Star Struck Baby Boomers

Posted on November 26th, 2012 in 1960s,Baby Boomer Future,Collectibles,Pop Culture,Television by Terry Hamburg

Space…the Final Frontier. These are voyages of the starship Enterprise. 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.

Love is lovelier, the second time around.  ~Frank Sinatra

The original Star Trek is the most successful TV show that ever failed. While drawing critical acclaim and nominated for 12 Emmy awards, the series never had strong ratings and struggled to get advertising. A letter writing campaign by a small, dedicated fan base, including young baby boomer devotees, prevented cancellation after a second season. NBC granted it one more year and cut the tether.

The idea for had been kicking around since 1960 when television writer Gene Roddenberry pitched it as a “Wagon Train to the stars.” CBS turned it down and instead aired a Swiss Family Robinson space epic featuring the legendary line: “Danger, Will Robinson!”

Set in the 23rd century, Star Trek foresaw racial and sexual equality, represented by an Asian helmsman and a black woman communications officer. This was pushing the Hollywood envelope? By the standards of television in the mid-1960s, it represented bold casting. The show also featured the first interracial TV kiss! Progressivism went only so far. The shapely young communications officer, Lieutenant Uhura, always wore a mini skirt, and female guests, alien and human, usually sported risque costumes that showed plenty of skin.

Lovely Linda Evans as an alien femme fatale

In syndication after cancellation, Star Trek became the pop culture hit it never was, developing a huge baby boomer cult following, complete with fan conventions. Most of the collectibles and toys came on market at this time. What happened?

Laser Gun and Bobble Head

The reruns may have looked dated technically and culturally. But perhaps that’s the point. As seriously as critics took Star Trek, it always had a hint of “cartoon,” at times verging on a parody of itself. A few years of separation, and an older, more sophisticated audience of baby boomers could re-appreciate Star Trek as hip, thought-provoking “camp.”

Complete Star Trek Pez Collection

Although the original show lasted only three seasons, its rejuvenation was the impetus for the five subsequent Star Trek TV series and all the Star Trek movies.

Trivia Factoids

The line “where no man has gone before” was taken almost verbatim from a White House booklet issued after Russia began the modern space race by launching Sputnik in 1957.

The show made stars from a cast of unknown actors, most particularly Leonard Nimoy as the Vulcan Dr. Spock and William Shatner as heroic Captain Kirk. NBC execs at first rejected the Spook character as looking “satanic” with his pointed ears and eyebrows. Those features were air-brushed out from early publicity materials. His look eventually toned down, but remained distinctive.

Original, scarier Dr. Spock

The character of the baby-faced Russian navigator, Chevok was added in the second season. Two reasons are often cited. One: the Soviet newspaper Pravda complained there was no person of Russian ancestry in the multi-ethnic crew. More credible is the desire of the network to have a character appealing to teenage girls. Reports circulated that Monkees member Davy Jones was a model for Chekhov. They did have one thing in common—neither could act.

One of the principal writers for the show was Dorothy C. Fontana. She was listed in the credits as D. C. Fontana because Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry worried that a female science fiction writer might not be taken seriously.

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