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"Star Trek" is celebrating its 55th birthday - it premiered on September 8, 1966.
After the show, the cast of the original series remained sci-fi icons.
Only four of the nine stars of "Star Trek: The Original Series" are still alive today.
William Shatner led the crew of the USS Enterprise as Captain James T. Kirk.
"Star Trek" was originally going to be focused on a different captain, Captain Christopher Pike, played by Jeffrey Hunter. A pilot was even filmed, called "The Cage," but it didn't make it to airwaves until the '80s. Gene Roddenberry, the creator, eventually retooled the show and cast Shatner as a new captain, Kirk. Some footage from "The Cage" was then reused for a season one episode called "The Menagerie."
Before "Star Trek," Shatner was famous for his role in an iconic "Twilight Zone" episode, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," in which he played a man recently released from a mental hospital who becomes convinced he can see a creature on the wing of the plane he's flying on. It aired in 1963, three years before "Star Trek."
In addition to his "Star Trek" roles, Shatner acted in "T.J. Hooker" and "Boston Legal," hosted "Rescue 911," and he has written numerous books.
Though he's 90 years old, Shatner has shown no signs of slowing down. After "Star Trek" was canceled in 1969, he briefly returned to voice Kirk for the "Star Trek" animated series. In 1979, he again reprised his role as Kirk in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture." He'd continue to do so regularly until 1994's "Star Trek Generations." He even directed one of the "Star Trek" movies: "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier."
Besides "Star Trek," Shatner starred as the titular police officer on the '80s procedural "T.J. Hooker" and narrated "Rescue 911," a show that consisted of dramatic reenactments of real crimes.
Other roles that you might recognize Shatner from: a pageant host in "Miss Congeniality," attorney Dennis Crane in "The Practice" and its spin-off "Boston Legal" for which he won two Emmys, and in the 2016-2018 reality show "Better Late Than Never," in which Shatner, Henry Winkler, George Foreman, and Terry Bradshaw traveled around the world and experienced different cultures.
In 2021, he co-starred in the rom-com "Senior Moment" with Jean Smart and Christopher Lloyd.
Shatner has written multiple books, both fiction and non-fiction over the course of his career. His 2016 book, "Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man," was about his friendship with "Star Trek" co-star Leonard Nimoy, who played his on-screen better half, Commander Spock.
Nichelle Nichols played Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, a translator, communications officer, and linguistics expert.
Uhura was one of the first Black television characters that didn't have a menial job — instead, she was in a position of power. She and Shatner were also involved in what is thought to be the first interracial kiss on American TV.
Nichols stayed with the show for all three seasons, but it wasn't without drama. She was tempted to leave during the first year, but none other than Martin Luther King Jr. convinced her to stay. She told the New York Post in 2011 that when she told him that she wanted to leave, he told her, "You can't do that. You have the first non-stereotypical, non-menial role on television. You have created strength and beauty and intelligence. For the first time, the world sees us as we should be seen. It's what we're marching for. You're a role model and whether you like it or not, you belong to history now."
She also released an album in 1967, "Down to Earth." In between "Star Trek's" cancellation and its return on the big screen, Nichols starred in the 1974 blaxploitation film "Truck Turner," as Dorinda, a madam.
Nichols retired from public appearances in 2018.
From 1977 until 2015, Nichols was involved with Women in Motion, a recruiting program for NASA to help get more women involved in the space program. In July 2020, a documentary about the program finally secured distribution and will be released in 2021, Deadline reported.
"Nichelle Nichols not only was a trailblazer in Hollywood, she was a trailblazer for the future of our society. She took the fight for Civil Rights, diversity and inclusion and gender equality to new frontiers with NASA which continue to serve America's space program today. She was ahead of her time," said executive producer Ben Crump.
Walter Koenig was cast as Ensign Pavel Chekov because of his resemblance to the Monkees' Davy Jones.
