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Star Trek
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Star Trek

This article is about Star Trek, the science fiction media franchise. There is a separate article about the Star Trek project of Apple Computer, Inc.

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Star Trek is a science fiction television franchise created by Gene Roddenberry in 1966 which tells the tale of the crew of the starship Enterprise from the United Federation of Planets and their adventures "to boldly go where no man has gone before". The original show was cancelled in 1969 due to low ratings, but became phenomenally popular in syndication. To date, five additional TV series and ten motion pictures set within the Star Trek universe have been released. Star Trek is one of the most popular names in twentieth century science fiction entertainment.

Table of contents
7 Society and Star Trek
8 An uncertain future for the franchise
9 Other series
10 Fan Series
11 Other significant storylines
12 Topics, lists and figures
13 Star Trek in pop culture
14 See also
15 External links


The first pilot episode, The Cage, was made in 1964. It was rejected by the US television network NBC for being too cerebral without enough action. However, network executives were sufficiently impressed to commission a second pilot, Where No Man Has Gone Before; from the original pilot, only the character of Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy) remained.

Initially, (abbreviated ST:TOS or TOS (The Original Series)) was not successful. Ratings were low, and advertising revenue was lackluster. However, when threats of cancellation loomed in the show's second season, the show's devoted fanbase conducted an unprecedented campaign, petitioning NBC to keep the show on the air. They succeeded in gaining a third season, but the show was moved to a Friday night 'death slot,' and was cancelled at the end of its third season.

However, the fans – many dub themselves Trekkies or Trekkers – made reruns of the show popular, and created a market for later series and movies based on Roddenberry's work. Star Trek is now a recognized part of American culture, and is also gaining international popularity. Partly due to lobbying from fans of the series, NASA agreed to name its prototype space shuttle the Enterprise.


Many episodes of the original series involved encounters with powers much greater than that of the ship and its crew. These powers took many forms: advanced alien races with psychic powers; rogue alien machines; and even, in one case, a god. Sometimes a member of the ship's crew would acquire godlike powers in some freak accident, almost invariably bringing doom upon themselves or the crew. A cautious attitude towards automation prevailed; in many episodes, Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) freed alien cultures from repression by dictatorial computers.

Most situations of this type were resolved when the power in question came close to enslaving or destroying the ship and crew, only to be saved by Kirk. His usual strategy was to outwit the antagonist and make impassioned appeals to humanistic values.

The original series also infrequently showed encounters with other advanced spacefaring civilizations, including the Klingons and the Romulans, both of which were involved in separate "cold wars" with the Federation.

Outstanding episodes of the original series include "The Menagerie", the original's only two-part episode, written by Gene Roddenberry and partially derived from the unused pilot "The Cage", "The Trouble with Tribbles" (written by David Gerrold), "The City on the Edge of Forever" (Harlan Ellison), "The Devil in the Dark" (Gene L. Coon), and "Balance of Terror" (Paul Schneider). While most episodes of TOS were self-contained, there were several notable themes throughout the entire series. Arguably, the most important was the exploration of major issues of 1960s America, like sexism, racism, nationalism, and global war. Roddenberry believed that with new perspectives, the public would view those issues differently in their own lives - but some critics accused him of peddling left-wing propaganda.

The original series is also noted for its sense of humor. Bickering between science officer Spock and the Doctor Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) was friendly yet pointed. Episodes like "The Trouble with Tribbles", "I, Mudd" and "A Piece of The Action" were written and staged as comedies. This humor is much more subdued in following series and movies, with the exception of .

A few episodes have gained proverbiality in American culture for totally unforseen and unintended reasons; perhaps the best example is Plato's Stepchildren, in which Mr. Spock gets control of his mind usurped (through a process resembling telekinesis) by denizens of a planet who have somehow chosen Ancient Greece as a role model; while under their influence, Spock plays a harp and sings a song which includes the words "bitter dregs." As a result, some fans of American sports teams which are having an exceptionally poor season have taken to suggesting (such as by writing a letter to the editor of the sports section of their local newspaper or by getting on the air of a sports talk radio station) that the team should entitle its highlight film for that year "Plato's Stepchildren," because the team has become the "bitter dregs" of the league.

