‘Beam me up, Scotty’
The original sci-fi series aired on NBC in 1966. The struggling production was lucky to make it for three seasons. Ratings were strong and the show attracted a loyal fanbase but the massive popularity that launched the title-heavy Trek franchise kicked in later. In fact, it was not until the sci-fi series went into reruns, playing through the 1970s, that the Trekkie subculture blew up into a mass phenomenon.
It was huge. NASA’s first space shuttle was named “Enterprise.” Show creator Gene Roddenberry and his U.S.S. Enterprise actors attended the maiden voyage. And, Apple, Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak credits “Star Trek” for inspiring the original Apple computer.
The First Pilot for ‘Star Trek’
The first “Star Trek” pilot was rejected by the network. But they loved the concept well enough that, in a rare move, another pilot was financed. The original production called “The Cage” is much different than “Star Trek” as we know it. For example, the captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise is Christopher Pike. There is no Captain Kirk and Spock plays a scaled-back role.
The network complained to creator Gene Roddenberry that “The Cage” was too intellectual and too difficult for the audience to understand. The second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” made the cut, and “Star Trek” became what it is today.
Dark Red Spock
Initially, Gene Roddenberry was set on having Spock look like a Martian by painting his skin red. Mars is the red planet, he thought, so he should have red skin. It didn’t work out. Back in the day, not everyone had a color TV, so everything you watched, was broadcasted in black and white.
If Spock’s face would have been painted red, it would have looked like a culturally insensitive move and in addition to that, the makeup each morning would also be overly burdensome for Leonard Nimoy.
Paramount Didn’t Really Want ‘Star Trek’
“Star Trek” made it through the door with a lot of support from Desilu Studios. The Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz studio produced both pilot episodes and Ball is said to have personally helped the project along. That all changed when Desilu sold to Gulf Western and Paramount Pictures in 1967.
Paramount did its best to off-load “Star Trek.” They offered to sell the rights to the production to Roddenberry. He could not afford it, so Paramount was stuck with it. Producer Herb Solow said the studio was trying to get rid of it because it was losing money and lacked enough shows to syndicate.
The Change of Spock and ‘Number One’
In the first pilot episode, “Number One” (played by Majel Barrett) had a role similar to the one Spock would make legendary. Making the second pilot, Roddenberry had to make a decision between Spock and “Number One.” He chose Leonard Nimoy because he liked his “satanic-looking” demeanor with those pointy ears and diving eyebrows and felt that Spock would open up the storyline better.
In the first pilot, Spock’s personality was completely different. Roddenberry changed that. He gave the emotionally dispassionate personality of “Number One” to Spock.
The Grudge Between George Takei and William Shatner
The rivalry between William Shatner and George Takei has simmered for decades. It’s said that they didn’t get along from the get-go. According to George Takei, “We all had problems with Bill on the set. He was the star of the series. He knew it and he exercised those star powers.” Takei, who played the beloved Sulu, also said that Shatner was not a team player.
The rest of the cast worked together, but Shatner was always in it for his own self-promotion. The feud has endured. As late as 2008, Shatner was a no-show to Takei’s wedding.
Shatner vs. Nimoy
In a particularly petty incident, Shatner blocked a photographer, scheduled to do a profile shot of Leonard Nimoy, from entering the dressing room. Shatner had previously demonstrated Spock-envy. It’s worth noting, Shatner coopted lines meant for Spock because he wanted the Captain of the Enterprise to look smarter than everyone.
Obviously, Nimoy resented that. But, getting back to the dressing room tug-of-war, Nimoy boycotted going into makeup until Shatner let the dude in to do the shoot.
The Shatner/Nimoy Rivalry
The top two stars at the helm of “Star Trek” experienced an intense rivalry while the show aired but grew to be best buddies, post-production. They happily made appearances as Mr. Spock and Captain James T. Kirk and genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. During production, however, Shatner once went to Roddenberry deeply concerned that Spock’s popularity might overcome his rank as Captain Kirk.
Roddenberry advised him not to fear working with well-liked and talented people. The feud ended on a sour note. When Nimoy died, Shatner did not attend the funeral due to a charity event. This everlasting slight earned Shatner the nickname “Captain Jerk,” from the desk of CNN.
