Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast episode of Star Trek. I would have posted about it last night, but my evening was otherwise occupied – I had two hours of dance classes, and when I came out, I discovered that my car had a flat tire. I pulled out the spare, removed the lug nuts and jacked up the car, then found out that the tire wouldn’t come off.
I ended up getting home late after having to wait for an AAA service truck. According to the driver, who used a rubber mallet to break the wheel loose, it’s a design flaw of my vehicle that the wheels “rust into place” if they’re undisturbed long enough. I’d plan on keeping a rubber mallet in the car for the remaining wheels, but my mechanic told me this morning that I need new tires before the winter snows, so those wheels will come off next week, anyway.
I guess I should have done this post during lunch yesterday in order to have it posted on time. Ah, well.
So, as I mentioned, yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the first time Star Trek was broadcast. Many people don’t remember how much trouble there was getting the episodes produced and keeping it on the air. NBC didn’t really know what to do with it, and nobody was confident that the show would be a success. Gene Roddenberry even wrote lyrics (that were never used) to the Star Trek theme music, just so that he’d get half of any royalties. When Alexander Courage, the composer, confronted him about this, which reduced his royalty payments by half, Roddenberry told him, “I have to get money somewhere. I’m sure not going to make it on the profits from Star Trek.” So much for foresight.
As for NBC’s support of the series, I remember an anecdote from one of the books about the early days of the series that highlighted the troubles they had with the props department – for one scene on an alien planet, Roddenberry asked the props department for an alien plant. Props sent up a potted plant of the sort you would find in an office. Roddenberry sent it back, and told them he wanted an alien plant. They sent up another normal potted plant. The cycle repeated another time or two, at which point Roddenberry uprooted the plant, turned it upside down, shoved it back into the pot, and told them, “That’s an alien plant!”
The show also had trouble finding an audience – NBC cancelled it after the second season, and it was saved through a massive letter-writing campaign instigated by the Star Trek fan clubs. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to save it that way the second time NBC cancelled the series, so the “five year mission” only made it for three seasons.
I never got to see all of the original series until it was in syndication, which is when it actually became really popular. CBS had the series, The Wild, Wild West, on opposite Star Trek, and it was the viewing choice of one of my brothers. As we only had one television for the entire family (things were different back then), we’d alternate which show we watched based on who wanted to watch which show. He was better than I was at persuading our sisters to support his choice.
There may still be an episode or two from the original series that I’ve not seen – I think The Tholian Web is probably one of them.