45 Years of 'Star Trek.' 45 reasons why it's still amazing.


Break out the Romulan ale! This fall marks the 45th anniversary of Star Trek.

Trek’s humble origins are almost hard to believe. When TV producer Gene Roddenberry pitched his “Wagon Train to the Stars” to NBC, it had already been rejected by CBS in favor of Lost in Space. Then, even after the Peacock finally did pick it up, they dismissed the pilot, starring Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike of the USS Enterprise, as “too cerebral,” and demanded a re-shoot. Only Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock survived the cast change for a new pilot built around a hammy Canadian named William Shatner, who, so far, had only scrounged together a career out of bit parts in movies like Judgment at Nuremberg and a couple very memorable Twilight Zone appearances.

Needless to say, expectations for Star Trek were low. And though it did face cancellation after just three seasons, it’s become one of our most venerable franchises, having spawned five subsequent series and eleven movies. Much of what has followed since has been so good, in fact, that it’s almost easy to write off the original series as mere camp: heavy-handed messages conveyed through overripe performances amid garish papier-mâché sets. Those who do just that, do so at their own peril. The original series’ budget-limitations actually spurred creativity, such as when the Romulans were revealed to be the evil cousins of our lovable, logical Vulcans. Sure, they were only related because Trek’s production company Desilu (yes, that Desilu) couldn’t afford to come up with original makeup for another alien race. But how much more interesting that became as storytelling! The Vulcans, those most stalwart founding members of the United Federation of Planets, were now looked upon with suspicion by Starfleet’s more xenophobic humans and forced to ask themselves whether their embrace of pure logic is indeed meaningful or just a fragile lie meant to conceal their true passions. If Star Trek had been given a greater budget, it would have looked more polished, to be sure, but would that kind of guerrilla, seat-of-the-pants storytelling impulse have survived?

From the perspective of 2011, you could even say that the three year run of Star Trek, with its small but fervently devoted audience, anticipated today’s niche entertainment. And there’s even more to celebrate, now that J.J. Abrams is officially signed to direct the next movie installment. So, to honor 45 years of going where no man has gone before, EW presents you 45 reasons to continue loving all things Trek.

  1. Sulu’s mad fencing skills
  2. Uhura’s communicator earpiece
  3. Tribbles
  4. Clint Howard as Balok
  5. Jeffrey Hunter’s catatonic stare as Christopher Pike
  6. Spock undergoing pon farr
  7. God-like non-corporeal aliens passing judgment on us all.
  8. “Damn it, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a [insert non sequitur here]”
  9. Kirk’s familiarity with the complete works of Jacqueline Susann and aversion to punk rock.
  10. Mirror Universe Spock’s goatee and Mirror Universe Uhura’s uniform (could that really have been regulation, even in the Terran Empire?)
  11. Random planets that based their cultures on ancient Greece, ancient Rome, Nazi Germany, Native Americans, 1920s Chicago
  12. Captain Kirk’s fuzzy fedora
  13. Yeoman Rand’s clipboard
  14. Transporter accidents
  15. Deus ex deflector array
  16. Green space babes
  17. Ricardo Montalban’s pecs
  18. Aliens who force crewmembers to take part in mortal combat
  19. Vaal, the best mini-golf prop ever.
  20. Joan Collins as noble-hearted 1930s missionary (and unwitting Nazi abettor) Edith Keeler
  21. The Greek gods! They’re real, though they’re interstellar travelers with self-esteem and abandonment issues.
  22. Episode titles like “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky” and “Is There In Truth No Beauty?”
  23. Gene Roddenberry’s obsession with “empaths.”
  24. Giant space amoebas.
  25. The Horta.
  26. The possibility that you could run afoul of hippies in interstellar space.
  27. The significant rate of Starfleet officers who develop god-like powers.
  28. Nurse Chapel’s prolific voiceover career.
  29. Tranya
  30. “Of all the souls I’ve encountered…his was the most…human.”
  31. Klingons of the 2260s. Though we never speak of their physical appearance. It was…a dark time.
  32. 20th century space probes that return to humanity super-intelligent, but with daddy issues.
  33. The notches on Capt. Kirk’s belt. Surely they number among the stars.
  34. The Gorn (at least until they got a CGI makeover on Star Trek: Enterprise, thus putting actors skilled in lizard-suit performing out of work)
  35. Humanity’s ill-advised flirtation with the creation of genetically-engineered supermen.
  36. The Eugenics War of 1996, which was clearly covered up by the lamestream media.
  37. The literacy rate of the 23rd century judging by Kirk’s love of Dickens and Khan’s affinity for Melville.
  38. Radiation that causes rapid aging. (Also the MacGuffin that could enable an appearance from the Shat in the next Trek film. J.J. Abrams take note!)
  39. The possibility that, as a Starfleet officer, you may randomly find yourself forced to reenact the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
  40. That you can travel back in time by sling-shotting around the sun.
  41. That the Tholians proved that a giant web could be an effective weapon in space.
  42. The Ferengi energy whip (Okay, that’s from The Next Generation, I know. But it’s in the spirit of the original series.)
  43. Spock’s brain (and “Spock’s Brain”)
  45. These guys.

