In today’s day and age, it’s easy to get bored of being normal. Yep, there’s nothing worse than living to survive and repeating the same dull day one after the other. You get up early each morning, you commute to a job you don’t enjoy, you struggle through each work day, you commute back home (which is even more of a slog), and then you pop your ready meal for one in the microwave. It sucks, right? To retreat away from the monotony of life on Earth, we love nothing more than taking ourselves away from this universe and becoming utterly obsessed with stories of space. However, we don’t want to teach ourselves about space, go to a planetarium or watch a Stephen Hawking documentary (although we do love ol’ Stevey H). Instead, we want to get our Trekkie fix. Yuh-huh, we’re Trekkies born and bred, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Star Trek world is a multi-billion franchise that has been impressing viewers since its debut in 1966. Created by the world-famous Gene Roddenberry (what an absolute legend), the franchise started as a three-season TV show that was a flop at the time. However, fast-forward a few years and Star Trek had become a cult classic with a huge fan following across the globe, the galaxy and the universe. After the initial television series, now known as Star Trek: The Original Series, the franchise has continued to grow and develop. In fact, it’s still going strong today! Yep, there have been sequels, prequels, movies, reboots and more, but that’s only the beginning. The world of Star Trek, the characters, and the language have since become engrained in 21st-Century life. There are people who religiously read Klingon dictionaries and are fluent in the extraterrestrial language (qaleghqa’mo’ jlQuch!), there are others who have read the spin-off comics from back to front, and there are others out there who have every single Star Trek figurine ever made. It’s a lifestyle, man.
However, no matter how many movies or TV sequels they release, nothing will ever come close to Star Trek: The Original Series. As the catalyst for our subsequent obsession, we can’t thank these guys enough for what they’ve given us Trekkies. Although the three-season series has since become insanely popular, it wasn’t all plain sailing (or flying) on the set. In fact, some of these behind the scenes secrets may shock you…
A Star Trek rejection
When Gene Roddenberry first developed the concept for Star Trek: The Original Series, he created a pilot episode to take to major broadcasting networks in the hope that they would fall just in love with it as we have. However, this pilot episode, which he entitled ‘The Cage’ was originally rejected by NBC. Yep, the big-shot television company didn’t like the fact that the show was intellectual (duh) or that it was blatantly risque (yah…so?) Roddenberry took all of their (extremely wrong) notes and re-produced another pilot episode, which was eventually approved.
Shatner was shady
It’s fair to say that we’re absolutely in love with William Shatner. We were in love with him during the ‘60s, and we’re still in love with him today – gray hair an’ all. Although his appearance as Captain Kirk was one of the major driving forces behind the show, it seems that his ego caused a few problems on set. In fact, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols, and George Takei have all stated that they hated working with him. It’s believed that Shatner was bossy and narcissistic, and even stole other characters’ lines. Yikes.
It’s no secret that Star Trek: The Original Series was produced on a budget. We’re not talking about the ‘tiny’ million-dollar budgets they have in Hollywood nowadays; we’re talking reaaaaaal tiny. To produce their three-season television series, the cast and crew had to make some major cuts. They used recycled materials to make the sets, and they even had to cut corners with the costumes. Because the production team had no money to buy or make real, high-class costumes, they were made illegally in a sweatshop and snuck onto the set in the dead of night.
Discrimination on set
One of the most iconic characters on the show is the Uhuru, the fourth in command on the prestigious USS Enterprise. This fleet commander was played by Nichelle Nichols, who had paved the way for black actresses in the world of entertainment. Despite this and her important and independent role in the show, Nichelle still experienced discrimination on the set of Star Trek: The Original Series. In fact, she was often turned away from the studio by racist security guards who forced her to walk through the back entrance of the building.
Never annoy a writer
Writers are pretty cool people *winks,* but it seemed that Gene Roddenberry knew just how to press their buttons. As the creator of the concept of Star Trek, Gene often wrote the scripts for the Star Trek episodes. However, he didn’t do this all by himself. He often reached out to prolific science fiction writers such as Harlan Ellison and Richard Matheson to help him out a little. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough for Roddenberry. As a perfectionist, he would often change various aspects of their scripts until they were virtually unrecognizable from the original. Ouch.
Many of the Star Trek episodes we know and love (and obsess over) were written by someone called D.C Fontana. This was the name of Dorothy Fontana – a writer who started off working as Gene’s secretary. Before too long, she had proven that she was a talented writer and Roddenberry decided to promote her. However, as the only woman on the writing team, Dorothy was treated differently – until Gene had his say and told the haters to back off. That’s cool, man.
