Part One - The Original Series Cast
It is hard to argue Star Trek's legacy within pop culture. It’s characters and universe have endured almost as long as James Bond. Every time I think we can count
the franchise as down and out, along comes a new incarnation to bring it back
to whole new group of fans yearning to explore strange new worlds.
|"So a Klingon, a Romulan and a Vulcan walk into|
One of the interesting things about the franchise is that its longevity is due in large part to the success of the feature films that were released starting in 1979 with StarTrek: The Motion Picture. While the television series is where the franchise started, if the films were not as successful as they were, Star Trek would be a fondly remembered relic of the 1960s. In addition, we can see how Paramount, the studio that owns Star Trek, feels about the series depending on how they approach the films.
|I think Decker wants his chair back.|
The original series ended in 1969 after three seasons. While it was popular among science fiction fans, it never really exploded in popularity during its run. Instead Star Trek got syndicated and that is where the fanbase really started to grow. During the 1970s it was hard to avoid a rerun of Star Trek and even growing up in the 1980s, it felt like the series was always around.
|Wait! There was a cat girl in Star Trek the Animated|
Series! Sign me up!
The increased the budget to a whopping 35 million dollars (of 1970s money). They pulled in acclaimed director Robert Wise and got their marketing into high gear. This was the turning point. If Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a failure, than the franchise was dead.
|The moons of Vulcan are affecting her mind!|
Paramount felt confident in continuing the series as a film franchise, and moved forward producing Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. But they reduced the budget to a little over 11 million, and asked director Nicholas Meyer to make sure there was more action in the film (a criticsm of the previous film they wanted to avoid). Meyere delivered a film that is more visceral, goes back to the roots of the original series, and cranks up the action with some excellent visual effects and high stakes. The Wrath of Khan was an immediate hit, with excellent critical response and fan approval. It also did very well on VHS, a new medium that studios were just beginning to explore in 1982.
|"Is that a giant worm in your hand, or are you just|
happy to see me?"
|Do you think he's using colorful metaphors here?|
In 1987, Star Trek: The Next Generation arrived on television screens. It was a new cast, new starship, hell it was a new century! Paramount understood that in order for the franchise to continue it would need to evolve. To do this, they needed to inject it with new blood creatively. Obviously the film franchise was still profitable, but a new television series could create new fans and lead to a new series of films.
|It is like that Depeche Mode song, reach out and touch|
|"No, it's not Tribbles. The joke only works if|
the Klingon asks the bartender first."
In part two of this post, I take a look at the trails and Tribble-ations of the films featuring the case of The Next Generation and Beyond...