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Archive for September 22nd, 2017

by Sam Juliano

It was the brainchild of a moderately successful screenwriter who was hoping to achieve a moderate success with a genre program that was essentially aimed at young people, and fans of outer space shows.  The idea was to do well enough in the ratings to allow for an encore season and perhaps serve as a springboard for approval on other tentative projects.  Of course back in the 60’s adventure and fantasy shows were plentiful and very few succeeded beyond a niche market.  Expectations for a long run were virtually non-existent, and there was no persuasive reason to believe that providing viewers with a playground for the imagination, even with strange new worlds, expansive starships and compelling characters in the mix.  Some program executives may have perceived the project as a hybrid between the popular guilty pleasures Lost in Space and the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.  The early returns were modest enough, but few could have foreseen the phenomenon brewing, nor the influence it would exert over the medium.  More series spinoffs and theatrical films have appeared as a result of the original series, and a multibillion dollar industry, a franchise, has spawned endless lines of merchandise, fan clubs and annual conventions around the world.  After five highly successful television shows enjoyed impressive runs -three of those last seven years before syndication proved they were as desirable as ever- this incomparably unique franchise continues to earned millions on movie screens with a current slew of re-boots following nine movies.  The cinematic incarnations began in 1979, and there is no sign of closure anytime in the foreseeable future.  Only one property, Star Wars has matched it in a cultural sense, but it is hard to make the case that any television show has changed people’s’ perceptions, establishing a template for futuristic conjecture, while at the same time offering the strongest case for

Often referred to as “Wagon Train to the Stars”, “Horatio Hornblower in Space” or a more categorically as a science fiction space opera, Star Trek as per its famous tagline To boldly go where no man has gone before has achieved what no television show has managed.  While timing and luck have played a major role in the show’s spectacular prominence in the entertainment industry, there have been some more tangible factors that paved the way for this singular kind of accomplishment.  The idea of a spaceship traveling to the outer reaches of the galaxy and beyond has built-in intrigue and unlimited fascination not only for the adventures and fantasy it creates but for many a look at a future that may well conceivably occur.  Most envision a day when spaceships will travel long distances and that life aboard will be comparable to that of a passenger train or an airplane flight.  While Star Trek presented a scenario with many original ideas, it followed a long line of space stories, serials, novels, early films and television shows.  George Melies’ A Trip to the Moon (1902), an eighteen minute silent film acknowledged as one of the form’s earliest entries, was based on one of the books from one of literature’s most celebrated science fiction figures, the Frenchman Jules Verne (From the Earth to the Moon).   Space exploration books aimed at a teenage market were all the rage in the 50’s when Tom Corbett, Space Explorer and Digby Allen’s space adventures achieved considerable popularity.  The decade also saw a bevy of science-fiction films set in space: low-budget pot boilers like First Men in the Moon based on H.G. Wells and classics like The Day the Earth Stood Still and Forbidden Planet, the film that most influenced Star Trek.  The 60’s brought the master Czech work Ikarie XB-1, and Stanley Kubrick’s seminal 2001: A Space Odyssey, which released late in Star Trek’s three-year run.  The grandest fantasy of all is deeply rooted in the “final frontier” that Star Trek frames in the opening narration. (more…)

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