Star Trek

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Leonard Nimoy demonstrating the Vulcan salute at Phoenix Comicon in Phoenix, Arizona, May 28, 2011. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Star Trek is an American SF media franchise created by Gene Roddenberry that follows the adventures of the Starfleet starship Enterprise and its crew.

The original television series is set in the Milky Way Galaxy, roughly during the 2260s. The crew is headed by Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), science officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and chief medical officer Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley).

The series was produced from 1966–1967 by Desilu Productions and by Paramount Television from 1968–1969. Star Trek aired on NBC from September 8, 1966 — after a premiere shown at Tricon, the 1966 Worldcon — to June 3, 1969. Although this television series had the title Star Trek, it later acquired the retronym of Star Trek: The Original Series (initialized as TOS) to distinguish the show within the media franchise that it began.

The show had a major influence on popular culture, and it became a cult classic in syndication during the 1970s. It eventually spawned a franchise that consisted of five additional TV series, 12 theatrical films, and numerous books, games, toys, and other products. Among other things, it showcased the Vulcan salute, a hand gesture cribbed by Nimoy from Jewish ritual. (Some fans have suggested it should replace handshakes amid the Covid-19 pandemic.)

Although the sneak peek at Tricon evoked little comment, perhaps because it occurred at 7 p.m. Monday, the series had a huge impact on fandom, too. Some fanhistorians attribute the increased number of femmefen in the late 1960s and ’70s to the show’s popularity, but fandom itself grew exponentially during that period as well. Whether it was Steam Engine Time or Star Trek, science fiction began to lose some of the stigma it had previously carried in the macrocosm, although some derided goshwow fans of the series as “pointy-eared Trekkies.”

Ultimately, especially after Bjo Trimble’s successful Save Star Trek letter-writing campaign, Star Trek began to inspire its own specialty fanzines and conventions, and thus, Media Fandom was born.

Ad astra per aspera — “To the stars through difficulties” — the motto of Starfleet.

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