The facts of an award-winning top 10 show -- with advertisers' dream demographics, inspiring products reaching nearly a billion dollars in retail sales, attracting an amazing range of high-caliber guest stars, spawning a smash series and soon a feature film -- represent just a smattering of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION's substantial impact. An exploration through the "Star Trek" phenomenon reveals much more.
In 1966, the legendary futurist Gene Roddenberry created a science fiction-based television series called "Star Trek." While it lasted three seasons on NBC-TV, the show had its most promising finish its first season -- at number 52 for the year -- after such now-lesser- known series as "Iron Horse" and "Mr. Terrific." Despite letter writing campaigns that had assured its renewals for second and third seasons, "Star Trek" was canceled in 1969 because of its disproportionately high children and teen viewership which made it unattractive to network advertisers.
However, Roddenberry's compelling vision of the future has proven to hold a timeless appeal, when now -- 25 years later -- a new version has lured fans of the original and countless more. From network to syndication, from television to motion pictures, the "Star Trek" franchise has garnered one of the most loyal followings in entertainment history.
A bonafide hit since its first season, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION set ratings history during its sixth season as it ranked number one for an unprecedented four consecutive weeks, marking the first time in Nielsen ratings history that King World's "Wheel of Fortune" had been shut out of the top spot consecutively.
Ironically, the original "Star Trek" was discarded after criticism for attracting the wrong demographics while STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION has remained the number one hour-long series among the prized demographic groups of men, ages 18 - 49 and 18 - 34. It consistently outdelivers all network prime-time hours including "60 Minutes" and "Northern Exposure." And, in fact, during the November 1992 sweeps period, beat all network prime-time programming in men 18 - 34 including "ABC Monday Night Football," "The Simpsons" and "Roseanne."
In 1993, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION posted stronger household ratings than the average prime-time network hour. The series captured an enormous viewing audience, 66 percent of which were between the ages of 18 - 49.
The seventh season premiere captured an extraordinary 15.4 rating/22 share in Los Angeles beating season premieres of CBS's "Murphy Brown" and "Love & War," with other markets mirroring Los Angeles's success with their own airings.
As STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION finishes its seventh season, it remains one of television's top 10 hour-long series, amassing some of its highest ratings to date.
STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION's appeal encompasses more than just the series itself. When Patrick Stewart graced the cover of TV Guide January 2, 1993, millions sold ranking it as the best-selling regular issue of 1993. Additionally, Patrick Stewart's stint at guest-hosting "Saturday Night Live" February 5, 1994 brought ratings above that show's average and ranked among the top five "Saturday Night Live" programs.
Then, "Star Trek" segued to the big-screen in 1979 with "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," which grossed an astonishing $112 million. The film's success inspired five sequels: "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn " (1982), " Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" (1984), " Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" (1986), "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" (1989) and "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" (1991). Each motion picture was subsequently released on video cassette with 10 million video cassettes sold in 1991 alone.
In 1993, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION began to spin tales with its own heritage. By offering elements like the Bajoran race, the characters of Chief O'Brien and his wife, Keiko, and a Picard confrontation for its pilot, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION provided the impetus for another 24th century show, "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," starring Avery Brooks. An instant success on more than 200 stations covering more than 99 percent of the country, "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" -- chronicling the adventures of a team of Starfleet officers who take command of a remote alien space station -- set ratings history as it became the highest-rated series premiere in syndication history and stands poised to continue the trends of its predecessor.
Capitalizing on its indefatigable lure while seeking to quench its fans' unending appetite for more, principal photography begins this Spring on "Star Trek: Generations" scheduled for a Thanksgiving 1994 release. STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION and "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" executive producer Rick Berman will serve as producer, Bernie Williams as executive producer; David Carson directs.
And "Star Trek" adds another docking point to its programming travels when a third installment, "Star Trek: Voyager," begins production in August 1994. An hour-long action adventure, the series will premiere in January 1995 as the linchpin of the new Paramount Network. "Star Trek: Voyager" will veer in a different direction by taking place aboard a new class of Starfleet vessel. In the storyline, the heroes join a renegade team of former Starfleet officers when both groups are trapped at the galaxy's edge leading them to find a new way home.
After limited success with a few products from the series' initial run in the late 1960s, the first signs of "Star Trek"'s long-term impact on merchandising came in 1979 when Pocket books began releasing a series of "Star Trek" paperbacks. To date, the novels have sold close to 30 million copies, making it the best-selling series in publishing history. In addition to the novels, a variety of "Star Trek" books, including biographies and technical manuals, have landed on national best-seller lists more than 40 times.
While "Star Trek" launched the birth of fans known as "Trekkies," in 1987, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION was soon embraced by a new legion of fans known as "Trekkers." The circulation of the fan club news magazine soared from 25,000 copies to its current 105,000. In addition, fans -- clamoring for venues to buy, view and sell products -- attend conventions which have increased from 1,000 to 3,000 a year. For example, a 1991 Los Angeles convention drew 12,000 fans.
Although a balsa-wood model of the original Enterprise may hang from the ceiling of the Smithsonian Institution and Spock's plastic ear tips may have nabbed $1,100 at a 1993 Sotheby's auction, "Star Trek" items clearly have a broader-based appeal extending past hard-core fans and collectors.
More than 100 licensees dole out products like lunch pails, watches, Halloween costumes, mouse pads, trading cards -- even a Franklin Mint collection. Hallmark's 1993 Keepsake Ornament of the Enterprise-D quickly became one the best-selling ornaments since their Keepsake line was launched in 1973. Recent introductions include Playmates' action figures and a playset that allows the figures to be "beamed" in or out, and Galoob's Micro Machines which herald, among others, a Klingon Attack Cruiser.
"Star Trek"'s merchandising takes on other shapes as well. In 1988, Universal Studios Hollywood opened a $7 million attraction called "The Star Trek Adventure." The popularity and adoration of "Star Trek" will result in yet another entertainment medium when a national chain of mall-based entertainment centers begins incorporating STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION into virtual reality games. The centers will use complex software to create the U.S.S. Enterprise including the bridge, holodeck and transporter rooms, and give fans the opportunity to experience the "Star Trek" environment.
Whatever the implementation, incarnation or success rate, viewers, fans and television experts agree that the "Star Trek" phenomenon has grown out of Gene Roddenberry's futuristic optimism, and his beliefs in human life and the human race's ability to triumph over greed, aggression and prejudice. As STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION voyages into its final episode, it stands as another probing, intelligent, influential component of one of the most popular entertainment franchises in history.
Rick Berman, Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor are executive producers of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION. Gene Roddenberry created the series. STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION is produced by Paramount Network Television and distributed by Paramount Domestic Television. Paramount Television Group is part of the entertainment operations of Paramount Communications, Inc., which is a majority-owned subsidiary of Viacom Inc.