Long before fan culture took over the mainstream, there were Trekkies. As the die-hard progenitors of the world’s first major “fandom,” Trekkies have made their beloved sci-fi franchise a trivia goldmine for decades.
Star Trek is home to a dense, devoted fandom that knows every detail of the Star Trek universe. Everything from the computer layouts and physical specs of each Starfleet ship to the minute details of every Alien species have all been mapped out by meticulous fans and creators alike.
Frankly, there’s not much about the Star Trek franchise that it’s devoted fanbase doesn’t know.
However, it’s one thing to know every fact about Star Trek. It’s another to understand what really makes it special in the first place.
Trekkies may be naturally obsessed with knowing everything there is to know about Star Trek, but true fans are more concerned with the ideas, concepts, stories, and characters that make up its heart and soul.
To the unaffiliated, Star Trek may seem like a bland, encyclopedic sci-fi franchise that lacks heart, when in fact, it’s quite the opposite.
For those interested in getting back to the roots of what makes Star Trek fun, here are the 15 Secrets About Star Trek True Fans Need To Know.
15 Klingon was always meant to be a “real” language
Klingon isn’t the first fictional language to be made “real” thanks to overeager fans, and it probably won’t be the last.
However, one thing that sets Klingon apart from other full-fledged fictional languages is that it was always— to some degree or another— meant to function on the show as an authentic language.
Even before fans willed into existence the creation of a learnable Klingon language that they could speak to each other at Star Trek conventions, Klingon was written into the show to sound authentically phonetic and function as much like a real as possible.
Had series writers not at least created the original veneer of lingual authenticity, the fully fleshed-out Klingon tongue would never have come into being.
14 Riker was almost cut out
One of the most intriguing TNG plot lines occurs in the Season 6 episode “Second Chances” when Commander William Riker encounters a duplicate of himself, created by transporter accident eight years prior.
The duplicate Riker eventually went by his middle name, Thomas, and eventually made a second appearance on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
What’s really strange about the whole storyline is that the writers had originally planned to cut out Riker completely and replace him with his duplicate.
While drafting the story for “Second Chances”, TNG writers considered removing the original Riker from the picture completely. The idea was that “Tom” Riker would replace him on the show as the new ops officer, with Data taking over first officer duties.
Intriguing though the idea may have been, it seems clear in hindsight that it would have hurt the show’s pitch-perfect chemistry.
13 Early starfleet uniforms were made out of an algae-based fabric called Xenlon
The Starfleet uniform has gone through several alterations over the years. However, whether it’s the bright red, yellow and blue tunics of The Original Series or the tonally muted outfits of the Next Generation movies, we always know a Starfleet uniform when we see it.
Most die-hard Trekkies can probably name every single variation on the Starfleet uniform, but some may be surprised to learn how the earliest Starfleet uniforms were made.
During the TOS time period, Starfleet utilized algae to form a new fabric called Xenlon.
They used this fabric to create the bright-colored uniforms most frequently associated with the Star Trek brand.
It should come as no surprise to seasoned fans that a future as bright as the one in Star Trek would include environmentally friendly, algae-based fabrics.
12 Picard speaks English because French is obsolete in the 24th century
Many of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s biggest fans have spent years scratching their heads over Picard’s French background and decidedly English accent.
Some have chalked it up the decision of casting British actor Patrick Stewart in the role, but the actual answer to why Picard speaks like a classically trained English thespian is actually part of the show's story and place in the Trek timeline.
The Next Generation takes place in the 24th Century, where French has become an obsolete language.
Throughout the series’ seven-series, four-movie run, it’s clear that Picard maintains a strong connection to his French heritage, as well as a working knowledge of the French language.
Within the continuity of the series, his English accent is simply a byproduct of his global culture.
11 Spok’s original red skin was abandoned to avoid offensive comparisons
As if the pointy ears and eyebrows weren’t enough, Spock was originally supposed to have red skin.
Gene Roddenberry originally wanted Spock to look as different as possible from the humans of the Enterprise crew, with the intention of exploring relevant themes of diversity. So why was Spock’s red skin vetoed to begin with?