And a 46th for the franchise to grow on: The Red Shirts.

More from EW.com:
J.J. Abrams signs on to direct ‘Star Trek 2′
‘Star Trek': Capt. Kirk’s 20 Best and Worst Moments
‘Star Trek': 25 Enterprise Milestones

Comments (141 total) Add your comment
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  • saline

    Moron. James Dohhan and Heorge Takei were also in the original pilot. So Spock was not the only one that survived. Did you ever see it?

    • RM

      Watch who you call a moron. James Doohan and George Takei were in the *second* pilot (“Where No Man Has Gone Before”), not the original one (“The Cage”).

      • saline

        First off lucyfier is smarter then you, at least she found a mate. Also the pilot was called the Menagerie, and Dohan and Takei are on the credits , look it up.

      • Kelly

        No, Saline, you’re wrong. The first pilot, with Jeffrey Hunter, Majel Barret, and Leonard Nimoy, was called The Cage and was never aired during the original run of the show.

        Where No Man Has Gone Before was the second pilot, and it was aired in edited form in 66 as episode 3.

        The Menagerie was aired in two parts later in the first season and contained clips from The Cage, but was never a pilot for the show. Your confusion may come from the fact that a “restored” version of The Cage was released by Paramount in 1986, which included color scenes from The Menagerie.

        This information is all readily available on the Memory Alpha wiki, or even Wikipedia.

      • lucyfier

        My best friend has just announced her wedding with a great man who is a cele+brity!
        They met-via { millionaireluv_С’σм }
        It is nice club for rich men or pretty girls mate.
        You do not need to be wealthy or famous, but you can meet your true love, it’s worthy a try.

      • angloo

        As Canada’s acknowledged TREKSPERT, I can confirm RM is correct. There are technically two pilots, and if you specified which one you were talking through your hat about, you would would have appeared less arrogant (and ignorant).

    • Jeff

      Hey Moron… Who exactly is “Heorge”?

      • saline

        See what little you know, Sulu is gay.

      • Esox

        Sulu is not gay. As Star Trek VI shows, he has a daughter. The actor who played him, George Takei is gay. Not sure what Heorge Takei’s status is.

      • saline

        I am the great saline, do not question my knowledge of star track

      • angloo

        George Takei is gay. Hikaru Sulu is not. Is that so difficult a concept to grasp?
        And saline is not to be taken seriously if he can type “star track” and not correct it.
        Do not feed the trolls.

  • Zac Heffron

    How to make Star Trek 12 surpass Star Trek (2009):
    • The Orion Syndicate as the villains
    • Larger all-star cast as well as many cameos including by William Shatner
    • More planets
    • Larger space battles with more starships
    • Kirk having better fighting skills
    • Kirk having several human love interests played by Hollywood’s most beautiful young actresses
    • No cut scenes
    • The Star Trek theme music from the Insurrection end credits used at the end

    • Barb

      JJ Abrams is remaking Star Wars as Trek. JJA Trek II (or STXII) will have a masked villian who, at the end of either this or the next movie, will turn out to be George Kirk.

    • Nerdista

      Wait, those are all sarcastic suggestions right?

    • markinnyc

      Kirk love interest? Let’s see the Kirk-Carol MArcus relationship.

  • Rovena

    I hope they include Lady Gaga in the sequel as a singer with dark connections to the villains. With her futuristic music and style, she would fit right in.

    I’d like to see Kirk, Spock and McCoy go undercover to a techno concert of hers on a distant planet which is raided by many henchmen who have a thunderous phaser fight with them.

  • Sheldon Cooper B.S., M.S., M.A., Ph.D., Sc.D.

    I want a scene in the sequel with Kirk, Spock and Bones sitting around a campfire at Yosemite National Park singing ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’!
    I hope J.J. Abrams gives Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie cameos in Star Trek 12. Perhaps as a couple who are ambassadors for the United Federation of Planets that adopt extraterrestrial newborn children from different prospective member planets.

    • Gar

      Bones? But… he’s dead, Jim. :/

      • Saleh

        Thanks to Ibbott for mentioning that this is not only the third Film Sack movie in which pleope sang Row Your Boat, but the third in which at least one person did so under duress. That’s one creepy trope. Both Catgirl and Uhura dancing really bothered me. If they’re going to try and get women to dance sexily, could they at least get women who can .dance? You know, with rhythm and stuff? That furry lady was doing a step-touch that would be laughed out of a third grade barn dance. Scott’s high on the least favorite Star Trek characters conversation. There’s no reason for that kind of Yar hatred. After all, she was the occasion for one of the hottest scenes in the history of Star Trek:Tasha: What I want now is gentleness, and joy, and love from you, Data you are fully functional, aren’t you?Data: Of course, but -Tasha: HOW fully functional?Data: In every way, of course. I am programmed in multiple techniques, a broad variety of pleasuring.

