Adam B. Vary
May 01, 2009 AT 04:00 AM EDT

1966: Star Trek debuts
Creator Gene Roddenberry’s first pilot — with a different captain, named Pike — was scuttled by NBC. Enter William Shatner as the dashing Captain Kirk, and Roddenberry’s ”Wagon Train to the stars” has liftoff.

1967: Tribblemania!
Adorably furry creatures infest the U.S.S. Enterprise, and a nation’s hearts.

1968: Kirk and Uhura kiss
The first interracial smooch on American TV is, alas, caused by alien mind control.

1972: The first convention
With Trek episodes hitting warp speed in syndication, fans organize a gathering in New York. Thousands come, many in costume.

1973: Trek gets animated
The cartoon continuation of the live-action show features virtually all the original cast, but lasts just a year.

1976: NASA dubs its first shuttle the Enterprise
It’s only a test model, and never reaches orbit. As a Klingon might say: ”Aw, qu’vatlh!”

1979: Finally! A Star Trek movie! Zzzzz!
Although Star Trek: The Motion Picture grosses $82.3 million, fans call it a pretentious yawn. For one thing, the bad guy is a giant space cloud.

1982: ”Khaaaaaaaaan!”
Ricardo Montalban (and his chest) juice Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan to $78.9 million and a rep as the Best Trek Movie Ever. (Also, Spock dies. Sniff.)

1984: The Search for Spock
For the third Trek picture, Leonard Nimoy directs, the Enterprise goes kablooey, and Spock is resurrected. Audiences cheer, to the tune of $76.5 million.

1986: The Voyage Home
Kirk and Co. travel back to 20th-century San Francisco to capture humpback whales (just go with it), and Trek‘s fourth and funniest flick earns a franchise-record $109.7 million.

1986: Shatner tells fans to ”get a life” on SNL
Hilarious advice — and completely unheeded.

1987: Boldly going, again
Set 100 years after the original series, Star Trek: The Next Generation — starring Patrick Stewart as the cerebral Capt. Jean-Luc Picard — premieres in syndication to 26 million viewers. Lasting seven seasons, the show, featuring Whoopi Goldberg as a bartender, would win an Emmy nod for Best Drama in 1994.

1989: Shatner directs — uh-oh
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, in which Kirk meets the Almighty (sorta), grosses less than half its predecessor.

1991: Roddenberry dies of heart failure
Some of his ashes are scattered in space.

1991: Nimoy guest-stars on TNG
Spock mind-melds with Picard and powwows about humanity with the android Data. Fans enter nirvana.

1991: The Undiscovered Country
The final film with the entire original cast features a Vulcan Kim Cattrall. It earns $74.9 million.

1993: Deep Space Nine
The moodiest, most complex spin-off series relocates to a space station and stars Avery Brooks as Trek‘s first African-American leader.

1994: Captain Kirk, say hello to Captain Picard
Star Trek: Generations kills off Kirk (gasp!) and launches the TNG cast onto the big screen, grossing $75.7 million.

1995: Voyager
The inaugural UPN series beams in Kate Mulgrew as Trek‘s first female captain and introduces Jeri Ryan as Borg babe Seven of Nine.

1996: ”Resistance is futile”
Considered the best of the TNG movies thanks to A-list baddies the Borg, Star Trek: First Contact banks a cool $92 million.

1997: Trekkies
The doc takes a lovingly droll look at the subculture of die-hard Trek fans.

1998: Oh, another Trek movie. Zzzzzzz.
Although Star Trek: Insurrection, featuring the TNG crew, grosses a nice $70.2 million, fans grumble that it’s merely a glorified TV episode.

1999: Galaxy Quest
Starring Tim Allen as the Shatner-esque star of a sci-fi show, the satire is just as fun and successful as many Trek movies.

2001: Enterprise
Set roughly 100 years before the original series, the UPN show, starring Scott Bakula as the first Enterprise captain, is canceled after four seasons.

2002: Where’d all the fans go?
Billed as the last TNG film, with a plot involving a cloned, evil Picard and (oh, no!) the death of Data, Star Trek: Nemesis should be a hit. Instead, it pulls in just $43.3 million and has many wondering if Star Trek has crashed back to Earth.


THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK
EW mind-melds with Zachary Quinto, the only logical choice to play Star Trek’s green-blooded Vulcan as a young humanoid.

He’s Sylar on Heroes and was a regular on 24, but now the 31-year-old actor is becoming only the second human ever to put on Spock’s pointy ears for a major role. ”Having Leonard Nimoy on the set helped a lot,” says the actor. ”People ask if that added pressure, but it was the contrary. And he gave me a wide creative berth to formulate the character for myself.” Says J.J. Abrams of Quinto, ”He was the first actor we cast. He just was Spock.”

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