Historical Entry—Thursday, September 8, 1966
Title card for Star Trek (© Desilu Productions 1966)
Almost three years before Neil Armstrong would step onto the moon, Americans tuned in to NBC for another famous first in space. At 8:30 that Thursday evening, during the “sneak peek” block, William Shatner was first heard to utter the famous entrance lines.
“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!”
The Man Trap, which is canonically the fifth episode of the series, was the first to air. Gene Roddenberry, the show’s producer, fought hard to get the show on the air. The series would survive for three seasons on NBC before being canceled. However, after its cancelation, the series was initially purchased for syndication Kaiser Broadcasting.
This was a bit of a surprise since 100 episodes was normally the threshold for syndication and Star Trek had only produced 79 episodes. The reason for 100 was so that a TV station could have 20 weeks (a normal season’s worth) of once a weekday episodes without repeating any.
The show had had a massive write-in during its second season, and the daily and earlier timeslot of syndication gave the show new life. It grew into cult status and by January 1972, spawned its own convention in New York City. Additionally, the show was enough of a success to encourage Filmation to produce two seasons (a total of 22 episodes) of the animated series from September 8, 1972 to October 12, 1974. Additionally, the first space shuttle was named Enterprise in honor of the show’s ship.
The series would influence science fiction for decades to come, spinning off a current total of 12 television series and 13 theatrical films. It also influenced a huge number of scientists, authors, and engineers. The Vulcan greeting of “live long and prosper” and the accompanying hand gesture are recognized throughout the world and have even been performed on the International Space Station.
Star Trek is arguably one of the most, if not the most, influential science fiction series ever conceived and produced.
This Day in Science Fiction History examines notable events, real and fictional, concerning fantasy and science fiction in various media.