Fifty years ago Thursday, the first episode of Star Trek: The Original Series hit the small screen. Starring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, among others, the episode would be followed by seasons of Star Trek and more than a dozen big-screen takes. In honor of the franchise’s 50th anniversary, EW has compiled months of coverage on everything from that first installment to Rihanna’s Star Trek track.
FIRST, check out Darren Franich’s guide to the Original Series with a look at the 1966 debut and a rundown of Trekkies’ streaming options.
The original Star Trek TV show is half a century old, and we’ve never loved it more. Dive deep into the colors, special effects, costumes, and plot lines of the very first episode.
Here are 10 episodes (with a couple two-parters) from Trek history that you can watch right now, whether you’re a newbie or an expert. (All Trek shows are currently on Netflix.)
NEXT, take a deep dive into every single Star Trek movie as Franich walks fans through the highs and lows of the film series.
Star Trek turns 50 this year. It is the most important of the great pop culture franchises, maybe, the first realized vision of a cross-platform fictionalized universe.
When Wrath of Khan starts, everybody dies. It’s a scene you’ve seen a hundred times, if you’re any kind of Star Trek person. Sulu’s at his control panel; Uhura’s at the communication station; Spock’s at the science terminal McCoy’s standing around waiting for a medical emergency.
Kirk and Spock. Nimoy and Shatner. Was anyone ever more important to Star Trek then those two? Would Trek have ever been Trek without them?
In 1965, Leonard Nimoy said the first words ever uttered in the Star Trek universe. “Check the circuit!” says Spock at the start of “The Cage,” the original pilot for Star Trek and the first time Star Trek was boring. To modern eyes, Spock doesn’t look like Spock: Eyebrows too big, hair too mussed, a noose-collar atop a too-baggy uniform, flanking an un-Kirk Captain who looks too much like Jay Leno’s chin chest-bursting out of Ray Liotta’s face.
Come to the campfire, listen to the old story. Great space hero Kirk relaxes with funny man McCoy and funny man Spock. Spock has funny flying boots. Hero Kirk needs no such boots. Hero Kirk climbs great mountain, hands so strong, no equipment required, such skills has Kirk.
At the beginning of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the opening credits play over a starscape. Opening credits always do that in Star Trek. But something’s gone wrong this time. Cliff Eidelman’s score is minor-key, insinuating, infesting. It puts you on edge. The final credit flashes onscreen: “Directed By Nicholas Meyer.” The name fades. The camera holds. The stars shine dark. And then the universe explodes.
Next Generation was never a serialized show – though it had cliffhangers and running threads and the occasional intra-crew romance – but “All Good Things…” is a finale in the modern sense, sewing together plotlines from several seasons, ending a story that harkens back to Next Generation’s first adventure.
There is a moment in First Contact that will outlast our species, and it doesn’t involve our species at all. Instead, here two creatures who are not quite “creatures” in any biological sense. Data is an android, a soy-plastic fauxganism built for maximum strength and cosmic intelligence but zero EQ.
The best book ever written about screenwriting in the 20th century is William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade. Goldman is a two-time Oscar winner, a bestselling novelist, a bestselling memoirist – “the guy who invented Inigo Montoya” if you want to impress millennials.
Dune buggies and clones and colliding spaceships, oh my! Nemesis isn’t trash, it’s a trashcan fire. It’s also the only Next Generation movie we ever want to watch again.
Who is the J.J. Abrams character in Trek ’09? Maybe that’s a dumb question. After all, no important contemporary director has done more to torpedo basic ideas about authorship than J.J. Abrams. His filmography thus far comprises a threequel, an elevenquel, a twelvequel, and a sevenquel.
Just think about all that money. Star Trek Into Darkness cost $185 million, that we know of. In 1979, the first Star Trek movie cost $46 million. That’s about $150 million in 2013 dollars — and The Motion Picture was a runaway production, costing three times what Paramount initially budgeted. There was nothing runaway about Into Darkness. Paramount got what they paid for; they wanted something that looked like it cost something.
The best Star Trek movie in 25 years came out this summer. It stars one woman, was directed by another woman, and lasts less than four minutes.
Every Star Trek movie has problems. There are nonsense villains, unconvincing pseudo-science, lead-actor ego-stroking, aimless plotting; there is the shockingly frequent feeling that Starfleet, that great galactic exploratory organization uniting all the cosmos in common cause, is a curiously underfunded goon squad whose security apparatus depends solely on the presence of one Enterprise or another.
Entertainment Weekly’s Ultimate Guide to Star Trek is available now.
STILL want even more Star Trek? Check out additional coverage on Chris Pine, Simon Pegg, and more, ahead.
When we first met Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk in the 2009 reboot of Star Trek, he was a wild young man, motivated to join Starfleet almost out of spite. That’s all changed at the beginning of Star Trek Beyond, which finds Kirk in the middle of his five-year mission.
Simon Pegg knows Star Trek. Before he was Scotty, before he co-wrote Star Trek Beyond, before he mixed roles in Star Wars and Mission: Impossible with his work on the culty Cornetto trilogy alongside collaborator Edgar Wright, Pegg rose to prominence in the nerd-focused Brit TV series Spaced. At one point in Spaced, Pegg’s character declares offhandedly, “It’s a fact, sure as day follows night, sure as eggs is eggs, sure as every odd-numbered Star Trek movie is s—.”
Fifty years after the original Star Trek first arrived on television, is there anything about Gene Roddenberry’s space opera that hasn’t been uncovered? Plenty! On Dec. 13, fans can purchase Star Trek: The Original Series – The Roddenberry Vault, a new three-disc Blu-Ray collection featuring footage from the cutting room floor, long preserved in film canisters by the Roddenberry Estate.
Adam Nimoy, the son of Star Trek icon Leonard Nimoy, decided in November 2014 to start making “just a Spock doc.” As he remarked during a panel at the Tribeca Film Festival, “I knew that the 50th anniversary of the original series was coming up, and I wanted to do something with him to celebrate that event.”