There’s some debate over when exactly William Shatner’s Star Trek was officially dubbed The Original Series, but the show’s impact is never in doubt.
- Star Trek: The Original Series, despite being canceled in 1969, has remained popular for 57 years, spawning a multi-million dollar movie franchise and continuing to resonate with viewers today.
- The success of the J.J. Abrams Star Trek movies revitalized the franchise on the big screen and led to the creation of Star Trek: Discovery, laying the groundwork for the expansive franchise that exists today.
- The exact date when Star Trek: The Original Series received the “TOS” subtitle is unclear, but it is believed to have been officially adopted in the early 1990s with the creation of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as a way to differentiate the 1960s show from newer iterations.
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From its debut in 1966, Star Trek: The Original Series was just plain Star Trek, until the TOS label was later added to distinguish William Shatner’s show from the wider franchise. 57 years later, it’s incredible that Star Trek has lasted as long as it has, spawning a huge entertainment franchise across multiple media forms. TOS was canceled in 1969, and it wouldn’t be for another decade that the USS Enterprise would take flight once again, in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The success of those movies revitalized the Star Trek franchise and led to a hugely successful TV revival, spawning three other spinoff series and a new movie franchise.
In a neat bit of symmetry, the J.J. Abrams Star Trek movies reinvigorated the franchise on the big screen by rebooting the Star Trek: The Original Series universe. The success of those movies inarguably led to an interest in resurrecting Trek on TV with Star Trek: Discovery in 2017 laying the groundwork for the expansive franchise that viewers enjoy to this day. So, with Star Trek now being the umbrella title for shows in the franchise rather than the title of William Shatner’s original show, when did 60s Trek get the TOS subtitle?
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When Did 1960s Star Trek Get Named The Original Series?
The exact date of when William Shatner’s Star Trek got its The Original Series moniker is hazy. Some fans point to Star Trek: The Animated Series as a candidate for when 60s Trek began being referred to as The Original Series, but this is likely a descriptor rather than an actual subtitle. TAS being “based on the original series” is a statement of fact, not a cast iron example of the first usage of the TOS subtitle. In fact, Gene Roddenberry hated Star Trek: The Animated Series and deemed that it wasn’t canon. Therefore – in Roddenberry’s mind at least – there would have been no need for a TOS subtitle to differentiate the 60s show from its cartoon counterpart.
The late 1980s and early 1990s feel like a more likely candidate for when the name Star Trek: The Original Series became official. Arguably, Star Trek: The Next Generation would have been a good enough delineation between new and old Trek, so it seems more likely that TOS was adopted slightly later. After all, the TOS movies all had the Star Trek title from 1979 to 1991. Therefore, it’s likely that with the creation of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in the early 90s, it became appropriate to make the official ruling that 1960s Star Trek was now referred to as The Original Series to give it its due in the franchise landscape.
Star Trek: The Original Series Has Remained Popular For 57 Years
The reverence for Star Trek: The Original Series continues to define the franchise 57 years after the show debuted on NBC. The popularity of TOS, and the iconic status of Captain James T. Kirk, Lt. Commander Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (DeForest Kelley) was enough to launch a multi-million dollar movie franchise 40 years after the show was cancelled. That popularity continues to resonate today, with Star Trek: Strange New Worlds exploring the origins of the original crew of the USS Enterprise, shedding new light on these beloved legacy characters.
Despite the cultural differences between the 1960s and 2020s, Star Trek: The Original Series is still popular because of its optimism about humanity’s future. As the world gets darker each day, it’s a comfort to see that, eventually, humanity will make it into the stars. The message of Gene Roddenberry’s original concept is still relevant today, continuing to inspire viewers young and old to aspire to a better future.
All episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series are available on Paramount+.