Star Trek History

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Star Trek History

Post  BoG on Mon Jun 14, 2010 12:24 pm


There's a little-known story (which can be found in the foreword to the book SIX CULT FILMS FROM THE SIXTIES by Ib Melchior) about how writer-director Melchior (Angry Red Planet; The Time Travelers) and actor Vic Lundin (Robinson Crusoe on Mars) developed a potential TV series called Columbus to the Stars or Starship Explorers; this was in 1964.  This premise featured a stalwart captain, an alien 1st officer, a female chief officer and a cranky chief engineer who roamed deep space in huge space vehicles in search of new worlds. The story goes that Lundin, not having the right connections, submitted the material to Gene Roddenberry, who expressed interest in it  and kept it for many months. Then came 1966...

From the perspective of Leonard Nimoy (Spock):


Now, it's feasible that Roddenberry had developed his own ideas at about the same time; stranger things have happened in the land of dreams, involving.. parallel development. However, there are some existing documents and sketches which lend credence to the Melchior-Lundin story:


I wonder why there wasn't lawsuit, based on this (perhaps, again, not enough resources). The traditional story of Roddenberry's creation of Star Trek goes back to at least 1963, at which point Roddenberry, a former police officer, already had some TV writing credits, as well as heading the writing staff of the Have Gun, Will Travel show.  Roddenberry began writing his own original pilots, such as 333 Montgomery (starring DeForest Kelley), but none of these went to series. He produced his first series, The Lieutenant, which lasted 29 episodes in 1963-1964. It was during this period - the story goes - that Roddenberry developed his initial concepts for Star Trek. DC Fontana was his secretary at the time, with aspirations to be a writer. At Roddenberry's request, she read his first Star Trek proposal in 1964. At that time, the captain in the story was named Robert M. April and the ship was The Yorktown. Spock was already written in as is and the doctor was Boyce. This original presentation was dated 03/11/64. The premise was described as similar to Wagon Train but in a future, year undetermined.


Roddenberry also compared Capt. April to Horatio Hornblower, a man who at times chose action over administrative details. More details soon surfaced - the captain's executive officer was a female referred to only as "Number One." Roddenberry had several stories in mind and eventually settled on the one that would materialize as the pilot The Cage. Things didn't go as he planned - he thought that MGM, the studio which produced The Lieutenant, would take on this new show, but they declined. Roddenberry met with a rep of Desilu (the Lucille Ball/Desi Arnaz studio) and that led to a meeting with CBS execs, in which Roddenberry spent 2 hours detailing the proposed sf show. At the end, they dismissed him and it was later found out that they already had their own sci-fi show ready to go, Lost in Space. Eventually, NBC was convinced to take the risk on a pilot. The name of the ship was changed to The Enterprise after the USA launched its first nuclear powered aircraft carrier, The Enterprise. The captain's name changed to Christopher Pike. Lloyd Bridges was a front-runner for the role, but he at that time preferred to stay far away from sci-fi and didn't want it, so Jeffrey Hunter was cast as Pike. Majel Barrett was cast as Number One and John Hoyt as Dr. Boyce. After considering Martin Landau for the Spock role, Roddenberry picked Leonard Nimoy.
Robert Butler directed the pilot, The Cage, and suggested "Track" instead of "Trek" but Roddenberry was in no mood for such suggestions by that point. He was resolved to film it just as he envisioned, even though Butler thought the story ideas, solid and good science fiction disciplines, were also obscure. And, the presentation, he believed, was a bit stiff. His fears were realized - NBC rejected the pilot as too cerebral, not enough action. They also didn't like the high-ranked female crew member, Number One.  They also had problems with the Spock character, who looked silly to them with his pointed ears. But, Roddenberry retained Spock & Nimoy for the 2nd pilot, Where No Man Has Gone Before, which marked the arrival of William Shatner as Capt. Kirk. Shatner & Nimoy had worked together only a couple of years before in an episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Project Strigas Affair. But, that episode gave no indication of the chemistry these two would enjoy in their new Star Trek roles. Paul Fix was cast as the rather elderly Dr. Piper. Also here for the 1st time were James Doohan as Scotty and George Takei as Sulu, and, Gary Lockwood, star of The Lieutenant, guest-starred. This pilot scored with NBC, providing the required action. Star Trek was a go - the first episode filmed was The Corbomite Maneuver, in which Fix as Piper was replaced by De Kelley as McCoy.
More Trek Trivia: a ship called The USS Yorktown did turn up in the TOS episode Obsession; there was also one in Star Trek IV
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