Star Trek is a science fiction television series created by Gene Roddenberry in 1966 that tells the tale of the crew of the starship Enterprise and of their adventures "where no man has gone before" in humanity's future. Initially, the series was not met with much success, but after the original series was cancelled, it turned out that Star Trek had very devoted and active fans, calling themselves Trekkies or Trekkers, who made reruns of the show popular and created a market for later series and movies based on Roddenberry's work. The stories of Star Trek are now part of American culture, forming a kind of mythology, and they are gaining in international popularity as well. It is due in part to lobbying from fans of the series that NASA agreed to name the prototype space shuttle Enterprise.
Many of the first series episodes involve an encounter with a power much greater than that of the ship and its crew, sometimes in the form of advanced alien races (typically with mental powers), advanced technology, humans given powers through abnormal events, and in one case, a god. In most cases the power in question comes close to enslaving (or destroying) the ship and crew, only to be saved by Captain James T. Kirk, played by William Shatner, outwitting their "enemy", typically with the application of some form of deus ex machina. An outstanding exception, of course, is the much loved episode about tribbles. There was no history to speak of in the series; episodes were self contained and the only form of continuity visible was the change in actors.
The utopian society (called the Federation) portrayed in Star Trek is based on economic abundance[?] enabled by highly advanced science and technology. This abundance or lack of scarcity means that everyone can satisfy almost all of their needs and wants. Working, buying and selling is not necessary; therefore money is eliminated. Negative emotions such as greed or jealousy are greatly reduced.
Roddenberry was a proponent of egalitarian politics, and frequently used the shows to showcase his vision of a utopian future society based on those principles. The original series, for example, had a prominent African-American female crew member (Nyota Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols), one of the first African-American women to hold any major role on American television. It also had a Russian character (Pavel Chekov, played by Walter Koenig[?]) at a time when the United States was engaged in the Cold War with the Soviet Union. The Vulcan First Officer Mr. Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy, was at first rejected by network officials who feared that his vaguely satanic appearance might prove too disquieting, but Mr. Spock went on to become one of the most popular characters on the show.
Modern viewers might find the old series' portrayals of minorities and women backward, but the program was progressive and daring for its time. One of Star Trek's claims to fame is that it featured the first televised kiss between a European-American and an African-American to be shown in the United States. Using an episode featuring mind control as a ruse to break this taboo, Captain Kirk and Uhura were forced to share the first interracial kiss on American TV (episode #67 "Plato's Stepchildren"). The series also showed a very powerful alien species, the Klingons, as resembling Earth Asians rather than the stereotyped powerful white Europeans.
In 1987 a new series launched, Star Trek: The Next Generation (ST:TNG, TNG, etc.), which featured a new crew and a new plotline. In contrast to the original series, TNG tended to have a universe in which most of the races and encounters were technologically equal in nature, and a considerable number of the episodes involved "non-encounter" related plotlines including such topics as time travel loops and various natural disasters. While there were several encounters with advanced races similar to the original series, the outcomes tended not to require trickery or hostility to end, and in some cases are entirely humorous in nature. Another change was the common use of the Prime Directive, which states that the Federation shouldn't interfere with less evolved species. This was used as a plot device to create conflict in the characters when they saw races in need of help that they were legally bound to ignore. Finally the series had strong historical ties between episodes, with items and characters from previous episodes (and even previous seasons) often reappearing, giving the series a much stronger sense of continuity.
Roddenberry continued to be credited as executive producer of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but his influence lessened as the series progressed. With the addition of producer Rick Berman[?], the series slowly took on a more active nature and came to rely more and more on action and warfare. This became evident in later episodes of TNG, and was the basis of the ongoing plotlines of most of the following series.
Planned television series never aired:
Movies based on the original series:
Movies based on The Next Generation:
(This is an incomplete list.)
The Star Trek universe in general:
Races in the Star Trek universe:
Star Trek jargon:
See also: Physics and Star Trek