When Kirk, Spock and company began their “five-year mission” nearly 50 years ago, boldly going “where no man has gone before,” little did they realize that people would be obsessing over the low budget, but well-acted and intelligently written series all these decades later.
Featuring a diverse cast, cool spaceships and a rich panoply of gizmos and gadgetry, Star Trek is a beloved pop culture touchstone—as alien as any program in the history of television, yet as American as baseball, country music and The Brady Bunch.
In addition to spawning sequels, movies, collectibles, internet memes, parodies and much more, including people who entered the space program because of the show, Star Trek inspires masses of like-minded fans to get together at convention halls, celebrating the phenomenon they love so much.
Here are 50 things to love about Star Trek.
1. Gene Roddenberry. Nicknamed “The Great Bird of the Galaxy,” the late, great Roddenberry gave us an intelligent and diversely cast sci-fi adventure show set in an optimistic future.
2. Majel Barrett. Roddenberry’s widow (now deceased), Barrett not only played Christine Chapel and Lwaxana Troi, but also voiced the ship’s computer.
3. Fans. Whether called Trekkers (nerdy fans) or Trekkies (super nerdy fans), Star Trek devotees are among the most devoted of any franchise.
4. Bjo Trimble. The most devoted fan of all, Trimble organized a “Save Star Trek” campaign that ensured a third season for the original series.
5. Tribbles. Cute, furry and lovable, Tribbles, first appearing in “The Trouble with Tribbles” (written by sci-fi author David Gerrold), look harmless, but are “mortal enemies” of the Klingons.
6. Klingons. Savage warriors who value honor above all else, Klingons were arch enemies of Captain Kirk and company, but later reformed (sort of).
7. James T. Kirk. The greatest starship captain of them all, Kirk was played with swagger by William Shatner, who delivered his lines haltingly for dramatic effect.
8. Kirk/Shatner impersonators, who deliver their lines haltingly for comedic effect.
9. The infamous Saturday Night Live parody with Shatner: “You, you must be almost 30...Have you ever kissed a girl?”
10. “Beam me up, Scotty.” Kirk never said these exact words to Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott (played by James Doohan) in an episode, but the phrase became a meme nonetheless.
11. Spock. Kirk’s logical best friend, Science Officer Spock, played by the late, great Leonard Nimoy, is half Vulcan, but is perhaps more human than any other Star Trek character.
12. The Vulcan nerve pinch. What Trekker worth his or her dilithium crystals hasn’t tried this knockout maneuver on one of his or her friends at least once?
13. Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. This Vulcan philosophy epitomizes Star Trek, with each series boasting an ethnically diverse cast.
14. “Live long and prosper.” Good advice for any life form.
15. Green chics in go go boots. Hands down, the original Star Trek boasted the cutest aliens in the galaxy.
16. Bones. Despite being an ornery old cuss who hated transporters, Leonard “Bones” McCoy, played by the late, lamented DeForest Kelley, had the best bedside manner this side of the Romulan Neutral Zone.
17. “I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer.” Bones’ most memorable line, spoken during “The Devil in the Dark.”
18. George Takei. Best known as Helmsman Sulu, Takei has lived a productive post-“Trek” life as an advocate for the LGBTQ community.
19. Nichelle Nichols. As Lieutenant Uhura, Nichols was the first African-American female to play a lead, non-stereotypical role on television. Martin Luther King Jr. himself praised her work.
20. “City on the Edge of Forever.” A tragic love story (between Kirk and Edith Keeler, played by Joan Collins) and the greatest “Star Trek” episode ever filmed. Not even studio tinkering with Harlan Ellison’s script could ruin this one.
21. “Mirror Mirror.” An evil Spock sporting a goatee. ’Nuff said.
22. Allegory. Such episodes as “A Private Little War” offered thinly veiled commentary on real-life woes—the Vietnam War in this case.
23. “Spock’s Brain.” So bad it’s good, “Spock’s Brain” is Star Trek for Ed Wood fans. Spock’s pointy ears are awesome as well, though network executives initially worried he looked too “satanic.”
