Desilu Productions (1966–1967) / Norway Corporation / Paramount Television (1968–1969)
September 8, 1966 – June 3, 1969
- Captain James T. Kirk-William Shatner
- First Officer and Science Officer Commander Spock-Leonard Nimoy
- Chief Medical Officer Lt. Commander Leonard “Bones” McCoy-DeForest Kelley
- Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott–James Doohan
- Communications Officer Lt. Nyota Uhura-Nichelle Nichols
- Helmsman Lt. Hikaru Sulu-George Takei
- Navigator Ensign Pavel Chekov-Walter Koenig
- Head Nurse Christine Chapel-Majel Barrett
“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
Those are quite possibly some of the most iconic words ever uttered in science fiction and what began as a three season series from the 60s has spawned multiple spinoffs as well as a film series and as of this writing a few animated series. All of these are watched by millions of people today. But today we are talking about the original.
Star Trek was a show ahead of its time more often than not. It was a show about a multiethnic and culturally integrated crew of both men and women working together in humanity’s future to explore the stars. They were equals and race was rarely mentioned among the crew.
Captain James Tiberius Kirk (William Shatner) is popularly thought of as a man of action that thought with his fists and followed his groin. Yes, I said “thought.” He is more than that though. He was a thoughtful and caring captain. Kirk solved the problems of each episode with a combination of brains, quick wits, and at times charm as well as violence when necessary. That is something often missed.
First Officer and Science Officer Commander Spock (Leonard Nimoy) was a character born of two species and represented the growing portion of the population that was more often than not the product of two cultures. He faced bullying and bigotry for his mixed heritage from his own people. His focus on logic earned him many fans. But despite being logical he was not cold. He was just in control. He had at least one romance with a human woman and his interactions with the Romulan commander in “The Enterprise Incident” were definitely intense. Nimoy was one of two actors to appear in the original pilot and the regular series and the only one to reprise his character.
Chief Medical Officer Lt. Commander Leonard “Bones” McCoy (DeForest Kelley) was the most passionate of the main three. He had an interesting backstory in the series bible that never made it to the screen such as a daughter and being divorced. He was Kirk’s good friend and a reluctant friend to Spock. He provided a listening ear that helped make decisions.
It has been said that the trio of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are actually one character. McCoy representing Kirk’s passion and emotion with Spock representing his intellect. In essence a Greek chorus. I do not think that is something that can be really argued. They are most certainly Kirk’s chorus. Most of Kirk’s decisions were filtered through those two with both arguing per their roles. The character of Kirk himself was a passionate individual that used his mind to keep himself in check.
Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott (James Doohan) was the lightest of the characters with his passion for his ship and penchant for scotch providing some humorous moments. For example, in the episode “By Any Other Name” he drank one of the aliens under the table as part of the plot to get the ship back.
Communications Officer Lt. Nyota Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) was a groundbreaking character. While she was essentially Kirk’s secretary, she was a featured African American member of the main cast in a time when such characters were an extreme rarity. This was not a minor role. She was treated as an equal among the others during a time when civil rights were a major concern. Something I need to mention is that after the show ended there was a series of comics by the now defunct Gold Key Comics (great stuff in general from them) where she was drawn at times as a blonde Caucasian. I think that had to do with rights issues, but I always wondered why they just did not create a new character.
Helmsman Lt. Hikaru Sulu (George Takei) and Navigator Ensign Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig) were basically the chauffeurs of the show and drove the ship around the galaxy. Chekov appears to have been brought in during season 2 in an effort to appeal to a younger demographic despite the story concerning Pravda.
Head Nurse Christine Chapel (Majel Barrett) was a lovelorn character that joined Starfleet to chase a former lover into space. Yeesh! She was also the only other person to appear in the first pilot and the series, but she played two different characters. It helps when you are dating the producer I guess.
We even got a few recurring characters in this show. Transporter Chief and occasional bridge officer Lieutenant Kyle (John Winston) was one and made it all the way to the second original cast film. Yeoman Janice Rand (Grace Lee Whitney) was intended to be a love interest for Kirk, but personal issues forced her out during the first season even though the appeared with some regularity. Rand did make minor appearances in the films and even showed up in an episode of Voyager. Lt. Kevin Riley (Bruce Hyde) showed up in the classic episodes “The Naked Time” and “The Conscience of the King” where it was revealed that he and Kirk were at least familiar with each other prior to Starfleet.
The closest we got to a recurring villain in the show was the charming criminal Harcourt Fenton “Harry” Mudd (Roger C. Carmel)in two episodes of the original series, “Mudd’s Women” and “I, Mudd” and he even made it into one episode of the 70s animated series called “Mudd’s Passion.” While he was not a recurring character, Star Trek gave us the iconic villain Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán). He was the dark reflection of Kirk in a way and was so good that he was brought back in Wrath of Khan. I could never figure out where they got that title from.
The alien races (at least the handful that were introduced in the show) were caricatures. They had one or two outstanding traits. The Klingons were brutal warriors. The Romulans were secretive and treacherous and at times more advanced. And the one-off aliens were much the same. This was to allow the creators to tell a specific story. If you are trying to make a point about something in the present day, it is easier to do that with an uncomplicated alien culture than it is with a complicated culture. Adding too much nuance makes it difficult to make a point about the present day.
Every species had a look and an appearance or a dress that made them distinct. The ships looked different mostly and the dress was different mostly. It made it easy to tell the difference between Starfleet and the Klingons and Starfleet and the Andorians and so forth. There is a look to the general technology. A design and an appearance that was consistent throughout.
The conclusion to my review next week.
9 thoughts on “Star Trek: The Original Series – Still the Best Pt. 1”
Perfect timing. I’ll be reviewing all of the Star Trek movies starting next month.
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I am interested on your take on the newer stuff as well as Star Trek V.
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Yes, yes, YES. This is the best. Actually, whenever I watch this show, the best episodes from season one and two are just SO good and leagues beyond what excuses for TV sci-fi action and adventure today that it never ceases to amaze me. Sure there are more sophisticated shows with headier concepts and production value Star Trek could never have dreamed of, but when you consider when Star Trek was made, what the world was like, what technology was like (nary even a digital watch) its really an extraordinary achievement. And best of all, Star Trek is FUN, its EXCITING, it has fist fights and space battles and Kirk being Kirk.
Now then, where’s my Blu-rays, I’m in the mood for some Doomsday Machine…
The Doomsday Machine is one of my favorite episodes.
The only problem with TOS is that it was made in the 1960s when space exploration science and technology was still at it’s infant…
Any shortcomings from then are overcome with good stories