Alongside his major ego and his feuds with his fellow cast mates (perhaps ‘mates’ is a bit strong? Cast acquaintances?), it’s been reported that William Shatner also had a few diva demands in regards to his contract. Although he was obviously the main character in the show, he wasn’t happy without his name in lights – or, a bigger font. Yep, Shatner refused to sign his contract unless his name was 25% larger than the other actors’ names in the credits, and he would only sign on the dotted line if he had the most lines in each episode.
Spock the difference
If you’re a fan of Star Trek (duh, of course, you are), it’s probably fair to say that Spock is one of your favorite characters. With his sallow skin, his pointed eyebrows, slick haircut and pointed ears, there’s no denying that Spock is an alien – but he almost looked pretty different. In the development stages, Gene Roddenberry was toying with the idea of a Martian named Spock who was entirely red in color. However, the red didn’t show up on black and white televisions, so he scrapped that idea.
It was risque for a reason
One of the reasons we love Star Trek: The Original Series is because it is quietly risque. However, it seems the show was made risque for a reason. Although Gene knew NBC did not like this saucy side of Star Trek, he used this to his advantage and used it to cover up various messages he was portraying. For example, in ‘A Private Little War,’ Gene included a full-on smooch-a-thon to distract the broadcasting company away from the various allegories that hinted towards the Vietnam War. Smart.
As well as being super awesome, Star Trek: The Original Series also made history through their storylines. In fact, their inclusion of an interracial kiss in ‘Plato’s Stepchildren’ marked the first ever interracial kiss in history ever to be aired on television. Those of you who remember will know that this kiss occurred between Captain Kirk and Uhura – but it wasn’t meant to be that way. Gene Roddenberry wrote the kiss to involve Uhura and Spock, but William Shatner wasn’t going to let his co-star steal the limelight, and demanded that it be rewritten. Me-ow.
Paramount wasn’t too keen
When Star Trek: The Original Series first found its feet, it was produced by Lucille Ball’s epic production company, DesiLu – until she sold her company to Gulf and Western in season two. Because of this trade, the production of Star Trek was left in the hands of Paramount, and they weren’t too keen. In their eyes, Star Trek was a flop and was costing them more money than they were making. After they attempted to sell it (numerous times), they eventually kept it to themselves and have now reaped the benefits.
Yeoman Rand wasn’t happy
If you cast your mind back to ‘The Enemy Within,’ you might remember a distressing scene between Captain Kirk (and his evil ‘imposter’ side to him) and Yeoman Rand. This brutal assault shocked viewers but was later dismissed by those involved. In fact, the assault was later laughed about and brushed off. However, Grace Lee Whitney wasn’t happy about this. In her eyes, the assault and the aftermath should have been discussed more, and given more screen time to show how victims deal with those situations.
Half the profits
Alongside the incredible storyline, the incredible characters and the incredible concept, one of the most impressive aspects of Star Trek is the iconic theme tune. Yep, you know the one (and you’re probably singing it right now). Although it’s just a bunch of notes strung together and composed by Alexander Courage, there is more to it than meets the eye. In fact, the original theme tune has lyrics to it! These lyrics were written by Gene Roddenberry but never used in the final cut. Nevertheless, he’s still claimed half of the royalties for it. Naughty.
Not a Star Trek fan
It’s fair to say that William Shatner is THE face of Star Trek: The Original Series. He appeared in every single episode, he had the most lines (because he wouldn’t have it any other way), and he was the main character and captain of the ship. So, you’d like to think that Shatner is a Star Trek fan. Well, we hate to break it to you…but he hasn’t watched it. Nope, not a single episode. Shatner hasn’t even kept any costumes or trinkets from his time on the show. In his words, ‘I should have known better.’
Life before Star Trek
Although we now know and thank him for bringing Star Trek into our lives, Gene Roddenberry hadn’t always been into his science fiction. Before he entered the universe of television, Gene was a police officer for the Los Angeles Police Department. After following in his cop father’s footsteps, Gene soon realized that life on the beat wasn’t for him, so he became a freelance writer on the side. After a while, he wrote political, philosophical and intellectual speeches for the police department. What a change, ey?
An upside-down Enterprise
Nowadays, we’re so used to seeing the USS Enterprise on our TV we wouldn’t be surprised if it randomly just flew into our skies. However, there was a time when the Enterprise looked pret-ty different. We know the starship with its narcelles and its saucer facing upwards, but Gene Roddenberry didn’t like it. He preferred the ship when it was upside down, and the nacelles were top-heavy. Eventually, production pressures forced him to turn it back up the right way.
We can’t imagine why the cast of Star Trek would have any problems with pigeons – because you don’t get any pigeons in space, right? Okay, we’d love to believe filming really took place in the abyss, but in reality, it took place in a smelly and stuffy studio. But that wasn’t all they had to deal with. While they were filming, a group of pigeons set up shop in the rafters and made filming pretty difficult. Apparently, the pigeons particularly disliked Jeffrey Hunter and would make a racket every time he spoke.
