Captain's log: stardate 2009.05.07. More than 40 years after the crew of the Starship Enterprise set out to boldly split infinitives where no television programme had gone before, fans are preparing for the latest blockbuster movie - the 11th - which producers hope will breathe new life into Star Trek's ailing franchise.
The 10 previous movies have made almost $1.1 billion (R9.1bn) at the box office over the past 30 years. The six television series have run to 726 episodes, broadcast in more than 100 countries and spawned a billion-dollar industry in merchandise, not to mention more than 100 award nominations.
Despite its huge success and cultural impact, the franchise has recently been in the sick bay. The most recent TV series, Enterprise, was judged a failure, and the last film, Nemesis, was the worst performer at the box office, taking just $67m worldwide in 2002 compared with the $150m First Contact - the best-performing film - took six years earlier.
Now a much-anticipated prequel to the original groundbreaking 1960s series opens on Friday. It will introduce a young Captain James T Kirk, Spock and the entire crew which is brought together for the first time at Starfleet Academy. They are mostly played by non-A-list actors, including Christopher Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock. Simon Pegg appears as Scotty and Leonard Nimoy plays the older version of the pointy-eared logical Vulcan.
Fans have had only two trailers to whet their appetites, showing modern computer-generated graphic techniques applied to the building of the Enterprise and the early years of the fictional world that has permeated popular culture since the starship first tackled the "final frontier" in 1966.
Its success, according to Dr Simon Topping, who teaches American studies at the University of Plymouth, is down to its optimistic vision of the future. "It comes out of the spirit of the 1960s," he said. "James T Kirk was based on JFK. Star Trek was quite groundbreaking in terms of its racial mix and idealistic vision of humanity's future."
Paul Simpson, the editor of Star Trek magazine, added: "The core of it is Gene Roddenberry's optimism. It was created at a time when America was at war in Vietnam and there was a lot of civil unrest. On the Enterprise you have a black woman in a position of authority, a mixed-race person in the form of Spock, an Asian, and none of this was mentioned or referred to. That's inspirational." - The Independent on Sunday
Pike was a more introspective captain than Kirk, having
more in common with future captain Jean Luc Picard. Alas, Hunter chose not to reprise the role.
performance made Kirk a sci-fi icon.
Often dismissed as a ladies' man, Kirk was deeply caring,
and often found himself isolated by the burden of
command. After decades of heroics, he was thrust into
the future, where he died under a bridge (rather than on one).
captains. Brooks's distinctive voice and style gave Sisko a harder edge than the usual captain.
- By Nick Cook, producer and writer of the fan film Starship Intrepid.
well-regarded that director JJ Abrams asked her to reprise her role as the Enterprise computer for the new movie. Sadly, she died shortly after recording her lines.
young male demographic, Jeri Ryan quickly proved popular.
their emotions, who speak as they find. If you can make friends with one, they'll never disown you.
Hadar warriors and obsequious Vorta henchmen, they ruled an entire quadrant - and sought the Federation as part of their empire.
cages that can capture and destroy spaceships, they're a force to be reckoned with. - By John Freeman, former editor of Star Trek magazine
Spiner in The Next Generation. While Spock fought to be more logical, the android Data tried to be more human, with little success until he was fitted with an emotion chip he could turn on and off at will. Before that, his childlike naivety caused the crew many problems.
Boldly going from TV to film and back again - a timeline
1966-1969: The original series. Set in the years 2266-69 (stardate 1513.1-5928.5). The crew of the Starship Enterprise - including classic characters Captain James T Kirk, Spock, Dr "Bones" McCoy, Scotty, Uhura, Chekov, Sulu - boldly go for the first time.
1973-1974: The animated series, set in 2269-70 (stardate 5521.3-6770.3). Picking up from where the original series left off, we learn that Kirk's middle name is Tiberius.
1979: Star Trek: The Motion Picture, 2271 (stardate: 7412.6). The first feature film sees the original cast reunited with Admiral - rather than Captain - Kirk.
The Wrath of Khan, 2285 (stardate: 8130.4). Admiral Kirk does battle with the evil Khan, whom he once exiled, in the second Star Trek movie. Spock sacrifices himself to save the ship.
1984: The Search for Spock, 2285 (stardate: 8210.3). Spock's alive! And Kirk steals the Enterprise to find him.
1986: The Voyage Home, 2286 (stardate: 8390). The crew travels back in time to the 1980s to find a humpback whale. Kirk is demoted back to captain.
1987-1994: Star Trek: The Next Generation series, 2364-70 (stardate 41153.7-47988.1). A brand new series with a brand new crew, introducing Captain Jean-Luc Picard (centre right) who, played by the Shakespearean actor Patrick Stewart, gave Kirk a run for his money.
1989: The Final Frontier, 2287 (stardate: 8454.1). The fifth film sees Spock's half-brother hijack the Enterprise.
1991: The Undiscovered Country, 2293 (stardate: 9521.6). Klingons make peace with the Federation.
1993-1999: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, 2369-2375 (stardate 46379.1-52861.3). The third TV series is set on a space station and premiered while The Next Generation was still on air.
1994: Star Trek Generations, 2371 (stardate: 48650.1). The seventh feature film brings Picard and his crew to the big screen for the first time and unites the two captains.
1995-2001: Star Trek: Voyager, 2371-2378 (stardate 48315.6-54973.4). The fourth series has the USS Voyager commanded by a woman, Captain Kathryn Janeway.
1996: First Contact, 2373/2063 (stardate: 50893.5). Picard travels back in time to make sure Earth's first warp-speed space ship isn't destroyed by the Borg.
1998: Insurrection, 2375 (stardate: not given). Picard takes on a corrupt Starfleet admiral.
2001-2005: Enterprise, 2151-2155 (stardate: Not applicable). The fifth television incarnation takes viewers back to before the original 1960s series.
2002: Nemesis, 2379 (stardate: 56844.9). The evil Romulans clone Picard.
2009: Star Trek The 11th film. The plot is top secret, but this prequel takes a look at a young Kirk, played by Christopher Pine, and the original crew as they all come together for the first time at the Starfleet Academy.