Star Trek officially debuted 45 years ago today, on September 8, 1966, with the episode "The Man Trap." No one quite realized it at the time -- how could they? -- but life would never be the same after that. Gene Roddenberry's so-called "Wagon Train to the Stars" went on to become iconic, one of the most important and influential entertainment franchises in history. Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei and Walter Koenig have graciously agreed to help StarTrek.com commemorate Star Trek's 45th anniversary by each answering several questions in person, by phone or via email. So, visit StarTrek.com daily between now and Saturday to read their replies.
When did it truly hit you that Star Trek had become a cultural icon?
Shatner: I was skiing at Mammoth, a ski area up here (in California). Somebody schussed up to me and asked if I'd seen this funny series of shots from the show that was playing at a local bar. I went to see it and they were the bloopers, the things where we make idiots of ourselves on film. It was a blooper reel, and I thought, "What is this doing out there three or four years later?" That's when I knew.
Koenig: I’d heard the stories about the picketing between the first year and second year of TOS and then I saw it between the second year and the third year. I thought that was really quite amazing. But when I heard we were cancelled I was pretty well convinced that was the end of it. The resurrection of Star Trek was insidious, almost. It was a slow, growing thing that happened over time. So it was hard to say there was any one thing that made me think we were back and going to be doing more shows and movies, etc. But if I had to say there one was one moment, it’d be that big New York City convention, which I did not appear at, but every other actor did, as did writers and wardrobe people and others. That was the late 70’s, and over 30,000 people showed up at a hotel for it. The crowds were around the block. When you start to hear about those kinds of massive numbers, you have to believe something is afoot, and that’s when I started to think maybe we weren’t done. But that’s pretty much in hindsight.
Nichols: The first time that NASA sent a scientist/representative, Dr. Jesco von Puttkamer, to attend a Star Trek convention, which became the first time that over 5,000 fans descended upon Chicago's Hilton Hotel to celebrate the Wonderment and Promise of a Star Trek Universe in our lifetime.
Nimoy: Within the first two months after we went on the air the mail for Spock was arriving in special delivery sacks. I knew something magical was happening.
Takei: I guess that would be when I saw that Star Trek conventions were going international. The first convention I did in England was in Leicester. Then there was that huge convention in Germany, FedCon. When it started going international like that, that’s when I knew there was more ahead for us.
Click here to read part 1 of this article. Click here to read part 2 of this article. And click here to read part 3 of this article.
Tomorrow, the surviving regular cast members of Star Trek answer the question, What's your most cherished Star Trek keepsake?