Captain, What’s the Grudge About?’
The grudge dates to 2011. That’s when Nimoy stopped speaking to Shatner. The bone of contention was a film called, “The Captains.” It was Shatner’s brainchild, but Nimoy flatly refused. Nevertheless, a cameraman hired for Shatner’s passion project recorded shots of Nimoy at a convention and the footage was included in the documentary.
Leonard ghosted Shatner. Shatner says he doesn’t know why Nimoy cut him off and that he’ll always wonder about it with regret. Shatner boldly went on to publish, “Leonard: The Fifty-Year Friendship With a Remarkable Man” in 2016, a year after he did not attend Nimoy’s funeral.
Disrespect the Captain
In his later years, Shatner fessed up. He admitted that his ego, specifically, his narcissistic personality, is the cause of many of his problems getting along with others. The cast, crew, and production could have told him that, and they did. Much of the cast grumbled about his behavior during tapings.
Nichelle Nichols nearly quit the show because of him. George Takei, of course, disliked Shatner deeply. James Doohan (Dr. McCoy) once said that he liked Captain Kirk but, “I sure don’t like Bill.” Walter Koenig (Ensign Pavel Chekov) still complains about Shatner, decades later.
What Did Shatner Call Director J.J. Abrams?
J.J. Abrams, at the helm of his 2013 Star Trek movie, offered William Shatner a cameo. Needless to say, Shatner’s ego was tweaked. Abrams explained that there is no way to bring back the captain because of the timeline; Kirk died in “Generations.” Shatner lashed out, as expected, to the point Abrams wondered publicly why the actor would communicate over social media.
Specifically, Shatner called Abrams a pig, a franchise pig, because the director signed to a Star Wars movie as well.
Shatner’s Contract Included Exclusive Terms
Shatner’s self-importance was also written into his “Star Trek” contract. It required Captain Kirk has the most lines in each episode. If the script fell short, other characters’ lines were omitted. Another exclusive stipulation gave Shatner higher prominence in the credits.
Dr. Spock was overshadowed by specified conditions in the agreement that stated Leonard Nimoy’s credit is to be “no more than 75%” of the typeface to William Shatner.
Who Received the Most Fan Mail?
Spock got most of the show’s fan mail, much to the captain’s chagrin. Especially those by female fans. Shatner was so resentful and envious he not only took Spock’s lines, but he kept track of the lines on the script, making sure his character had the most. Shatner admitted those jealous feelings in his later years, saying he handled things poorly.
Nimoy diligently worked at responding to fan mail. He was shocked when he received a memo from the studio that said he was no longer allowed to use the studio’s pens and pencils for correspondence with newly budding Trekkies. An ominous sign of budget-tightening.
Spock Is Under Pressure
Meanwhile, Leonard Nimoy could not handle sudden fame and the barrage of fan mail. It would’ve been better served in Shatner’s mailbox. The anxiety led to a drinking problem. Shatner started unwinding after the day’s shoot with one drink, but it led to more.
Shatner said, that he eventually realized he became drink dependant. He handled the issue so well by never drinking at work. In fact, no one knew he had a problem until it came out in the memoirs.
Nimoy’s Vulcan Salute
Spock was a method actor who, at 36, had never landed a significant role. He had been teaching acting and performing theatre roles for about ten years. When he was offered the top Vulcan in charge of the Enterprise, he took it. But the fame of Spock was tough to manage. As a method actor, he stayed in character.
Shatner complained that he spends more time as Spock than he does Nimoy. Nimoy created first officer Spock. He made up the Vulcan salute, which later came out to be derived from a sacred Hebrew sign he learned as a kid in the synagogue.
Who Owned All ‘Star Trek’ Merch Rights
Nimoy was paid two thousand dollars per episode. A solid paycheck in the late 60s. But the show was taking off. Nimoy had created Spock out of his own inventiveness and his likeness was appearing on all kinds of merchandise, all over the world. In London, his mug appeared on Heineken beer ads. The man was resentful.
He tried rewriting his contract, but the network did not want to give him a drop more. It drove him to the therapist’s couch to deal with his frustration.
