Star Trek Celebrates 40th Anniversary

It was forty years ago today (well, actually, yesterday) that Captain Roddenberry taught the band to play. Or, at least, created an iconic space western called “Star Trek.”

Cue the iconic theme music: Forty years ago, on September 8, 1966, “Star Trek” lifted off into TV and cultural history. Over the subsequent decades, the sci-fi adventure series has amassed millions of fans and emerged as a relentless entertainment empire.

William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy Star Trek 40th Anniversary Photo Stars William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy sat down recently with the Associated Press and recalled “The Man Trap,” the episode that would kick off the show’s three-year prime-time run. “The first show that was on the air was a show with a creature that was a salt sucker,” recalled Nimoy. “It was somebody inside a weird-looking suit and it attacked humans because it needed the copper or the salt out of your body to survive or something like that.” “That was the first one?” asked Shatner. “Yes, that was the first one on the air,” Nimoy answered. “And it was because NBC decided that this series would be most successful if we had sort of a monster of the week to sell. What’s the monster this week? And so they put a monster show on the air the first episode, and I think it was a terrible mistake, because it was really not what we were about.”

To mark the anniversary, classic-TV network TV Land on Friday (8 p.m. EDT) will showcase four episodes from the original “Star Trek” series, including the premiere and the historic episode featuring TV’s first interracial kiss. “Star Trek” episodes will begin airing regularly on the channel on November 17. Episodes will also be available online at

The biplay between Shatner and Nimoy in the rest of the article is fairly amusing. The show’s special effects and fealty to science are laughable by today’s Sci-Fi standards but, then, the original Trek’s magic was the interaction of the characters, not the great plots or encounters with “monsters.” The repartee between the ensemble cast, especially Shatner’s Captain Kirk, Nimoy’s Mr. (Commander) Spock, and the late DeForest Kelley’s Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy was unsurpassed.

The spin-offs, especially “Next Generation” and “Deep Space 9,” had bigger budgets, were much better science fiction and had more interesting plots, but they never quite had the chemistry of the original.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I’ve always felt an outsider could not understand American culture if he or she were not familiar with Star Trek. It seemed to distill so much, and a lot of good things, like Kirk’s frequent expressed aversion to violence. At the same time, it had an awful lot of silliness about it, which may be the reason it has stuck with us for so long.

    “It will never die, Jim.”

  2. dutchmarbel says:

    If you like Star Trek: Will (Wesley) is reviewing ST:TNG from start 🙂