24. Transporters. Because faster is better. Ditto warp speed.
25. The future is now. Star Trek predicted flip phones, sliding doors, diagnostic beds, computer discs and more.
26. Toon Trek. Filmation’s Star Trek: The Animated Series won a Daytime Emmy Award for “Best Children’s Series” for the 1974-1975 season.
27. The Holodeck. Introduced in The Animated Series, the holodeck is the ultimate form of virtual reality, making years in space seem downright pleasant.
28. Friendly arguments. Kirk or Picard? Star Trek: The Original Series or Star Trek: The Next Generation? Play a game of 3D chess to determine the winner.
29. Patrick Stewart. Shakespearean actor Stewart, as Picard, brought a distinguished “ask questions first, fire phasers later” ethic to the role of Starfleet captain, separating The Next Generation from The Original Series.
30. “Engage” and “Make it so.” Genteel orders frequently given by Picard.
31. Data. Played brilliantly by Brent Spiner, Lieutenant Commander Data, an android who longs to be human, is arguably the third greatest “Star Trek” character of all time (after Kirk and Spock).
32. “The Offspring.” A funny and poignant episode of The Next Generation in which Data “fathers” a female android he has created.
33. The Borg. Because resistance is futile. And oftentimes terrifying.
34. “The Best of Both Worlds.” Picard as Locutus of Borg is utterly chilling, especially when Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) orders the Enterprise to “Fire!” at him.
35. Deanna Troi. Played by Marina Sirtis, Counselor Troi is one of the classiest and prettiest members of Starfleet, and definitely the most intuitive.
36. Wesley Crusher. The kid character you love to hate (or just hate). Although we enjoy Wil Wheaton’s guest appearances on The Big Bang Theory.
37. Worf. A Klingon raised by humans, Worf (Michael Dorn) was in more “Star Trek” episodes than any other character, appearing as a regular in The Next Generation and seasons four through seven of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
38. Benjamin Sisko. Stately and reserved, Sisko (Avery Brooks) commands a space station (Deep Space Nine) instead of a starship, but he’s a great captain nevertheless.
39. René Auberjonois. As Odo, one of Deep Space Nine’s best, most fully realized characters, Auberjonois brings subtlety, apprehension, nuance, and pliability to an unlikely role: head of security.
40. Quark. Deep Space Nine tends to be a somber show dealing with deep (so to speak) issues like war, religion and politics, but Quark (Armin Shimerman) brings levity and mischievousness to the proceedings.
41. Girl power. Females have played crucial roles in “Star Trek” from the beginning, most notably Star Trek: Voyager’s Captain Kathryn Janeway, played with steely resolve by Kate Mulgrew.
42. The Adventures of Captain Proton. During their long voyage home, Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) and Harry Kim (Garrett Wang) acted out chapters of this 1930’s-style serial in the holodeck, complete with black-and-white visuals. Retro cool, for sure.
43. Former Borg drone Seven of Nine. Every Star Trek sequel needed a logic-based character to substitute for Spock. Voyager’s just happened to be played by the drop-dead gorgeous Jeri Ryan.
44. Scott Bakula. Most fans agree that Star Trek: Enterprise is the weakest link in the “Star Trek” franchise, but Bakula of Quantum Leap fame was solid as Captain Jonathan Archer.
45. Movie marathons. If you’ve never stayed up all night watching the first six “Star Trek” films featuring the original cast, you haven’t truly lived.
46. Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn. Or should we say, Wrath of “Kaaaaaaahhhhnnnnn!!!”?
47. The nuclear “wessels.” Some of the franchise’s funniest moments were in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, such as Pavel Chekov’s (Walter Koenig) repeated butchering of the word “vessels.”
48. J. J. Abrams. Before he directed Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), Abrams revitalized the “Trek” franchise with two exciting films: Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013).
49. A new movie. Star Trek Beyond is in theaters now and will be followed by a new Star Trek television series (Star Trek: Discovery) in 2017.
50. Streaming episodes. Netflix currently streams tons of “Trek,” including complete series, so what are you waiting for? Binge-watch like no one has binged before!