aired 50 years ago, Thursday. (Actually, that’s a bit of a cheat: The series originally aired Sept. 6, 1966 … in Canada, so you know, it doesn’t count.)
The show never achieved high ratings during its original run of three seasons, but as it went into syndication throughout the 1970s, it became the cult classic it is today, with 13 feature films and five additional television series following. In honor of its 50th anniversary, we’re rounding up some facts you might not have known about the series that boldly went where no other show had gone before.
1. Some of the ship’s equipment was a little too honest
View post on imgur.com
Labels reading “GNDN” on the
‘s hallway tubing stood for “goes nowhere, does nothing.”
2. It brought the Old West to space
creator Gene Roddenberry threw a number of influences into his initial pitch for
. He’d gotten his start in television writing shows about the Old West, and deliberately characterized
3. But also brought the high seas to space
a conscious character model for Captain James Tiberius Kirk was Horatio Hornblower
, the protagonist of C.S. Forrester’s novels of the same name.
4. Captain Kirk wasn’t even in the show’s pilot
The show’s pilot, “The Cage,” didn’t feature Kirk, but rather a Captain Pike. Spock, however, was featured. NBC actually turned down the first pilot of the show, but commissioned a second, which introduced Kirk, Scotty and Sulu.
5. The character of Uhura broke racial barriers on television
aired right in the thick of the civil rights movement, and Nichelle Nichols’ character, Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, was one of the first black women with a prominent role in a televised series. “There were parts of the South that wouldn’t show
because this was an African-American woman in a powerful position,”
Nichols told the Huffington Post in 2012
, “and she wasn’t a maid or tap dancer.” Though she said she didn’t face discrimination on set, other parts of the studio weren’t as kind – she wasn’t allowed to enter the studio through the same gate as the white actors on the show.
6. Lucille Ball held the fate of the show in her hands at one point
Star Trek was financed by Desilu Productions
, the company co-owned by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball (get it, Desi-Lu?). But the company had jumped in over its head, going from producing just the half-hour
to financing chunks of the hour-long
. They nearly axed the former, until Ball was convinced the show could be a success.
7. The show was an early example of the power of a fan campaign
Low ratings during the show’s first season threatened
, though NBC received 29,000 letters of support from fans during the first season. When rumors of cancellation started spreading during the second season, Roddenberry enlisted the help of Bjo and John Trimble, two enthusiastic sci-fi fans, to start a letter-writing campaign. Various other writers joined in, and between December 1967 and March 1968,
NBC received more than 1 million pieces of mail related to the program
. One of them came from then-New York State Governor Nelson Rockefeller.
8. The show also set records in syndication
First of all,
broke convention because most shows require at least four seasons to be syndicated. By 1986, almost 20 years after it was cancelled,
the original run of Star Trek episodes were making Paramount
$ 750,000 per airing.
9. Roddenberry wrote a set of lyrics to show’s theme solely for the royalties
Roddenberry pressured the theme’s composer, Alexander Courage (via a “handshake deal”), to give him the option to write lyrics to the show’s theme. Roddenberry exercised the option, and though the lyrics were never recorded, released or used for the show, his “contribution” entitled him to 50 percent of the royalties from Courage’s work. Courage called him on it, and
Roddenberry supposedly replied
, “Hey, I have to get some money somewhere.”
10. Nichelle Nichols recorded a disco version of the theme
Out of This World
, includes cuts like “Star Rock” and “Rock the World.”
11. And she wasn’t the only member of the cast with musical aspirations
I am legally obligated to include this video, from 1967, in literally anything I write about
. I have a handshake agreement with Gene Roddenberry.
12. The town of Riverside, Iowa, has a ‘future birthplace’ dedicated to KirkRiverside councilman Steve Miller
(no relation to the musician) read in Gene Roddenberry’s book
Making of Star Trek
that Kirk was born in a small town in Iowa. In 1985, at a town council meeting, he proposed that Riverside be declared the “Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk.” In 2009, that fact was made canon by J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the film. Coincidentally, Kirk’s birthday, March 22, is also William Shatner’s date of birth.
13. People used to write into Nimoy-as-Spock with questions
Teenagers quizzed the logical Vulcan about
LSD and the war in Vietnam
, while one girl, herself biracial, asked Spock for advice on how to deal with the prejudices she was facing, he being a “half-breed” himself. “[Spock] said to himself: ‘Not everyone will like me,’ ”
Nimoy answered her in a fan magazine
. “But there will be those who will accept me just for who I am.”
14. A man created a $ 25-million scam named after McCoy
Howard Leventhal plead guilty to a swath of fraud charges
in 2013 after bilking investors out of $ 25 million he wanted for his “McCoy Home Health Tablet,” which could “instantaneously and effectively” deliver patient data to doctors. In other words, it was basically the series’ “Tricorder,” an all-purpose futuristic device Dr. McCoy would use to diagnose all kinds of space maladies.
15. Sulu never had a first name
Being that the premise of
is that the world is in harmony – thus why man is looking to the stars –
Roddenberry had this notion of Sulu representing the entirety of Asia
. He didn’t want a last name tied to a specific Asian nation, so he saw the Sulu Sea, which he thought had a nice vague sound.
Sulu’s first name, Hikaru
, wasn’t even canon until
Star Trek VI
, though it was introduced in 1981 in a
The Entropy Effect
. (Incidentally, the same book that gives Uhura her first name.)
16. The show holds a number of Guinness Records
“most widely spoken fictional language” (Klingon) and “most expensive kidney stone” ($ 25,000, William Shatner’s.)
17. Chekov was based on member of the Monkees … maybe
There’s a persistent urban legend that states Roddenberry created the character of Ensign Chekov after an editorial in a Russian newspaper criticized the lack of Russians aboard the
– after all, Yuri Gregarin was the first man in space.
, however, was not broadcast in the U.S.S.R., so the veracity of such an editorial is suspect. Rather, Roddenberry was looking for a “young, irreverent, English-accent ‘Beatle’-type to try on the show,” per a 1966 memo. “Like the smallish fellow who looks to be a hit on
,” he added. Apparently, though, Roddenberry was somewhat embarrassed by the lack of a Russian on the
write a letter to the editor of
informing them of the addition of Chekov to the cast.
Anyway, Snopes is confused, so we guess we are as well
18. Some of the show’s costumes inspired a theory about televised nudity
The show’s costume designer, William Ware Theiss, designed such improbably gravity-defying outfits for the various women on the show that the
Theiss Titillation Theory
, which states, “The sexiness of an outfit is directly proportional to the possibility that a vital piece of it might fall off,” is named after him.
19. Leonard Nimoy’s father owned a barbershop
, young men would come in during the height of the show’s popularity and ask for “a Spock,” having no idea they were getting it from the character’s real-life dad.