Many aspects of starship life in the series were modeled after the British Royal Navy of the age of sail. Roddenberry said he pitched the series to the network as "Wagon Train to the Stars", fearing they wouldn't understand his "Horatio Hornblower in Space" saga. In the series Spock and Dr. McCoy are both confidants of the captain, reflecting practice in the 1800s, when a captain often considered the advice of a near-equal outside the chain of command.

The connection to traditional naval practice is reflected in such small details as the three-toned "captain's whistle" that is heard when the captain appears, and relatively static nature of battles, in which ships fire at each other from a distance. In contrast to the world of Star Wars, no inspiration was drawn from the aircraft carrier of modern naval warfare.


The official name of this animated television series was simply Star Trek, but it is referred to as "the animated series" in order to distinguish it from the original series. While the freedom of animation afforded large alien landscapes, budget constraints were a major concern and animation quality was poor. Generally, the animated series is not considered canonical. (This was due, in part, to the inclusion of aspects of Larry Niven's Known Space universe into several episodes.)


The television series (ST:TNG or TNG), set nearly a century after the original series, was launched in 1987 and featured a new crew and storyline. Unlike the original series, the crew of the USS Enterprise NCC 1701-D met many technologically powerful races. Many episodes also involved plotlines without alien encounters, involving temporal loops, character dramas, and natural disasters. While there were several encounters with advanced races, the crew of this Enterprise (The Next Generation) favored peaceful negotiation more than that in the original series.

A major change was the greater observance of the Prime Directive, which states that the advanced Federation must not interfere with the development of cultures that are not capable of interstellar travel. This often created moral conflict within characters, as they were bound to ignore races in need of help.

However, the most noticeable difference between the original series and TNG was the strong continuity of storyline between episodes. One major recurring character, Q, bookended the series, appearing as the first major antagonist of the Enterprise D in "Encounter at Farpoint", and closing the series by forcing the crew into an ultimate test of human resourcefulness in the final episode, "All Good Things...". His Puck-like behavior and calculated mayhem in many episodes made him the most influential antagonist of the crew, as had been planned from the series' beginning.

Star Trek: The Next Generation introduced three new enemy races – the Ferengi, the Borg, and the Cardassians. Rather than the enemies of the original series, the Federation is in alliance with the Klingons, although vast cultural differences remain. A "cold war" with the Romulans continues throughout the series. However, the Borg were the most significant threat. A Borg ship destroyed thirty-nine Starfleet ships at the battle of Wolf 359, a star 7.8 light years from earth. After decimating the Federation fleet, the Borg continued to the solar system, where they were stopped by the actions of the Enterprise crew.

Roddenberry continued to be credited as executive producer of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but his influence lessened as the series progressed. Midway through the series, he passed away in 1991. With the addition of producer Rick Berman, the series began to be more active and came to rely more on action and warfare. This became evident in later episodes of TNG, and was the basis of the ongoing plotlines of the following episodes.


In 1993, Paramount launched (ST:DS9 or DS9), which ran concurrently with The Next Generation for one year and continued after TNG ended. DS9 was a departure from the established Star Trek formula; it was the first series not to feature the Enterprise and its crew. Instead, the series chronicled the events surrounding the space station Deep Space Nine, a former Cardassian mining station under joint Bajoran and Federation control, near a wormhole to another quadrant of the galaxy, the Gamma Quadrant.

Deep Space Nine shed some of the utopian themes that embodied the previous versions of Star Trek, focusing more on war, political compromise, and other modern themes. Commander Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) was forced to work with a fractured Bajoran government and a first officer, Major Kira (Nana Visitor), a former underground resistance leader initially hostile toward Federation administration of the station.

Through the series, loyalties and alliances changed repeatedly, as alliances with the Cardassians were made, broken, and remade, a short conflict with the Klingons flared, and the Federation found itself allied with the Romulans. The Ferengi in Deep Space Nine were no longer an enemy of the Federation, but rather a power whose neutrality was mostly respected.

