Humans had orbited Earth and artificial satellites had landed on the Moon and completed a flyby of Venus by the time those words were spoken by Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) during the opening sequence of a new science fiction television, Star Trek (now referred to as Star Trek: The Original Series or as TOS), that premiered on September 8, 1966, on NBC. It was a time when space exploration dominated the interest and imagination of society and when new benchmarks were being made by Soviet and American space programs. While each program was looking to win the race to land a person on the moon, which would not happen until July 1969, Gene Roddenberry's Starship USS Enterprise crew were encountering new worlds with new species, and social issues experienced here on Earth were being fictionalized in Roddenberry's universe.
Hundreds of Trekkies gathered Sunday afternoon as Roddenberry Entertainment's Tory Mell (producer) and Trevor Roth (COO/Head of Development) led the WonderCon panel, “Star Trek's 50-Year Celebration with Roddenberry Entertainment.” They started the hour by presenting a short documentary featuring interviews of cast and crew who have been involved with the franchise and interspersed with clips from the television shows and films. Roth revealed that they started gathering interviews approximately five years ago and at this point have somewhere between 60 and 80 interviews.
The video provided an oral history of the franchise; however, Mell explained the organization also had Roddenberry's vault to cull through. Apparently, Roddenberry held onto everything related to the franchise. An archivist has been working for the past three years to archive the vast amounts of materials, and in an effort to share items that haven't been seen before, Roddenberry Entertainment came up with Project 366. The campaign started on January 1, 2016, in which an image of an item from Roddenberry's vault is posted on Facebook each day to commemorate the 50 years of Star Trek. Roth specifically pointed out that the materials posted are raw, so in the case of film stills, their color (like red tone) is the result of age and natural deterioration of the film.
During the panel, Roth and Mell had a handful of audience members join them onstage to read excerpts from the Star Trek Concordance that was created by Bjo Trimble, approved by Roddenberry and originally published in 1969. Items read included a memo, a description of the USS Enterprise, and character bios of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Chekov (who was developed to appeal the younger audiences).
The original series did not achieve success until it was syndicated in the couple of decades that followed. By that time it developed a cult following, assuring its status as a franchise. Over the span of fifty years, Star Trek has spawned five additional television series, twelve films, comics, toys, and games. A new series is in development, and Brian Fuller, who directed episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, is attached to lead the show that will premiere on CBS All Access next January.
Image credits: Panel photograph taken by Michele Brittany. Roddenberry Entertainment logo and TOS title screen from Google Images.