Happy 50th Birthday, Star Trek

It was 50 years ago this week that the TV show “Star Trek” made its debut on NBC (September 8, 1966). It lasted for only three years and 79 episodes, but continues to influence our entertainment culture to this day.

Did you know who the original producers were? If you guessed Gene Roddenberry you would be half right. The other half of the funding for the show came from Desilu Productions owned by Lucille Ball (yes, the famous star of “I Love Lucy”). In 1964 Roddenberry pitched the idea to Herb Solow, Desilu’s director of production.

The two of them then pitched the show to CBS which turned it down because they already had a science fiction show, “Lost in Space.” (“Danger Will Robinson”) So NBC eventually agreed to sign the series.

While the show’s impact has been well documented I thought it would be interesting to see who wrote the episodes. After all, this is a blog about writing.

A quick search discovered a veritable hall-of-fame roster of science fiction writers who made contributions. If you love great science fiction you’ll recognize these names:

Richard Matheson (best known for his story I Am Legend – he also wrote 16 episodes of “The Twilight Zone”)
Theodore Sturgeon (wrote More Than Human – voted one of the greatest sci-fi novels of all time)
Harlan Ellison (won 11 Hugo Awards and 5 Nebula Awards, including “Grand Master”)
David Gerrold (won both Hugo and Nebula Awards – best known episode “Trouble with Tribbles”)
Robert Bloch (also wrote Psycho – the basis for the Hitchcock film)

This suggests to me that the popularity and longevity of the show in syndication can be partially credited to the creativity and content of the stories…written by very talented people.

Great stories can captivate. Great stories with great craft can last forever. And that is today’s takeaway. Keep working on your craft, every day. But also keep thinking of new stories that may be the ones to allow you to “boldly go where no man has gone before.”

640px-Astronaut_Salutes_Nimoy_From_Orbit

Photo by NASA Astronaut, Terry W. Virts – February 27, 2015 from the International Space Station – nasa.gov, archived link., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38656911

12 Responses to Happy 50th Birthday, Star Trek

  1. Ron Andrea September 5, 2016 at 4:06 am #

    I was in college when Star Trek aired, with no TV. I’ve probably seen less than half of the original episodes.

    It pioneered.

    • Peggy Booher September 5, 2016 at 2:11 pm #

      Steve,
      When Star Trek originally came on, I was too young to stay up that late. But years later I watched the show in reruns and for awhile had a crush on Captain Kirk. I liked the show because even characters who didn’t like each other, such as Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy, put aside their differences when the chips were down. They were willing to help one another out for the good of all. Teamwork mattered!

      When I think about it, to me the writers displayed a certain amount of courage. I remember an episode where two characters had both black and white skin. They hated each other because the colors of their skins were different. Captain Kirk tried to intervene in their conflict but it didn’t end well. The whole episode was a pointed comment on the racial tensions of that time (and our time, too).

      I realized then that the writers of tv shows and movies were not just producing entertainment; they were writing plots and characters to express opinions and make statements about issues–one reason why tv, movies, and books have such a powerful effect on the culture. It’s a reminder to me not to take writing lightly.

  2. Louise M. Gouge September 5, 2016 at 5:10 am #

    The night that first episode aired, I wanted to watch BEWITCHED, but my new husband insisted we watch this new space drama. From the first episode, I was hooked. Mr. Spock and Lt. Uhuru were my favorite characters. Such a groundbreaking show in so many ways!

  3. Brenda Jackson September 5, 2016 at 7:55 am #

    Though I watched a lot of good TV from the 60’s-80’s, Star Trek is by far tops in quality. Mr. Spock is my favorite character of all time–TV, movie, or books. In a class by himself. I still watch the reruns over and over again and never cease to be amazed at the superb job every single actor did in creating that TV show–perhaps not realizing the enduring phenomenon they were a part of.

