It’s Star Trek Day! The space-faring franchise debuted 55 years ago today, which means the internet will be alight with discussions about the Prime Directive, the proper pronunciation of Bat’leth, and, of course, boldly going where no one has gone before. In recognition of the continuing popularity of Gene Roddenberry’s universe, here’s a rundown of the some of the most impressive statistics regarding the Federation.
55 Years: The first episode of Star Trek (now referenced as Star Trek: The Original Series or simply TOS) debuted on NBC on Thursday, September 8, 1966.
1 Lucy: The show was original produced by Desilu Productions, the company founded by Lucille Ball and her husband, Desi Arnaz. In addition to I Love Lucy and The Lucy Show, the company produced other classics like Mission: Impossible, Mannix, The Untouchables, and, of course, Star Trek.
2 Pilots: The series was overhauled after the original pilot episode “The Cage” failed to set network executives on fire. Two holdovers from the first attempt were the Enterprise herself, and Mr. Spock. A second attempt, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” featured William Shatner as Captain Kirk and resulted in a series order.
115,893 Letters: The second season of the original series had low ratings, putting the show in danger of cancellation. Enter Bjo Trimble. Active in fan circles, the writer and fan-convention fixture was a driving force in the letter-writing campaign that saved Star Trek for season three. In all, NBC officially tallied 115,893 letters written in support of keeping the show on the air.
1 Fateful Conversation: Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura, had considered leaving the series because her role was comparatively rather small. However, while attending an NAACP fundraiser, she was introduced to a major fan: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King’s perception that Uhura’s presence on the Enterprise represented a major achievement for Black people convinced Nichols to stay. Nichols eventually went on to work for NASA, recruiting potential astronauts from diverse backgrounds.
79 Episodes: The original series ran for three seasons from 1966 until 1969. A total of 79 episodes were produced.
Over 850 Prose Pieces: Star Trek made the jump to the written word in 1967 with the publication of the first tie-in novel, Star Trek I. Since then, Trek has been perennially popular in print. All told, more than 850 licensed short stories, novels, and collections have been released as of the first quarter of 2021. Comic book adaptations launched in 1967 as well, with over 500 released to date.
2 Animated Seasons: The first new Star Trek series after the original was Star Trek: The Animated Series. Running in 1973 and 1974, the show had two seasons of 11 episodes each. The majority of the original live-action cast returned to voice their characters, but the show’s lower budget forced them drop one character; that was Ensign Chekov, who was played by Walter Koenig. Koening, however, did write one episode of the cartoon.
13 Movies: After the huge success of Star Wars in 1977, plans to bring Star Trek back to TV shifted to a goal of relaunching the cast on the big screen. Star Trek: The Motion Picture reunited the original cast (including Koenig) in 1979. Although the film did reasonably well at the box office, it suffered from mixed reviews. However, the more action-oriented sequel, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, was embraced by critics and audiences alike. Over the decades, 11 more theatrical films have followed. The first six featured the original cast, while Generations segued the series from the original cast to the Next Generation characters. In 2009, seven years after the NextGen film run came to a close, director J.J. Abrams rebooted the films with a new continuity and a recasting of the original crew; the “reboot continuity” has seen three films released, with the most recent being Star Trek Beyond in 2016. Word has it that Paramount is aiming to release a new film in 2023, but details have yet to be revealed.
$1.4 Billion: Since 1979, the total box office take for the Star Trek franchise is $1,401,298,895, according to Box Office Mojo. That total includes a re-release of the original motion picture, and is enough for Star Trek to be in the top 20 of most successful franchises of all time.
11 TV Continuations: With the movie series going strong in the 1980s, Paramount launched the first Star Trek spin-off series, Star Trek: The Next Generation. Set decades after the original series with a new a crew aboard an updated Enterprise, the syndicated show was a major hit. In the middle of its seven-season run, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine took off, followed by Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise. All told, there have been 11 live-action and animated TV spin-offs of the franchise. Presently, Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the animated Star Trek: Lower Decks run on Paramount+; they’ll be joined in the near future by the live action Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and the animated Star Trek: Prodigy. A separate anthology concept, Star Trek: Short Treks, produced a combination of 10 live-action and animated episodes from 2018 to 2020.
800 Episodes: That’s the current count of all Star Trek TV episodes across all series, including the pilots for Strange New Worlds and Prodigy.
1 Ongoing Mission: So yes, Star Trek is massively popular. But if you had to break it down from the trappings of starships and Vulcans and phasers and Klingons and transporter room mishaps, why has it endured so long? Certainly the notion of exploration has made it popular; the idea that there’s something more out there has always fascinated humankind. The science aspects are undoubtedly cool; while there’s fuzziness around the whole matter/anti-matter ratio in a warp engine, fans are endlessly fascinated with the promise of seeing things on the screen become real (Hello, cellphone? Your mother the Federation communicator wants you to call).
But what really powers Star Trek is the same thing that’s always powered it, and that’s hope. The shows articulate a hopeful future where wars can end, disease can be cured, and problems can be solved. People of different backgrounds, even different planets, can work side by side to overcome obstacles both humorous (those Tribbles!) and dire (the aforementioned wrath of Khan). It’s a belief that was in Roddenberry’s vision from the beginning: people can make things better. That’s why Star Trek has stuck around this long, and that’s why it’s not going anywhere. Except, of course, where no one has gone before.
Featured image: Rob Lavers LRPS / Shutterstock.com
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