Star Trek and American Television

Star Trek and American Television

Star Trek and American Television

Star Trek and American Television

Synopsis

At the heart of one of the most successful transmedia franchises of all time, Star Trek, lies an initially unsuccessful 1960s television production, Star Trek: The Original Series. In Star Trek and American Television, Pearson and Messenger Davies, take their cue from the words of the program's first captain, William Shatner, in an interview with the authors: "It's a television show." In focusing on Star Trek as a television show, the authors argue that the program has to be seen in the context of the changing economic conditions of American television throughout the more than four decades of Star Trek 's existence as a transmedia phenomenon that includes several films as well as the various television series. The book is organized into three sections, dealing with firstly, the context of production, the history and economics of Star Trek from the original series (1966-1969) to its final television incarnation in Enterprise (2002-2005). Secondly, it focuses on the interrelationships between different levels of production and production workers, drawing on uniquely original material, including interviews with star captains William Shatner and Sir Patrick Stewart, and with production workers ranging from set-builders to executive producers, to examine the tensions between commercial constraints and creative autonomy. These interviews were primarily carried out in Hollywood during the making of the film Nemesis (2002) and the first series of Star Trek: Enterprise. Thirdly, the authors employ textual analysis to study the narrative "storyworld" of the Star Trek television corpus and also to discuss the concept and importance of character in television drama. The book is a deft historical and critical study that is bound to appeal to television and media studies scholars, students, and Star Trek fans the world over. With a foreword by Sir Patrick Stewart, Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Excerpt

Star Trek has become common cultural currency in its almost five decades of existence. It’s a well-known reference point that permeates popular culture, frequently invoked on television programs such as The Simpsons (Fox, 1989–present) and The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 2007–present) and in catchphrases such as “beam me up,” “the final frontier,” “to boldly go,” and “resistance is futile.” Star Trek is also an intellectual property at the heart of a vast global franchise consisting of television series, films, books, merchandise, websites, and games—all contributing significantly to the bottom line of its corporate owners and their numerous licensees. An international network of organized and informal fandom surrounds the profitable franchise, generating fan productions ranging from stories to costumes to new episodes of the television series. The critical and box-office success of the rebooted film series (Star Trek [J. J. Abrams, 2009] and Star Trek: Into Darkness [J. J. Abrams, 2013]) has boosted Star Trek’s cultural currency, added to the value of the brand and the franchise, and attracted new fans.

Star Trek provides an excellent case study for those wishing to investigate the workings of popular culture, of multimedia conglomerates, or of fandom. But this book is not about Star Trek as cultural phenomenon, money-spinning franchise, or locus of fan activity; it’s about Star Trek and American television. For Star Trek is also an excellent case study for investigating the workings of the American television industry—a topic almost entirely absent from the scholarly literature on the program.

In his book on the making of the original Star Trek series, executive in charge of production Herbert F. Solow said: “It’s important to understand that … Star Trek was not created or developed as a critical study of truth, life’s fundamental principles, or concepts of reasoned doctrines. We just wanted a hit series.” Solow, his studio (Desilu Productions), and the . . .

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