Over the past 50 years, the Star Trek franchise has had a zillion parodies and reference made to it in other movies and TV shows. But there are few of these known to be made in the actual era in which the original classic series actually aired. Most of them started to appear in the ’70s and ’80s, when Trek had become a cultural staple thanks to syndication. But thanks to the folks at Laughing Squid, we’ve learned about this Cheer detergent commercial from 1969, which parodies Mr. Spock. This would have likely aired during the show’s third and final season, and it’s a hoot and a half.
By today’s standards, this barely counts as parody. The actor playing the alien has Spock’s hair, eyebrows, and pointed ears, and is doing his best job at emulating Leonard Nimoy. He even beams down to the forlorn suburban mom’s laundry room, mimicking the Enterprise’s transporters. Sure, he’s not wearing a Starfleet uniform, but today something like this would very likely land Cheer with a “cease and desist” letter. Back in the day, however, people were a little less protective of their branded IPs than they are now. As Spock himself would say, it is “fascinating.”
Even though the original Star Trek was ultimately deemed a failure by the network and only aired for three seasons, its cult following was still sizable in its day. Fans wrote literally over a million letters to NBC to save the series after both the end of the first and second seasons. The ratings that Star Trek got even towards the end of its run would make it a blockbuster series now. But the ranking of ratings back when there were only three networks and no internet was totally different to how its done these days. But this unearthed old commercial proves that Star Trek had cultural brand recognition with the mainstream, long before many thought it did.
Images: CBS / Bobby Cole