    Star Trek also represents my favorite type of show to watch or book to read—what I deem “buddy fiction”. There is no story that appeals to me more than displaying friendship in all its forms and the lengths truly dedicated, caring people will go to for each other.

    And BTW, from that list of writers above, I’d say Theodore Sturgeon wrote the best Trek ep of them all.

  4. Carol Ashby September 5, 2016 at 8:12 am #

    I had a junior-high crush on Mr. Spock, and mastered the art of raising one eyebrow because of that show. “The Trouble with Tribbles” was one of my favorites. Anyone here eat triticale? It broke my teenage heart when the show was cancelled midseason. The subsequent resurrection and phenomenal success gladdened many of us Trekkies.
    The cancellation does make one ponder something. The broadcast gatekeepers thought they knew what the public wanted, and they killed a beloved innovation because they didn’t see the potential for greatness so clearly recognized by the fans. Every wonder whether the publishing houses are doing the same today by insisting on rigid adherence to contemporary genre styles and huge social media numbers before giving a new fiction author a chance? Businesses have to hedge their bets, but have they lost the chance for discovering the great new thing by never betting the long shots?

    • rochellino September 5, 2016 at 11:29 am #

      It seems to me, there is little “wonder” about it. Companies, like people, become comfortable doing what has historically worked for them. In doing so results become reliably predictable, a bulwark against losses appears to be in place.

      I can’t blame them. As financial stewards it is their job to achieve consistent results and earn a reliable and continuing lifeblood of profits. They may not hit a home run but they won’t strike out either. They are acutely aware that one wrong decision can cost a job, wipe out a quarters profits, or worse, sink an entire company depending on how much risk was taken on a single deal (or author, or movie, etc.).

      As a conservative investor I want management to do exactly what they are doing and deliver reliable dividends on my investment(s) every quarter WITHOUT EXCUSES. Maintaining “consistent results”, aka the “status quo”, demands doing “what’s proven to work” rather than “what might work” A “rather safe than sorry” mindset.

      In my opinion a risk taker on a new author will more likely be found in a new company. Being new, “established” authors, agents, etc. may be somewhat apprehensive about them since they are “unproven” thereby creating opportunity for new authors who are “willing to take a risk”. My, how the tables can turn!

      BTW, I love the simple but effective props and special effects in Star Trek, campy but creative by todays standards. The following video, a huge hit in Germany (1983) from our German brothers and sisters who are obviously big fans or Star Trek in Germany since they name Captain Kirk in their song.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dd_6ELWT7Rc

  5. Sheri Dean Parmelee September 5, 2016 at 8:42 am #

    I used to love Star Trek and Captain Kirk insisting that “WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS!” and the most popular split infinitive in modern culture! Thanks for the memories, Steve!

    • Martha Fouts September 6, 2016 at 4:20 pm #

      Yep, for years I taught my students about split infinitives using “to boldly go” as the example. 🙂

  6. Toni Wilbarger September 5, 2016 at 1:15 pm #

    I remember sitting down with my dad to watch Star Trek when it first aired. I have been a fan of it ever since. And you’re absolutely correct, Steve, the show’s writers have been a large part of its continued success. Will try to “boldly go” with my own writing as well.

  7. Pam Halter September 5, 2016 at 1:23 pm #

    I knew Desilu helped produce the show, but wasn’t aware of some of the episode writers. The really funny thing is that I was 7-years-old when the show first aired. I was a Lost in Space fan. When my dad put on Star Trek, I refused to watch because it was “too scary” for me. Bwahahahahaha!!

    I do believe a party is in order this week. Or, at least, a theme dinner and a movie.

  8. Martha Fouts September 6, 2016 at 4:18 pm #

    I’m such a trekkie nerd that I have a VHS copy of the original pilot with Capt. Pike. I didn’t know about these great writers contributing to the show, though. Just goes to show, it’s all about the writing!

  9. Happy October 10, 2016 at 5:38 am #

    “Star Trek” is a great TV show, I love Richard Matheson!
    Happy birthday! 🙂

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