The episode "Rules of Acquisition" introduced the Dominion, a ruthless empire in the Gamma Quadrant headed by a group of power-seeking shapeshifters, the Founders. The Dominion eventually went to war with the Federation, the Klingons, and later the Romulans, after allying themselves with the Cardassians. This story arc was explored during most of the final two seasons of the show. Another example of DS9's darker, more controversial plot material is Section 31, a secret police division in Starfleet Intelligence. This undemocratic shadow organization justifies its unlawful, ethically questionable tactics by claiming that it is essential to the continued existence of the Federation. Section 31 is prominent in several episodes of the Dominion War plot arc.


first aired in 1995 after the conclusion of The Next Generation. It was set on the USS Voyager in the same time period as Deep Space Nine. In the pilot episode, Voyager is sent on a mission to locate a ship piloted by a cell of the Maquis, an anti-Cardassian terrorist organization. Tom Paris helps to find the ship. During a chase through the dangerous Badlands, the ships are transported to the other side of the galaxy by an ancient alien device. The two crews are forced to integrate to confront new challenges after the Maquis ship is destroyed by Kazon raiders. Tom Paris is given a commission of Lieutenant, and Chakotay becomes the XO (Executive Officer).

Although the conflict between the freedom-loving Maquis and the establishment Federation crew was explored in the first two seasons, the series concentrated on the exploration of the Delta quadrant during the Voyager's long trek home. On the way, the crew must contend with organ-snatching Vidiians, the determined Borg, and the extradimensional Species 8472.


The newest series, entitled , began in 2001. Enterprise was set ten years before the founding of the Federation, and was the first series to lack "Star Trek" in the title. It also contained more action, more focus on the danger of space exploration with inferior technology, and a "Temporal Cold War" plot arc which appears to depart from the traditional Star Trek timeline. In the third season the show was renamed Star Trek: Enterprise (sometimes seen abbreviated as ST:ENT), and the focus of the season was the search for, confrontation with, and resolution with a new group of alien races known as the Xindi.

A number of fans have voiced strong negative opinions about this series, believing the series eschews continuity with the rest of the franchise and central philosophical, intellectual, and universal themes in favor of action and appeals to popular culture. Enterprise has the lowest ratings of any Star Trek series, continuing a decline since The Next Generation.

Society and Star Trek

Roddenberry was an ardent proponent of egalitarian politics, and frequently used the shows to showcase his vision of a future society based on those principles. A prominent female crew member, Nyota Uhura, was played by Nichelle Nichols, one of the first African-American women to hold a major acting role on American television. Only two decades after the second World War, Star Trek featured an ethnic Japanese officer, Hikaru Sulu (George Takei). In the second season, a Russian character, Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig) was added.

The Vulcan first officer Mr. Spock was at first rejected by network officials who feared that his vaguely satanic appearance might prove too disquieting. However, Spock went on to become one of the most popular characters on the show, arguably due to his role as the peaceful, logical, calm foil to Dr. McCoy's impassioned, old-fashioned, fiery personality.

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 white character and a black character in the United States. In an episode that used mind control as a ruse to break this taboo, Captain Kirk and Uhura were forced to share the first interracial kiss on American television (episode 67, "Plato's Stepchildren"). However, while they were shown embracing, they did not actually kiss - Kirk's head turns to block the view of the kiss at the last moment. Scenes clearly showing the kiss were filmed, but it was considered too risque to show it.

added much more information on the Star Trek universe. The Federation has an economy of abundance without money, enabled by advanced replicator technology. Labor, purchase, and sale are not necessary, as there is no scarcity to limit the satisfaction of one's material needs and wants. However, certain resources are still limited, such as those necessary to power warp and replicator technology, and interplanetary commerce is not uncommon. Greed and jealousy are thus greatly reduced. Characters often explain that the purpose of the people of the Federation is personal and universal beneficence.

Many of the alien species encountered in the series are strikingly similar to humans, both in physical form and in relationships. Mixed race offspring are also possible. In the TNG episode "The Chase", it is explained that many primordial worlds of the Federation were "seeded" by an ancient race of spacefarers, so that their dying race would live on in various forms around the galaxy.