While Chekov was Russian, Koenig was born in America and based his accent on his parents' accents — they were Russian immigrants. Koenig was cast because, according to legend, he was supposed to help attract young girls as viewers due to his resemblance to teen idol Davy Jones. He even wore a Davy Jones-esque women's wig for the first seven or eight episodes, he told TV Insider in 2016.
Koenig's mainly recognized for his on-screen role as Chekov, though he became a pretty prolific screenwriter in the '70s. He wrote episodes for the "Star Trek" animated series, anthology series "What Really Happened to the Class of '65?" and children's series "Land of the Lost."
Koenig appeared in the 2018 film "Diminuendo."
Koenig, 84, (he's turning 85 on September 14) still makes frequent appearances on the "Star Trek" convention circuit, as well as acting in the occasional film. He appeared in 12 episodes of "Babylon 5" in the '90s, voiced himself in an episode of "Futurama," and also voiced Mr. Savic on the Netflix animated series "Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters."
While not all of the "Star Trek" cast were on great terms, Koenig and his co-star George Takei remain close. Koenig was even the best man in Takei's wedding in 2008.
George Takei played Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu, a helmsman on the Enterprise.
Over the course of the show, Sulu was revealed to have many interests outside of Star Fleet, most famously fencing. At the time, Sulu was one of the first Asian characters on TV who wasn't explicitly a villain, and instead was a fully formed hero.
"Up until the time I was cast in 'Star Trek,' the roles were pretty shallow — thin, stereotyped, one-dimensional roles. I knew this character was a breakthrough role, certainly for me as an individual actor but also for the image of an Asian character: no accent, a member of the elite leadership team," Takei told Mother Jones in 2012.
Takei originally was supposed to play Sulu as an astrophysicist, but the role was changed to helmsman. Before "Star Trek," Takei also appeared in "The Twilight Zone" like his co-star William Shatner, among other '50s and '60s procedurals.
Takei is still acting to this day, though many people know him now for his social media presence.
In addition to his continued acting in films like "Kubo and the Two Strings," "Blazing Samurai," and "Mulan," and TV shows like "Heroes," "Supah Ninjas," and the upcoming "Star Wars: Visions," Takei is an activist. He came out as gay in 2005 and began working as a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign.
Takei also starred in the 2012 musical "Allegiance," which was based on his and his family's experiences during Japanese internment in World War II.
Leonard Nimoy played Captain Kirk's first officer and close friend Commander Spock.
Spock was the only alien member of the original crew, as he was half-human, half-Vulcan — an alien race from the planet Vulcan whose residents operate solely from a point of logic, not feelings. Much of the show's comedy came from Spock and Kirk's differences and their amusement at each other. His frequent farewell, "Live Long and Prosper," accompanied by the Vulcan Salute, are among the most recognizable pieces of the "Star Trek" canon.
Nimoy had multiple small parts in B movies and TV shows before booking "Star Trek," including an episode of "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." alongside future co-star William Shatner, as well as an episode of "The Twilight Zone."
But once "Star Trek" premiered, Nimoy would be forever linked with his Vulcan counterpart, and he mainly did voice work after the show ended. He also reunited with Shatner for an episode of his show, "T.J. Hooker."
Nimoy died in 2015 at the age of 83. He played Spock for the final time in 2013's "Star Trek Into Darkness," meaning he played the role for almost 50 years.
Nimoy is the only actor from the original series to appear in JJ Abrams' rebooted films, as he appeared in 2009's "Star Trek" and its 2013 sequel "Star Trek Into Darkness" as an older version of Spock who was trapped in an alternate universe.
In addition to acting, Nimoy was a photographer, recording artist, author, and director. He directed two "Star Trek" movies ("The Search for Spock" and "The Journey Home"), and "Three Men and a Baby," which became the highest-grossing film of 1987.
Nimoy died in 2015 at the age of 83 due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
DeForest Kelley played the ship's curmudgeonly chief medical officer, Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy.
