Star Trek is an epic American science fiction franchise. The Star Trek fictional universe created by Gene Roddenberry is the setting of six television programs including the original 1966 Star Trek, in addition to ten feature films, dozens of computer and video games, hundreds of novels and other fan stories, as well as a themed attraction in Las Vegas.
In Star Trek's fictional universe, humans developed faster-than-light space travel after barely surviving a twenty-first century World War III. Later, humans united with other sentient species of the galaxy to form the United Federation of Planets. As a result of alien intervention and science, humanity has largely overcome many Earth-bound frailties and vices by the twenty-third century. Star Trek stories usually depict the adventures of humans and aliens who serve in the Federation Starfleet.
The protagonists are essentially altruistic whose ideals are sometimes only imperfectly applied to the dilemmas presented in the series. The conflicts and political dimensions of Star Trek form allegories for contemporary cultural realities; The Original Series addressed issues of the 1960s, just as more recent spin-offs reflect more modern topics. Issues depicted in the various series include war and peace, authoritarianism, imperialism, class warfare, racism, human rights, sexism, and the role of technology.
Star Trek originated as a television series in 1966, although it had been in the planning stages for at least six years prior to that. Although The Original Series was cancelled in its third season due to low ratings, it served as the foundation for five additional Star Trek television series. Altogether, the six series comprise a total of 726 episodes across twenty-two different television seasons (twenty-nine, if one separately counts seasons running concurrently), making it the second most prolific science-fiction franchise in history after Doctor Who. See Lengths of science fiction film and television series for more on comparative series lengths.
Star Trek debuted in the United States on NBC on September 8, 1966. The show, starring William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk (originally James R. Kirk), told the tale of the crew of the starship Enterprise and that crew's five-year mission "to boldly go where no man has gone before." In its first two seasons it was nominated for Emmy Awards as Best Dramatic Series. After only three seasons, the show was cancelled and the last episode aired on June 3, 1969. The series subsequently became popular in reruns, and a cult following developed, complete with fan conventions. Originally aired as simply Star Trek, it has in recent years become known as Star Trek: The Original Series or as "Classic Trek" – retronyms that distinguish it from its sequels and the franchise as a whole. All subsequent films and television series, except the animated series of the 1970s, have had secondary titles included as part of their official names. The series was re-released in September 2006 with CGI enhancements as a high-definition "Re-mastered" edition. The first season of Star Trek also is available for download from Apple's iTunes Store. Most of the episodes offered by iTunes are in their original forms. However, a handful are the recently remastered versions, except for City on the Edge of Forever and Where No Man Has Gone Before, despite having been remastered and aired. Currently airs on TV Land, BBC2 and The Sci-Fi channel in the UK.
Star Trek: The Animated Series was produced by Filmation and ran for two seasons. Most of the original cast performed the voices of their characters from The Original Series (the character of Chekov did not appear) as well as many of the original series' writers like DC Fontana. Larger and more exotic alien landscapes and lifeforms were featured, however animation and soundtrack quality, with the liberal re-use of shots and musical cues as well as occasional animation errors, has detracted from the reputation of the series. Although originally sanctioned by Paramount (who became the owners of the Star Trek franchise following its acquisition of Desilu in 1967), the series is not considered to be canon (see Star Trek canon). Even so, elements of the animated series have been used by writers in later live-action series and movies (e.g. Kirk's middle name, Tiberius, made official in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), and elements thus incorporated are canon. TAS came back to television in the mid 1980s on the children's cable network Nickelodeon, and in the early 1990s on cable network Sci-Fi Channel and was released to DVD in 2006.
