Star Trek franchise
This article is an overview of all the Star Trek productions. For the original television series, see Star Trek (original series)
The Star Trek franchise began with Star Trek, a television series produced by Gene Roddenberry (1966–69), and includes four other TV series and several movies. These television series and movies are set in a science fantasy future when mankind is exploring the galaxy in spaceships and encountering other sentient inhabitants of the galaxy.
Star Trek has a large following among fans (known as "Trekkies"), with books, magazines, websites, and conventions.
- 1 The series
- 2 The Movies
- 3 Extraterrestrial life
- 4 Religion in Star Trek
- 5 Political themes
- 6 Relationship views
- 7 Institutions
- 8 Technology
- 9 The Prime Directive
- 10 Star Trek in culture
- 11 See also
- 12 References
|Series name|| Original
| Number of|
|Star Trek (TOS)||1966-1969||80|
|Star Trek: The Animated Series (TAS)||1973-1974||22|
|Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG)||1987-1994||178|
|Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9)||1993-1999||176|
|Star Trek: Voyager (VOY)||1995-2001||172|
|Star Trek: Enterprise (ENT)||2001-2005||98|
Five live-action series have been made, plus one animated series. A sixth live-action series, Star Trek: Discovery, is set to air on CBS in early 2017.
The original series
For a more detailed treatment, see Star Trek (original series).
The original series has the mostly-human crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise exploring the galaxy and performing various missions for Starfleet, the authority which controls the ship. These missions may be diplomatic or defensive, particularly in connection with the hostile races, the Klingons and the Romulans.
The Next Generation
The Next Generation followed the theme of the original series, but set about 100 years later with a new crew and a new ship, also named the U.S.S. Enterprise, specifically the U.S.S. Enterprise-D. By this time, the Klingons were at peace with the Federation, and the crew included a Klingon security officer, as well as various other non-human races. Also on the crew was Data, an android.
The Ferengi were introduced, and were initially meant to be villains. However, as the series went on, they became a more comical foe. A major foe introduced with this series was the Borg, a "collective" of drones, beings from various races who were "assimilated" into the collective. When encountering another spaceship, the Borg would often introduce themselves with the statement ""We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile!". The "resistance is futile" phrase has since entered popular culture.
Deep Space Nine
Unlike each of the other series, Deep Space Nine was set on a space station near the planet Bajor, about a year before Next Generation finished it's run. The station, originally built by the Cardassians, was administered by Starfleet and with a mixed Starfleet and Bajoran workforce.
The space station protected the only known stable wormhole through which ships could pass to another part of the galaxy. One of the characters on the space station was a "shape-shifter", a being that could assume any form.
Voyager was the name of a Starfleet ship that became trapped in another part of the galaxy, the Delta Quadrant (with Earth being in the Alpha Quadrant), and the series revolved around the crew's attempts to return home, encountering many new races along the way. The series was set around the same time as Deep Space 9.
The part of the galaxy Voyager was trapped in was on the far side of the part of the galaxy from which the Borg originated, and they needed to enter the Borg area to return home. For this reason, the Borg is an enemy they encounter numerous times. Because of this, Voyager features the Borg more than either The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine had. Additionally, one of the characters who joins the series part way through is "Seven of Nine", a former Borg drone, originally human, who is largely transformed back into a human, although retaining some of the Borg implants and struggling to adapt to human society, having been assimilated into the Borg at a young age. Voyager also featured a female captain, Kathryn Janeway.
Enterprise is set roughly a century prior to The Original Series, at a time when the United Federation of Planets has not yet been formed, and when humans are first starting to travel well beyond Earth, and develop much of the technology that would be common-place in series set later. The mostly-human crew travel in a ship also named Enterprise. It is the only series not affected by the events of The Kelvin Timeline Star Trek films.
Twelve Star Trek movies have been produced. Star Trek I-VI follow the original cast after the events of the original series. Star Trek: Generations to Star Trek Nemesis follow the cast of The Next Generation (although Generations featured William Shatner, James Doohan, & Walter Koenig). Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Star Trek Beyond act as reboots and prequels to the original series. The films are referred to as "The Kelvin Timeline." They are also more action-oriented, and are said by many to be similar to Star Wars in that sense. They also act as sequels, as an older version of Spock appears in both films, coming from the year 2387, eight years after the events of Star Trek Nemesis.
