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The legend impacted multiple generations
In its more than 40-year history, one that has impacted multiple generations, “Star Trek” has carved out an iconic place in modern pop culture as the only ongoing story that encapsulates the awe, wonder and bold audacity of the human desire to reach for the stars. With the indelible opening words of the original 1960s television series, “Space, the Final Frontier,” a succession of journeys were launched across the cosmos that did and, to this day, still celebrate the thrill of adventure, the pioneering spirit of exploration and the drive to create an ever-more amazing future full of possibilities. The daring and provocative voyages of the Starship Enterprise, and the many ships that would soon follow in her flight path, have appealed to the stargazer in all of us, and our hopes and dreams that technological and cultural advances will bring out the best of our humanity.
The original TV series was not a hit when it first aired, but later caught on like wildfire among the ever-growing legion of fans who responded to its compellingly funny, contentious, charismatic personalities and its five-year mission to peacefully engage new worlds and cultures. But how did that mission begin? What brought together this disparate group of brash, brilliant, ambitious young men and women and drove them to explore new frontiers? And how did they forge that special chemistry and sense of purpose that would inspire so many discoveries and fantastic adventures for years and even centuries to come?
For director / producer J.J. Abrams, going back to the beginning after more than six television series and ten feature films was the only way to forge into the future. His vision was to literally start fresh, beginning with James T. Kirk and his one-day First Officer, the Vulcan Spock’s advancement in the placePlaceNameStarfleet PlaceTypeAcademy and their extraordinary first journey together.
Abrams came to the project with great respect for series creator Gene Roddenberry and all that “Star Trek” had achieved as the creator of an archetypal modern myth and cult phenomenon. However, he also wanted to take the story where it had never been before: making a state-of-the-art action epic about two heroic leaders as brash young men in the making.
“I was a fan of the original series, although I was never a Trekker,” says Abrams. “Yet I always felt there was something that had not been done with `Star Trek.’ There have been ten movies, but this is the first time that a movie has dealt with the fundamental, primary story Gene Roddenberry originally created in 1966.” Abrams continues: “What I hope with this movie is that you never have to have seen anything about `Star Trek’ before to really enjoy a comical, romantic, suspenseful adventure, but that it also does proud the lasting, brilliant world that Gene Roddenberry created. The brilliant thing `Star Trek’ brought to the world was a dose of optimism and I hope this movie continues in that tradition.”
While many anticipated a total re-boot from Abrams, he was excited to go in an unexpected direction, heading way back, as it were, into the never-seen 23rd century launch of the U.S.S. Enterprise. When he brought the idea of a “’Star Trek’ origin story” to producer Damon Lindelof, with whom Abrams (along with Jeffrey Lieber) created the contemporary television phenomenon “Lost,” the producer was instantly taken by the idea.
Explains Lindelof, “For me, the idea that no one has ever told an origin story for Kirk and Spock and all these characters was very cool. We had a great conversation about how this crew of people might have come together and learned to sacrifice certain parts of their personalities to get along. It was really fun and, next thing I knew, Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman were writing a script.”
A fan of “Star Trek” since childhood, Lindelof believes the story’s premise and characters have continued to be so relevant for so long because they capture something essential about the space travel mythos: the sheer hopefulness of it. “Most stories we see now about the distant future are bleak, dismal and dystopian. The incredible thing about the initial `Star Trek’ television series is that it was so energetic, optimistic and cool. It presented the future the way we’d like to believe it will unfold. It’s a future to aim for.”
That view, he felt, was a great match for Abrams’ exuberant style of character-and-action-driven storytelling. “J.J. brings innovation to everything he does, but also brings an ability to boil a story down to its most human elements and translate hugely complicated production challenges into something with mass appeal, and that was all necessary to go back to the beginning of `Star Trek’ with today’s cinematic technology,” says Lindelof.
Adds executive producer Bryan Burk, who has also collaborated with Abrams on “Lost,” “Alias” and “Cloverfield”: “We envisioned this `Star Trek’ as a truly grand adventure about two very different men whose destiny is not only to become true friends, but iconic partners, guardians and explorers.”
Executive producer Jeffrey Chernov, who oversaw the line production, concludes: “The film for me became not only a new look at the `Star Trek’ universe, but a kind of cross between `The Right Stuff’ and the original `Star Wars.’ It has that fresh, imaginative, intergalactic storytelling, but is also very grounded in the idea of young men and women with a lot of heart and camaraderie. When you add J.J.’s mastery of action and love of scope, you have something very fun and entertaining.”
Star Trek is an American science fiction entertainment franchise created by Gene Roddenberry and owned by CBS (TV series) and Paramount Pictures (Film Rights).[Note 1] Star Trek: The Original Series and its live-action TV spin-off series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise as well as the Star Trek film franchise make up the main canon. The canonicity of Star Trek: The Animated Series is debated,[Note 2] and the expansive library of Star Trek novels and comics is generally considered non-canon, although still part of the franchise.
The first series, now referred to as The Original Series, debuted in 1966 and ran for three seasons on NBC. It followed the interstellar adventures of James T. Kirk and the crew of the starship Enterprise, an exploration vessel of a 23rd-century interstellar “United Federation of Planets”. In creating the first Star Trek, Roddenberry was inspired by Westerns, Wagon Train, the Horatio Hornblower novels and Gulliver’s Travels. In fact, the original series was almost titled Wagon Train to the Stars. These adventures continued in the short-lived Star Trek: The Animated Series and six feature films.
Four spin-off television series were eventually produced: Star Trek: The Next Generation followed the crew of a new starship Enterprise set a century after the original series; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, set contemporaneously with The Next Generation; and Star Trek: Enterprise, set before the original series, in the early days of human interstellar travel. Four additional The Next Generation feature films were produced.
In 2009, the film franchise underwent a relaunch with a prequel to the original series set in an alternate timeline titled simply Star Trek. This film featured a new cast portraying younger versions of the crew from the original show.[Note 3] A sequel to this film, Star Trek Into Darkness, premiered on May 16, 2013. A thirteenth theatrical feature, a sequel to Into Darkness, has been confirmed for release in July 2016, to coincide with the franchise’s 50th anniversary. In November 2015, CBS announced the development of a new Star Trek TV series to be shown on a digital platform from January 2017.
Star Trek has been a cult phenomenon for decades. Fans of the franchise are called Trekkies or Trekkers. The franchise spans a wide range of spin-offs including games, figurines, novels, toys, and comics. Star Trek had a themed attraction in Las Vegas that opened in 1998 and closed in September 2008. At least two museum exhibits of props travel the world. The series has its own full-fledged constructed language, Klingon. Several parodies have been made of Star Trek. In addition, viewers have produced several fan productions.
Star Trek is noted for its influence on the world outside of science fiction. It has been cited as an inspiration for several technological inventions, including the cell phone and tablet computers. The franchise is also noted for its progressive civil rights stances. The Original Series included one of television’s first multiracial casts. Star Trek references can be found throughout popular culture from movies such as the submarine thriller Crimson Tide to the animated series South Park.