Gene Roddenberry meet Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koening during his NBC short lived drama called "The Lieuenant". After the cancelation of his show he completed a 16 page outline for a sci-fi series, described as "a Wagon Train to the stars." D.C. Fontana (Gene Roddenberry's secretary) was one of the first people to read the Gene Roddenbery's outline, she later became a major Star Trek writer. The sketch placed the U.S.S. Yorktown somewhere in the future, propelled by an adventurous crew, Capt. Robert T. April, a Number One a role intended for Majel Barret (Gene Roddenberry's wife who later played Roxanna Troi) and a first lieutenant name Mr. Spock (who was described as a "half-Martian").
The First Pilot
NBC gave the go ahead for the first Star Trek pilot "The Cage" in September 1964 which would cost $630 000 (US). The cast was Jeffrey Hunter as Capt. Pike, Leonard Nimoy as Spock (DeForest Kelley was also considered for that role) and Majel Barret as Number One. In the "The Cage," Roddenberry renamed the ship U.S.S. Enterprise, and gave Matt Jefferies the task of designing the first vessel. The original design had, duel engine nacelles, saucer and stardrive secton would remain the basic look of all the Enterprises.
The Second Pilot
In an uprecedented move, NBC opted for a second pilot. "Where No Man Has Gone Before" went into production July 15, 1965. The network had rejected the first pilot, "The Cage," finding it "too cerebral" and called for changes, including the elimination of Spock and of Barret as Number One. Roddenberry won his fight to keep Spock, maintaining the Vulcan role was too important, but the network couldn't accept a female as the second officer on the bridge (Major Kira became the first women second office in Star Trek when she stepped on to the deck in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). Jeffrey Hunter left, paving the way for Montreal born William Shatner, who signs on with Vancouverite James Doohan as Scotty, while George Takei takes the role of the ship's physicist, Sulu. Among the post production casting changes, DeForest Kelley is signed aboard as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy, Sulu is made a helmsman, and Nichelle Nichols takes the bridge as Lieut. Uhura a role that would inspire many fans (including Dr. Mae Jemison, who would travel through space as an astronaut on the shuttle Endeavour in September 1992 and guest star in Star Trek: Next Generation's "Second Chances").
Disappointment Just Before Take-Off
Star Trek made its debut on Sept.8 1966. Disappointment hits at the beginning. NBC airs "The Man Trap" episode at 8:30 p.m. pitting it against such popular shows as Bewitched and My Three Sons. The debut time slot translated into poor ratings for Star Trek.
First Near-Death Experience
NBC almost cancelled the series in December 1966 because of disappointing ratings. The network considered turning Star Trek into a kiddie show to cut their losses, but a letter writing campaign (initiated by Harlan Ellison, Frank Herbert and other sci-fi authors) convinced NBC to keep the series on the air. Problems, unfortunately continued into late season. In March 1967 despite five Emmy nominations the network bumps Star Trek to a poor Friday night time slot. Rival series such as The Any Griffith Show and The Dean Martin Show continue to rate higher than Star Trek.
Another Threat of Extermination
Once again NBC considers cancelling Star Trek after the start of its second season on Sept. 15, 1967 which was Walter Koening's first appearance as Ensign Chekow (it was thought that a young, handsome male with a Monkees hair cut would attract more viewers). Fans Bjo and John Trimble faught off cancellation in December by organizing a massive letter writing campaign that flooded NBC offices with hundreds of thousands of letters. The rescue mission worked. NBC decided to produce Star Trek for another year (which gives the show enough epsiodes to survive in syndication.)
While struggling to keep Star Trek on the air, Roddenberry co-writes a pilot script for a new TV series called Assignment: Earth in 1967, about space traveller who is determined to save Earth from destruction. He's accompanied by his shape-shifting cat, Isis, and is assisted by a ditzy assistant (Teri Garr). NBC rejected the series option and the pilot aired as a Star Trek episode in March 1968.
The season premiere, "Spocks Brain," aired at 10 p.m. on Sept 20, 1968 it had originally been slated for the more attractive 7:30 p.m. time slot. Depite an outpouring of support, NBC cancelled Star Trek. The final episode, "Turnabout Intruder," aired on June 3, 1969. The final U.S.S. Enterprise's mission was cut short.
