Stage 7: The Secret Weapon Of 117

Gene RoddenberryThe TV anthology series Stage 7 presents the first produced science fiction television script written by future Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, The Secret Weapon Of 117. Ricardo Montalban stars as one of a pair of aliens trying to assess whether or not Earth has the technology to retaliate against infiltration and invasion by their species. Drawing from his past police work, Roddenberry has already sold scripts to Ziv Television Programs for Mr. District Attorney and Highway Patrol, and pitched an ultimately unsold script to Ziv’s Science Fiction Theatre series; this is his first genre work to make it to the screen. Sadly, no recordings still seem to exist of this self-contained story.

Star Trek

Star TrekTelevision writer Gene Roddenberry, who has already written scripts for shows such as Have Gun, Will Travel, writes his first-draft series proposal for a new hour-long science fiction drama, which he calls Star Trek. The series involves the starship S.S. Yorktown, commanded by Captain Robert April. Roddenberry will spend several months refining his concept before it is bought by Desilu Studios and shopped around to the American television networks. At the time he’s writing the pitch, Roddenberry is still overseeing his first TV creation, a military series called The Lieutenant, which has enjoyed decent ratings but is leaving its network, NBC, nervous with its tendency to deal directly with issues related to the widening conflict in Vietnam.

Star Trek pilot filming begins

Star TrekAt Hollywood’s Desilu Studios, filming begins on The Cage, the unaired first attempt at a pilot episode of Gene Roddenberry’s science fiction series Star Trek. Starring Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike and Leonard Nimoy as the exotic-looking alien science officer Spock, filming proceeds at a brisk pace, despite numerous delays due to the show’s then-novel special effects, set and costuming requirements. Though the result is viewed enthusiastically by all involved, the completed pilot stirs little enthusiasm at the television networks. NBC thinks the series premise has promise, but that as it stands, The Cage is “too cerebral” for prime time. Ironically, exactly two years later, most of the footage from The Cage is broadcast anyway, as part of The Menagerie – a fast favorite among the viewers for whom it was deemed to be too brainy.

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The Sound of Star Trek

Star Trek musicHalfway through filming on the Star Trek pilot episode, The Cage, the attention of the show’s producers turns to the music for the pilot, and possible composers. Among the composers approached but unable to commit to Star Trek are Jerry Goldsmith (later to score 1979‘s Star Trek: The Motion Picture), John Williams (later of Star Wars and Lost In Space fame), Lalo Schifrin (Mission: Impossible), Elmer Bernstein, and Dominic Frontiere (The Outer Limits); a young composer named Alexander Courage, whose schedule is open, is considered especially promising.

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Star Trek: the second pilot

Star TrekFilming begins on a nearly-unprecedented second pilot episode of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek at the request of NBC, which saw promise (but not enough action) in The Cage. When Jeffrey Hunter declines to return to the role of Captain Christopher Pike, the character is renamed (Captain James R. Kirk) and recast (in the person of well-regarded Canadian actor William Shatner). The first edit of the new episode, Where No Man Has Gone Before, features a completely different musical theme (again by Alexander Courage) and other oddities, such as Quinn-Martin-Productions-style “Act” and “Tonight’s Episode” banners at the top of each act of the show, as well as evidence that the names of the characters played by George Takei and James Doohan had yet to be decided.

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NBC picks up Star Trek

Star TrekNBC announces that it has added a new full-color hour-long science fiction series, Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, to its fall 1966 schedule. Unusually, the show has produced two wildly different pilot episodes, with NBC having asked for specific changes to the series format as early as 1965, when it passed on the original pilot, The Cage. One change specifically requested between pilots by NBC, the omission of a “Satanic” alien character named Mr. Spock, doesn’t prevent the network from ordering 16 episodes from Desilu Studios.

Star Trek: The Man Trap

Star TrekWith over two years of development behind it, Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek finally premieres on NBC with The Man Trap, the completed episode that the network feels most strongly represents the series concept and will connect with a 1960s audience accustomed to police shows and westerns. (It also helps NBC – and its corporate parent, General Electric, who has a stake in the television manufacturing industry – showcase its new season in color.)

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Star Trek: Where No Man Has Gone Before

Star TrekThe third episode of Gene Roddenberry’s science fiction series Star Trek airs on NBC. Sally Kellerman (M*A*S*H) and Gary Lockwood (2001) guest star. This is the second pilot, and shows numerous noticeable differences in casting and costumes, but NBC and Desilu Studios elect to air it anyway, giving the production team time to complete more new episodes.

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Star Trek: The Menagerie, Part 1

Star TrekThe 11th episode of Gene Roddenberry’s science fiction series Star Trek airs on NBC. In an effort to save costs, Gene Roddenberry devises a framing story – referred to behind the scenes as “the envelope” – allowing footage from the rejected 1964 pilot episode The Cage to be used within the context of Star Trek’s current cast as a flashback to a previous crew of the Enterprise. Malachi Throne guest stars in the new footage; Jeffrey Hunter and Susan Oliver are seen in the original footage from The Cage for the first time.

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Star Trek: The Menagerie, Part 2

Star TrekThe 12th episode of Gene Roddenberry’s science fiction series Star Trek airs on NBC. In an effort to save costs, Gene Roddenberry devises a framing story – referred to behind the scenes as “the envelope” – allowing footage from the rejected 1964 pilot episode The Cage to be used within the context of Star Trek’s current cast as a flashback to a previous crew of the Enterprise. Malachi Throne guest stars in the new footage; Jeffrey Hunter and Susan Oliver are seen in the original footage from The Cage.

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Star Trek renewed

NBCFor the first time in the history of American TV, an announcer is heard over the closing credits of a network TV program, reassuring viewers that the show (in this case, Star Trek) has been picked up for a second season – and making a direct request that the series’ ardent fans bring their concentrated letter-writing campaign to an end. That campaign has actually been secretly organized by Gene Roddenberry with the help of several prominent SF writers and Star Trek fan Bjo Trimble.

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Spock v2.0?

Lawrence Montaigne as StonnDuring otherwise typical contract negotiations in preparation for the second season of Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy’s agent demands a significant raise for his client – a raise that could well break the back of the series’ already-struggling budget. In response, Gene Roddenberry, Desilu Studios and the show’s producers play hardball, firmly suggesting that Nimoy be satisfied with a normal raise, and they prepare to recast Spock or create a new Vulcan character to replace him. The show’s casting director suggests numerous potential replacements, including Mark Lenard, Lawrence Montaigne, David Carradine (Kung Fu), and Henry Darrow, among several others – all actors who are felt to have a “Vulcan look.” Nimoy – only later learning what demands his agent has made – negotiates his return to the series, while Montaigne is interestingly cast as Spock’s rival in the second season premiere, Amok Time. Henry Darrow will also don Vulcan ears, but not until Star Trek: The Next Generation’s first season.

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Star Trek: City On The Edge Of Forever

Star TrekThe 28th episode of Gene Roddenberry’s science fiction series Star Trek airs on NBC. Joan Collins guest stars in an episode written by legendary science fiction writer Harlan Ellison; rewrites performed on the script prior to filming later become a major point of contention between Ellison and Roddenberry (and, by extension, between Ellison and Desilu Studios/Paramount).

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Star Trek: The Changeling

Star TrekThe 32nd episode of Gene Roddenberry’s science fiction series Star Trek premieres on NBC. Captain Kirk continues his winning streak of logically talking sentient computers into self-destructing, impressing Mr. Spock to no end. Scotty becomes the latest senior Enterprise officer to die in the line of duty, and by the end of the episode becomes the latest senior officer to miraculously come back to life.

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