|Movie Name||Date of Release||MPAA Rating|
|Star Trek: The Motion Picture||December 7, 1979||PG|
|Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan||June 4, 1982||PG|
|Star Trek III: The Search for Spock||June 1, 1984||PG|
|Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home||November 26, 1986||PG|
|Star Trek V: The Final Frontier||June 9, 1989||PG|
|Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country||December 6, 1991||PG|
|Star Trek: Generations||November 18, 1994||PG|
|Star Trek: First Contact||November 22, 1996||PG-13|
|Star Trek: Insurrection||December 11, 1998||PG|
|Star Trek Nemesis||December 13, 2002||PG-13|
|Star Trek||May 8, 2009||PG-13|
|Star Trek Into Darkness||May 16, 2013||PG-13|
|Star Trek Beyond||July 22, 2016||PG-13|
|Star Trek XIV||TBA||TBA|
For a more detailed treatment, see Extraterrestrial life in Star Trek.
The drama of the shows typically arises from the crew's contact with various forms of extraterrestrial life, mostly, but not always, humanoid (e.g. the "Crystalline Entity"). In various ways, the premise of the ancient astronaut theory is used to assert the seeding of life throughout the galaxy as brought up in The Next Generation, although not to the overt extent of a later, unrelated, TV series, Stargate SG-1.
Religion in Star Trek
As a humanist, Gene Roddenberry infused Star Trek with humanism's dream of a world (or galaxy in this case) where humanity (and many other intelligent beings) were constantly improving the life quality of all beings both through improving technology and improving societal conditions. People worked together for the common good, rather than for money, and without any class or other distinctions. This is a small part of what is expected in the Christian view of heaven, except that humanism believes that mankind can achieve this through its own efforts, rather than with the help of God. In reality, however, God is needed for humanity to reach its full potential.
Roddenberry rarely had the shows overtly reject religion, although some episodes would make reference to it as a part of culture. For instance in an episode with a man who could not die, it was noted that in one of his personas in Earth history he had been Lazarus (who Jesus raised from the dead). In another episode a world where the Roman Empire never fell was now chasing down followers of "the son" (which the crew mistook to be "sun") and their message of peace and love instead of violence and oppression.
Roddenberry's initial concept of Star Trek included a man with pointed ears, angles eyebrows, a tail, and red skin to be the captain's (Kirk's) second in command. This was an intentional imitation of the cultural depiction of Satan. However, others advised him to tone this down lest the Christian population be offended, and he did so. The result was Spock and all other Vulcans.
Later series, under the control of other producers particularly after Roddenberry died, also brought religious concepts into the show, but seldom with the same direct references to Christianity, but rather to more generic religious thought.
The Next Generation
An episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation has one major example of anti-religion bias. The third-season episode entitled "Who Watches the Watchers," implies that an alien culture discarding religious beliefs is a positive development. In the episode "Tapestry", Captain Picard dies and goes to the "afterlife" where he meets his erstwhile adversary "Q" who implies that he is God. Picard refuses to believe this, and makes a comment that "The Universe is not so badly run." However the majority of episodes remain silent on religion. In another episode where the ship is trapped and an alien will perform experiments that will kill up to half the crew, Picard discusses with 'Data' (actually the alien in disguise) what happens after one dies and says some believe in a god who keeps them in their present form forever and others believe that this is all there is. When questioned further, he says that he finds the universe is too orderly to believe that this is all there is and thinks that we will go on existing in a reality that we can not currently comprehend.
Star Trek: Deep Space 9 included religion more than any other series. An overarching theme of the series was the relation of the main character, Captain Benjamin Sisko, to the Bajoran religion in his role as the emissary to the Bajoran prophets. The prophets were beings who lived in a stable wormhole (a unique phenomenon in the Star Trek universe referred to by the Bajorans as the Celestial Temple) that perceived all of time as a single event with no concept of past, present, or future. Despite their immense dissimilarity to other races in the galaxy, the Prophets took unusual interest in Bajor, sending 'orbs' which were used as tools of prophecy by the Bajoran clergy, and in Sisko who it is revealed exists solely to fulfill a predetermined historical path in an Armageddon-like showdown as the avatar of the prophets against the 'Pah Wraiths' (aliens like the Prophets who were expelled from the Celestial Temple).
Star Trek: Deep Space 9 also had the Dominion, in which the Founders (shape-shifting aliens sometimes called changelings) are treated as living gods by the races under their control.
The Klingon religion in various series suggests that the first Klingons realized they had no need for their gods, and killed them, although they still hold to an afterlife where the honorable dead join with the deified Kahless and the dishonorable dead are forced to spend eternity on the Barge of the Dead with the demon-like figure Fecklarr.
