To boldly go…where are we going again?
By Bert Ehrmann
May 1, 2009
Star Trek is the only television series I can think of whose fans were constantly derided. No one ever made fun of people that watched Cheers or Guiding Light, yet everyone, no matter how subtle or deep their affection for Star Trek, were branded as “trekkies” or “trekkers.” For years, trekkers were the pop-culture shorthand for “nerd” and it was assumed that anyone who liked Star Trek must also don the pointy Vulcan ears and dress as Mr. Spock in his or her spare time.
Interestingly enough though, it seems as if the release of the new Star Trek movie May 8 is going to turn that all around.
Though I suspect that to most people Star Trek is the television series that featured Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, Star Trek is really an entertainment franchise consisting of 11 feature films and 700+ episodes of TV that has run constantly in one form or another the last 40 years.
The original series was titled Star Trek (1966-1968) but is known by the fans as TOS–“The Original Series.” However popular this series has become, only 79 episodes were ever produced as the show was cancelled after just three seasons. But as far as I can tell, TOS has been aired in one form or another in syndication ever since the series went off the air. Seven of the Star Trek films are completely based or partially around this version of Star Trek.
The franchise was nearly rebooted as a TV series that would have been known as Star Trek: Phase II in the late 1970s but this series was instead turned to Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) after the massive success of the Star Wars films. Three more films would follow the first and the events of all would play out as one long story as the story of one movie lead to the next.
In 1987 a new Star Trek series Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) was launched that took place some 70 years after the events of TOS. This series modernized the Star Trek franchise, included women in the main cast as well as featuring people of color in more prominent roles than before. The rest of the films were based around this version of the show.
TNG was successful enough that the next Star Trek series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9, 1993-1999) launched while TNG was still on the air. DS9 was set in a far off outpost in the Star Trek universe where things were a little less shiny and a lot grittier. Again, the creators of DS9 took things one-step further and gave the lead role of the series to an African American (Avery Brooks) and made the second in command a woman.
It’s interesting to note just how popular Star Trek was for a period in the 1990s. At times here in Fort Wayne, new episodes of DS9 were shown twice a week and older DS9 episodes aired every afternoon. New episodes of Voyager aired weekly plus episodes of TOS were airing nightly and reruns of TNG were shown each weekend. That’s around 15 hours of Star Trek a week almost all on broadcast television.
I’d consider myself a fan of the show insofar that I’ve seen every episode of TNG and DS9 and know all those characters by heart. I taped each episode of DS9 to VHS and hung onto this collection until recently. But my devotion to Star Trek stopped somewhere around 1999 with the death of Captain Sisko and me not being able to get into Voyager or Enterprise.
I find myself approaching this new Star Trek movie, due in theaters May 8, with a bit of trepidation. It’s a movie meant to “reboot” the franchise, taking all the elements of TOS and giving it a new spin and casting new actors in the same roles. Does that mean that all the 40+ years of Star Trek history that has come before now means nothing? Is the price of Star Trek finally being popular in the eyes of the masses that now everything the fans love about Star Trek is being forgotten? Let’s hope not.