Wars IV $11m 1977 ($44m)

        Close Encounters $19.4m 1977 ($77m)

        Star Trek TMP $35m 1979 ($116m)

        Alien $11m 1979 ($36m)

        Star Wars V $18m 1980 ($53m)

        Star Trek II $11m 1982 ($27m)

        Bladerunner $28m 1982 ($70m)

        Star Wars VI $32.5m 1983 ($79m)

        2010 $28m 1984 ($65m)

        Terminator $6.4m 1984 ($15m)

        Star Trek III $17m 1984 ($39m)

        Aliens $18.5m 1986 ($41m)

        Star Trek IV $25m 1986 ($55m)

        Star Trek V $27.8m 1989 ($54m)

        Star Trek VI $30m 1991 ($53m)

        Terminator 2 $102m 1991 ($180m)

        Alien3 $50m 1992 ($86m)

        Star Trek VII $35m 1994 ($56m)

        Star Trek VIII $45m 1996 ($69m)

        Alien 4 $75m 1997 ($112m)

        Star Trek IX $58m 1998 ($86m)

        Star Wars I $115m 1999 ($166m)

        Star Wars II $115m 2002 ($154m)

        Star Trek X $60m 2002 ($80m)

        Terminator 3 $200m 2003 ($262m)

        SW III $113m 2005 ($139m)

        Terminator 4 $200m 2009 ($224m)

        Star Trek XI $150m 2009 ($168m)

        Star Trek XII $190m 2013 ($196m)

        Star Wars VII $245m 2015 ($249m)

        Terminator 5 $115m 2015 ($117m)

        Star Trek XIII $185m 2016 ($185m)

        Star Trek The Motion Picture may well have been the most expensive film dollar wise at the time. However, mostly since then they seem to have had tighter budgets than their most contemporary Star Wars film. Having said that there are almost twice as many of them - adjusted for inflation Star Wars total budget $884m at 2016 prices, Star Trek total budget $1184m.

        Most notable perhaps is the budget jump from The Terminator ($6.4m) to Terminator 2 ($102m). Also quite noticeable is the amount pumped into Terminators 3 to 5 and Alien 3 and 4 ($801m in total at 2016 prices) and they were all a bit pants.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So how do you rate this 'success'?

          You missed one:

          Doctor Who and the Daleks 1966 £27 14s 9d

        2. TheOtherHobbes

          Re: So how do you rate this 'success'?

          Did you work all that out by hand? :)

          It just shows how expensive CGI is - and how relatively worthless compared to a brilliant script and outstanding directing and cinematography.

  4. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    "The original TV series lost the TV war, and nearly the battle, for the cultural consciousness 10 years later with the explosive début that was Star Wars."

    maybe its me , but does that sentence make any grammatical sense? I suspect the key is the way "for" is used , but i just have no idea what the sentence means. (its a paragraph on its own in fact)

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      proof read?

      here's another:

      "Roddenberry wanted the science, but Star Trek wasn’t some a documentary."

      although the meaning isnt totally lost on that one

      1. Little Mouse Silver badge

        Re: proof read?

        "...where others have gone boldly before..."

        No split infinitive! What's the world coming to?

        1. Scott 53

          Re: proof read?

          ""...where others have gone boldly before...""

          "No split infinitive! What's the world coming to?"

          To what is the world coming?

      2. BillG

        Re: proof read?

        Sorry, but the entire article should have been proof-read. I lost track of all of the grammatical errors and typos. Even the very last sentence of the article is wrong.

        If you really want the true story of the show, read "The Making of Star Trek" by Gene Roddenberry and Stephen Whitfield. It was published in 1970 so it is fresh and accurate.

        As far as NBC claiming there were lots of letters complaining about the show, that is considered allegorical, widely seen as NBC attempting damage control for cancelling the original series.

        1. Hurn

          Re: proof read?

          Erm, how about every article should be proof read?

          This one is the worst I've seen on this site. Ever.

          "southern sates" ? (should be 'southern states')

          My head hurts from reading this.

      3. JEDIDIAH

        Re: proof read?

        I dunno. I've actually heard the man speak and it seemed he was more about Humanism than science and technology.

        1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

          Re: proof read?

          Good point. I think it comes with having a biography instead of just a career.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: proof read?

          > "...he [Roddenberry] was more about Humanism than science and technology."

          I'll say. Practically every episode was a morality play.

          It was always "Prime Directive" this and "Prime Directive" that. Hardly any honest violence for violence's sake!

    2. Myvekk

      There is a comma missing that should be after "later".

      It means that the "the explosive début that was Star Wars" "10 years later" caused TOS to lose both the TV war and also "nearly <lost> the battle", "for the cultural consciousness".

      Or more simply, the release of SW 10 years after Trek's run, nearly killed ST altogether.

