Star Trek makes its television debut, September 8, 1966
The show, which is now known as "Star Trek: The Original Series," was canceled after three seasons, due to low ratings. NBC even considered canceling it after two seasons, but fans were able to save it with a letter-writing campaign.
Taking place in the 23rd century, the show followed Captain Kirk and the crew of the starship Enterprise. The creator, Gene Roddenberry, was inspired by Gulliver's Travels, and marketed the series as a western in space. He was also influenced by the space programs of the time, making "to boldly go where no man has gone before" part of the Enterprise mission after a similar statement appeared in the 1958 White House booklet "Introduction to Outer Space."
The original pilot episode was called "The Cage" and it was filmed in 1964, but didn't air in its complete form until 1988, as part of a retrospective special. The network rejected the pilot, but ordered a second one. The first episode to air in 1966 was called "The Man Trap."
The original cast included Captain James T Kirk, First Officer Mr Spock, Dr Leonard "Bones" McCoy, Chief Engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott, Communications Officer Nyota Uhura, and Helmsman Hikaru Sulu.
Star Trek: The Original Series debuted in 1966. Source: Wired
The series was shown in syndication throughout the 1970s, where it became a cult classic, gaining a legion of loyal fans known as Trekkies and Trekkers. Despite the early ratings failure, it was the beginning of a franchise that now includes numerous spin-off shows and a series of films.
Fans gathered for the first Star Trek convention in New York City in 1972, and continue to meet at events around the world. In 1976, fans influenced NASA to name the first full-scale prototype Space Shuttle the Enterprise. Roddenberry and members of the show's original cast attended the dedication ceremony.
From left to right, NASA Administrator Dr James D Fletcher, DeForest Kelley, George Takei, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, Leonard Nimoy, Gene Roddenberry; a NASA official, and Walter Koenig attend the Enterprise dedication ceremony. Source: NASA
Star Trek has had a great cultural and technological impact since it began. The flip phone was said to be inspired by the communicator used by the Enterprise crew and there have been recent efforts to create a functional tricorder and cloaking devices, like those seen on the show.
To celebrate the show's 50th anniversary in 2016, Facebook created Star Trek reaction buttons for fans of the show to use for a limited time:
- Star Trek turns 45: Fun facts about the series
- Star Trek tech
- NASA unveils 1st Space Shuttle, September 17, 1976
- Could this take the $10 million Tricorder X Prize?
- Technology looking to improve the human condition
For more moments in tech history, see this blog. EDN strives to be historically accurate with these postings. Should you see an error, please notify us.
Editor's note: This article was originally posted on September 8, 2014 and edited on September 8, 2017.