  • Eurydice

    I’ll add to the list:

    That guy in the red shirt.

    “I am Kirok!!”

    Nurse Chapel’s Plomeek Soup

    Chekov’s “The Russians inwented that.”

    The technology that can reduce people down to octagonal paperweights.

    • cfans

      How could the author have left out the red shirts. Thanks to TOS the term “red shirt” has become synonymous with “extras” on a TV or movie set who are doomed to die.

      • idviceroy

        Thanks for pointing that out. I was reading through the comments looking for that very sentiment.

      • Eurydice

        I know, the red shirt guy is such a staple of sci-fi shows that in Galaxy Quest they named him “Guy” and let him live.

      • Jack

        Maybe he was the plucky comic relief?

    • saka

      Thanks for remembering the Plomeek soup-
      How about the Fizzbin card game?

      • angloo

        I have the rules(!) written down somewhere but it seems to me that drawing another jack is both a good and bad thing. Why Kalo fell for it I have no idea.

  • EV

    I have little to say about it Captain except, that for the first time in my life, I was happy — Spock

    • G

      That’s my favorite line from TOS.

  • EV

    Spock singing “Maiden Wine”. Take care young ladies and value your wine ….

  • EV

    I am what I am, Leila, and if there are self-made purgatories, then we all have to live in them. Mine can be no worse than someone else’s.
    –Spock in ‘This Side of Paradise’

  • EV

    In “Requiem for Methuselah”, Bones tells Spock that he will never under the pain and happiness of love because it is not written into his book. But we know that Spock does understand this when he tells the Captain to “forget”.

  • Tom Dewey

    Few people know that, as head of Desilu, Lucille Ball gave the go-ahead for Star Trek. Amazing decision.

    • claudenorth

      That’s true. She was advised not to greenlight it, but she believed in it. Without Lucy, there would be no Star Trek.

    • Dicazi

      Actaully, anyone who’s read the books “Tha Making of star Trek” or The World of Star Trek” knows this. And since both boooks went through multiple printings…….

      • Jan

        Few normal people know it.

      • Dicazi

        Few normal people are interested. I’m assuming the people reading this are not normal.

      • District 12

        Being normal is overrated, I for one am happy not to be labeled “normal”

      • Dicazi

        I have a button that says “I used to be normal, but I got better”. :)

      • radiwarsx

        Yeah, all those “normal” people that laugh at sci-fi fans for dressing up as their favorite characters. They paint themselves up in their favorite teams colors and sit in below zero degree weather to watch grown men toss a ball around, then run around screaming and waving like morons when their team of millionaires win a children’s game. Glad I’m not normal

  • greg

    Fun article, but I feel obliged to point out that the line about “Of all the souls I have ever met, his was the most human” comes from one of the movies, not the original tv series.

    • EV

      Hmm, does the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?

      • Dicazi

        Sometimes the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.

    • NoChance

      And neither does “Khaaaaaaaaaan” – that’s from ‘The Search for Spock’.

      Haven’t check the rest of the posts but what about Tribbles”? Very memorable episode.

      • angloo

        “Khaaaaaaaannnn!” is from The Wrath of Khan. By the time of Search for Spock, KHAAAAAAAANNNN has been killed (we assume).

  • Rica

    I got all the references but one, help me out here: Tranya?

    • greg

      an alcoholic beverage served in “The Corbomite Maneuver.”

      • JLC

        Did they ever specify it was alcoholic? It was, after all, a kid drinking it (although it was a kid playing a very old man). I know it was very tasty.

      • radiwarsx

        When I had Tranya at the Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton, it definately had alchohol in it.

  • Tess McGill

    The great thing about geeks is that they are hardly ever serial killers as they don’t get out much.

  • Marty

    Tranya is the drink Balok (Clint Howard) serves to Kirk and the away team that visit him.

    Also, Majel Barrett (Rodenberry’s wife) was in the original pilot as the dark-haired Number 1 and then in TOS as nurse Christine Chapel.

    I watched TOS when it started airing in 1966 at 10 years old. Have had a crush on the Shat ever since!

    • Rica

      Ah, thank you!

    • Barb

      You left out that Majel Barrett also appeared in TNG and DS9 as Diana Troy’s mother, (I may be spelling this wrong), Loxianna!

      • Dicazi

        Deanna, not Diana

      • angloo

        Lwaxana. You are forgiven. But it is Deanna Troi, for which you are not.
        (Or, in comic circles, “Dee” Troit.)

  • Ellenore.Abernathy

    Majel Barret Roddenberry was in pretty much everthing “Star Trek” until she died. Pike’s second in command in “the Menagerie”, Nurse Chapel, computer’s voice, Troi’s mother….

    • jdessart

      Majel Barret Roddenberry is the voice of the computer in all the Star Treks…..

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