Star Trek: Phase II was set to air in 1978 as the flagship series of a proposed Paramount television network, and 12 episode scripts were written before production was due to begin. The series would have put most of the original crew back aboard the Enterprise for a second five-year mission, except for Leonard Nimoy as Spock, who did not agree to return. A younger, full-blooded Vulcan named Xon was planned as a replacement, although it was still hoped that Nimoy would make guest appearances. Sets were constructed and several minutes of test footage were filmed. However, the risks of launching a fourth network and the popularity of the then-recently released film Star Wars led Paramount to make a Star Trek film instead of a weekly television series. The first script of this aborted series formed the basis of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, while two others were eventually adapted as episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Star Trek: The Next Generation is set nearly a century after The Original Series and features a new starship, the Enterprise-D, and a new crew led by Captain Jean-Luc Picard, played by Patrick Stewart. The show premiered on September 28, 1987 and ran for seven seasons, ending on May 23, 1994. The Next Generation had the highest ratings of all the Star Trek series and was the #1 syndicated show during the last few years of its original run. It was nominated for an Emmy for Best Dramatic Series during its final season in 1994. It also received a Peabody Award for Outstanding Television Programming. The series currently airs on TV6 in Sweden, Sky One and BBC Two in the UK, Foxtel channel Sci Fi in Australia, Space: The Imagination Station in Canada, as well as G4 and Spike TV in the United States.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is set during the same timeframe as The Next Generation and ran for seven seasons, debuting in 1993. It is the only Star Trek series to take place primarily on a space station, rather than aboard a starship. The show chronicles the events of the station's crew, led by Commander (later Captain) Benjamin Sisko, played by Avery Brooks, living on the Cardassian-built Bajoran spacestation Deep Space Nine, which initially orbited the planet Bajor but was moved to a nearby, newly-discovered, uniquely stable wormhole that provides immediate access to the distant Gamma Quadrant. Recurring plots include the repercussions of the lengthy and brutal occupation of the nearby planet Bajor by the Cardassians, Sisko's unique spiritual role for the Bajorans as the Emissary of the Prophets, and a major war with the Dominion of the Gamma Quadrant. Deep Space Nine stands apart from other Trek series for its lengthy serialized storytelling and conflict within the crew – things that Roddenberry had forbidden in earlier Trek series. Currently airs on Spike TV.
Star Trek: Voyager was produced for seven seasons from 1995 to 2001 and is the only Star Trek series to feature a woman as the commanding officer,: Captain Kathryn Janeway, played by Kate Mulgrew. Voyager takes place at about the same time as Deep Space Nine. The series' pilot shows the USS Voyager and its crew stranded in the Delta Quadrant, 70,000 light years from Earth. Given a 70-year voyage back to Earth, the crew must avoid conflict and defeat challenges on its long and perilous journey home. Voyager was originally isolated from many of the familiar aspects and races of the Star Trek franchise (with the exception of the individual races amongst the crew). This allowed for the creation of new races and original plotlines within the series; however, later seasons saw an influx of characters and races from prior shows, such as the Borg, Q, the Ferengi, Romulans, Klingons, Cardassians, and even multiple instances where members of the Next Generation crew appear in the series. In one episode, a group of supposed "aliens", The Voth, are determined to be descended from dinosaurs. The series is currently airing on Spike TV in the United States, and Sky One in the United Kingdom.
Star Trek: Enterprise (originally aired as "Enterprise"), produced from 2001-2005, is a prequel to the other Star Trek series. The pilot episode takes place ten years before the founding of the Federation, about halfway between the events shown in the film Star Trek: First Contact and the original Star Trek series. The series depicts the exploration of space by the crew of the Earth starship Enterprise. Commanded by Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula), Enterprise is able to go farther and faster than any human vessel had previously gone. Enterprise showed the origins of several features that would become common in the sequel series, such as the inventing of new technologies, primarily the static warp bubble, and first contact with new species, such as the Woldering. For the first two seasons Enterprise was episodic, like the original series and The Next Generation. During the third and fourth seasons, the series used long story arcs spanning several episodes at a time. Ratings for Enterprise started strong, but declined rapidly. The show continued to lose ratings during the third season, and Paramount cancelled the show in early 2005. It is currently airing on The Sci-Fi Channel.