Scriptwriter Dorothy Fontana Was Disguised
Dorothy Catherine Fontana was an aspiring scriptwriter just trying to make it in Hollywood. She took secretarial work at the Star Trek set in hopes of making it. Her ideas impressed Roddenberry. She masterminded key episodes and was instrumental in developing Spock’s Vulcan identity. Yet, she was only tangentially recognized.
Things were different in the midst of the 1960s feminist movement. She went virtually uncredited. She wrote episodes under pseudonyms like “Michael Richards.” She said she used the gender-free “D.C. Fontana” credit to assuage Roddenberry and the network who, like the mainstream, weren’t gung-ho about women in important positions like television writing.
Roddenberry Borrowed Writers
Roddenbery sometimes did not credit the authors. Due to budget restraints, Roddenberry commissioned work from well-known sci-fi writers. But then he would rewrite the script until it was barely recognizable. Some writers had a problem with this. One such case is Harlan Ellison’s work, “City on the Edge of Forever.”
The final cut of that episode was so altered, the author requested a pseudonym be used for the credits. He was denied. Roddenberry included Ellison’s name in the credits. He was really peeved. He went so far as to publish his original 1967 script in 1995. He went to his grave with that grudge.
A Sign of the Wrong Timeline
“The City on the Edge of Forever” is a Trekkie favorite. In the story by Harlan Ellison, Spock, McCoy, and Kirk land in the United States during the Great Depression. With Dr. McCoy lost, the other two, dressed like homeless people, look for the doctor. Spock and Kirk end up at an apartment building. This is where the spacetime continuum hiccups.
There is a sign posted that we universally recognize as a radiation danger warning. These did not exist until the 1960s. So, the problem is, the Starfleet crew landed in the Great Depression, which has a 1930s timeline.
‘Star Trek’ was Quality TV, but at What Price?
Both cast and crew were convinced that the NBC network wanted to ax the show. Fans were concerned. The loyal following organized a letter campaign, and 100,000 letters came pouring in. The very first Trekkies pleaded with NBC not to cancel “Star Trek.” It worked. Because of this outpouring, the network aired it for another season, but it came with a price.
The already cash-strapped budget was cut by one-third, and, for all intents and purposes, the show was demoted. NBC moved it to the 10 pm, Friday night slot a.k.a. “the death slot.”
Roddenberry was a Known Womanizer
‘Star Trek’ creator Roddenberry had affairs with Nichelle Nichols and Majel Barrett while being married to Eileen Roddenberry. He hoped to have an open relationship with both Nichelle and Majel (although hidden from his wife) but Nichelle bowed out saying she doesn’t want to be the other woman to the other woman.
Roddenberry shacked up with Majel in an apartment near the Desilu studios. He paid his secretary staff to lie to his wife Eileen and Majel while he was having extra, extramarital affairs.
Roddenberry Theme Song
Some shady deals went down under Gene Roddenberry. This one revolves around the epic “Star Trek” theme song, written by Alexander Courage. The instrumental piece playing over the opening and closing credits was originally titled “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” It is voiced in Captain Kirk’s opening monologue. Roddenberry didn’t want to pay Courage royalties, so he went behind the songwriter’s back and added lyrics to the song.
The words were never used, Roddenberry only composed them so that he could be credited as the lyricist, thereby funneling royalties his way. The songwriter thought it was unethical but never filed a lawsuit.
Nichelle Nichols Almost Quit
Nichelle Nichols was getting bored. She didn’t have many lines, she hated working with Shatner, and she was thinking about moving to Broadway. She wanted a change and then this happened. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta King stopped by to visit. The influential activists congratulated the show for representing their community with dignity. M.L.K., Jr. was Nichols’ hero.
To hear them say that they allow, and even encouraged their children to watch “Star Trek” was all Lt. Uhura had to know. And, besides, the prominent leader told her not to leave the show.
Roddenberry Stepped Down
With the decision to air the show on the Friday night “death slot” while cutting the budget back by $10,000 per episode, Roddenberry jumped ship. He said he “couldn’t bear another moment” and said the “double-cross” by NBC was the last straw.
Fred Freiberger stepped in as showrunner for the third and final season. An experienced television writer and producer, Freiberger had a reputation for churning out episodes on time and on budget.
