Star Trek….50 years ago tonight

Fifty years ago tonight, if you were tuned into Channel 8 or 10, or any NBC station at 8pm, you probably didn't have a clue to the fact that it was an historic night.   That's when the world saw "Star Trek" for the first time.

Creator Gene Roddenberry had lofty goals about what the show might be able to say about life on earth, which the networks and sponsors didn't give a hoot about.  So Roddenberry told the network idiots that it was like a "Wagon Train to the Stars".   After two pilots, the show finally began with "The Man Trap."

The Man Trap, where Dr. McCoy's old flame Nancy was really the infamous “Salt Monster”, the last of a nearly extinct race of shape-shifters that had to have salt to survive---and lots of it!  (Even more than my wife puts on her food)  And since they had mined and devoured every last granule on the planet, they were forced to change from their current shape (like the lovely Nancy) into their hideous real form…..mesmerize their victim….extend their tentacle-like hands and suck the salt out of the bodies of their victims, killing them.   Just a look at the mouth on the creature would be enough to kill most people.

Noteworthy:  The episode begins the way a lot of them did.   Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy beam down to the planet’s surface with crewmen Green and  Sturgeon.  Guess what happens? Yep, the poor crewmen we’ve never heard of get killed by some alien monster. (leaving the actors to go audition for a role on Bonanza or the Man from Uncle or something.)

Over on channel 3, was the old standby “My Three Sons”, a formidable opponent for NBC to contend with.   That’s what my family was watching.   I don’t remember hearing much about Star Trek.  In stead of McCoy saying "Dammit Jim, I'm just a country doctor", we got Uncle Charley saying "Ernie, take Tramp out!".

I still remember my first Star Trek episode.  It was one of those moments that is burned into my memory.  A few weeks after the show debuted, we were visiting our friends, the Welborns, down the street.   We kids were playing downstairs, and as I came upstairs to their living room there was the eerie alien face on the screen.   It scared the crap out of me!   That’s about all I remember.   Later, I would find out it was one of the least-scary episodes, "The Corbomite Maneuver" with Ronny Howard’s little brother Clint.  The scariest thing about it was that little Clint's mouth looked a lot like the Salt Monster's.

Even though I was around for the initial run,I didn't watch it then. It wasn’t until the 80’s when Channel 3 aired the re-runs on Sunday nights after the late news that I say all 79 episodes....several times.   It was "Leonard Nimoy Night", with "Star Trek", followed by "Mission Impossible" and then "In Search of".   Good thing I didn't have a job back then!

Getty Images

What’s your favorite "Star Trek" episode?

One of my favorites was “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”, originally titled “A Portrait in Black and White”.  Frank Gorshin and Lou Antonio star as warring aliens,  half black and half white, with the color divided by a line through the exact center of their faces.  They hated each other because one was black on the left side and the other was black on the right. Not too subtle, but it made the point well.   Maybe we all should re-watch that episode.

Do you remember your first Star Trek episode?