The Ferengi (mainly in Star Trek: Deep Space 9) had a religion of sorts based on the concept of The Great River (as shown in "Faith, Treachery and The Great River"), which was similar to "The invisible hand" a phrase coined by Adam Smith. Ferengi also hold that if they achieve enough profit during their lives, they will meet the Blessed Exchequer who will grant them access to the Divine Treasury, whereas an unsuccessful Ferengi may find himself left in the Vault of Eternal Destitution.
Producer Gene Roddenberry emphasized his “utopian vision” of humanity’s future. Following this vision, humanity is considered to have achieved perfection in Star Trek. This includes overcoming greed, hate, jealousy, as well as ethnic and national rivalries. In the original series, this vision is illustrated by the use a Russian man and a black woman as regular minor characters (Chekov and Uhura).
Negative characteristics are generally found only in alien races. In a typical episode, one alien race is trying to enslave another, and the Enterprise intervenes to restore balance. The principle of equality is thus applied universally, with the Declaration of Independence sometimes mentioned explicitly. In these episodes, the Federation stands in for the United States, while the villain species stands in for Communists or Nazis. In other episodes, an alien species is used to comment on imperfections in contemporary America. One episode depicts a species divided into two races by skin color. For one race, the left side is white, and right side is black. For the other race, these colors are reversed.
In the original series, the military nature of Starfleet combined with the need for adventure and dramatic conflict were sufficient to limit the influence of Roddenberry's left-wing views. These episodes were recorded prior to the feminist era, so gender relations are according to nature and tradition. The early seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation suffered severely from the Roddenberry vision. For example, the character Q was used to parody God. Roddenberry’s skeptical view of religion was detailed in several dialogs between Q and Picard. As Roddenberry’s health declined, Rick Berman's influence grew. He was promoted to executive producer during the third season of TNG. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a Berman creation, broke with the Roddenberry vision in several ways. It included various flawed human characters, and we learned that Starfleet has a secret agency called Section 31 that was responsible for various atrocities.
As the citizens of the Federation have access to goods in unlimited supply, it does not have a conventional economy. However, various characters are depicted as running small businesses such as vinyards or restaurants, presumably just for the fun of it. On the issue of money, the show is inconsistent. Some episodes claim that the Federation has abolished money, others depict Federation citizens bartering for latinum, the Ferengi currency. The Ferengi are traders and businessmen and have an unfettered free market economy. Although it is never made clear what kind of economy the Federation itself has, the Ferengi and other races are depicted as envious of it.
In addition to his views on religion and politics, Roddenberry had controversial views on relationships. A kiss between Kirk (William Shatner) and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) was aired in 1968. This is generally considered the first interracial kiss on U.S. television, although Sammy Davis Jr. did give Nancy Sinatra a peck on the check almost a year earlier. Picard and Lily had an interracial kiss in Star Trek: First Contact (1996), although this was only a brief goodbye kiss.
Roddenberry was also supportive of same-sex relationships, and wanted to integrate homosexual characters into his second series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, reasoning that by the 24th century "no one would care." According to his personal assistant, Ernie Over, "He had an agenda (see homosexual agenda), which was to get gay people onto 'Star Trek.'" However, this proposal was met with resistance by Paramount Studios who reasoned that because the show would eventually be syndicated, it would be accessible to young children for whom such material would be extremely inappropriate. There are some hints of Roddenberry's in early episodes of TNG, such as the notorious background extras wearing skirts.
An early episode of TNG, "Blood and Fire," was intended to be an allegory for AIDS and was to feature homosexual characters. It was never produced, but went on to be used in the fan-produced Star Trek: Phase II. Roddenberry repeatedly promised to broach the issue in later seasons but never did before his death. Notably, Whoopi Goldberg attempted to use politically correct, gender-neutral language when explaining sexuality but was rebuffed. "She said, ‘This show is beyond that. It should be “When two people are in love.”‘ And so it was decided on set that one of the tables in the background should have two men holding hands — or two women, or whatever. But someone ran to a phone and made a call to the production office and that was nixed. [Producer] David Livingston came down and made sure that didn’t happen."
Despite the absence of major homosexual characters, several storylines have indirectly depicted homosexual and other relationships in a positive, or at the very least ambiguous light. For example, in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Commander William Riker (presumed heterosexual from a previous relationship with Deanna Troi) falls in love with an individual from an androgynous race. In DS9, Lieutenant Commander Jadzia Dax (a Trill, a being comprising a humanoid host of a member of another, asexual, species) briefly resumes a relationship with a wife from a previous lifetime (a male host of the same symbiont), and they are shown kissing on screen.
