Star Trek Celebrates 50th Anniversary! Did You Know Lucille Ball Saved The Series?

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(PCM) The iconic and cult-favorite series Star Trek is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary, but did you know that the series almost didn’t make it on the air? It was actually saved by actress and producer Lucille Ball!

Lucy was the head of Desilu Productions and when it was revealed how much the pilot episode of the Star Trek series was going to be to complete it was initially rejected by the production company. Lucy overruled her entire board of directors and made sure that the pilot was produced.  It was later rejected by NBC back in 1964, however the network did ask for another pilot to be filmed with actor William Shatner taking on the role of Captain Kirk.

Lucy financed the project once again going against the judgement of her board of directors. Just another reason why we certainly love Lucy even more!

Actor William Shatner spoke with AARP magazine last month in regards to looking back on 50th anniversary celebration. On the subject of Star Trek being a hit show he said “I mean, Star Trek teetered on the brink for three years. Even while we were on the air, I was probably keeping my eyes open for other jobs.”

When speaking about the power of “Enterprise” Shatner commented “I was making a documentary, and I needed an airplane. So I cold-called an executive at the Canadian airplane manufacturer Bombardier and asked to borrow one. He said, ‘Sure! I became an aeronautical engineer because of you. This is my payback.’”

He went on to jokingly speak out his Starfleet rivals saying “I’m jealous of all the captains who followed me. Some are even young and good looking. I was young and good looking; the important word is ‘was.’”

When asked about being at peace with Captain Kirk, Shatner reveals “Whatever success I’ve had is because of him. I was a leading man, kissing the girls and fighting the villains. That’s not a bad bag to be in.”

A little more Star Trek history: 

Star Trek: The Original Series made its broadcast debut 50 years ago on September 8, 1966, premiering with “The Man Trap.” With this premiere, Star Trek promised to take viewers on a five-year mission where no one had gone before. However, that mission almost ended before it began, as the network rejected the original pilot episode, believing it was “too slow” with “not enough action.” Titled “The Cage,” that first pilot episode would be locked away and not broadcast in its completed form until 22 years later.

The early story of the Star Trek debut is fascinating to fans of classic television and Sci Fi. Beginning in 1966, the Trek journey began with a pilot episode titled “The Cage.” While this episode featured familiar elements, it was otherwise quite different from the Star Trek series audiences would soon discover. This first pilot-to-series version takes place 13 years prior to James T. Kirk taking command of the U.S.S. Enterprise. It had a different Captain, Christopher Pike (Jeffrey Hunter), and with the exception of R. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) it had an entirely different crew and a very different feel. The network rejected this original version, and the episode did not air on television in its completed form until 1988. But the Star Trek concept and universe lived on. A second pilot was ordered and from there the studio went on to produce new episodes, including what would be the premiere episode “The Man Trap” (1966), starring the beloved Star Trek crew led by Capt. James T. Kirk (William Shatner).

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