Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS) debuted in the United States on NBC on September 8th, 1966, when I was five years old. It ran for three seasons, and was eventually cancelled due to “low ratings”, much of which was caused by network interference during its second season, moving the show away from its prime time viewing setting to the late Friday night “graveyard slot”, which guaranteed low viewing figures and thus cancellation.
The show was actually cancelled at the end of the second season, but was brought back for a final season due to a remarkable and then-unique massive fan-run campaign, led by Bjo Trimble and her husband John (and, some say, orchestrated by Gene Roddenberry himself) during which fans bombarded NBC with letters demanding the return of the show. The NBC execs caved in and brought it back for a third season. But they were still determined to get rid of Star Trek, and keeping it stuck in the Friday night “graveyard slot” guaranteed that the third season would be its last.
It’s ironic that Star Trek was a originally regarded a failure first time around. It could’ve easily remained nothing but a vaguely-remembered 60s Cult TV show. But history had other plans for Star Trek. Once the show went into reruns, the number of fans increased stratospherically, and the demand for it to return led to the expansion into the enormous franchise and universe that we know and love today. It’s funny how a relatively unimportant Sixties sci-fi series could have grown so much over the years and taken over the world. 🙂
My own perspective, living here in the UK, was different. When Star Trek first aired in the US, I was blissfully unaware of it. I was obsessed with Doctor Who, my first sci-fi “love”, which had been broadcast in the UK since 1963. Of course I was unaware of that, as I was too young at the time, and I only started to really notice the show about 1966 or so. Star Trek came a bit later, and was my second sci-fi “love”, and the two shows have been vying for my affections ever since.
We didn’t get Star Trek here in the UK until 1969. I was five months shy of my 9th birthday when it first aired here in the UK, when “Where No Man Has Gone Before” was broadcast on BBC1 at 5.15pm on the evening of Saturday, July 12th, 1969. I was smitten from the word “Go”, and I’ve been a hardcore Star Trek fan all my life, since the opening minutes of that very first episode, all those long years ago. My life would never be the same again. And I’ll be a fan until the day I die.
Star Trek, along with Doctor Who, have been with me since my early childhood, and have always retained a special place in my heart. They have been the pillars of my sci-fi “self” my entire life. Other sci-fi series such as Babylon 5 and UFO have challenged strongly, but none have ever surpassed these two in my affections.
Once a Trekkie, always a Trekkie: Happy 50th Birthday Star Trek!