Star Trek had ‘Doomed’ Written All Over It
As executive producer, Roddenberry kept his hand in the game, but he essentially sat there watching his life’s work fall apart. With the shakeup and the budget cuts, key people were let go. D. C. Fontana, a significant talent, was cut. Producer Gene L. Coon, who had been instrumental in the show’s success, was also dropped. Sci-fi authors were jumping ship.
It was the beginning of the end. Those 100,000 fan letters saved the show, but NBC only kept it going for another season to plan its demise. It disappeared from the air the first week of September in 1969.
NBC Canceled the Show
Despite the high-quality television programming of “Star Trek,” NBC was determined to get rid of it. While held accountable by those fan letters, the network nevertheless plotted its end. Network executives disliked Roddenberry. He publicly confronted the execs about their decisions on budgets, creative control, and time slots.
They believed he promoted the letter campaign. The network also had a problem with the showrunner’s provocative content, claiming it was too racy for a television audience. However, the network aired reruns of the show the very summer it was canceled.
Shatner’s Roddenberry Problem
Shatner complained about Roddenberry during the third season. He wrote in his book “Star Trek Memories,” that the show was “getting sloppy”. He complained that scripts were wanting and blamed it on Roddenberry for drifting away from the show.
He reserved most of his ire towards Roddenberry for cashing out on merchandising, or as he put it, saying he tried to “milk every possible cent” from “his dying cash cow known as Star Trek.”
When the Actors Protested the Script
Freiberger called it a mutiny. With all the cutbacks, actors started complaining. Nimoy and Shatner led the protest. Freiberger said that when he arrived on set, Shatner and Nimoy refused to do the scene.
It was the episode, “Is There in Truth No Beauty?” and the two actors in charge of the U.S.S. Enterprise said the script was unacceptable. They threatened to walk off the set until it was rewritten.
More Episodes in the Final Season That Are Considered Bad
Even showrunner Fred Freiberger admitted it. Looking back, he said that some of the episodes they made were wonderful but there were others he wasn’t proud of, as he said. Most Trekkies agree that episodes, “And the Children Shall Lead,” “The Way to Eden,” and “Plato’s Stepchildren” were subpar.
Most of the disappointments that came out of the third season are the result of budget constraints.
The Infamous Kiss
While “Plato’s Stepchildren” (1968) holds a spot on the list of bad episodes, it has one redeeming quality. This is the episode that is now celebrated for inclusivity. At first, showrunners wanted Spock to plant the interracial kiss upon Lt. Uhura. That’s when Shatner’s narcissistic side took over.
He would not allow anyone else to partake in something that would be considered groundbreaking in 1968. He believed that he should do the kiss scene because, as he put it, “If anyone’s going to be part of the first interracial kiss in television history, it’s going to be me.”
The Kiss That Was Dismissed
NBC complained about too many provocative scenes in the series. This was one of them. And it wasn’t only NBC, the BBC flatly refused to air this episode. But the actors on the show felt strongly about making this statement, as they saw it, in the midst of the civil rights and feminist movements.
Actors intentionally flubbed their lines for the scene that NBC wanted to use in its place. Therefore, with no other option, the kiss between Shatner and Nichols had to be used.
Lucille Ball Backs ‘Star Trek’ Up
“Star Trek” won the initial support of Desilu Productions. Lucille Ball believed in the project and delivered the backing for the first pilot episode. When NBC rejected it, Ball, as head of Desilu Studios, pulled strings and got it financed for the second pilot episode. The rest is history.
NBC was interested in working with the legendary comedian, so this added to Ball’s effort to launch the show. She was certain it was going to be a hit, and by the second season, it was. But the Desilu/Trek adventure would not last. In 1967, Gulf and Western bought Desilu Studios, and “Star Trek” went to Paramount.
Sneaking Scenes by the Censors
Some writers at “Star Trek” used resourceful means to get preferred scenes on the air. Screenwriters Herb Solow and Robert Justman were adept at this. In the episode called, “A Private Little War,” there were bold references to the Vietnam War. Captain Kirk specifically compares the conflict he witnesses on Planet Neural to “wars on the Asian continent.” During this time, any reference to America’s very unpopular war would not make it past censors.
So, this is what they did. A very racy scene with Kirk kissing a woman who was not fully dressed was taped just to distract the censors. It did, and the war reference stayed.
