On this day in 1966, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise takes off on its mission to “boldly go where no man has gone before,” with the premiere of Star Trek. Although Star Trek ran for only three years (starting in 1966) and never placed better than No. 52 in the ratings, Gene Roddenberry’s series became a cult classic and spawned four television series and nine movies.
The first Star Trek spin-off was a Saturday morning cartoon, <I>The Animated Adventures of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, which ran from 1973 to 1975 (original cast members supplied the voices). The TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation first aired in 1987 and was set in the 24th century, starring the crew of the new, larger U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D, captained by Jean-Luc Picard (played by Patrick Stewart). This series became the highest-rated syndicated drama on television and ran until 1994. Another spin-off, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, premiered in 1992, featuring a 24th-century crew that lived in a space station rather than a starship. Star Trek: Voyager, which debuted in 1995 and ran until 2001, was the first to feature a female captain, Kathryn Janeway (played by Kate Mulgrew). In this series, the crew of the U.S.S. Voyager is stranded more than 70,000 light years from Federation space and is trying to find its way home.
Meanwhile, the cast of the original Star Trek voyaged onto the big screen, starting with Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979. The first film yielded disappointing returns at the box office, but its sequel, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, in 1982 was more successful and ensured more movies in the franchise. Subsequent films included Star Trek III: The Search for Spock; Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home; Star Trek V: The Final Frontier; Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country; Star Trek: Generations; Star Trek: First Contact; and Star Trek: Insurrection. The Star Trek books have been translated into more than 15 languages, and Star Trek conventions are held all over the United States. In 1992, the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., opened an exhibit honoring the original Star Trek television series. The exhibit featured more than 80 costumes, props, and models from the show, including Mr. Spock’s pointy ears and a replica of the deck of the starship Enterprise.