Both Star Trek and Doctor Who were science fiction television shows starting in the early sixties that developed an international following. After saying that there is not really too much that they have in common.
The original Star Trek was really the first truly serious adult science fiction series. I believe that it is first and perhaps only genre series to really try to be a serious adult drama. No pandering to children or appealing to lowest common denominator like in many of Irwin Allen’s series which aired around the same time such as Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Lost in Space.
Doctor Who on the other hand was a British science fiction series created for children and was to contain some educational content that would teach history and science. This never really came to fruition as funky aliens like the Daleks and Cybermen won the show its biggest acclaim. It moved away from science to emphasise elements of horror and the fantastic, and it managed to have an appeal for all ages.
These original series developed completely independently of each other. Star Trek, the original series ran from 1966 to 1969, a three season run on American television. The original Doctor Who series ran in the UK from 1963 through 1989 with a brief hiatus in 1986 it had an almost continuous twenty-six year run.
With only three season under its belt Star Trek managed to develop a huge cult following as its original run of shows were re-ran over and over again in syndication throughout the seventies and eighties.
Thanks to a little movie released in 1977 called Star Wars a huge resurgence in the media’s interest in science fiction occurred, and in 1978 Doctor Who was first syndicated to air regularly in American markets. In 1979 also thanks to Star Wars, Star Trek made a comeback as a feature film series.
Doctor Who helped fill a void in the United States as many other science fiction television programs in the United States were very short lived and failed to capture the American imagination as Star Trek did.
American media science fiction conventions in the late seventies and early eighties often featured guests from both Star Trek and Dr. Who. The popularity of Dr. Who was apparent if not wholly understood by Star Trek fans.
I believe that Dr. Who’s popularity was influential in the revival of the Star Trek franchise in 1987 with the launch of the series Star Trek: The Next Generation. In the producers’ choice in actors, characters and scripts for this and later franchise series, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise one can see the impact that Doctor Who has had.
In the following posts in this category we will take a roll call of the British actors playing in the later Trek series, examine characters that may have been inspired by Doctor Who and another British series called Red Dwarf, and look at episodes that may have borrowed plot elements from Doctor Who.