Star Trek Premieres 

U.S. #3188e – From the Celebrate the Century series.
U.S. #3188e – From the Celebrate the Century series.

On September 8, 1966, the first episode of Star Trek premiered on television.

In the 1950s and 60s, Gene Roddenberry worked on a number of successful television shows, including several series about the Old West. A long-time fan of science fiction, he began to think about the idea of combining these two interests.

On March 11, 1964, Roddenberry created the first draft of a science fiction television show about a space crew in the 23rd century that explored the Milky Way. It combined the action of a Western with the adventure of space. He called it a “wagon train to the stars,” which nearly became the name of the show.

Item #M11674 – Star Trek hologram souvenir sheet.
Item #M11674Star Trek hologram souvenir sheet.

Inspired by the Horatio Hornblower novels and Gulliver’s Travels, Roddenberry envisioned Star Trek as more than just science fiction. He believed it was an example of what humanity could become if it learned from its past mistakes and put an end to violence.

Item #M11675 – Star Trek 50th anniversary souvenir sheet.
Item #M11675Star Trek 50th anniversary souvenir sheet.

Roddenberry presented his new idea to Herb Solow of Desilu Productions in April 1964. Solow thought it was a unique idea and signed the show up for a three-year contract. Rodenberry’s idea was developed and changed extensively in the coming months. They filmed the first pilot, The Cage, later that year.

Item #M5510 – Star Trek gold foil stamps.
Item #M5510Star Trek gold foil stamps.

However, the executives at NBC were unhappy with the pilot, calling it “too cerebral.” But they were impressed with the idea and offered to allow for a second pilot to be created. The only character to remain from the original pilot was Spock. The new pilot was called Where No Man Has Gone Before, and introduced Captain Kirk as well as a host of now-famous characters.

Item #M11677 – 2016 Star Trek uncut press sheet.
Item #M11677 – 2016 Star Trek uncut press sheet.

The show was nearly cancelled before it aired in February 1966. Desilu Productions had gone from making just one half-hour show (The Lucy Show), to producing two expensive hour-long shows (Star Trek and Mission: Impossible). But Solow personally convinced owner Lucille Ball that both shows were worth the risk and should continue production.

Guyana #2906 – Mint sheet honoring Star Trek Generations.
Guyana #2906 – Mint sheet honoring Star Trek Generations.

The first episode of Star Trek, The Man Trap, premiered on September 8, 1966. Initial reviews were mixed, with some critics praising the show and others claiming it wouldn’t work. However, it premiered against mostly reruns and managed to easily win its time slot. The next week it dropped to number two and much lower in the coming weeks. However, the show proved popular with younger audiences and continued to film new episodes.

Star Trek was ahead of its time. In the midst of the Civil Rights Movement and tensions with communist nations, the multi-racial cast included African Americans, Asians, and Soviets – which was unheard of at the time. Though set in space and on alien planets, the storylines directly reflected events of the time – war and peace, imperialism, class warfare, and human rights. Quickly, the cast of unknown actors rocketed to cult stardom in what became one of the most popular TV shows of all time.

Item #M11327 – Collection of 50 mint Star Trek stamps.
Item #M11327 – Collection of 50 mint Star Trek stamps.

With “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,” the crew of the starship Enterprise traveled the galaxy, bringing the future into our living rooms. These adventures included encounters with aliens, discoveries of new planets and the use of technologies far beyond what anyone thought was possible at the time. Some technology, such as cell phones and personal computers, eventually became reality. Transporters, phaser guns and warp drives also became common in other science fiction TV shows and movies.

Though the original Star Trek lasted just three seasons (a total of 79 episodes), it found renewed popularity when it went into reruns in 1969. In 1979, Star Trek: The Motion Picture made its successful debut. That success sparked five additional series, 12 more movies, comics, games, books, and more.

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  1. They are not yet listed by Mystic with Scott numbers, but the USPS released a new set of Star Trek stamps this past week. Time to get some mint sheets and send yourself some used.

  2. Being a science fiction buff, I was thrilled at the premier of Star Trek. Three years was too short, but at least it ran longer than “The Outer Limits”, a previous sci-fi series of the early sixties. I have enjoyed Star Trek in all of its permutations. Glad that Lucille Ball listened!

  3. Roddenberry was a genius. I own all of the Star Trek originals and spin off movies and series. I have been to some management conferences where they used Star Trek as an example of how to manage. It would be hard for me to believe than any true “Trekie” could be racist in any way. The only ones I don’t trust are the Cardastians (sp?) as they don’t understand the concept of being truthful and honest.

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