iFeature | STAR TREK At 55
An Entertainment Pop-Culture Feature
Science-Fiction’s most enduring franchise continues to prove that the Final Frontier has no limits. Going into its 55th Anniversary STAR TREK remains as relevant as ever warping into a brighter future into the 21st Century and beyond!
How could he have known? In the year 2021 we’d still be talking about a television that aired for three seasons, but would make an indelible impact on popular culture. Gene Roddenberry’s STAR TREK has been an entertainment mainstay across all forms of media for over half a century, and continues to remain one of the most profitable and enduring franchises with continuing adventures that outlived the network’s confidence in the series when it hit the airwaves on Sept 8, 1966. With its intrepid crew of pioneers taking the stars to seek out new life, what Star Trek taught us all was that humanity had hope and a future to aspire to.
Even though at the time culturally there was so much turmoil going on in the world (many of the same issues rearing their ugly head even today), Star Trek provided a beacon of sorts to an audience that was looking for some bit of optimism amidst the cacophony of war, politics and corruption that was prevalent in the late 60s. Roddenberry fought unabashedly to ensure that diversity was representative of the crew of his Starship Enterprise. At the helm was Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and always to his right, the Vulcan first officer, Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and at the helm was Hikaru Sulu (George Takei), at communications Lt. Uhura (Nicelle Nichols) and seated at operations Lt. Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig). A Chinese American, an African woman and a Russian working alongside an alien.
Every week, the ship and its crew encountered all realms of possibilities exploring the outer reaches of the cosmos, and hidden inside each episode was a morality play that touched on serious issues whether it was racism, gender-inequality, sexism, or human civil rights. Skillfully disguised as science-fiction, the network heads ignored most of those bits which ran under their radar so long as Kirk was challenged by bee-hive beauties in tin-foil tops, and whenever sponsors balked, Roddenberry pushed right back. It worked and pioneered the genre, but ultimate the lack of network support landed Star Trek in a lousy time slot. Its budget also slashed considerably, cancellation was inevitable.
The final episode of Star Trek ran on June 3, 1969. “The Turnabout Intruder” may have signaled the end of The Original Series in its network run, but it was in syndication that Star Trek found its audience and developed into the pop-culture phenomenon that it is today. With fans hungry for more, Paramount immediately went to work on revitalizing the franchise and in 1979 brought the Enterprise to the big screen with Star Trek: The Motion Picture and ambitious transition for the television cast (which were actually preparing for a “Phase II” to network launch).
In its wake the franchise, under the guidance of various executive producers continued to prosper. Although critics were largely unkind to the first motion picture effort, when Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan arrived in theaters it was an instant blockbuster and rekindled the fandom. A series of proper sequels followed and soon Star Trek would return to the small screen in 1987. The syndicated success of Star Trek: The Next Generation which introduced the continuing legacy of the Federation’s flagship set 80 years into the future-tense of The Original Series gave us the modern era’s heroes including Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), his first officer Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and the android Lt. Data (Brent Spiner) and would evolve to encompass Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager.
The syndicated success of Star Trek: The Next Generation which introduced the continuing legacy of the Federation’s flagship set 80 years into the future-tense of The Original Series...
Eventually a fourth spin-off Star Trek: Enterprise would be indoctrinated into the mix, a prequel set in the future-era before Kirk’s legendary five-year mission and a tracking of Starfleet’s first foray into the edges of the space. The series hit several walls and didn’t easily find its stride; even the fanbase had some difficultly committing to the show. The series was cancelled after 4 seasons, and would be the last we heard of Trek for some time, until a decision was made to dip back into the well in an effort to revitalize the franchise and bring it (literally) to a new generation, even as The Next Generation wrapped on its cinematic run.
In 2009 filmmaker J. J. Abrams and his creative team were brought in to give Star Trek a fresh, new feel and the result, though highly controversial, was a near-revamp of the Original Series with all-new actors stepping into the roles of the pioneering cast from the 60s series. It proved a box office blockbuster and it wasn’t long before Star Trek was revisited as the cornerstone to Paramount subscriber site leading to the introduction of Star Trek: Discovery. The new take on mankind’s exploration of space set in Gene Roddenberry’s world proved a ratings hit and lead to new series set in the universe including Star Trek: Picard (focused on the Starfleet legend), Star Trek: Lower Decks an animated adventure, and the inevitable return to the Enterprise with the upcoming Strange New Worlds.
55 years later, Star Trek is still engaging our imaginations and taking us to places uncharted, but always with a close eye on the human condition and inspiring us to be better — Star Trek cements our belief in the possible and that we can and will endure, pushing beyond any of the strife that continues to infest and separate us, with the awareness that in embracing our infinite diversity in infinite combinations will undoubtedly lead to our own survival.
Refit and Restored
In keeping with the movement to have Star Trek remain as relevant as ever, Paramount recently released STAR TREK The Original 4-Movie Collection which includes the first four feature films restored and digitally remastered for the first time in 4K Ultra HD for a much more authentic and profound cinematic experience at home. The films themselves have never looked better and are truly whether of adding to your home library. Notable among the package is the omission of “The Director’s Cut” of Star Trek: The Motion Picture which is rumored to get a special release on the Paramount+ streaming service, before its proper release to home video, but fans can rejoice that both cuts of The Wrath of Khan are included.
STAR TREK The Original 4-Movie Collection | including Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is available now for the first time in a new 4K restoration, in Blu-ray and Digital with hours of bonus content.