Everyone knows the premise: It's the 23rd century and the Starship USS Enterprise has embarked on an important, five-year mission to explore new worlds, seek new life and new civilizations and to -- all together now -- "boldly go where no man has gone before." The legendary spaceship is helmed by Capt. James T. Kirk and his noble crew, who have set out to explore the outer reaches of the galaxy. On their way they encounter all sorts of fantastical scenarios, but none that the handsome, surefooted Kirk, his first in command, Mr. Spock, and his trusty crew can't manhandle for a successful and happy ending.
What began as Gene Rodenberrys futuristic vision has spawned several TV series, feature films and books, creating unforgettable characters -- as well as die-hard fans known as Trekkies. But the original Star Trek series, which ran from 1966 to 1969, was also acclaimed for its ability to break down barriers. The characters of Lt. Uhura, Sulu and Chekov helped to demonstrate an ideal utopian society where racial tensions and class struggles did not exist. Star Trek made such a meteoric impact on our culture that phrases such as Beam Me Up and Live Long and Prosper have forever become a part of our vocabulary. Fan conventions continue at a fervor peak even decades after the original show's final broadcast.
Though the original series only lasted for three seasons, Star Trek: The Next Generation (starring Patrick Stewart as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard) bowed in 1987 and ran through 1994, picking up several Emmy Awards along the way. During that time, three feature films were also made. Other offshoots include Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Enterprise. In 2009, Lost executive producer JJ Abrams created a huge buzz when he created a big-screen reboot of the original series featuring a talented young cast. Abrams said the film was made with fans of the original series in mind, but that he also wanted it to appeal to newcomers and open up the franchise to a whole new generation of fans. A sequel is tentatively planned for 2011.