  5. Esme


    Having seen Star Trek from its early days and on the whole enjoyed it immensely, the thing that puzzles me is it being categorised as Science Fiction. As with the Skylark of Space (and Doc Smiths other great series, the Lensmen books), it isn't Science Fiction - it's Space Opera, same as Star Wars. And I'm truly astonished if ST is supposed to have aimed for scientific legitimacy given the enormous amount of dounle-talk gibberish that liberally littered many of the scripts.

    Sorry, but Star Trek simply played too fast and loose far too often with science to be considered science fiction. I'd offer Larry Niven's Tales of Known Space as an example of actual science fiction in contrast. Niven played the 'what if?' game that is at the heart of true SF superbly. For instance, 'what if teleportation booths can be created?' - and then worked out the consequences*, both with regard to physical laws and social consequences, and showed them to us in a highly entertaining way.

    ST is a hugely entertaining and generally thoughtful space opera, and that's a fine and worthy thing to be. So why do folk keep on mis-labelling it as something it isn't? Are folk ashamed of Space Opera, or something? If so, in god's name why?! It's a great genre, with a long and distinguished history. Better to be great Space Opera than third-rate (or even crap) Science Fiction, no?

    *can't have too great a change in altitude or teleportee freezes or fries (conservation of energy); too far north or south and teleportee gets slammed against one wall (conservation of momentum); and as for flash mobs and how police forces would be likely to react , Niven is so convincing that I rather hope that teleportation booths aren't possible! 8-}

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Huh?

      On IMDB in the sci fi forum , they have threads that go on for pages and pages about what is and isnt science fiction . on and on . endlessly . and on ...

      and on...

      and on...

      on an on an on an on ... ad infinitum

      most even say 'Mad Max' is sci fi

      whereas you seems to have summed it up there . well done!

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Huh?

        I think it was Stan Schmidt at Analog who basically defined it as 'if you take the science away, and it still works as a story, it wasn't science fiction'.

        But I would have liked to have seen some of the Lensman series on film...

        1. Danny 14

          Re: Huh?

          but does ST work without the science? I would guess that the bulk of people who watched ST and TNG were at least some part nerdy and watched partly for the "science" of it.

          1. fnj

            Re: Huh?

            @Danny 14:

            I would guess that the bulk of people who watched ST and TNG were at least some part nerdy and watched partly for the "science" of it.

            Even in 1966 I knew there was no such thing as "warp drive", and it was patently obvious that there never would be. Yeah, I dug the gadgetry, but what made my heart fairly burst with deep identification was Jean-Luc Picard's humanity and professionalism, and Commander Data's curious spirit and thirst for knowledge.

    2. Fr. Ted Crilly Bronze badge

      Re: Huh?

      yeah, I'd not like to wake up a piece at a time either.

    3. Esme

      Re: Huh?

      Well, there's at least two people who may be ashamed to admit they like Space Opera - but why? C'mon, claiming that Star Trek is Science Fiction is as silly as claiming that Black Adder is serious historical drama. Just because Black Adder isn't serious historical drama (because it doesn't abide by the rules of serious historical drama) doesn't prevent it being great at what it IS, which is fantastic historical comedy. So why get upset at Star Trek being regarded as great Space Opera rather than cack Science Fiction?. Do you downvoters genuinely not understand the concept of genre nor understand what the difference between SF and SO is? Or are you just embarassed that Hollywood and TV producers mis-sold you SO as SF (because they didn't understand or care about the difference) when you were young and so you didn;t realise the difference and don't like having it pointed out to you now? I'd genuinely be interested to know...

      1. People's Poet

        Re: Huh?

        Very good points, However to write ST off as just a space opera is nonsense, albeit it is more SO than SF. It's easy to define what is SF, take Warp Speed, Transporters (Matter), Communicators, Phasers etc.

        All of the above was based on SF when the programme was released, we now have working Communicators but we don't have the rest (yet). They're still based on scientific rationale but are purely fiction until mankind achieves them.

        As an aside, the original series is still the best, Kirk's if you can't sh@g it kill it philosophy was brilliant, the show had a humorous side to it too. TNG was awful, with its "it wants to kill me, but lets hug it & talk about it" approach. The fact the new reboots are based on the original just proves the point.

        1. Kiwi

          Re: Huh?

          we now have working Communicators

          I've always laughed at those who claim that "trek" invented cellphones etc. Portable radios were around before ST, I think even some models of portable TV's were around. All sorts of things were getting smaller and more portable. Some quick research suggests that the concept of mobile phones has been around since 1908 (see (WARNING: sites on internet do not necessarily contain reality!), and really they're just a form of radio and though the first cell phone call was in '73 you probably could've done the same with '50s tech using a portable radio, something at the other end to tie in to the phone line and something to generate dialing tones (IIRC tone dialing started in the '40s).

          TL:DR, Cell phones were concieved long before Trek.

          As an aside, the original series is still the best, Kirk's if you can't sh@g it kill it philosophy was brilliant, the show had a humorous side to it too. TNG was awful, with its "it wants to kill me, but lets hug it & talk about it" approach. The fact the new reboots are based on the original just proves the point.

