At its best, Star Trek embraced the 60’s social revolution.
Fifty years ago “The Cage” was first screen to NBC executives, in the hopes that it would be picked up as the first episode for a new science-fiction show called “Star Trek.” The one-hour pilot—which was not seen by a wide audience until it was inserted as “historical footage” in The Original Series’ only two-part episode, The Menagerie—looks very different from the show that eventually made it to air from 1966-1969.
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Originally, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry wanted a cerebral show, that only accentuated the thinking with a few action scenes. NBC was unimpressed however, but not so much as to outright reject the whole premise. Instead they made the very rare decision to order a second pilot. Of all people, you can thank Lucille Ball for Star Trek getting a second chance; the most famous female actor in TV history was a fan of the concept, and personally like Gene Roddenberry. Her studio “Desilu” foot the bill to fund the second pilot, and the result was “Where No Man has Gone Before.”
Getting a second chance, being reborn, starting over, and other like-phrases have applied to Star Trek from the beginning. With its second pilot the show found the formula that won over the NBC executives. It had a new, younger Captain in command of the ship, it’s tone was more visceral—a reversal from The Cage—with the cerebral moments being used as the punctuation marks to the action scenes. Instead of a show that would have been contemplative and deliberate, Star Trek became a Western in space; even the famous opening monologue declares the galaxy as “the final frontier.”
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