According to Ira Steven Behr, DS9's showrunner, "I know they got a lot of negative feedback, which only goes to prove a point I always believed in, which is that science fiction fans and Star Trek fans are much more conservative than people want to believe, and this whole Gene Roddenberry liberal Humanistic vision is truly not shared by a significant portion of them." As of 2013 with the release of Star Trek Into Darkness no openly gay characters have been featured and the liberal claptrap media consider this "a glaring double standard." However, prior to 2016's Star Trek Beyond, it was revealed that Sulu will be gay. George Takei said that while he was glad that a gay character will be featured in the film, he felt the move interfered with Roddenberry's original vision.
The United Federation of Planets is the multi-world government based on Earth, and under which auspices Starfleet operates.
Starfleet is the exploratory and defensive organisation which operates the various starships.
The Academy is where Starfleet officers and crew are trained.
The universe of Star Trek has an array of advanced technology, some of which has foreshadowed real developments. This technology includes computer speech recognition, atom-level fabrication, massive energy production, and faster-than-light travel.
All Starfleet members from the time of The Next Generation on wear broach-size devices on their uniforms which allow instant two-way communication between crew-members or between the crew-member and the ship's computer.
The transporters, being developed at the time of Enterprise, disassemble and reassemble inanimate and animate things, including people, allowing them to be transported over moderate distances. For example, transporters are frequently used to send people from a spaceship in orbit to the surface of a planet and return.
Replicators, introduced in The Next Generation use similar technology to fabricate inanimate objects from a molecular or atomic level. This includes spare parts for the ships. Specialised food replicators can fabricate a wide variety of food, which is suitable for everyday use, but can on occasions not be quite as good as the real thing.
Holodecks and holosuites (the latter on Deep Space Nine) are rooms containing holoprojectors that project holographic images with solidity, allowing people to interact with the images. A computer controls the images, which includes holographic people who appear just like real people. The Voyager series introduced an "emergency medical hologram", a holographic doctor which could be activated in the case of an emergency. In this case, the ship's real doctor was killed, and the holographic doctor was a regular character, with enhanced abilities including being able to activate and deactivate himself. He also managed to acquire a portable holographic projector that he could wear, allowing him to leave the confines of the ship's sick bay and its fixed holographic projectors.
Phasers are the classic "ray gun", emitting a beam that, depending on the setting, was capable of stunning or killing the person on the receiving end.
Tricorders were hand-held devices combining the functions of a computer, communicator, and laboratory for sensing and testing objects. Specialised medical tricorders were also used by medical officers.
Warp drives allow spaceships to travel vast distances by creating a sub-space 'bubble' around the ship, allowing faster-than-light travel, a necessity when travelling around the galaxy as part of a day's work.
The Prime Directive
Starfleet had The Prime Directive which said that they should not interfere with the natural progression of a species. The directive sometimes clashed with morality or common sense and on many occasions was ignored by Starfleet officers. There was also a Temporal Prime Directive which said that when going into the past (by various means) they should not try to alter the course of history. When someone from Starfleet (or elsewhere) violated the directive, officers were justified in working to stop them as long as they did not violate the directive themselves.
Star Trek in culture
Various concepts from Star Trek have entered popular culture, including the following:
- The Vulcan greeting, Live long and prosper.
- The Borg warning that resistance is futile.
- The Klingon language has been developed as a complete artificial language.
- The first space shuttle, Enterprise, was named for the ship in the original series.
- Episode Where Silence has Lease on Memory-Alpha.
- Episode Script
- Walker, J., Same As It Ever Was?: Star Trek After Gene Roddenberry, This Was Television
- "The Omega Glory", March 1, 1968. Watch Kirk read the Declaration of Independence here. It's with feeling; He is obviously an American.
- Cantor, Paul A., Gilligan Unbound: Pop Culture in the Age of Globalization, p. 46.
- “Let This Be Your Last Battlefield”, Jan. 10, 1969.
- Yglesias, Matthew, “The Star Trek Economy: (Mostly) Post-Scarcity (Mostly) Socialism", Slate. Nov. 18, 2013.
- See e.g. this video.
- “Plato’s Stepchildren,” Nov. 22, 1968.
- Movin' with Nancy, Dec. 11, 1967.
- Miss Cellania, "TV's First Interracial Kiss”, Neatorama, April 10, 2013.
- Here is an image.
- The Outcast, originally aired Mar. 16, 1992.
- Rejoined, originally aired Oct. 30, 1995.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Official Poster Magazine, issue 5 (credit to Memory Alpha for finding the quote)