          Don't know that I agree that TOS was best, but I do agree with your point about TNG. DS9 was definitely worst. In any competition, by any metric. And I'm watching an episode of the last season of "A-Team" while I type that!

          The re-boots prove that you don't need talent to make it in movies.

      2. Myvekk

        Re: Huh?

        Quite right, Esme.

        To (possible mis)quote someone else, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

        If it is good, entertaining, and possible informative & enlightening, what does it matter what genre the studio or critics call it?

    4. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Transporter of delight

      I think there were sufficient Star Trek episodes where the story is something happened to the transporter machine (or later the hologram playroom). About one month in there's the Richard Matheson story where the Transporter pauses and then materialises your evil identical twin. Or you end up in a an entire universe or in an alien's version of Pokegym or in an exact copy of your spaceship with no crew or talking to President Lincoln. Okay, these are not all actually the transporter's fault.

    5. BillG

      Re: Huh?

      Niven played the 'what if?' game that is at the heart of true SF superbly. For instance, 'what if teleportation booths can be created?' - and then worked out the consequences*

      Some say that the phaser would be the last invention of a modern society.

      The consequences are, once you create a device that could easily and conveniently kill someone without leaving any trace, co-workers would be disappearing every day!!!

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Huh?

        As in Nivens stories related to a type of technology police, there being some devices that if let out among the populis would cause untold havoc

      2. Alumoi Silver badge

        Re: Huh?

        The consequences are, once you create a device that could easily and conveniently kill someone without leaving any trace, co-workers would be disappearing every day!!!

        I don't think anyone sane would call politicians and marketing droids co-workers.

        1. oldcoder

          Re: Huh?

          Depends on your point of view.

          A politicians coworkers would be disappearing...

          And possibly would actually learn what not to do.

    6. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Huh?

      For what it's worth - H. G. Wells wanted to call it "scientific romance".

    7. Myvekk

      Re: Huh?

      I read an article by, I think, Asimov, stating that most "science fiction" wasn't. But it was still a better term than the more accurate "Speculative Fiction". He followed with a comment along the lines of, "After all, SciFi sounds so much better than SpecFic.."

    8. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Huh?

      For the matter, ST often investigated what impacts futuristic technology could have on a "civilization" - from wars fought by computers (and clean disintegration booths to avoid the designated victims corpses around), to use of holodecks to recreate actual people, and alienate from reality (and for not so "virtual" sex), exploitation of new artificial lifeforms, or if AI robots have "human" rights, and so on. And the very "how to deal with other civilizations that can't travel in Space yet.".

      Some of these issues we are about to face them now - see the recent article on El Reg about "sex with robots", and the ethical implication of self-driving cars.

      Sure, not all ST episodes are pure sci-fi - it could become even boring. Instead of doing a pure nerdy show it could appeal to a larger audience, is this a mistake? Should people need a PhD in Physics to follow a TV show?

      What do you people expect from sci-fi? Actual blueprints to build your own spaceship using washing machines spare parts? How to build your partner android so you can have a girlfriend eventually? Sci-fi is still literature, not science.

    9. unitron

      Re: Huh?

      Star Wars isn't even the kind of Space Opera that Star Trek is.

      it's Swords and Sorcery in space.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Huh?

        I really don't see how you can say that Star Trek is not science fiction. It may be more broadly written than your more favorite/eggheaded scifi writers, but it is a fictional series set in a future where technologies were different and scientific knowledge had increased well beyond the airing date of the episodes.

        Sounds a lot like science fiction to me. Did H.G. wells explain how the Martians could produce heat rays or black poison gas in "War of the Worlds"? He pretty heavily intoned that the Martian attackers were launched to Earth out of great cannons on Mars, but he never explained how anyone, much less the large but physically very fragile Martians could survive the sudden massive acceleration that form of launch would create.

        Likewise Jules Verne, who never explained what the "power of the universe" was that Captain Nemo had mastered to drive the Nautilus. You can't even say that Verne forsaw nuclear propulsion or power, because at the time nuclear physics was primitive to the point of being non-existant. More likely Verne thought of the Sun and thought "if we could just contain some of whatever makes stars work, we could drive a steamship with it!" For all Verne knew, what fired the stars was some special kind of combustion.

        And yet, I challenge you to say that Verne and H.G. Wells were not science fiction writers.

    10. twentygototen

      Re: Huh?

      To paraphrase the Pub Landlord I'm of the opinion that:

      Set - Science Fiction. Subset - Space Opera. Do you want me to draw you a...Venn diagram? :)

      And, are you aware that Larry Niven wrote an episode of the Star Trek animated series?


  6. Extra spicey vindaloo

    Ihope that this new series will be ok.

    No real StarTrek since Enterprise was aired, it's been too a long time without ST.

