In 1966, What Did Folks Think of That New Show, ‘Star Trek?’

Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner appearing in an ad for RCA

RCA / Paramount Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner appearing in an ad for RCA

As the world celebrated “Star Trek Day” on September 8, Paramount staged a gathering of folks who are part of the franchise family. The event included appearances from  Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard), Wilson Cruz (Dr. Hugh Culber), Tawny Newsome (Ensign Beckett Mariner), Noël Wells (D’Vana Tendi), and much of the cast of “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.” 

Some of the headlines from “Star Trek Day” included a new look at Picard in action during “Star Trek: Picard” Season 3 with his crew — and Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan). Fans also caught a scene from an upcoming episode of “Strange New Worlds” where Lt. Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia) and other crew members were preparing to beam down in an undercover situation. 

The reveals and party atmosphere paused to remember Nichelle Nichols, whose recent death struck a chord with many fans of “Star Trek” and beyond. Her contribution to the franchise as Lt. Uhura cannot be understated.

Nichelle Nichols Tribute

Fans got to see a new side of Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid) as a captain of a Starfleet vessel and heard that actress Carol Kane will join the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Viewers also learned that a new podcast is in the works, featuring work from Nicholas Meyer, the director who made “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” so great. Fans also got a look at the new season of “Prodigy,” featuring the actual Admiral Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) instead of a hologram.

New ‘Prodigy’ Footage

So it’s safe to say that the franchise started by Gene Roddenberry back in 1966 is in great shape and will be making fans “boldly go” for years to come. But it wasn’t always that way. The beginnings of “Star Trek” are much more humble than one might believe. While the story of the canceled pilot and the second chance given by Lucille Ball and her production company are well known, but what was the opinion of those who watched the original airing of “The Man Trap?” 

Heavy dug around newspaper archives to find what folks in the media thought of this first episode of “Star Trek.” Would their comments reflect how the show would capture the imagination of television viewers in the ’60s and generations yet unborn?

Maybe! In a review of “The Man Trap” published in The Philadelphia Inquirer on September 9, 1966, writer Harry Harris praised “Star Trek” as “just what the astrophysicist ordered.”

“The skillfully produced series about a space-patrolling craft that is virtually an airborne city, the U.S.S. Enterprise, went into an instant orbit with a suspenseful, puzzling, and ultra-imaginative yarn that required six — count ’em six — actors to portray a single role,” Harris wrote in his review.

While Harris seemed to enjoy Trek, he did mention that the show featured a “tri-racial crew,” which did not include the “Vulcanian,” Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy). 

Other reviews were not so kind. Thanks to TIME, we know that New York Times writer Jack Gould said that it was an “astronautical soap opera that suffers from interminable flight drag.” Also, Percy Shain of The Boston Globe wrote that “Star Trek” was “too clumsily conceived and poorly developed to rate as an A-1 effort.”

An Original ‘Star Trek’ Commercial

According to the website TV Obscurities, readers know what The Memphis Press-Scimitar’s Mary Ann Lee thought of “The Man Trap.”

“[Star Trek was] one of the biggest disappointments of the season,” Lee wrote. “Producer Gene Roddenberry had promised a show that would be science fact, not bizarre fiction.”

While some of the reviews were unflattering, there was something about “Star Trek,” which was different. This was especially evident to those who worked at NASA in the ’60s, including Buzz Aldrin, the second human to set foot on the Moon.

Aldrin tweeted his appreciation for “Star Trek,” saying “the significance of ‘Star Trek’ as a platform that has inspired generations of people to think about space, science, and exploration can’t be discounted.”

READ NEXT: ‘Star Trek’ Fans: Please Do Not Spoil ‘NOPE’ for Everyone Else

Comment Here
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments