Online Encyclopedia Search Tool

Your Online Encyclopedia


Online Encylopedia and Dictionary Research Site

Online Encyclopedia Free Search Online Encyclopedia Search    Online Encyclopedia Browse    welcome to our free dictionary for your research of every kind

Online Encyclopedia

Star Trek: The Original Series

Star Trek is a culturally significant science fiction television series created by Gene Roddenberry in the 1960s. It spawned a strong fandom (TV Guide rated it #1 in its list of the "25 Top Cult Shows Ever"), and was followed by five additional television series and ten theatrical movies (the Guinness Book of Records lists it as having the largest number of spinoffs).

To distinguish this first series from the sequels which followed, it has become known as Star Trek: The Original Series, abbreviated as ST:TOS or TOS. See Star Trek for a more general overview.



Set in a utopian vision of the 23rd century, Star Trek follows the adventures of the Starship Enterprise and her crew. A voiceover at the beginning of each episode states their goal (ungrammatically according to some, since "to boldly go" is a split infinitive):

Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

Star Trek debuted on NBC on September 8, 1966. Initially, it 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. The last episode aired on June 3, 1969.

But then the fans got a very lucky break. The show was sold into syndication, and stations were able to air it when they thought fans and potential fans would be able to watch it. Many fans soon joined those who held the campaign which made the series popular, and they created a broad market for the franchise. The first six Star Trek movies were based on the original series (and the seventh included characters from it).

Fans of the original Star Trek series became known as "Trekkies".


Roddenberry pitched his idea to networks as a sort of "Wagon Train to the Stars," depicting it as a futuristic version of the westerns (such as Wagon Train and Gunsmoke) which were popular on television at the time. 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. Only the character of Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy) remained from the original pilot.

Many aspects of starship life in the series were modeled after the British Royal Navy of the age of sail. Roddenberry had intended to make Christopher Pike (the captain in the original pilot episode) similar to the fictional captain Horatio Hornblower. There is a certain formality among the characters; the series writer's guide points out that sudden emergencies are not to be met with a beautiful crewman rushing into the captain's arms and awaiting certain doom. The Enterprise is one vessel of thousands in Starfleet, which is governed by the United Federation of Planets, consisting of more than a hundred fifty member planets.

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 also reflected in such small details as the three-toned "captain's whistle" that is heard when the captain arrives on the bridge, as well as the 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; there has never been a single-person fighter craft shown in the Star Trek universe.


The characters in the original series, and (to a lesser extent) later series, are a diverse multinational group. It was Roddenberry's intent to show that the future of humankind is a more enlightened time in which national borders do not divide people from working together.

The three main characters in the original series were Captain James Tiberius Kirk, Doctor Leonard "Bones" McCoy, and science officer Spock. These three were a strong group who played well off each other and who were popular with viewers: Kirk was passionate and resourceful, Spock was calm and logical, and McCoy was sardonic and spoke his mind.

Spock, a Vulcan and the only non-human character starring in the original cast, was meant to be a dispassionate observer against whom the strengths and flaws of humanity could be seen more clearly. Spock was at first rejected by network officials who feared that his vaguely satanic appearance (with pointed ears and eyebrows) might prove upsetting to viewers. In fact, the network airbrushed out the pointed ears from at least one press photo of the character. But Spock went on to become one of the most popular characters on the show, arguably due to his role as the peaceful and impassive foil to Dr. McCoy's impassioned country-doctor personality.

The series was created during a time of cold war politics with Communist nations, and the plots of its episodes occasionally reflect this. The original series infrequently shows encounters with other advanced spacefaring civilizations, including the Klingons (meant to represent the Soviet Union) and the Romulans (meant to represent the Chinese), both of which were involved in separate "cold wars" with the Federation. However the historical cold war is clearly portrayed as a thing of the past in the series: several human characters bear Russian names.


Many episodes of the original series involve encounters with powers much greater than that of the ship and its crew. These powers take 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 prevails; in many episodes, Captain Kirk frees alien cultures from repression by dictatorial computers.

Most situations of this type are resolved when the power in question comes close to enslaving or destroying the ship and crew, only to be saved by Kirk. His usual strategy is to outwit the antagonist and make impassioned appeals to humanistic values. Episodes usually end with a moral being summarized and a bit of humor to finish on a lighter note.

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 Spock and McCoy is friendly yet pointed. Episodes like "The Trouble with Tribbles", "I, Mudd" and "A Piece of The Action " are written and staged as comedies. This humor is much more subdued in following series and movies, with the exception of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

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's mind is controlled (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.

See also: List of Star Trek TOS episodes

Theme song

The lyrics to the theme music were published in the book The Making of "Star Trek."

Beyond the rim of the starlight
My love is wandering in starflight
I know he'll find in star clustered reaches
Love strange, love a star woman teaches
I know his journey ends never
His star trek will go on forever
But tell him while he wanders his starry sea
Remember me, remember me.

As reported by Herb Solow and Robert Justman in their book Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, Gene Roddenberry wrote them without composer Alexander Courage's knowledge, and without intending for them ever to be sung, so that he would nevertheless get a 50% share of the music's performance royalties. (This practice is old and common in the music publishing business, although some consider it ethically dubious.) Although some recordings of the theme with lyrics exists, many have pointed out that the lyrics do not match the melody and are very difficult to sing.



Sulu and Uhura were not given first names in this series. It has become fanon that Uhura's first name is Nyota, but it is not canon. Sulu's first name, Hikaru, would be finally confirmed in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

Chekov was added in the second season, possibly as Roddenberry's decision to represent a Russian on the crew, and possibly as an attempt to attract more teenage viewers (especially girls) to the show.


Pilot episode

Notable guest roles

External links

Star Trek

Television series
Original Series | Animated Series | Phase Two | Next Generation | Deep Space Nine | Voyager | Enterprise
The Motion Picture | II: The Wrath of Khan | III: The Search for Spock | IV: The Voyage Home
V: The Final Frontier | VI: The Undiscovered Country | Generations | First Contact | Insurrection | Nemesis

Last updated: 12-07-2004 04:36:06