    * I don't count the Lens Flare Abuser's disregard for my childhood, by pissing on the back story of both ST and SW.

  7. Lotaresco


    "Takei was an actor who’d struggled with his place in American society: along with his parents, he’d been interned during the second World War for being of Japanese, with his mother stripped of her US citizenship and his father nearly deported."

    I'm guessing the word "descent" is missing from the above. OK, I would mail it in as a correction but mail isn't available at my present location.

  8. Custard Fridge

    Wot no Picard?

    As a teenager of the 1980's whilst I watched the original series repeats with my dad, it was The Next Generation that really rocked it for me, and for him.

    Space Opera AND Science Fiction - TNG was a stronger combination of both which is why it worked so well.

    Or maybe it was me being a teenager. Ahhh... easy days...

    Is there a Part 2 coming about TNG? Pleeease say there is...


    1. lorisarvendu

      Re: Wot no Picard?

      "Is there a Part 2 coming about TNG? Pleeease say there is...


      Since the article is specifically about how 2016 is 50 years since TOS first aired, you will probably have to wait until 2037 for your Part 2. Sorry.

      1. DropBear

        Re: Wot no Picard?

        "Since the article is specifically about how 2016 is 50 years since TOS first aired, you will probably have to wait until 2037 for your Part 2"

        Well then why did the article mention season two and three at all?!? We should only talk about those next year and two years from now!

        1. lorisarvendu

          Re: Wot no Picard?

          "Well then why did the article mention season two and three at all?!? We should only talk about those next year and two years from now!"

          For the same reason the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who referenced every season from 1963 to 2013. It was one series. TOS and TNG aren't. They are separate series in the same franchise.

        2. VinceH

          Re: Wot no Picard?

          Psst! DropBear! I think you forgot to include one of these --->

  9. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    "the Enterprise’ has a multi ethnic crew at the centre of the core line up, not in the periphery, that departed from the standard sliced white variety of 1960s US TV"

    ....but they still had a black lady in a miniskirt answering the space telephone!

    1. Zimmer


      At least credit the Wolowitz with your quote ;) He is an Astronaut, after all

    2. collinsl

      Ah, but she was a bridge officer, and had people answering to her - she was in charge of a department!

      1. Darryl

        AND you never saw her bringing Kirk his coffee


      You can't even relate to the 60s.

      Yes, and Dr Martin Luther King himself told her to stay put because even that was an inspiring improvement. People have lost all sense of perspective about these things.

      Whoopi Goldberg could probably tell you a thing or two...

      1. Kiwi

        Re: You can't even relate to the 60s.

        Whoopi Goldberg could probably tell you a thing or two...

        Like what her parents were doing at the moment she was conceived?

        I know I know... Stupid =======>>

  10. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge



    i did ponder it .... but the shows name felt like too much typing. and to generic . H.Wolowitz wouldve been much better

  11. deconstructionist

    Star trek was never science and it always bemused me there nothing of merit there but then again so was star wars but it didn't dive down the utopian wonderland the federation was and only after gene stop writing did it change.

    But to you all trekies ,sci fi fan alike around the world the sad fact is warp drives/ ftl travel/ hyperspace are all utter nonsense as the universe has unfortunately "made it so"

    1. Kiwi


      But to you all trekies ,sci fi fan alike around the world the sad fact is warp drives/ ftl travel/ hyperspace are all utter nonsense as the universe has unfortunately "made it so"

      While I expect that you're right, I do take one thing into consideration.

      Not too many years ago, the computer I am using (an older HP DV7, I7 CPU and 1G ATi graphics with 8GB Ram (only coz I couldn't afford more) was considered quite impossible. My other laptop, a much slower and even older Dell, still gets an impossible 4hrs out of it's battery. My cell phone does things beyond impossible "when I were a lad". Oh, and my beloved motorbike and much hated car both take me well over 30Mph - speeds that a couple of hundred years or so ago were considered completely impossible. I have also flown in heavier-than-air aircraft and sailed on ships built entirely of Iron (ie metal hull), and a few built of composite materials that did not exist when I was born - all long after someone at the the US Patent Office declared that everything that could be invented had been.

      IMLW, while by what we know of physics and technology today says it must be impossible, we've been here before. Today we consider it nothing to do what yesterday was impossible.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not Science

      Of course none of the ST series were not Science it was SF/SO based entertainment and not documentarys, It was pretty reasonable for its day - not Oscar material but I never cared I wanted to see Space Ships, and Aliens that didn't always go to War when they saw us (I couldn't blame them if they did but...)

  12. Jason Bloomberg

    Best thing about it...

    No idea. I remember first seeing Star Trek on our black and white TV as a child. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it seems to have tagged along as 'part of the family', who I sometimes see more of and sometimes less, changing as it goes, as we all do.

    Praise and criticism are mostly meaningless, as is pitting it against anything else; like a dear friend it's always been there (along with Dr Who and other good friends). I'm glad it has been, and pleased it continues.

