When we think of iconic television shows, few are as beloved and enduring as Star Trek. For more than five decades, the adventures of the USS Enterprise and its crew have captivated audiences around the world. But did you know that the show’s origins are shrouded in myth and misunderstanding?
One of the most persistent myths about Star Trek is that it owes its existence to Lucille Ball. The story goes that Ball, the beloved comedian and actress best known for her role in I Love Lucy, was instrumental in getting the show produced. But as is often the case with legends, the truth is a bit more complicated.
To understand the real story, we need to go back to the mid-1960s. Gene Roddenberry, a former pilot and police officer turned screenwriter, had been working on a science fiction series called Star Trek. Roddenberry was a visionary who believed that science fiction could be used to explore important social and political issues, and his vision was unlike anything else on television at the time.
Roddenberry pitched Star Trek to several studios, but most were skeptical of his concept. It was too expensive, too risky, and too unconventional. However, one studio was willing to take a chance: Desilu Productions, the company co-owned by Lucille Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz.
Desilu agreed to produce the pilot episode of Star Trek, which was titled “The Cage.” However, the studio was unhappy with the episode and decided not to pick up the series. It seemed as though Star Trek was doomed to be yet another failed pilot.
But then something unexpected happened. Fans of the show began writing letters to the studio, expressing their love for the pilot and their desire to see more. This outpouring of support caught the attention of Lucille Ball, who recognized the show’s potential and used her influence to persuade NBC to give it another chance.
Thanks to Ball’s intervention, Star Trek was given a second chance. Roddenberry was allowed to produce a second pilot, which was titled “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” This pilot was more successful than the first, and it led to the series being picked up by NBC.
While Lucille Ball certainly played a role in getting Star Trek on the air, it’s important to recognize that she was just one part of a larger story. The show’s success was the result of a collaborative effort involving many different people, from Gene Roddenberry to the dedicated fans who fought to keep it on the air.
Today, Star Trek is a beloved cultural institution that has spawned numerous spin-offs, movies, books, and merchandise. Its enduring popularity is a testament to the power of great storytelling and the importance of taking risks. And while the myth of Lucille Ball as the sole savior of Star Trek may be catchy, the real story is far more interesting and nuanced.