Star Trek Breathes Again Paramount syndicated the classic series in the summer of 1969 on the heels of Neil Armstrong's lunar walk, which reignited public interest in space exploration. The show was taken into sydication to improve standards and commit themselves to produce the best TV possible. There was a surge in fans demandding for Star Trek memorabilia, including fan-produced magazines called "fanzines." In June 1971, sci-fi fans Elyse Pines and Devra Langsam convene a gathering of fans in a New Jersey library. Named "The Committee," the group organizes a meeting several months later in Brooklyn Collage's Gershwin Auditorium, which could barely house the turnout. New York City hosted the large Star Trek convention in January 1972. Promoters excepted 1,800 people; more than 3,000 showed up.
A Different Life Form
The little known animated version of Star Trek began its two season NBC run on Sept. 8, 1973, exactly seven years after Star Trek's first show. The animated version won an Emmy as the Best Children's Entertainment Series for the 1974-75 season, the show featured the voices off all but one of the original cast (Walter Koenig wasn't part of the voice team, but he did write an episodce.)
The Series That Almost Made It
With Star Trek popularity growing, Paramount layed the groundwork in 1977 for a Star Trek II TV series based on the adventure of Capt. Kirk. They signed every original series cast member except Leonard Nimoy. Paramount had earlier considered either a feature film or made for TV movie, but decided agianst the diea in 1977 when George Lucas stormed the box office with his special effects show stopper "Star Wars." Twelve episodes of Star Trek II were written, but none were filmed. There was fierce competition from rival networks, for limited advertising dollars. Also in this period, Trekkers Bjo and John Trimble the couple who staved off Star Trek's cancellation in 1968 initiate another letterwritting capaign, and convince NASA to name the first space shuttle after the U.S.S. Enterprise.
Star Trek Hits the Big Screen
The entire original series cast was beamed to the big screen with "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" during the week of Dec. 7, 1979. Paramount adapted the Star Trek II script "In Thy Images," wanting to capitalize on the movie success enjoyed by Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kin." By the end of 1996, seven more Star Trek movies had been made.
Life After Death
The financial success of the movies over $800 million gross (US) in box office sales and video rentals by 1995 convinced Paramount to return Star Trek to the small screen. In 1986 the company announced a new series, Star Trek: The Next Generation. Leonard Nimoy declined a producer's position, so Roddenberry took the executive producer's chair. Ratings climbed steadily after the two-hour premiere of "Encounter at Farpoint" during the week of Sept. 28, 1987. ST:TNG quickly attracted a loyal following over the seven-season run. During the week of Oct. 29, 1990, ST:TNG surpassed the original series' total 79 episodes with premiere of the 80th episode, "Legacy."
25th Anninversary Coupled With Tragic Loss
The Star Trek creator passed away on Oct. 24, 1991 the same year Star Trek celebrated its 25th anniversary. Gene Roddenberry's death was mourned all over world. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy appeared together at Southern California's Anaheim Convention Center and commemorate The Great Bird of the Galaxy (Gene Roddenberry). Also in 1992, the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museun hosted Star Trek: The Exhibition, a display of props, costumes and other treasures.
A New Life
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine first ran during the week of Jan. 2, 1993, with the two-hour "Emissary." Created by executive producers Rick Berman and Michael Piller, the show got mixed reviews at first. Fans who were fiercely loyal to ST:TNG, gradually embraced the DS9 universe and the Cardassian-built space station. Intended to be gritter than ST:TNG, DS9 offered a curious mix of characters and transformed the Ferengi race from hostile, militaristic traders to charming schemers.
A New Flagship
Paramount launched the United Paramount Network in January 1995 with the Star Trek: Voyager series as the flagship. Montreal born Genevieve Bujold, was casted as Star Trek's first female captain of a series, walked off the set after two days. In the mad scramble, Kate Mulgrew stepped in as Capt. Janeway. The two-hour opener, "Caretaker," featured a gutsy crew tossed into the Delta Quadrant, some 75 years from home. Like ST:TNG and DS9, Voyager initially got a mixed welcome but soon took off, partially due to Ethan Phillips as the lovalbe Talaxian Neelix, and Robert Picardo as the holographic Doctor.
One More Crowning Achievement
On Feb. 24, 1996, the casts of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager assembled on stage during a live broadcast of the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Rick Berman accepted, on behalf of the Star Trek team, the Guild's Outstanding Portrayal of the Americal Scene Award for 30 years of diversity in casting, including a balanced representation of seniors, performers of colour, women and people with disabilities. Gene Roddenberry's vision lives on.
Information from "TV Guides Official Collector's Editon Star Trek 30 Years" article In he beginning by Christopher Bland.
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