    1. Danny 14

      Re: Best thing about it...

      I wasn't as keen on ST as a kid but liked Dr Who. Ironically from my teenage years I went back to ST (and star wars of course) when the first films came out and abandoned Dr Who.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Best thing about it...

      Well put. That's exactly how it was, is, and will be. Cheers!

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Best thing about it...

      I agree... it's a dear friend.

      I was in US Marine Boot Camp when it first appeared and about 3 weeks into boot camp, a certain Drill Instructor who always asked "questions" in morning formation asked: "Who's the biggest bad ass in the universe?". We answered "Chesty Puller". Wrong!!! The answer was "Mr. Spock". Which some came back with: "Who the hell is he?". Followed by puzzled look from the DI. A couple of weeks later, we had an evening formation with messkits. (Messkits? What the hell for?). Two TV's were set up in the Platoon area and we were treated to Star Trek, popcorn, and sodas. Star Trek was a good friend after that.

  13. lorisarvendu

    The Future is pretty close to what it used to be...

    While some of the human attitudes in these early days of the Federation appear to have dated badly (based as they were on 1960s America), some aspects of the technology haven't, which is surprising for Scifi (think Back to the Future 2 - they have cars that fly, but still fax machines).

    OK so the counters on the helm were decidedly non-digital, but the Transporter, Phasers and Communicators still look futuristic even by today's standards. Characters in early Trek treated technology as simply a fact of Federation life, without trying to explain it to the viewer (other SF shows often fall down in this regard, including ST:TNG, which practically invented the concept of technobabble). Perhaps that's the secret of good SF drama - never dissect technology, simply give it a good name and just allow your characters to use it and accept that it works.

    One of the most telling examples of this was an episode where Kirk walks towards a door and it doesn't open. The look on his face is priceless, because in Kirk's world things like doors just work and when he encounters one that doesn't, he's as nonplussed* as we would be with a light-switch or a cold-water tap.

    *Note original, non-North American meaning of the word "nonplussed"

    1. DropBear

      Re: The Future is pretty close to what it used to be...

      I am using the original meaning ("a state in which no more can be said or done") but I'm still nonplussed by your meaning. Or maybe the other way around. One or the other, for sure.

    2. Shmako

      Re: The Future is pretty close to what it used to be...

      There is a somewhat apocryphal story about an episode director a (or similar) asking the writers how the warp nacelles work on Star Trek starships. 'Very well' was the answer that came back.

      Happy to be corrected on the actual circumstances of the quote.

      1. lorisarvendu

        Re: The Future is pretty close to what it used to be...

        "Happy to be corrected on the actual circumstances of the quote."

        Happy to oblige!

        When asked by Time magazine in 1994, "How do the Heisenberg compensators work?" Michael Okuda replied, "They work just fine, thank you."

        (From Trek's Memory-Alpha wiki on "heisenberg compensators")

        1. JEDIDIAH

          Re: The Future is pretty close to what it used to be...

          ...a better answer to that question is "I don't know" or "either they don't work, or they do work".

          This is how you know these people don't know anything about the actual science involved.

          Something about cats would have also been good.

    3. Rattus Rattus

      Re: The Future is pretty close to what it used to be...

      I'm not sure what kind of bizarro future world you come from, but over here light switches and cold water taps are still pretty common.

  14. Herby

    I remember it well...

    Back in the day as a sophomore (aka 4th form) in high school, I did enjoy the series. It kinda got to you after a while. Now I understand that Star Trek (as most theatrical productions) was a reflection of its time (the USA in the 60's), and dealt with the subjects of the day in a different way.

    Yes, it was sad when the series ended, but that's how it goes. We now have a record of some of the conflicts of the era (as mentioned in the article). It is all a new perspective to see things.

    Yes, I was one of the guys that sat at the 'nerd' table during lunch, and yes, we did talk about the series on the Friday after the Thursday showing of the show. Made for interesting discussions.

  15. Anonymous Coward


    Without it, how would you get in or out of supermarkets??


    PS, never mind that interracial kiss, the network completely missed the first interspecies kiss!!

  16. JJKing

    But to you all trekies ,sci fi fan alike around the world the sad fact is warp drives/ ftl travel/ hyperspace are all utter nonsense as the universe has unfortunately "made it so"

    I am sure even 1,000 years ago trains, automobiles, telephones and the ISS would have also been all utter nonsense since their universe had unfortunately "made it so".

    You see things; and you say “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say “Why not?”

    Star Trek TOS didn't invent them but we now have:

    Wide view screens

    Tablet computers

    Flip phones (Motorola for you young 'ns)



    Transporter (ok so it only does an atom but it's a start)

    Food replicator (3D food printer)


    I am sure there are others I have missed. So, why not dream and say "Why not?"

    Oh yes, ask NASA about the Warp drive.

    1. zathraslives


      You forgot to mention self-opening/closing doors and the bluetooth communicator, which is my personal favorite.

