8/3/12

Star Trek: Asterisk "The Original Series"

Vital Information
Episodes: 79 (plus 1 unaired pilot)
Seasons: 3
Original Run: September 8, 1966 - June 3, 1969

Review
The series that started it all. The Original Series was very much a product of its time. The space race was in full effect and the whole world was dreaming of the stars. Only a few dared to write their dreams down. Fewer still watched their dreams become televised reality. And while those who could were fighting the world's battles, those who wouldn't were dreaming of peace. When Star Trek came along, it fantasized and romanticized the major issues of the day and assured people that one day it would all be better. One day humanity would be highly evolved enough to live in peace on Earth and take to the stars where our greatest troubles would be a product of the Great Unknown.

To sell the series, Gene Roddenberry described it to studios as a "wagon train to the stars" as westerns were the popular format of the day. Unfortunately, no one really cared to run the series until he finally met with Desilu in 1964. Just think: if it weren't for Lucille Ball there might be no Star Trek. Gene wanted MGM. Desilu was a smaller studio and would, therefore, give them a more limited budget, but they made do. And when new technologies became available just recently, remastering became a viable and profitable possibility.

In its day, however, Star Trek was not well known. The original three-year contract ran its course with mediocre ratings, so Desilu decided not to renew the contract. It was only when the show was put into syndication that it became a hit. The series ended before we landed on the moon. It's my opinion that after that happened, the general public was more excited than ever to get into space. After the moon, the next question is "what next?" and Star Trek answered that question. Suddenly there were Star Trek conventions, Star Trek merchandise, people dressing up as Spock and Kirk; it was already over, but it was a hit. It was the Firefly of its day.

As were most of the TV shows back then, Star Trek was completely episodic. There were, therefore, no overarching stories that would tie a season together, end with a cliffhanger, become revisited or differentiate one season from another. What does differentiate seasons is production quality. The uniforms, for instance, were still being changed two episodes into the first season. So to break the series down season by season would be folly. The episodes of The Original Series dealt with love, war, vengeance, honor and justice. There were energy beings, malevolent entities, would-be-gods, insane men, a few robots and some storage compartments full of tribbles. But most of all, watching Star Trek is like looking at humanity through a circus mirror, seeing a warped image, but noticing a blotch or freckle you may not have noticed before.

The Original Series may not immediately connect with modern-day viewers, but its lessons are timeless. Perhaps The Next Generation is a better introduction into the franchise, but Kirk's crew holds a special place in my heart. And it only gets better with the movies!