Star Trek turns 50 with new film and TV series
IT LAUNCHED with a mission of just five years "to boldly go where no man has gone before" but, half a century later, Star Trek is a multi-billion-dollar cultural phenomenon adored by fans worldwide.
When the television show debuted in 1966, the concept was a three-season series following the crew of the starship Enterprise as they ventured into the galaxy to seek out new civilisations.
Little did NBC know it would snowball into a touchstone in entertainment spawning six shows with a combined 725 episodes and 13 movies, turning its stars into household names.
And the Star Trek phenomenon will boldly go on - fans can look forward to an upcoming 50th-anniversary film and a new television series.
The latest film, Star Trek Beyond, hits United States theatres on July 22 while the TV show is due out in January 2017 on CBS.
"To be talking about the 50th anniversary is insane. I was born the same year that Star Trek was," veteran film-maker J. J. Abrams, the creative force behind the new "rebooted" trilogy, told a convention in Hollywood last week.
"I know how old I feel so the idea that this thing endures is incredible."
The original series starred William Shatner, now 85, as the suave Captain James T. Kirk and Leonard Nimoy, who died last year at 83, as his stilted sidekick - a half-human, half-Vulcan science officer named Mr Spock.
Gene Roddenberry wrote the pilot in 1965, the same year as the first US spacewalk, and pitched the show as "a wagon train to the stars", figuring that westerns were popular in Hollywood at the time.
Fans say Roddenberry examined earthly social issues with an unparalleled sensitivity, presenting television's first truly multi-racial cast, and the first televised inter-racial kiss.
Korean-American actor John Cho, who plays Starfleet Officer Hikaru Sulu in the rebooted trilogy, said multi-culturalism is one of its "defining features".
"I wanted to be a part of something I felt was an important, positive cultural contribution," the 43-year-old said.
The franchise has attracted a devoted global cult and Trekkies are the only fan group listed by name in the Oxford English Dictionary.
Karl Urban, who plays ship's doctor Leonard "Bones" McCoy - the role originally made famous by the late DeForest Kelley - said Beyond was more complex and yet more fun than previous episodes.
"We wanted to balance between paying respect and homage to what had been before - little inside jokes and references for long-time fans - and delivering new material that new audiences can appreciate," said Urban, 43.
Beyond director Justin Lin added: "With these characters and themes, we can go anywhere, we can evolve and they are going to run into new challenges. And there should be no boundaries."