Paramount Pictures has produced ten Star Trek feature films:
* Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
* Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
* Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
* Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
* Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
* Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
* Star Trek: Generations (1994)
* Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
* Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)
* Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)
* Star Trek XI (working title) (2008)
The first six continue the adventures of the The Original Series cast, while the next four feature The Next Generation's cast. Although North American and UK releases of the films were no longer numbered following the sixth film, European releases continued numbering the films.
A common sentiment among fans is that the even-numbered Star Trek films are superior to the odd-numbered Star Trek films; the second, fourth, sixth, and eighth films are considered fan favorites, whereas the first and fifth are often called the worst films.
An eleventh (as-yet-untitled) Star Trek film has been announced for release in 2008, to be written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman and directed by Lost creator J.J. Abrams.
The Star Trek canon comprises the five live-action television series and ten motion pictures. The animated series, novels, comic books, video games, and other materials based on Star Trek, though licensed by CBS Paramount, are generally considered non-canon, as are fan-made (or "fanon") productions set within the Star Trek universe.
The Star Trek novels typically fill "holes" in the Star Trek story and timeline, with explanations of events that have never been thoroughly explained through live action productions. Many have been accepted by Trek fans as part of the Star Trek canon, even though CBS, owners of the Star Trek franchise, say otherwise. Several authors have created spin-off series that are self-contained within their novels.
Outside of the television series and motion pictures produced by Paramount pictures, the Star Trek franchise has been officially expanded and elaborated by various authors and artists, despite the fact that CBS does not consider these derivative works canon. These works' creators are generally free to tell their own stories set in the Star Trek universe, and are free either to keep an existing continuity, or to use their own. (Similarly, writers for TV and film are under no obligation to pay heed to any of the derivative works.) These works often expand the back stories of characters, species, planets, etc., already seen in the official live-action productions. For example, the Voyager novels Mosaic and Pathways give background information for characters in the Voyager live-action series. These are usually in the printed form, usually in the form of novels and reference manuals, but also manga.
The Star Trek series have also inspired many unofficial fan-made productions. For example, in recent years, Star Trek fan films have been created for distribution over the Internet. Currently, Star Trek: Hidden Frontier, which is a continuation of the timeline after the Dominion War from the perspective of a station and fleet in the Briar Patch, and Star Trek: New Voyages, a "continuation" of the original Star Trek, are prominent fan series. While none of these projects are licensed by CBS, some have attracted participation from television and film series' cast and crew. One fan production, Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, features several veteran Trek actors, with Voyager star Tim Russ directing and reprising his role of Tuvok.
The Star Trek franchise is a multi-billion dollar industry, currently owned by CBS. Gene Roddenberry sold Star Trek to NBC as a classic adventure drama; he pitched the show as "Wagon Train to the stars" and as Horatio Hornblower in space. Though set on a fictional starship, Roddenberry wanted to tell more sophisticated stories using futuristic situations as analogies to current problems on Earth and rectifying them through humanism and optimism. The opening line, "to boldly go where no man has gone before", was taken almost verbatim from a US White House booklet on space produced after the Sputnik flight in 1957. The central trio of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy was modeled on classical mythological storytelling. Harking of human diversity and contemporaneous political circumstances, Roddenberry included a multi-ethnic crew.
Star Trek and its spin-offs have proved highly popular in television repeats, and are currently shown on TV stations worldwide. The show’s cultural impact goes far beyond its longevity and profitability. Star Trek conventions have become popular, though now are often merged with conventions of other genres and series, and fans have coined the term "Trekkies" (or "Trekkers") to describe themselves. An entire subculture has grown up around the show.
The Star Trek franchise is believed to have motivated the design of many current technologies, including the Tablet PC, the PDA, and mobile phones. It has also brought to popular attention the concept of teleportation with its classic depiction of "matter-energy transport". Phrases such as "Beam me up, Scotty" have entered the public vernacular. In 1976, following a letter-writing campaign, NASA named one of its space shuttles Enterprise, after the fictional starship.
Parodies of Star Trek include the internet-based cartoon series Stone Trek and the song "Star Trekkin'".
