By James H. Burns: Marc Scott Zicree perpetuates a myth when he states that Gene Roddeberry didn’t create Star Trek as a money machine…
A pleasant fable, but a non-truth, nonetheless.
The only reason Roddenberry created Star Trek, at least initially, was to sell another series to a network. He was, if not desperate, anxious…
He had just failed with The Lieutenant, for Norman Felton’s Arena Productions, and more importantly, had incidents where he failed as a producer, letting shows go over budget, and other elements get out of hand.
No one was clamoring for another series from Roddenberry, or even his scripts.
His agent suggested he come up with a space series…
(This may have led to what The Outer Limits historians insist are the accurate — if generally unknown — accounts of Roddenberry hanging out at times on the set of The Outer Limits. When I learned this, it wasn’t hard to imagine that series creator, and executive producer, Leslie Stevens — an elegant and urbane gentleman, a former Broadway playwright — was someone that Roddenberry may have sought to emulate.)
It’s important, if unpleasant to note, that the first Star Trek pilot does not feature an integrated cast. (Even the character described in the series bible as being Hispanic, is mysteriously blonde…)
Herb Solow, the Desilu executive overseeing StarTrek, maintained that Trek‘s multi-ethnic cast came as a suggestion from NBC’s execs… (And intriguing to remember that for all the accolades Star Trek gets for its multi-cultural aspect, Ben Casey, ABC’s medical series, was there first.)
Roddenberry’s rap about using Star Trek in the way that Jonathan Swift used fantasy in Gulliver’s Travels to comment on modern society came far later, and was something he kind of cribbed from Rod Serling’s television and other interviews.
Gene — who on a personal basis I always found terrific, and charming — deserves vast credit for all the many great things he accomplished with the original teleseries.
And elsewise, I agree with much of what Marc’s written! (And have very much enjoyed much of his work, for years now!)
But had Star Trek sold immediately, without the eventual contribution of so many other talented individuals, there’s a decent chance the show we loved would have been very different.
And more important to this particular point, Roddenberry, when first noodling his presentation, was simply concerned about making a sale, making good on his development deal at Desilu —
And maintaining his new standard of living.