The central reason for ditching red skin was to avoid a makeup job that would look like black-face on black-and-white TVs.
Ultimately, makeup artists decided to give Spock a subtle makeup hue, mixing industry-standard pigments for something that looked original without being abrasive.
In retrospect, the decision to nix the red makeup job was a good call.
Blackface concerns aside, a bright red Spock would probably have kept audiences from identifying with the character in a truly meaningful way.
10 The OG enterprise crew consisted of 430 members
Ever wonder exactly how many people piloted, operated, and lived on the original Enterprise? According to canon, the ship was home to 430 faithful crew members.
The size of any given crew of a Star Trek ship has fluctuated significantly over the years.
The Enterprise D of The Next Generation boasted a crew of over 1,000, including civilians and children. The space station Deep Space 9 usually housed close to 2,000 residents and crew members.
Given the mission statement and function of Starfleet ships, the size and profile of the original Enterprise crew is arguably more optimal than later iterations.
Watch every season of TNG and it starts to feel like Starfleet made a terrible mistake allowing families to live on a space exploration ship that was constantly in danger.
9 George Takei pushed for episodes addressing LGBTQ issues
Star Trek has become just as famous for pushing cultural boundaries as it has for being one of the nerdiest fan obsessions in the world. Even the unaffiliated are aware that Star Trek claims America’s first on-air interracial kiss.
However, one thing even die-hard fans may not realize is that TOS cast-member George Takei made attempts to address LGBTQ issues on the show.
From the beginning, Star Trek was meant to expose social hypocrisies and fight prejudice. Introducing LGBTQ issues into the show would have been a great opportunity to confront cultural misconceptions and widespread willful ignorance surrounding the LGBTQ community at the time.
Unfortunately, embracing LGBTQ identities would have been impossible on national television in the mid '60s.
When Takei approached Gene Roddenberry about introducing gay and lesbian characters on the show, the creator told Takei that the show’s interracial kiss had already put them on a thin tightrope.
8 “GNDN” Stands For “Goes Nowhere, Does Nothing”
For years, fans have been speculating as to what the “GNDN” stands for on the power relay tubing on the original Enterprise set. True to real life, the acronym actually stands for “Goes Nowhere, Does Nothing.”
The GNDN acronym was one of many “inside-joke” easter eggs placed by Star Trek set designers and production crew members.
Theoretically, it could have been placed anywhere on the Enterprise set, or on the Enterprise model used for the exterior space shots.
Placing the acronym on the power relay pipes was particularly poignant because it pointed out the inherent silliness of Scotty constantly fussing over an engine that literally did nothing at all.
If only they had taken advantage of the working off-road vehicles used in Star Trek: Nemesis by applying the letters “GSDS” for “Goes Somewhere, Does Something.”
7 Gene Roddenberry ordered strict adherence to the prime directive for TNG writers
By the time Star Trek: The Next Generation entered its pre-production phase, creator Gene Roddenberry had a very strict list of demands in place for the writers.
It was more important to him than ever, for example, that the franchise emulate his original vision of a brighter, smarter future.
One of his most ardent demands was that the new Enterprise crew always adhere to the prime directive— much to the chagrin of staff writers who found themselves struggling to find dramatic conflict for their new stories.
Eventually, TNG writers were able to deviate a bit from Roddenberry’s direction when it came to the prime directive, but not without care.
Several TNG episodes feature characters debating the virtues and pitfalls of the prime directive, and when they break it, they often do so with great remorse, and even reverence.
6 The Vulcan salute has Jewish origins
Most fans know that the iconic Vulcan salute came from Spock actor Leonard Nimoy himself. Fewer may be aware that the salute comes directly from Nimoy’s Jewish upbringing.
The Vulcan salute mirrors the way in which the Cohanim form their hands when blessing Jewish congregations.
In Jewish tradition, the Cohanim are direct descendants of Aaron, and bless modern congregations with the same blessing that Aaron gave at the completion of the first Tabernacle.
