Star Trek Beyond, the latest Star Trek film, goes into wide release Friday. Reviews so far have been positive, according to Metacritic.
Questions still remain about its box office potential. However, this is nothing new for the long-running series, which will be celebrating 50 years this fall. Star Trek has struggled with studio expectations from day one.
So, in the light of the new Star Trek Beyond, let’s take a (brief) look back at the vast history of Star Trek at the movies.
Following network conflicts with series creator Gene Roddenberry and failing ratings, the original Star Trek television series was canceled in 1969. Enough episodes had been made, however, to allow the show to enter reruns. It was there, especially following the moon landing and a revived interest in space, that the show then began to bloom.
As recently chronicled in Time, an audience began to appear. The first Star Trek convention would be held in 1972. The first space shuttle (seen in the featured image [from 1976] at the top of the page), would be named Enterprise by popular acclaim. Years after the show had been canceled, it suddenly had a growing cult following. Then everything changed.
In 1977, the cinematic powerhouse of Star Wars burst onto the scene, and every studio scrambled to find a way to be a part of it. Paramount Studios realized it had the rights to Star Trek and began work on a film. Rushed into theaters to fulfill a studio-guaranteed release date of December 1979, Star Trek: The Motion Picture suffered from poor editing and very slow pacing. It was still enough of a financial success to keep Paramount interested.
Brought in to replace him was TV veteran Harve Bennett and upstart director Nicholas Meyer. Neither had any prior connection to Star Trek. Together, they created one of the most popular films in the entire history of the series. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan received wide critical acclaim and performed well at the box office.
Let’s warp ahead a few years. The Star Trek movie series, under the care of Bennett, Meyer, and others (including Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy) thrives. In 1986, the 20th anniversary year for the series, Star Trek IV becomes the highest grossing film yet in the franchise. Paramount considers launching a new television show to ride the wave of success. Gene Roddenberry learns of their plans and sees a way back into the phenomena he helped start.
Star Trek: The Next Generation launches in 1987, under Roddenberry’s control. After a shaky start, it becomes a television cult classic, just like the original, but with greater ratings viability. Roddenberry would not live to see it through, passing away in 1991. It runs for seven years, ending in 1994.
One reason the series ended was to allow the cast to make feature films. Their first, Star Trek Generations, was a dual-headliner of the original series’ William Shatner as Captain Kirk and Next Generation‘s Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard, bringing both characters together for a passing of the torch.
That brings us to now, on the eve of Star Trek Beyond, the third entry in the rebooted series. It will be the 13th film since this movie series began nearly 40 years ago, and 50 years since the very first Star Trek television episodes began beaming into our homes. There has already been an announcement made of another sequel yet to come, although that may depend on the success of Star Trek Beyond. What the future holds is uncertain, but one thing remains clear – there is little in the galaxy of entertainment that can match the longevity of Star Trek.
[Photo by Space Frontiers/Getty Images]