The ‘Shore Leave’ Adventure
Filming “Shore Leave” on location with a Bengal tiger was even more exciting than expected. William Shatner anticipated the proposed scene in which he wrestles the tiger with machismo. That is until he witnessed the 150-pound wildcat ripping into a large chunk of raw meat. Then, the tiger got loose. Cast and crew stood petrified.
According to Shatner, he felt “sheer abject terror.” A grip on the set triggered the beast by stumbling with film equipment. The tiger loosened the stake of its chain! Luckily, the trainer appeared and grabbed the chain.
Nichelle Nichols Faced Prejudice
As Lieutenant Uhura, Nichelle Nichols depicted a leader of great intelligence. She said it truly was a groundbreaking role remarking how folks were marching in the south with Dr. King bravely leading the cause, and here she was, “in the 23rd century, fourth in command of the Enterprise.”
At the same time, the prejudice she experienced at the studio was another reason she almost quit. The actress was turned away at the gate and forced to walk all the way around for security. One guard told her she had been replaced with a white woman.
More From the Trek Budget
“Star Trek” was cash-strapped and expensive to make. The network demanded crew adventures on different planets, but those cost money. There was barely enough money to costume the crew. Costume designer William Theiss did his best. He would shop for used fabric, but it was still too much to have the Enterprise tunics tailored.
His solution was to go behind the union-only network policy to get them made. He set up a little (undocumented) workshop in a nearby apartment building. The nonunion seamstresses would work all night and furtively deliver the costumes through the back window of the studio.
Oops! A Misfire With Dr. Mccoy’s Wardrobe
In the episode “Mudd’s Women,” Harry Mudd, the intractable baddie takes center stage. He sends over a trio of sirens to seduce Enterprise crewmembers. McCoy (Jackson DeForest Kelley), Scotty (James Doohan), and Spock are faced with the entrancing women. As a Vulcan, Spock is most curious about his crewmates’ reactions. However, in the shoot, the Starfleet’s chief medical officer’s demeanor did not elicit the effects showrunners desired.
So, they used found footage that portrays a more fitting expression. The only problem is that his wardrobe is different from the original when they cut to it. Another result of budget constraints.
John Barrymore Was Cast as Lazarus
John Barrymore was hired to play Lazarus in “The Alternative Factor,” an episode from the first season. On the day of the final costume fittings, the actor was given a revised script. He left for a lunch break and never came back. According to casting director Joe D’Agosta, Barrymore rejected the role after reading the revised script. He absolutely refused to come back to the set.
Production was irate. It was a crucial time to lose an actor. They petitioned the Screen Actors Guild and had Barrymore suspended for six months.
Shatner Did Not Watch a Single Episode
Nor has he watched any movie or TV show he’s done. The man, apparently, does not like to see himself on the screen. He calls it a “painful” experience. He did view one, the 1989 “Star Trek V” film, but only because he directed it. He divulged his little secret recently to “People” magazine when he turned 90.
He said he just does not like watching himself on television. Oddly, he also said that he has saved nothing from his time making the original sci-fi series, not one tunic nor one bit of memorabilia.
The Captain Died Three Times
But in “Star Trek Generations,” the 1994 film, it was for real. The first time, he was only believed to be dead. The second time, he was killed by radiation poisoning but revived with a special serum. In “Star Trek Generations,” Kirk was killed in a brutal battle with archenemy Dr. Tolian Soran (Malcolm McDowell), the villain set upon destroying an entire planetary system. Kirk fought valiantly.
Producers allowed Shatner to add one last line to Captain Kirk’s death scene. Gazing into the future, he utters, “Oh, my,” thereby dying with the trademark curiosity and optimism we’ve learned to love about Captain Kirk.
The Captain Must Die
William Shatner said that he was told in negotiations that Captain Kirk would die in the 1994 film whether or not he starred in the role. And if he chose not to do the movie, producers of “Star Trek Generations” informed him, they would simply kill the character off, offscreen.
One producer from Paramount told the Starfleet actor that the sequel movie, “The Next Generation,” would make more money at the box office if his character was axed. Jean-Luc Picard, played by Patrick Stewart, would be the captain now.
But Why Did the Captain Have to Eternally Depart?