When the Cohanim give a blessing, the congregation are supposed to close their eyes. When Nimoy was a boy, he peeked during a Cohanim blessing and saw the way their fingers were spread.
This moment was clearly a formative one in Nimoy’s life, as it lead to one of the most famous salutes in pop-culture history.
5 Deep Space Nine was almost a space-Western
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was the second series in the Next Generation era. Arguably still the most unique Star Trek series to date, Deep Space Nine instantly set itself apart by taking place on a space station instead of a starship.
The change in setting was far more than perfunctory, as it allowed for a wider exploration of themes and social complexities.
As revolutionary as Deep Space Nine was to the Star Trek franchise, it might have been even more idiosyncratic, had it been a Space Western as originally intended.
Nearly a decade before Joss Whedon’s Firefly, Deep Space Nine creators originally pitched the show as a Western in space.
The show’s main setting would have been a frontier outpost on a desert planet. Ultimately, concerns over the costs of exterior location filming forced creators to re-craft the premise so that production could take place on interior sets.
4 Pike was dropped after first pilot because actor Jeffrey Hunter left
Every Trekkie has seen the original Star Trek pilot, "The Cage", with Jeffrey Hunter as Starfleet Captain Christopher Pike.
Hunter was replaced by William Shatner as James T. Kirk as soon as the series went to air, making the Pike character little more than a trivia note (until he was re-tooled for the J.J. Abrams reboot movie series).
Many still wonder whether Hunter was fired after the pilot, or whether he left willingly.
The truth of the matter is actually pretty straightforward. When the first Star Trek pilot was originally rejected, Hunter decided he didn’t want to continue on with any future iteration of the series.
Though he was invited back for the second pilot commissioned by NBC, Hunter turned it down to free himself up for movie work.
3 Gene Roddenberry survived Pan Am Flight 121
Pan Am Flight 121 was a scheduled flight from Karachi to Istanbul in 1947. An engine failure on the plane led to the overheating of all engines, and the plane crashed in the Syrian desert.
Fifteen people passed away on the flight, and three of its crew survived. One of those surviving crew members was third officer Gene Roddenberry, who could go onto create Star Trek nearly two decades later.
Roddenberry was the highest ranking officer after the crash, which forced him to stay in Syria and report to local government for days after the fact.
It’s impossible to know how directly this moment influenced the creation and development of Star Trek, but given the amount of time the show spent dealing with technical problems aboard the enterprise, it had to have had at least some subconscious impact on his creative mind.
2 Star Trek was directly inspired by old Westerns
It’s probably safe to say that Westerns aren’t the first thing any of us think of when we think of Star Trek. But as long as Sci-fi has been a commercial genre in America, it has been inexplicably tied to Westerns, and Star Trek is no exception.
When Gene Roddenberry first conceived of Star Trek, he pitched it as a Space Western.
It wouldn’t be hard to argue that the Space Western concept was merely a persuasive tool, but there’s no denying that Star Trek’s “final frontier,” wagon-train conceptualization of outer space is rooted in the history of the American West.
Likewise, the platonic love-triangle of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy is clearly reminiscent of the buddy relationships of American Westerns. These are but a few examples of the many ways in which Star Trek emulates the most American of genres.
1 Riverside Iowa made an official proclamation as “the future birthplace of James T. Kirk”
As long as humans have been telling stories, they’ve been forming meaningful relationships with the characters that inhabit them.
We all have fictional heroes that become every bit as real to us as heroes from history or our own lives. James T. Kirk is one of those heroes for millions of fans.
Captain Kirk’s legacy is so strong in American culture that the real birthplace of his fictional biography, Riverside, Iowa, made an official proclamation as “the future birthplace of James T. Kirk.”
Real-life locations are frequently used as places of origin for fictional characters. Kirk’s American midwestern origins are particularly poignant because they tie him directly to the American experience and make his character relatable to a large demographic of the country.
What are your favorite bits of Star Trek trivia? Let us know in the comments!