After Enterprise was cancelled in 2005, the Star Trek franchise found itself for the first time in over 25 years without a series or film in production or development. In April 2006, the official announcement of an eleventh feature film made it probable that the franchise has not yet ended.
In 2006, CBS Paramount Domestic Television began syndicating an enhanced version of the original 79 Star Trek episodes. State-of-the-art visual effects replaced those in the series (created in-house by CBS), the original theme music has been re-recorded, and the show was transferred from the original negatives in high definition. The show will eventually be syndicated in HD.
On January 19, 2007, CBS announced that it would begin releasing the remastered episodes on Blu-Ray Disc and HD-DVD before the end of 2007.
Also in 2006, CBS has announced that it is considering a new animated series that will likely debut as several 6-minute episodes available online. The series is to be set 150 years after the Star Trek: The Next Generation timeline, during a time of upheaval and strife in the Federation. The Romulans have used several "Omega Particle" explosions to render much of Federation space impassable by traditional Federation vessels. Many Federation worlds have been isolated, and some races, including the Vulcans, have withdrawn from the Federation altogether. The series is, as yet, untitled and there has been no full confirmation.
Perpetual Entertainment is also developing a MMOG based on Star Trek called Star Trek Online. IDW Publishing have also bought the rights to the comic book. The original series' characters are also featured in a manga, or Japanese-style comic book.
Major reference works related to the production and influence of the franchise include:
* Whitfield, Stephen PE; Roddenberry, Gene (1970). The Making of Star Trek. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0345216210.
* Gerrold, David (1973). The Trouble with Tribbles. New York: Ballantine. ISBN 0345234022.
* Gerrold, David  (1984). The World of Star Trek - Revised Edition, Bluejay Books, Ballantine Books. ASIN: B000JWHTXU.
* Lichtenberg, Jacqueline; Marshak, Sondra; Winston, Joan (1975). Star Trek Lives!. Toronto: Bantam Books. ISBN 0552099147.
* Winston, Joan (1977). The Making of the Trek Conventions. Garden City, NY: Doubleday Books/Playboy Press. ISBN 0385131127.
* Turnbull, Gerry (1979). A Star Trek Catalog. Grosset & Dunlap. ISBN 0441784771.
* Trimble, Bjo (1983). On the Good Ship Enterprise: My 15 Years with Star Trek. Donning Starblaze. ISBN 0898652537.
* Shatner, William; Kreski, Chris (1993). Star Trek Memories. HarperCollins. ISBN 0060177349.
* Shatner, William; Kreski, Chris (1994). Star Trek Movie Memories. HarperCollins. ISBN 0060176172.
* Nichols, Nichelle (1994). Beyond Uhura. Putnam. ISBN 0679435093.
* Krauss, Lawrence M (1995). The Physics of Star Trek. Basic Books. ISBN 0465005594.
* Ellison, Harlan (1996). City on the Edge of Forever. Borderlands Press. ISBN 1880325020.
* Edited By (1996). Harrison, Taylor; Projansky, Sarah; Ono, Kent A.; Helford, Elyce Rae: Enterprise Zones: Critical Positions on Star Trek. Boulder: Westview Press. ISBN 0813328993.
* Solow, Herbert F.; Justman, Robert H. (1996). Inside Star Trek: The Real Story. New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 0671896288.
* Greenwald, Jeff (1998). Future Perfect: How Star Trek Conquered Planet Earth. Viking Press. ISBN 0670873993.
* Shatner, William; Kreski, Chris (1999). Get a Life!. New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 0671021311.
* Barad, Ph. D., Judith; Robertson, Ed (2000). The Ethics of Star Trek. HarperCollins. ISBN 0060195304.
* Shatner, William; Walter, Chip (2002). I'm Working on That: A Trek from Science Fiction to Science Fact. New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 067104737X.
* Sackett, Susan (2002). Inside Trek: My Secret Life with Star Trek Creator Gene Roddenberry. Hawk Publishing Group. ISBN 1930709420.
* Lake, M.N. (2005). Picard: The Academy Years. Dragon Publishing.