Bones, as he was affectionately called, was one of the oldest members of the crew, and thus got to be a bit more obnoxious than the rest of them. His frequent catchphrase, "I'm a doctor, not a ___," is one of the most parodied lines of dialogue from the show.
Like his character, Kelley was older and a more established actor than the rest of the cast. Before the show, he had appeared in Westerns and historical films like "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral," "Warlock," and "Raintree County" in the '50s.
Kelley died in 1999 at the age of 79, nine years after playing McCoy for the last time.
Kelley essentially retired from acting, besides playing McCoy, after the success of "Star Trek." He appeared in all six films starring the original cast, and appeared in an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" as McCoy, as well.
While he wasn't much of a sci-fi fan, Kelley was proud of his "Star Trek" legacy. When asked what he thought his legacy would be, he explained that his character inspired people to enter the medical field. He told the New York Times, "These people [fans] are doctors now, all kinds of doctors who save lives. That's something that very few people can say they've done. I'm proud to say that I have.''
Majel Barrett had a recurring role as Nurse Christine Chapel.
Barrett was originally cast in the first version of "Star Trek" as Pike's first officer, but when that episode was scratched, so was her character. However, due to her romantic relationship with "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry (who she later married), she was brought back as Nurse Chapel (a divisive character).
Before the show, Barrett was in various bit parts in '50s and '60s shows, but her big break was "Star Trek," which she stayed involved in for the rest of her life.
Barrett died in 2008 when she was 76 years old. Up until her death, she had been involved with every "Star Trek" series in some way, leading fans to call her the First Lady of "Star Trek."
Barrett reprised her role as Chapel in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" and "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home." She also appeared in "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" as Lwaxana Troi, the mother of Deanna Troi, a main character in "Next Generation." Her other involvement in the series was the voice of the computer in many of the other "Star Trek" films: "Generations," "First Contact," "Nemesis," and 2009's reboot.
James Doohan played chief engineering officer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott.
Contrary to popular belief, the phrase "Beam me up, Scotty" is never actually uttered in the original series. The man on the other end of that command, Scotty, was played by Doohan, who was Canadian in real life, not Scottish.
Before "Star Trek," Doohan served in the Canadian military and was even on the beaches of Normandy during D-Day, and was a pilot as well. After the war, he began acting and became a successful radio actor. Like his co-stars, he also appeared in an episode of "The Twilight Zone," and other popular procedurals.
In the animated series, Doohan proved to be indispensable, with his talent for voice acting and accents. He voiced over 50 characters during the show's run.
James Doohan died at the age of 85 in 2005.
However, his impact on the field of engineering cannot be overstated. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Milwaukee School of Engineering "after half the students there said that Scotty had inspired them to take up the subject," according to the BBC.
Towards the end of his life, Doohan suffered from Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, and retired from public life in 2004. He died the following year, at 85, due to complications from pneumonia.
Grace Lee Whitney appeared in the first season of the show as Yeoman Janice Rand.
Rand appeared in eight episodes of the show's first 15-episode season as a clerical and administrative worker aboard the ship, before Whitney was released from her contract. At the time, the story was that the show didn't have enough money to keep everyone, but years later in her autobiography, Rand accused an unnamed executive producer, whom she called "The Executive," of sexually assaulting her.
"I tried to do what he wanted me to, so I could get it over with. I knew, deep down inside, that I was finished on 'Star Trek.' At that moment, however, I didn't care about that. Nothing else mattered — not my tarnished virtue, not my career, not my role on 'Star Trek.' The only thing that mattered was getting out of that room alive," she wrote.
Whitney died in 2015 at the age of 85.
After getting written off the show, Whitney struggled with her career, and alcoholism. She credited co-star Leonard Nimoy with helping her get back on her feet and involved with "Star Trek" once again. She reprised her role in four of the original "Star Trek" films, and in an episode of "Star Trek: Voyager" alongside George Takei.
She died in 2015 due to natural causes at the age of 85.
Read the original article on Insider