5 things you didn’t know about… Star Trek

AskMen – AskMen created a list of 5 things you didn’t know about Star Trek. I would just point out that these are all things you probably didn’t know – if you weren’t a Trekkie 🙂 . If you are, this will be old news for you…

During the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s, two men — Gene Roddenberry and Sherwood Schwartz — developed TV shows with a similar, fundamental premise: The characters would be a microcosm of the world, and only through cooperation could they overcome their differences. Shwartz marooned his creativity on Gilligan’s Island with seven imbeciles who deserved each other.

Alternately, Star Trek, Roddenberry’s creation, featured a cast with groundbreaking diversity; it confronted relevant social and intellectual issues, and it was set against the vast expanse of the unknown universe, instead of on a confined island.

This approach struck an unparalleled chord, and four decades later the full Trek franchise is worth billions of dollars. It has been explored through six television series, 10 films, hundreds of novels, scores of video games, a Vegas attraction, and untold merchandising opportunities, from T-shirts and action figures in the millions to a limited-edition golf putter shaped — you guessed it — like the USS Enterprise.

Its devoted fans, Trekkies (some prefer Trekkers), own a fanatic detail-oriented reputation that predates the web and makes a similar phenomenon regarding a four-eyed boy wizard look like the pet rock. They are parodied endlessly and endure heaps of ridicule, all with admirable indifference.

As the franchise prepares for its 11th feature film, scheduled for release in late 2008, we present five things you didn’t know about Star Trek:

1- The original Star Trek was canceled early on

That first series, often referred to today as Star Trek: The Original Series (or TOS for short) aired 79 episodes over three seasons on NBC, from 1966 to 1969, and earned 14 Emmy nominations (notably, two for Best Dramatic Series, and three for Outstanding Supporting Actor for Leonard Nimoy). A fierce letter-writing campaign by fans of the show allegedly saved it from cancellation in 1968, but in each season, the network moved the show to a different, and progressively less desirable, time slot. The series premiered at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday nights, but by its final season it was relegated to Friday nights at 10 p.m., airing its final episode on June 3, 1969.

Syndication a few years later breathed new life into the show and is at least partly responsible for fueling the unprecedented cult phenomenon it is today.

2- A Next Generation character was named in honor of a Trekkie

In what would be a dream come true for any die-hard fan, the Next Generation character Lieutenant Geordi La Forge, played by LeVar Burton, was named after a Trekkie. George La Forge was a devoted attendee of numerous Trek conventions who had muscular dystrophy. He had allegedly built a friendship with Gene Roddenberry over the years, and as a salute of sorts, Roddenberry named a character after him. Notably, like his namesake, the character has a disability (he’s blind), but with a prosthesis he can see better than most.

Unfortunately, La Forge was unable to savor this honor, having died in 1975 — a dozen years before the show premiered on television.

On the same show, Roddenberry also honored another fan in this fashion, although it’s a bit more subtle. The character Q is said to be named for Janet Quarton, a woman who ran the UK fan club in the 1970s.

3- Its creator had little direct influence over the franchise

Indirectly, Gene Roddenberry is the father of the entire franchise and deserves proper credit. Star Trek was his creation, and when it was on he did all he could to keep it on and to keep the quality high. However, while his creation inspired every series and film that followed, his own involvement was limited.

He is said to have been very much involved in the first season (and to a lesser degree, the third) of the most successful series of the franchise, Star Trek: The Next Generation. Yet, beyond producing the first movie, Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, he had little influence over the four movies released prior to his death in 1991, serving as a consultant with marginal say over creative decisions.

4- The line “Beam me up, Scotty” was never delivered

It’s not uncommon for certain phrases in television and film to take on a life of their own in the form of paraphrases, but it’s always a surprise to learn that they aren’t as verbatim as first believed. Much like “Me Tarzan, you Jane” (which was star Johnny Weissmuller’s way to describe the level of difficulty acting the lead role in Tarzan), the ubiquitous line “Beam me up, Scotty” assumed to be uttered by Captain Kirk to chief engineer Montgomery Scott, never appeared precisely this way in a Trek series or film.

5- The original series inspired PDAs

The cultural impact of Star Trek is too enormous to deny, but its technological impact is equally as impressive. Some big Silicon Valley names considered themselves fans of the show growing up, notably Steve Wozniak of Apple and Steve Perlman, the founder of WebTV. The inspiration for a number of today’s technologies, such as flip phones, can be traced back to the original series, and many are outlined in William Shatner’s 2002 book, Star Trek: I’m Working on That.

One well-documented example is the user interface developed in the 1990s for the Palm OS. Its designer, Rob Haitani, an admitted Star Trek fan, claims that his first sketches were inspired by the interface on the bridge panels of the Enterprise. He also claims that aspects of the first Treo were influenced by communicators from the original series. 

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