      TOS inspired people to invent the future, which is rather the point of the genre. The fact that the show was somewhat cheesy is simply gravy in my book.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Predicting something might happen and actually inventing them are different things.

        1. Kiwi


          Predicting something might happen and actually inventing them are different things.

          Sadly I only have one upvote to give.. Consider this a second.

  17. Darryl

    3rd season ratings

    It's too bad they didn't have the Borg to trot out as a ratings-saver like they did in every bloody other series.

  18. Yugguy

    Lensman series

    Never mind Skylark, Lensman novels had it all.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lensman series

      But not a universe or society I would have cared to live in, Arisa or Boskone not really that nice.

  19. Joe Gurman

    Brings back memories

    As a teenager, I watched Star Trek with a somewhat skeptical eye: I liked good science fiction, and it wasn't; I liked social comment with (what passed for, at that age, in the US, as) a little style and wit, and ToS generally lacked it, and only rarely were the signatures of real SF writers visible. But the author, who's done a very nice job in relating the socio-historical significance of the series, leaves out perhaps the most moving incident: Nichelle Nichols, looking for roles with a bit more substance than Uhura (cue Galaxy Quest clip with Sigourney Weaver saying it's a dumb job to repeat what the computer says, but it's her job and she's going to do it), was thinking of leaving the show, when she got a call from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., asking her to stay because she was such a positive — and unique — role model. That kind of thing, I think, is, in the US at least, the key to Star Trek's survival: it represents our aspirations for a better society (no money, no racial or ethnic strife on the planet) and our willingness to look for new and different cultures. Compare and contrast with Donald Trump's appeal now, *cough*.

    And a personal reminiscence: in the 1967 - 1968 academic year, I was applying to colleges, and was shocked to find that I'd been accepted at small but rather well-known science and engineering school in Pasadena, California. I was also shocked by a dean's pointedly explaining that I;d done well enough in non-STEM subjects that I might change my mind about what I wanted to do, and while they had excellent humanities courses, it was difficult there for people who decided not be nerds. While trying to make up my mind, I read about a protest of 500 of the (then all-male) student body at NBC's Burbank headquarters over what turned out to be the final cancellation of ToS. As noted in the story, Star Trek was on on Friday evenings that year, which led me to the conclusion that 2/3 of the undergraduates at that noted institution had nothing better to do on a Friday night than watch a (barely) sci-fi TV series with cheesy production values. I gave the school a pass.

    OK, one more personal connection: Leonard Nimoy, like me, was a native of Boston, Massachusetts. His father owned a barbershop in the Dorchester/Mattapan neighborhood.... and cut my grandfather's hair. How could I totally dislike a series with a homeboy in it?

  20. oneeye

    The Latest Letter writing Campaign!

    This year, CBS/Paramount came out with "Fan Film Guidelines" that were rather onerous. Jonathan Lane, who runs a Trek Blog, ( ) set up a facebook group to discuss and make recommendations to said guidelines. This evolved into a online Focus Group. This report started going out to Studio executives last week. Nearly 100, of these 37 page reports have already reached Studios Executives. Here is a link to our facebook page, ( ) where the report can be found, as well as at . Here is a direct download link to the PDF:

    If you have never watched a fan film production, one of the most recently done, and most sophisticated, is Horizon., Largely done by one man. Here is his home page, and the movie can be viewed for free on YouTube as all other Fan Films can be.

    1. Kiwi

      Re: The Latest Letter writing Campaign!

      If you have never watched a fan film production, one of the most recently done, and most sophisticated, is Horizon., Largely done by one man.

      Ok, it's likely something far better than I could ever write or produce. However... The opening reminded me greatly of Homeworld 2, the weapon looks like they took it from the last couple of seasons of SG1, and also they look like they're trying to out-do JJ Abrams for lens-flare (or dust spots in this case)

      I didn't last 5 mins. Might try again on the weekend though.

  21. ChubbyBehemoth

    Certainly classifies as Sci Fi

    Despite the fact that the science is not too strong, the amount of futuristic objects, the idea that people of different races and cultures would be together in teams including aliens, the motion through space to explore other worlds and a federation of planets rather than just one aggressive coloniser. Yeah, for a 1960's TV show that was science fiction for sure and many of its concepts are still kept alive.

    It is highly optimistic science for sure, with FTL and teleportation, but even now people have not quite given up on that idea despite the rather dismal prospect of both. A communication devise that you would flip open to use was something introduced in the early 90's and I can easily download an app that turns my mobile into a ST scanner including the bleeps. Space Opera in my view is Sci Fi as well. Not hard Sci Fi, but to discard any FTL toting Sci Fi as utter nonsense and focus on the detective or other story that makes it interesting doesn't cut it out of Sci Fi to me.

    The mere prospect of, hoping for and dreaming of a future where such things are possible and the idea that we are going to survive our self destructive instincts into a better future is probably what makes Sci Fi as strong genre.

