Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Golden Anniversary of Star Trek

If this were fifty years ago, you could tune in tonight to a new television show called Star Trek. (And unless you were Al Gore, you would not be reading this on the Internet.) Yes, half a century has passed since that first episode was broadcast on September 8, 1966, and although Star Trek would last only three years in its original run--the last episode, a repeat, was broadcast on September 2, 1969--the show has become an enduring global phenomenon. Witness the thirteenth movie in the series, released this summer, and the impending debut of the seventh TV series.

That first episode from September 1966 was "Man Trap," an outer space monster story. I think more than a little of Star Trek was owed to the previous television series The Outer Limits (1963-1965). Both shows were known not only for science fiction but also for their monsters. Many of the actors and some of the props and other visual elements from The Outer Limits also appeared in Star Trek. I suppose that the people in charge decided to launch Star Trek with a story of a monster in order to grab viewers. The more cerebral episodes could wait. Of course, one of the beauties of television from the 1960s and '70s is that it worked on two levels: plenty of thrills for the kids and something to think about (including sexual situations) for the adults.

I have written before about the connection, however tenuous, between Weird Tales and Star Trek. You can read my article "Weird Tales and Star Trek" by clicking here. In that article I mentioned the writers who were in Weird Tales who also wrote for Star Trek. One was Robert Bloch, author of three episodes, one of which was called "Wolf in the Fold." "Wolf in the Fold" is from the second season and was broadcast on December 22, 1967. It concerns a serial killer who, as it turns out, has traveled through time and space to carry out his depredations. In one of his incarnations, he was Jack the Ripper. That plotline may have sounded familiar to readers of Weird Tales. Nearly a quarter century before, in the issue of July 1943, "The Unique Magazine" had published Bloch's story "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper," which proved to be essentially the source for "Wolf in the Fold."

That's only one connection between Weird Tales and Star Trek. Another, or I guess I should say a similarity between the two, is that both have survived their own demise many times over (like Bloch's Jack the Ripper). Weird Tales is currently defunct. I imagine it will be back. As for Star Trek: the original run came to an end on September 2, 1969, as I mentioned. Fans must have been in despair, but less than a week later, on September 8, 1967, the show went into syndication, and so today is a double anniversary of beginnings. So Happy Anniversary, Star Trek! Now we can look forward to the Diamond Jubilee--or maybe we should call it the Dilithium Jubilee--twenty-five years hence.

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley


  1. I can well remember tuning in to that first episode of Star Trek fifty years ago tonight, and being thrilled to see a TV series unlike anything that came before it; an intelligent space opera, complete with ray guns and monsters. I fell in love with the show that night, and my love hasn't diminished in the five decades since. The series had it's share of clunkers to be sure, but at its best, the original Star Trek is as good as anything that's ever been broadcast on the cathode ray tube.
    "Wolf in the Fold" is one of the gems. It features the delightful Tanya Lemani; an actress and dancer who never got the opportunities or fame that her talent deserved. She showed up on a plethora of television shows throughout the sixties, from The Man From UNCLE to McHale's Navy in memorable but all too brief supporting parts. Her part in "Wolf in the Fold" is one of her best.

    1. Mike,

      No discussion of Star Trek would be complete without mention of its women, some of the most beautiful (and exotic) ever to appear on television. Thanks for calling our attention to Tanya Lemani.