In its heyday, TV Guide was the largest magazine in the United States, with a weekly circulation peaking at around 20 million in the 1970s. It was considered a television industry powerhouse, with its cover spot coveted by every TV personality and program. A television staple, TV Guide’s primary function was to provide weekly listings of television programs, but it quickly evolved into a critical and commercial barometer for television shows and stars.
Enter Star Trek, a groundbreaking science fiction series created by Gene Roddenberry, premiering on NBC on September 8, 1966. The show was set in the future, featuring the voyages of the Starship USS Enterprise. Its ethos, centered on exploration and unity among species, brought an optimism to the Cold War-era America, which resonated with audiences and, in turn, caught TV Guide’s attention.
Interestingly, the connection between TV Guide and Star Trek goes deeper than the coverage. The inaugural issue of TV Guide, featuring an insert image of Lucille Ball on the cover, hinted at the synergy to come. Ball, known for her leading role in “I Love Lucy,” was also the head of Desilu Productions, which produced the original Star Trek series. Ball played a crucial role in convincing NBC to commission a second pilot for Star Trek, which eventually led to the series being picked up. Without her intervention, Star Trek might not have seen the light of day.
TV Guide’s first coverage of Star Trek was in the 1966 fall preview issue. The magazine hailed it as a “space-age western” that would be one of the year’s “most promising” new shows. This early endorsement by TV Guide was a valuable shot in the arm for the fledgling series, struggling in its initial days against stiff competition.
TV Guide’s relationship with Star Trek is symbiotic. Star Trek, with its expanding universe, provided endless material for TV Guide to cover, ensuring its readership. In return, TV Guide served as a constant promotional platform, driving viewership for Star Trek. Together, they have grown in tandem, shaping and reflecting the broader television landscape.
In recent times, to stay relevant in the rapidly changing landscape of television and adapt to the streaming revolution, a new digital platform, “TV Insider,” has been launched by the same media group. It carries forward the legacy of TV Guide, providing insight, reviews, and comprehensive information about streaming content.
Let’s take a look at a “Top 10” list of Star Trek covers on TV Guide that celebrate this enduring relationship: