But due to the network’s interpretation of the show’s unprofitability, NBC announced that they were canceling the TV program in early 1969. Ironically, the last episode was beamed to televisions just a month and a half before real space explorers set foot on the moon.
NBC ignored the fan protests at their own peril. Despite the per-minute price of advertising during the show falling during the third season, in reality, the show was just taking root in the minds and hearts of viewers.
Not long after its cancellation, Star Trek morphed into a cult classic, then into a huge hit in syndication… and ultimately spawned seven more TV series (Star Trek: The Animated Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Enterprise, Voyager, Discovery and Picard) and more than a dozen movies.
Billions of dollars earned over nearly a half-century reign? Not bad for what was just supposed to be a five-year mission. – NJP
Star Trek, a new space series, debuts (1966)
By Charles Whitbeck – The Shreveport Journal (Shreveport, Louisiana) September 2, 1966
A 400-man space ship, the U.S.S. Enterprise, cruises the TV universe on Thursday nights beginning next week in Star Trek, NBC’s expensive full-hour science fiction adventures series about puny man exploring the wild blue yonder.
Starring the talented Canadian actor William Shatner as space ship commander Kirk, assisted by brainy, elf-eared Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Star Trek goes back and forth in time, jousting with alien spirits, bewildering viruses and ordinary human conflicts on a never-ending trip to other worlds.
NBC HOPES the science-fiction plots won’t seem never-ending, and lays stress on the solid adventure approach.
“We’re not going to be like the children’s show, Lost in Space, where characters battle villains in eerie costumes,” said star Shatner, coming back to earth on a lunch break. “We deal with human conflicts against a science fiction background.”
Using a Jekyll and Hyde plot in one episode, Captain Kirk becomes two men as he battles against his vicious animal self which is about to take over and destroy the great ship.
ANOTHER show finds the space adventurers stricken by an insidious virus that eats away man’s will. Poor Mr. Spock, who is half Vulcanian [sic] (from the planet Vulcanis) and thus trained to control his feelings, becomes a victim and undergoes a raging battle with himself, fighting emotional displays, which include crying scenes.
Other stories focus on outer space inhabitants who are always called aliens in this strange science fiction TV world. There are alien ships that lock the Enterprise in space, forcing it to hang motionless, and all sorts of alien weapons designated to keep local boys on their toes.
THE EARTH men have a few dandy tools and gadgets on display, all calculated to catch the fancy of young viewers. Captain Kirk and crew make excellent use of laser beam guns, jolting enemies with the sizzle of cutting light. They listen and understand the various alien languages by way of walkie-talkie interpreters that translate foreign words in a split second.
“You know, a corporation is working on exactly the same gadget — a walkie-talkie interpreter,” Shatner said. “That’s the point of our show — science-fiction, projections into the future based on what is possible today.”
JUDGING FROM Shatner’s descriptions, Star Trek appears to be one step up from Lost in Space and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, in the way of adult entertainment. It’s Twilight Zone, decked out in the razzle-dazzle of space uniforms, brilliantly lighted control boards, handsome hued space food and special effects gadgets — visual gimmicks, proven winners borrowed from Irwin Allen’s adventure hits on modern man in the air and under water.
An expensive series to begin with, Star Trek must run two or more years in order to recoup the original investment for co-owners Desilu Studios and NBC.
CREATOR-PRODUCER Gene Roddenberry, formerly with Dragnet, Have Gun, Will Travel, The Dick Powell Show and The Lieutenant, spent a pile making a high-class pilot, only to have the network ask for another. NBC wanted more adventure in the show, and they worried about the continuance of the high production standard. Roddenberry then made a second pilot, this time with star Shatner, and it broke the Desilu jinx, being the first studio pilot to find acceptance.
After turning out comedy pilots by the dozen only to fail, Desilu president Lucille Ball has at last struck pay dirt with a big-budget adventure series. Competing against My Three Sons and Tammy Grimes on Thursday nights, Star Trek is expected to more than hold its own.
Star Trek in year 2 of its mission among the stars
By Mimi Mead – The Morning Call (Paterson, New Jersey) October 7, 1967
The USS Enterprise is in the second year of its interplanetary mission 300 years in the future. Launched on its stellar patrol last season by NBC, the giant starship and its gallant crew have faced and overcome many perils under the able leadership of Captain James Kirk, played by William Shatner.
“I’m looking forward to this year,” Shatner said comfortably over a drink at the 21 Club. An attractive, solid-looking man, he is considerably more voluble and quicker to smile than the dedicated Captain Kirk. “With a Broadway show, you rehearse for four weeks or so with the material the writer thought was interesting. You take it out on the road and that’s a honing period to find out what the audience thinks is interesting, so by the time you open you pretty well know.
“But in a series, you have already filmed a minimum of 13 episodes before you get on the air, and it is very difficult to forecast what is going to he good about the show. So if you can last a second year, as we did, you can polish up the elements that are working and emphasize them, and the actors can become more aware of their relationships.”
The relationships of the roles and the relationships of the actors are frequently two separate things in any production, and rumors have been rife that there has been a certain amount of friction between William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, who plays Mr. Spock, the pointy-eared science officer on the Enterprise.
