Today is the 51st anniversary of the original Star Trek series, which premiered on NBC on September 9, 2017. In celebration, here are five fun facts about the legendary show.
1. Star Trek is the World’s Most Successful TV Sci-Fi Franchise
Star Trek was named by Guinness World Records as the most successful TV Sci-Fi franchise of all time, with the show estimated to be worth around $6 billion as of October 2016.
Star Trek Actor William Shatner playfully pointed this out to Star Wars on Twitter.
The show is also recognized by Guinness World Records as the longest running video game franchise, with the show leading to the creation of over 125 games over 46 years starting with Mike Mayfield’s text-only computer game Star Trek in 1971.
2. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Loved the Show
Star Trek was a favorite of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. because of the show’s diverse cast, according to Presidential Historian Michael Beschloss.
Having a diverse cast was a big priority for Creator Gene Roddenberry, according to the quote below.
The first interracial kiss on American television happened on the show between Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura in a 1968 episode.
Many consider Lt. Uhura the first African-American woman on TV to play a non-servant role. After the cancellation of the show, Nichelle Nichols, the actress who played Lt. Uhura, volunteered her time in a special project at NASA to recruit minority and female personnel for the space agency.
3. The Vulcan Salute Was Borrowed From a Hebrew Blessing
The Vulcan Salute as seen in the season two opener “Amok Time,” wasn’t created just for the show. Late Actor Leonard Nimoy based the gesture off of something he saw as a kid during service at an Orthodox Jewish synagogue with his family, as he tells the Yiddish Book Center in 2014.
Five or six guys get up on the bimah, the stage, facing the congregation. They get their tallits over their heads, and they start this chanting—I think it’s called duchening—and my father said to me, ‘Don’t look.’ So everyone’s got their eyes covered with their hands or they’ve got their tallit down over their faces … And I hear this strange sound coming from them. They’re not singers, they were shouters. And dissonant. It was all discordant … it was chilling. I thought, ‘Whoa, something major is happening here.’ So I peeked. And I saw them with their hands stuck out from beneath the tallit like this [does salute with both hands] towards the congregation. Wow. Something really got hold of me. I had no idea what was going on, but the sound of it and the look of it was magical.
While the gesture on the show means “live long and prosper,” the gesture in real life represents the Hebrew letter Shin, which represents the word Shaddai, a name for God.
4. The Show both Inspired and Created Technological Advancements
The technology seen on Star Trek has inspired the design of modern real-world inventions. The communicators are said to have directly inspired the design of flip cell phones. The use of interactive video screens has lead to the modern video conferencing. The earpieces worn by Uhura and Spock resemble Bluetooth devices. The show’s tricoders are similar to the LOCAD-PTS, a handheld biological lab used by NASA.
But did you know that the show not only inspired technological advancements but created them? Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is credited with having one of the first entirely computer generated movie sequences in cinema history with its Genesis Device demonstration video. The studio that made the scene would later go on to become Pixar.
5. The USS Enterprise’s Second in Command Wasn’t Originally Spock
Spock wasn’t originally going to be second in command of the USS Enterprise. According to Mental Floss, during the show’s pilot episode that role was filled by a character called Number One, played by Roddenberry’s girlfriend and future wife Majel Barrett. Apparently test audiences didn’t like Number One because they felt she was too pushy, so Spock was chosen instead while Barrett was given the role of Nurse Chapel. Star Trek would later see a female captain with Captain Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager in 1995.
Spock’s skin was also going to be red instead of the slight green tint he had in the show. As Mental Floss reports, the majority of households back in the mid to late 1960s still had black and white televisions, so Spock’s red skin would have appeared really dark when viewed on those sets.
Spock appeared greener than usual during the airing of “Where No Man Has Gone Before” on September 22, 1966. That was because someone made a mistake with the color palette that day, according to Mental Floss.