“Star Trek Generations” producers and screenwriters at first conceived the film as a transition from “T.O.S.” to its first major motion picture reboot. They hoped to cast the original Enterprise crew and make it a sort of changing-of-the-guard type of narrative. One storyline option was to have the former Starfleet crew battling the incoming team, Captain Kirk versus Captain Picard.
That idea was rejected because they needed a hero, and no Trekkie would accept Captain Kirk die a villain. As it was, fans were devastated, but the change had to happen.
‘Deep Space Nine’ Bravely Tackles Social Issues
“Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” (DS9) television series is the prequel TV series to the original “Star Trek” series, running from 1993 to 1999. The episode “Rejoined” does its best to tackle same-sex relationships, and it was one of the first television shows ever to do so.
Originally aired in 1995, long before the gay rights movement, the kiss between two Trill species characters, Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) and Lenara Kahn (Susanna Thompson) generated a lot of fan activity. Some were shocked but most fans lauded the move, though, for others, it did not go far enough.
Why Terry Farrell Left
Terry Farrell’s contract was set to expire at the end of the sixth season. She was getting bored and burnt out, so she talked to executive producer Rick Berman about some options. She was also looking into other gigs, including something with Jerry Seinfeld. In discussing her future on the “DS9” series, she offered the idea of being a recurring character.
Berman shut her down. He said she could take what she has or leave. She left. Her character was killed off leaving Lieutenant Commander Jadzia Dax no way back.
What Would Gene Roddenberry Say?
Gene Roddenberry died in 1991 at the age of 70. He would have turned 100 on his birthday in 2021. When “DS9” hit the air in 1993, talk within Trekkie circles speculated about Roddenberry’s approval of the second “Star Trek” television series. People claimed he would have hated it.
Rick Berman admitted, unlike Roddenberry’s vision, it was darker with few “squeaky clean” characters. “Star Trek: The Next Generation” star Marina Sirtis came out and said “DS9” would never have been made if Roddenberry was alive. She claimed that he said “no” to it when the idea was presented to him.
Space-Time Continuum Alignment
The episode “Carbon Creek” from “Star Trek Enterprise” (2001) features a prequel story about Vulcans visiting Earth. In the episode from Season 2, a team of Volcans crashes into the United States during the 1950s. This is the first time in the timeline that Vulcans arrived on Earth. That’s all good and fine.
But one thing in the story doesn’t quite mesh. First officer T’Pol (Jolene Blalock) mysteriously feels sympathy toward humans. So, she gives one the patent for Velcro to help her financially. This takes place in 1957. Velcro, however, was already patented in 1952.
Ensign Harry Kim was Nearly Booted
Actor Garrett Wang played Harry in “Star Trek: Voyager,” which was the fourth “Star Trek” series of the franchise. With 25 titles out there, there are a lot of stories. It was the beginning of the fourth Season when execs were looking to fire Wang and send him on his way. It nearly happened.
The actor was dissatisfied with the number of lines he got, and he had turned to the bottle on set. But then, saved by the bell, “People” magazine named the actor “50 Most Beautiful People in the World.” Not wanting to go against that positive media image, production kept him.
The Voyages of the Starship Enterprise
Perhaps the most iconic contribution to the vernacular from TV derives from Captain Kirk’s opening monologue. William Shatner narrates those timeless lines that embrace 1960s ideals of faith and optimism in science to create a better future.
It’s no coincidence that the words, “to boldly go where no man has gone before,” nearly replicate a U.S. White House publication released in response to Russia’s 1957 Sputnik mission, hoping to inspire the space race. Other iconic lines are worth noting. “Live long and prosper,” derives from the Vulcan salute. “Resistance is futile,” comes from the terrifying and evil Borg.
Boldly Go Where Few Tourists Have Gone Before
For true Trekkies, this is a treat. In upstate New York, a set from the original “Star Trek” series is open for visits. Called the “Star Trek Original Series Set Tour” and warmly referred to as the Trekonderoga, earthlings can step onto a replication of the Starship Enterprise, located in Ticonderoga.
Created by James Cawley, a longtime Trekkie, this studio replica and museum room was constructed with authenticity. He was able to get a hold of the actual blueprints from the original Enterprise, as well as other sets, and has worked diligently to create this nostalgic destination.