Shatner’s acting experience is considerable and Nimoy was a comparative unknown when the series premiered last year as “Star Trek, starring William Shatner,” according to the NBC blurb. This year’s blurb reads, “Star Trek, starring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.”
Nimoy’s fan mail has been growing daily, partly because the role itself is a provocative one compared to the brave, clean, and reverent Captain Kirk. One of Shatner’s associates recalled cheerily that a small boy had arrived on the set and said, “Hello, Captain Jerk, how’s Mr. Spark?”
Shatner smiled concisely, looked into his drink, and remarked, “Spock is a fascinating character who is extremely well played by Leonard Nimoy.”
“Star Trek” is certainly a far cry from the rest of Shatner’s experience. Born in Montreal, he worked with the National Repertory Theater of Ottawa and then with the Stratford, Ontario, Shakespeare Festival with such outstanding actors as Alec Guinness, James Mason, and Anthony Quayle.
He debuted on Broadway in 1956 as the second lead in Christopher Marlowe’s “Tamburlaine”, an ill-fated production which nevertheless brought Shatner rave reviews — and a bride, Canadian actress Gloria Rand. He starred on live TV for several years, playing in all the best dramatic showcases from “Studio One” to “Omnibus”, and then debuted in movies in “The Brothers Karamazov.”
He subsequently starred for two years in “The World of Suzie Wong” on Broadway, followed by “A Shot in the Dark” with Julie Harris. He spent what spare time he had writing TV plays. He also received critical acclaim in the short-lived TV series, “For the People.”
“That was a nice show,” Shatner remarked, “but, unfortunately, we were opposite Bonanza.” One would think with such a background that Shatner might yearn for the theater.
“Well,” he replied with a smile, “I’m an actor, and my whole background is theatrical, so I hope before I die I’ll get back on the stage. But at the moment, even short roles are out of the question. This series is not only time-consuming, it’s life-consuming.
“But I have made some movies. I’ve got a film coming out sometime this fall called ‘White Comanche,’ which we made in Spain. And I made a horror film with Leslie Stephens called ‘Incubus’. It was in the San Francisco Film Festival and the Cork, Ireland, Festival. We made it in Esperanto, with English, Italian, and you-name-it subtitles.”
As far as Star Trek is concerned, Shatner seems quietly proud of it. “I was indeed a science-fiction buff before the show,” he remarked. “I had read it avidly as a boy, and names like Theodore Sturgeon, Isaac Asimov, and Ray Bradbury were legend to me. Through the series, I actually got to meet them. Not only that, Sturgeon and Bradbury are writing for the series.”
The success of the series is no surprise to Shatner. “Science fiction is coming into its own,” he said.
Star Trek continues at a new time on NBC
Johnson City Press (Johnson City, Tennessee) September 2, 1967
“Star Trek” blazed through its freshman season leaving in its wake five Emmy nominations and a very respectable rating which attests to the number of fans who will be tuning in at the new time, 8:30 p.m. Friday, beginning Sept. 15 on NBC-TV.
William Shatner continues to star as Capt. James Kirk, commander of the Starship Enterprise. Leonard Nimoy co-stars in his role of Mr. Spock. Other series regulars include DeForest Kelley, who portrays Dr McCoy; James Doohan, who plays Engineering Officer Scott; George Takei as Sulu and Nichelle Nichols as Uhura.
Gene Roddenberry, creator and executive producer of “Star Trek,” said he is tremendously pleased that the show has become an “in” show with college students, scientists and thinking people in addition to the mass audience it takes to build a high rating.
“I feel the general viewing public will be delighted to learn that a department head at Jet Propulsion Laboratory likes the same show they do. This just goes to prove a long-standing contention of mine,” Roddenberry added. “Audiences are a lot more intelligent than the television industry has given them credit for.” Roddenberry said there would be little different about the series this year.
“Last year, we did the most complex show that has ever been done for television, and we were constantly seeking new devices and new means by which to bring the cost down to keep the show within television schedules and budgets.
“We’ve done all of that, and this year it will still be the most difficult show because we are using all the time saved to go into even newer and more difficult things — we’re constantly adding to the production level of the show,” Roddenberry said with a pardonable touch of pride.
Roddenberry said that viewers “believe” the show, and continued by saying “This is most satisfying to us, but what most people don’t realize, or stop to think about, is the enormous creative time and attention which goes into every single detail.”
As an example, Roddenberry said, “At the beginning of the week, we say to our art director, ‘All right, we’re going to planet Polaris IX next week. The planet is hot and humid, etcetera,’ and we all sit down and have a full background dicussion on the history, geography, topography, gravitational variations and so on about this planet. All of this discussion is then reflected in the sets which we build, the color of the sky, the type of rock formation and so on.
“Having done this,” Roddenberry continued, “we proceed to costumes. Our designer can’t simply go to a costume house and say, ‘I’d like to see the rack of Polaris IX clothing please.”
Star Trek: Opening credits (first episode)
Space: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise.
Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.
The original cast of Star Trek
William Shatner (Kirk)
Leonard Nimoy (Spock)
DeForest Kelley (McCoy)
James Doohan (Scotty)
Walter Koenig (Chekov)
Nichelle Nichols (Uhuru)
George Takei (Sulu)