For many people, “Star Trek” is still the gold standard when it comes to science fiction television programs. Since it originally aired in 1966, the franchise has produced five spin-off series and twelve motion pictures, in addition to a wide range of novels, comic books, and other tie-ins.
The original series chronicles the adventures of the starship Enterprise and its five-year mission to explore the galaxy. Under the command of Captain James T. Kirk, played by William Shatner, the ship encounters a wide range of aliens, robots, and other entities, both friendly and menacing.
The show ran for three seasons. After each season, it was threatened with cancellation, but letter writing campaigns by fans kept it going. Once the show was finally off the air, it quickly became a hit in syndication, with reruns being shown all the time somewhere in the United States.
A brief revival came in the form of an animated series that ran for a season and a half in the mid-1970s. Despite the cheapness of the animation, the series was elevated by the quality of the scripts and the presence of most of the original actors.
In 1979, the first film was released in theaters. “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” was a box-office smash, though its slow-paced script and dark tones did not please all the fans. The sequel, “The Wrath of Khan,” which came out in 1982, brought back a villain from the original series and is generally considered to be one of the greatest science fiction movies of all time.
Four more movies followed starring the original cast: “The Search for Spock,” “The Voyage Home,” “The Final Frontier,” and “The Undiscovered Country.” Meanwhile, in 1987, the first new TV series in more than a decade began airing in syndication. “Star Trek: The Next Generation” was set more than 80 years after the original series and told of the adventures of a new Enterprise under the command of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, played by Patrick Stewart.
This show ran for seven seasons and spawned four theatrical movies of its own: “Generations,” “First Contact,” “Insurrection,” and “Nemesis.” In addition, there were three more television series: “Deep Space Nine,” “Voyager,” and “Enterprise.”
In 2009, the franchise was revived by a new movie simply entitled “Star Trek.” This was set in an alternate timeline and featured new actors playing the iconic roles of Kirk, Spock, and others. A sequel, “Star Trek Into Darkness,” came out in 2013, and a third movie is scheduled to be released in 2016 to mark the show’s 50th anniversary.