Created by Gene Roddenberry, the original Star Trek television series focused on the 23rd century adventures of Captain James T. Kirk and the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701, a powerful interstellar spacecraft dispatched by Earth-based Starfleet Command “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before™.”
The classic sci-fi series went to air in America in September 1966 and 10 months later it was shown in Australia. When production of the series was cancelled after just its third season, fans in America and Australia combined together in a passionate letter-writing protest.
During its three-year run, Star Trek had become a cult phenomenon. Its most ardent admirers were dubbed “Trekkies” as early as 1967. The first US fanzine appeared the same year, and the first fan convention took place in New Jersey in 1969. Downunder, the Australian Star Trek Fan Club was founded in 1968.
Initially, the general public missed the Trekkie phenomenon. But when reruns entered syndication, broader interest mushroomed and by the late 1970s The Original Series had aired in over 150 US domestic and 60 international markets.
The strength of the main characters and the futuristic technology were defining ingredients. Added appeal came from storylines that explored societal issues of the day, including Utopian society, war and peace, imperialism, economics, racial equality, religion, human rights and feminism.
Star Trek The Original Series spawned a range of popular spinoff television series and a dozen feature films. Perhaps the ultimate measure of its success, however, is that fan clubs, sites and conventions continue to proliferate worldwide after almost 50 years.
Iconic Star Trek Elements
To mark the launch of our Star Trek coin program, here we present our top-10 choice of iconic legacies from Star Trek The Original Series, each one firmly entrenched in popular culture.
10. Mr Spock’s Vulcan Nerve Pinch
The famous pointy ears and his preference for logic over emotion are explained by Spock’s human-Vulcan heritage. The Vulcan nerve-pinch was his seemingly effortless method of subduing a violent opponent which no human member of the Enterprise crew could master.
9. Warp Drive
Warp drive was the Enterprise’s faster-than-light propulsion system. Developed on Earth and initially referred to as a ‘hyperdrive/time-warp’ combination, its application led directly to first contact with the Vulcans.
8. Theme Music
American orchestrator, arranger and composer Alexander Courage created the haunting Star Trek theme, originally under the title “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. It’s immediately recognisable, even by many people who have never seen the show.
Employed by landing parties to analyse a planet’s environment, the tricorder was a multifunctional hand-held device used for sensing, computing and recording. A medical version was used by Dr “Bones” McCoy to collect body information and diagnose injury or disease, while a third variant was available to Chief Engineer “Scotty” Scott for starship engineering purposes.
An extraterrestrial warrior race, Klingons were repeatedly hostile towards the Enterprise. Portrayed as swarthy humanoids from a martial society, they were seen by some as representing the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The relationship between Klingons and humans was destined to change and many fans later embraced the Klingon language first devised by actor James Doohan aka “Scotty”.
The transporter was created when it was deemed too difficult (and expensive) to portray the Enterprise or its shuttlecraft landing on the surface of a planet. One of the best-known sets aboard the starship, the transporter ‘dematerialised’ humans or objects into energy patterns, then beamed them to a target for ‘rematerialization’ – and gave rise to the popular catchphrase “Beam me up, Scotty”.
The phaser was a type of ‘directed energy’ weapon which released a beam of subatomic particles refracted through superconducting crystals. Kirk’s well known instruction “set phasers to stun” reflected the fact that pistol-sized personal phasers had different power settings so that instead of completely disintegrating a living target, they could merely incapacitate them.
Another famous Star Trek gadget, the communicator was a palm held voice communications device. Activated by flipping its antenna, the communicator became a modern-day reality in the shape of a flip phone. In fact, the communicator’s capabilities extended even further because it allowed crew members on the surface of a planet to directly contact the orbiting Enterprise.
2. Starship Enterprise
The appearance of U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 is one of one of sci-fi’s most iconic images. Measuring 725 metres in length, she carried a complement of 430 officers and crew. Defences came in the form of deflector shields, while armaments comprised photon torpedoes and ship-mounted phasers. Impulse engines provided propulsion to a maximum speed of Warp 8. A Constitution-class heavy cruiser, she gave 40 years of service, including a five-year mission of deep-space exploration under the command of James T. Kirk.
1. Captain James T. Kirk
James Tiberius “Jim” Kirk became Starfleet’s youngest captain when he took command of the starship U.S.S. Enterprise in 2265. Immortalized by actor William Shatner, Kirk was a cunning and resourceful leader, a man among men and a hero for the ages. Arguably the most famous and highly-decorated captain in the history of Starfleet, he is unquestionably one of the most popular space heroes of all time.
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