The First Star Trek: Where No Myth Has Gone Before!

Star Trek was the series that almost never was: fights with the network, stars and costs almost cancelled it long before its five year mission ended after only three years. The Star Trek original TV series many not have been a huge success at first, but it grew into a world-wide franchise, and it spawned a few myths in the process! Here are some of the myths (and facts) to ponder on your next fiver-year mission:

8 Active Myths | Suggest a Myth
MYTH: The Star Trek cast got along well!

No, unfortunately, they didn’t. The show was sold with William Shatner as the star, and Leonard Nimoy as a supporting character. Audience reaction soon elevated the supporting character ‘Spock’ as played by Nimoy into a co-starring status. This did not go over all that well. Stories of on set tension are rife, as are tales of counting lines to make sure one actor doesn’t have more to do than another. Supporting characters losing lines to the stars also didn’t help the situation.

FACT: The original series was almost not made!

This one is true! Sneaky, leading off with a fact, eh? The first pilot (The Cage) was turned down by NBC who was developing it. In an unusual move (and one probably prompted by Lucille Ball, head of DesiLu who was producing the pilot) a new pilot was ordered, the series was recast (William Shatner coming on board), and this time it was picked up.

MYTH: Star Trek suffered from low ratings!

Yep, myth. As recent research shows (we recommend the ‘These Are the Journeys’ series of books) Star Trek often was one of the higher rated shows on NBC, and did well against one of the most popular shows on the same night ‘Gomer Pyle USMC’. Other factors, such as cost and the networks poor relationship with creator Gene Roddenberry, where bigger factors. 

FACT: A letter writing campaign helped save the series from cancelation!

Mostly true! At the end of the second season, Star Trek was hovering on the brink of cancellation. A letter writing campaign generating sacks of mail (and publicity) helped tip the scales in favor of renewal. But the executives at NBC didn’t forget it, and actually held it against the series and Roddenberry.

MYTH: Star Trek was a very low budget series!

Yep, it's a myth. For the day, Star Trek was expensive. While the tech of today may make it look cheap, in today’s money, the original series was nearly a million an episode. In comparison to other shows of the time it was cheaper than the Land of the Giants, which rang in at about $250,000 per episode, but Star Trek as a series ($185,000 per episode) was more expensive than Mission: Impossible ($180,000) as well as Lost in Space ($140,000). Of course, it turns out money spent on the show has been returned many times over.

FACT: Star Trek was sold as ‘Wagon Train to the Stars’.

True! Star Trek was unusual, in that is was a science fiction series that was being aimed at adults, not kids (like Space Patrol, Tom Corbett, or Lost in Space) and Gene Roddenberry wanted something the networks would understand to compare it to. Thus, he chose one of the most popular (and long running) shows on network TV at the time: Wagon Train.

Like Wagon Train, Star Trek would follow a tight knit group of people on a journey. There would be a train leader (Captain), and hands (crew) to help along the way, and both had room for plenty of guest stars. It was simplifying the concept, a lot, but it got him a hearing at network, and a contract to produce the first pilot.

FACT: The original Enterprise model is in the Smithsonian!

True! After the series ended, the left over props, costumes and models were stored away (just in case, ya never know). The Smithsonian, recognizing the phenomenon that Star Trek had become, asked for the ship models in 1974, which Paramount donated. The 11-foot Enterprise model is currently undergoing a full restoration.

MYTH: Star Trek reused old footage to save money!

No, and yes. The shots of the Enterprise were reused all the time (special effects are expensive) but that’s acceptable practice and the norm industry wide. They never recycled whole scenes of the actors from show to show though. The biggest reuse of footage wasn’t quit a reuse, as it had never been broadcast. This was taking the original pilot ‘The Cage’ that NBC had rejected, and marrying it with new footage to make the 2-part episode, ‘The Menagerie’. Not only did it save the series a lot of money but the resulting episode has been named a favorite by many polls of Trek fans.