Fans of the original Star Trek are using new technology to continue the old series. But before, I show you how they’re making that happen, let’s take a look at the history behind this.
“Space… the final frontier. These are the voyages of the star ship Enterprise…”
This could be the most famous opening to a television series of all time. Over the last almost fifty years, Star Trek has become a part of our public consciousness. Even people who have never seen an episode of the show know Spock and can recognize the theme song and pictures of Enterprise. And the best part of all of this for those of us who loved the original series is that there are new episodes being produced that we can enjoy.
The original adventures of Kirk, Spock, McCoy and company ran on NBC for two and a half seasons from 1966 to 1968, before finally being moved to Saturday nights… a time when the young people who watched the show were not home watching television… and ultimately cancelled. I was not quite two years old when Star Trek premiered, and my parents, being fans of westerns and sci-fi, watched it from the beginning. So I literally grew up watching Trek. After the original series was cancelled, we were all avid watchers of the reruns because it was all that we could get until the Filmation animated series premiered in 1973. Although the animated series, like its predecessor, had both good and bad episodes, it did manage to win a daytime emmy for outstanding children’s entertainment series and the hearts trekkies, lost without our Star Trek fix everywhere.
Shortly after the end of the animated series, plans started for a new live-action series to be called Star Trek: Phase II to be premiered in 1978 on the fledgeling Paramount Television Service, a forerunner to UPN. William Shatner and Deforest Kelley had both signed on to play Kirk and McCoy, along with all of the supporting cast of the original series with one notable exception: Leonard Nimoy refused to return as Mr. Spock due to issues over residuals from the marketing of Spock. Because of this, a new character was created… a full Vulcan named Xon fresh out of Starfleet Academy. Big name writers were brought on for the series, including sci-fi bigwigs Alan Dean Foster and Theodore Sturgeon, as well as Richard Bach (author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull) to write new episodes. It finally seemed as if we would get a new Trek TV series. But then, something amazing happened.
The Star Wars phenomenon took America and the world by storm, becoming not only the top grossing, but longest-running movie in the history of cinema. Just to tell you how long it ran… it premiered in 1977, and I resisted seeing it until 1979, and was able to go because it was still running. (Not to date myself, but this is the days before the announcement of a home video release of a new film didn’t pre-date the theatrical release of the film by months as it does now. Home video was in its infancy, and it could take years for a hit movie to make it to home video.) Because of this phenomenal success, it was decided that there would be no new Star Trek television series… instead there would be STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE (affectionately known to many fans, myself included, as “Star Trek: The Motionless Picture or Star Trek: The Slow-Motion Picture). Happily for many Trek fans like myself, the residual dispute between Nimoy and Paramount was settled during this time, so the new movie would include Mr. Spock.
But, even at it’s darkest hour, Star Trek: Phase II was not completely dead. In my next article, I’ll take a look at how the original Star Trek is being continued by fans of the series, and how modern computer technology is enabling that.
~ Randal Schaffer