    Happy anniversary ST. Live long and prosper. And four pints for the Vulcan!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Vampires, Zombies and Star Trek

    Yes, the films don't make a lot, but it's a guaranteed audience, you have to properly arse up to make a star trek film flop..

    Even the modern TV Series, that Wesley character, seriously, what were they thinking? It's softy-walter from the beano without the personality. That alone must have set back science education a decade. Still they get away with that god-awful tedious shite, I remember as a teenager waiting for that series to become remotely interesting, while they just talked shite-psuedo-physics whilst the one (nay, two!) bright spot(s!) the woman in the leotard with the tits talked bullshit pseudo-psychology.

  23. fnj

    My paean to the greatest joys in my life

    I agree with all the fond rememberings of E. E. Doc Smith's Skylark works; also all of Murray Leinster's Med Ship and other stuff. To that I would also like to nominate Keith Laumer and Rosel George Brown's incomparable Earthblood - the single work, of all fiction and non-fiction, which had the greatest impact on my soul. Reading that epic as a teen was my piece of heaven. Laumer's Retief yarns in all their profusion also gave me wonderful times.

  24. StheD

    TOS was high-science - considering

    I started watching from the very first show. Recently I've been watching some sf from the 1950s. They had real problems with science - like having no clue what a galaxy was, or what planets were in the solar system, or figuring out that other stars weren't right next door to earth. In general shows before ST thought that you could go faster than light if you pressed harder on the accelerator.

    Warp drive is no dumber than any other ftl drive. And I remember thinking that them understanding they needed something like warp drive was a big leap over what had gone before.

    If you don't like FTL you wipe out most of science fiction. L. Sprague deCamp never used it, but his books from that universe are hardly read any more, and his stuff was quite limited.

    1. Esme

      Re: TOS was high-science - considering

      Aside from the fact that the possibility of some sort of warp drive has not been comprehensively ruled out, an SF novel will say 'what if FTL travel is possible?', define the limitations of FTL travel in that story's universe, and then live with them. Niven and Pournelle did a fantastic job of this in 'The Mote in God's Eye' and sequels, plus Pournelles tales in the same future universe. The type of FTL and its limitations had profound effects on the kind of interstellar society that formed, and how space combat took place. Now take a look at Poul Anderson's Technic series of novels that often star Dominic Flandy. That also has FTL travel - and is excellent Space Opera. Some of them might count as science fiction as well (although I can think of at least one that was a bit too far-fetched for that), but the point is that the presence or absence of FTL or any other technology does not automatically place a tale in one genre or another.

      The defining characteristic of SF is that it plays 'what if?' with a limited chunk of science and sticks to known science with the rest - and then, if the author's any good, wraps a cracking good tale around it. It is NOT 'anything goes' fiction (that's fantasy). Whereas good SO is basically good drama in a futuristic setting, and scientific plausability very much takes a back seat. Some tales manage to be both SF and SO, some are one or the other. I'd agree that the odd individual episode of ST may make it as SF, but clearly a lot of them don't. Which doesn't detract one iota from how enjoyable or worthy it is.

      The saddest thing, to me, is that in the lat 2-3 decades there's been a tendency for some folk, generally those who for some reason desp[erately want ST and Star Wars to be SF, to claim that SF is actually 'hard' SF and a subset of SF that includes all the SO stuff that they misname as SF - as if I and others (including the bulk of teh authors that wrote great SO and SF in the Golden Age of both genres) are being 'elitist' about SF in some way. Far from it, I thoroughly enjoy all good fiction, but calling a strawberry an apple doesn't make it an apple, it's just an error in nomeclature. From where i'm sat it's as if a generation of folks for some reason don't like to admit, for some reason, that they enjoy SO and so keep insisting that the SO they like is SF - which looks like a weird kind of elitism to me. Neither is inherently superior to the other as entertainment , they're simply different. I am seriously and genuinely puzzled by this trend. Why the distaste for Space Opera amongst so many that they seem to want to wish it out of existence?!

      Put another way - if ST and Star Wars aren't Space Opera, what the heck IS?!

      1. acid andy

        Re: TOS was high-science - considering

        Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica (particularly the reboot) are almost devoid of science. The rebooted Battlestar Galactica seems to perhaps even abhor science in favour of religion. I noticed something similar in JJ Abrams' Lost (you can't call that space opera as they're not in space) where the whole series seems to represent a battle between science and religion and science loses! And don't even get me started on his reboot. : ( I personally seemed to grow out of Star Wars as a kid so was less than impressed when JJ's script writers seemed to consider the two as interchangeable!

        Trek is sci fi as far as I'm concerned because they at least did their best to research their technology and define it with clear rules that, mostly, were followed. Much more so than any of the other contemporary TV shows set in space, which were more like B Movies. I have to concede respect for science wasn't allowed to get in the way of a good story or in the way of the key premise of any story really, which is why they had lots of foes with godlike powers and such. There's still too much science and engineering and pragmatism baked into the design and layout of the ship and universe to call it space opera though, for me.