Alien species and political powers in Star Trek often have iconic properties. In some cases these have been directly envisioned by writers, and in others perceived such by fandom. Some examples:

An uncertain future for the franchise

Next Generation stars Marina Sirtis, Patrick Stewart, and Jonathan Frakes have suggested that no more TNG films will be produced; Brent Spiner and Leonard Nimoy are also no longer interested in reprising their respective characters. The low ratings of Enterprise, as well as the poor showing of the 2002 film , have brought the future of the franchise into question. Some fans suggest that Paramount should retire the franchise temporarily or permanently.

Many in Trek fans want the replacement of the heads of the franchise, Rick Berman and Brannon Braga; Majel Roddenberry, the widow of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, is occasionally proposed as a replacement. There is also a sizable movement to bring back Captain Kirk, as played by William Shatner, suggesting that the character be given a more dignified end than that in .

Despite its poor ratings, Star Trek: Enterprise has been renewed for a fourth season. Like its predecessors Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, Enterprise has taken the first seasons to find a consistent footing, and has changed significantly from its original premise.

Rick Berman revealed in 2004 that preliminary work had begun on an eleventh Star Trek feature film. It is rumored that this film will be a prequel involving Spock, Captain Kirk, and Dr. McCoy played by new actors, perhaps entitled Starfleet Academy or Starfleet Command. However, rumors of such a prequel have circulated several times during the 1990s without result. In the past, there has been considerable demand among the fanbase for a film based on Deep Space Nine, but interest in the series has waned since it ended.

In 1998, the Viacom entered an agreement with Activision to produce Star Trek video games. Many games were released under this agreement, but in 2003, Activision filed a lawsuit against Viacom stating that they weren't holding up to their end of the bargain. In 1998 there were two Star Trek Series running concurrently. This continued during the entire run of Deep Space 9. There was always another movie on the horizon, Activision claimed that the Star Trek franchise was not as valuable as it once was. Activision cancelled the contract and sought after compensation for losses.

Other series

Fan Series

Created and funded by a volunteer troupe of fans, "Star Trek: New Voyages" picks up where the original series left off, with fan actors in the original series roles. Their work is available online to download, they have one episode available, and a second in production, due August 2004. Incorporated as a non-profit organization, the producers invite donations to the Space Shuttle Children's Trust Fund, set up to benefit children of the astronauts who died in the space shuttle Columbia.

Other significant storylines

Although books, comic books, video games, etc. based on Star Trek are generally considered 'non-canon', or, not really a part of the storyline, there are several storylines which deserve mentioning.

A novel series by Peter David focusing on the crew of the starship Excalibur. Some of the cast were guest stars from episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, while others were from previous Star Trek titles by the same author, and still others were created originally for the series. The series takes place in Sector 221-G, where the Excalibur is dispatched to help with the chaos created by the crumbling Thallonian Empire. A series of novels, set after the end of the TV show, DS9. New characters have been added to compensate for the loss of those who left at the end of the show. The series begins with two novels called 'Avatar', books 1 and 2. Comic book series by Marvel Comics focusing on the adventures of the Enterprise with the crew seen in the original pilot of Star Trek. Several new crew members are added, and the series lasts for 18 issues with the last issue ending in a cliffhanger. Comic book series by Marvel Comics focusing on Starfleet Academy cadets involved in galactic politics.

Topics, lists and figures

Television series

Motion pictures


There is a healthy
fan fiction environment around the series, and many writers find no difficulty bringing Star Trek-based books to market, including William Shatner. None of these novels are considered "canon", except for Mosaic and Pathways by Star Trek: Voyager co-producer Jeri Taylor, which feature background information on the main characters of the show (source: StarTrek.com)

See also the List of Star Trek novels.



Theme park

Reference works

Political units




Characters of each series may be found in their respective articles. See
List of Star Trek characters for a complete listing of characters.


Star Trek in pop culture

Due to its popularity, some of the concepts and language of Star Trek have found its way into the culture of the population at large and can be considered to be
pop culture. Phrases such as "Beam me up, Scotty!" (although it is doubtful if these exact words were ever spoken in a Star Trek television series or movie) and "Resistance is futile" are widely recognized and understood, as is warp drive and transporters. Star Trek has been referenced or parodied in other television shows, movies and other media, for more on this see Star Trek cultural references.

See also

External links

It has been said that Star Trek created the
Internet, in that many of its original non-military and non-computer-related bulletin boardss, newsgroups, and websites were about the series.