        The show doesn't try to hide science or apologize for it like others do, nay, it celebrates it. This is embodied in Nimoy's Spock.

        You could make a case that the show is a good show, but *bad* sci fi, sure, but I don't accept your conclusion. All this said, I will concede that the boundaries of what makes a genre are a matter of personal opinion, so a protracted argument about this is probably a futile waste of time.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: TOS was high-science - considering

      Not only before ST: take "Space 1999" - a Moon displaced from its orbit that travels around the universe?? Yes, better spaceship models and animations than ST... but the plots....

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Most of the stories revolved around the friendship of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. They also had real character flaws that were taken seriously. Combined with the social commentary, the show didn't need to rely on a special effects to remain relevant.

  26. StheD

    ST wasn't hard science fiction in the Hal Clement sense - but it was a lot harder than the nonsense that came before. And even more important it was the first sf TV show I'm aware of that established a universe bigger than what we see directly.

    Sure it is space opera. Space opera is a genre within sf. I'd hate to exile Doc Smith from the canon.

    It was after Star Wars when people looked at you funny if you said that sf (sorry, scifi) appears in actual books.

    Stories like the Mote books with constrained FTL methods are interesting also, but that was not the purpose of warp in ST. It was a way of getting across long distances - and notice they understood that this took a lot of power to do. Actual warp speeds were a function of plot needs more than anything, but that's pretty common in film and TV writing. Anyhow, we know ST is science fiction because Analog had a very positive article about it during its run. Campbell-era Analog. I rest my case.

  27. StheD


    One thing about TOS is that very few of Kirk's solutions to problems involved unknown properties of warp drive or other nonsense. Consider "The Doomsday Machine" for example. Simple, elegant solution with no advanced physics.

    However I have to give them and later shows a pass on technobabble. Listen to yourself at work discussing how you are going to fix the latest user or vendor problem - then try to listen to yourself from the viewpoint of someone from 1955. You are speaking pure technobabble. USB? Hard drive? VOIP? What the heck is that?

    One might even say that we speak technobabble from the viewpoint of many people alive right now. So, we should give them a pass. It would be nice if the technobabble was more consistent, though.

  28. el_oscuro

    Martin Luther King was number one fan

    In the 1960's, TV in the US was lilly white - nothing like it is now. The only black people you saw on TV was maids. And Star Trek comes along and a black woman was a lead character and 4th in command of a fricking starship!

    Anyway, Nichelle Nichols was ready to quit the show to pursue a Broadway career, but at a Beverly Hills fund raiser, she was supposed to meet her "number one Star Trek fan".

    It was MLK.

    “This man says, ‘Yes, Ms. Nichols, I am that fan. I am your best, greatest fan, and my family are your greatest fans. As a matter of fact, this is the only show that my wife Corretta and I will allow our little children to watch, to stay up late to watch because it’s past their bedtime.'”

    King said he admired Nichols’s work and the role Roddenberry had created for her, one with dignity.

  29. rodlee

    Startrek the 70s PDP10 computer game

    What hours were spent in the seventies by our software team playing Startrek on a quarter million pound Dec PDP10! You could turn your phasers on Klingons or Romulans from a 300 baud teletype, and on a VT50 it gave rise to early use of awesome applied to a piece of code.

    1. StheD

      Re: Startrek the 70s PDP10 computer game

      That game was published in Dave Ahl's book of 50 Basic games. I rewrote it in Pascal as a test of our PDP-11 Pascal compiler when I was in grad school - and all my team mates spent a lot of time testing it.

      What was the lifeboat called in your version? The Ahl version had it as the Faerie Queen, but I renamed it USS Titanic. Yes I know the ship was RMS, but it was USS in an old blues song redone by Jamie Brockett.

  30. Nick London

    Pedantic point

    For the record

    The Bay of Pigs, a disasterous invasion of Cuba by CIA proxies, and the Cuba Missile crisis were two distinct episodes. The first in April 61 and the second in October 62. It is the latter that had Kennedy and Kruschav playing chicken with nuclear weapons.

    I'll get my coat.

  31. PaulR79

    New series

    From what little I've read it seems that the new series is set between the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Given what that means I am very much looking forward to it. The potential is there for a lot of touchy engagements with the Klingons as well as other threats of the time. The 50th anniversary has really given me an appetite for more Star Trek after not caring about it much because of the alternate timeline films.

  32. Hurn

    Better Late than Never

    There was a word* missing from the article:


    In addition to the goals already ascribed to Roddenberry, he was also a big fan of the classics, and wanted to make Shakespeare a larger part of people's lives. To do this, he, ah, borrowed quotes (frequently used as episode titles), plot points, and even scenes.

    * Well, name, really.

  33. Stuart Halliday

    Look, Geeks watch. Nerds create.

    Get the basics right.

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