Stinging on set
However, cooing pigeons were the least of their worries. During the filming of ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’ the studio was plagued with wasps after a member of the film crew gave a wasps nest a good shake (we advise that you DON’T do that). These wasps seemed to be impressed with William Shatner’s incredible talent, as they wanted to get up close and personal with the actor. In fact, in many of the scenes in this episode, Shatner has a swollen eyelid thanks to his buzzing fans.
Keeping to the theme of hair, it’s no secret that the women in Star Trek: The Original Series had some epic hairstyles. But of course, there is one woman who trumps them all with her luscious locks. Yep, we’re talking about Yeoman Rand. We’re not too sure what you’d call this *unique* hairstyle because it’s a real mix of two different looks (and she’s totally rocking it). Grace Lee Whitney actually had to wear two different wigs during her time as Rand, but it wasn’t easy, as the two wigs kept falling off her head.
Spock’s nerve pinch
Let’s be honest, Spock is one of the coolest characters in Star Trek. Sure, he’s one of the baddest son of a guns on the show, but he’s also incredibly cute, and we kinda love him. We all know that his ‘Live long and prosper’ hand signal was completely made up in the moment, but did you know his nerve pinch was also improvised? Yuh-huh, Leonard Nimoy didn’t want to be a violent character on the show, so decided to go with something different – and Gene Roddenberry absolutely loved it.
The clinging Klingons
Nowadays, we associate Star Trek with Klingons. It’s like bread and butter, and peanut butter and jelly. They just go together so darn well. Although Gene Roddenberry knew he wanted to have a bunch of aliens with a cool name, Klingons were not his first choice. In fact, he and the rest of the writers absolutely hated the name, because they didn’t want to associate their aliens with ‘clinging.’ Nevertheless, it was a rushed decision, and Gene was ill during their discussions, so they kept it. Good thing, too!
Mr. Spock haircut
Throughout Star Trek: The Original Series, it’s fair to say that we were jealous of one guy in particular – purely for his haircut. Sure, it wasn’t the kind of thing you’d wear every day, but it was kinda cool. While Leonard Nimoy was on the show, his father worked in a barbershop and noted hundreds of people come in to ask for the ‘Mr. Spock’ haircut. Amazingly, they had no idea that Spock’s father was the one giving them the Mr. Spock haircut!
We all know that it’s all about quality rather than quantity, but it seems William Shatner didn’t agree with that sentiment. While working on the show, Shatner would insist on wearing heel lifts in his shoes to make sure that he was the tallest one on set (jeez, Louise). In reality, Leonard Nimoy was taller than Shatner – and he just couldn’t have that. However, these heel lifts made his stomach stick out, so the producers told him to remove them, and made Leonard appear shorter instead.
Pull on cue
Back in the ‘60s, there were no automatic doors or cool spacey technological gadgets, which means the turbolift doors on the USS Enterprise ran into a few problems. On set, there were numerous stagehands whose job it was to pull or push the sliding doors on cue – but they weren’t always on time. Many of the scenes involving these doors had to be re-shot because the doors had not been opened in time. In fact, there is a whole blooper reel of William Shatner running into these doors which we REALLY need to see.
If you’re a true fan of Star Trek (who isn’t?) and have watched the Original Series at least 1489865 times, you may have noticed a few pieces of alien art appear on the USS Enterprise. Although they look cool on the walls of the starship, the artwork was really just an added extra. In fact, these pieces of artwork were made from styrofoam shipping box liners that were used on the set of the popular Paramount TV show, Mission Impossible. They were crumpled up and painted for that ‘alien’ effect. Genius.
Combining the two
As he sat down and created the concept for Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry knew that he wanted to combine aspects of the sci-fi world to create one brand new show. This came about through his creation of the USS Enterprise. In previous sci-fi novels and movies, starships had been built as either flying saucers or oblong objects – so Gene decided to combine the two and create a brand new form of starship that has been revered for centuries. You go, Gene.
Sucking too hard on ya lollipop
Leonard Nimoy is one of the coolest guys on the planet. Scratch that, he’s one of the coolest guys in the galaxy! Nevertheless, he had a few problems on the set of Star Trek: The Original Series. One of these problems was that he would often get a dry mouth in between takes. To make sure his mouth was ready and raring to go in between scenes, he would suck on a lollipop and would stow it away inside his tricorder whenever the cameras were rolling. Could he get any cooler?!
A close encounter
It’s no secret that Gene Roddenberry was a hit with the ladies (oo-er), but it seems this lothario gave his ladies a little bit more than his presence. In the development stages of Star Trek: The Original Series, Gene was having an affair with both Majel Barrett and Nichelle Nichols, and created the characters of Nurse Chapel and Uhuru specifically for them! Gene and Nichelle eventually broke things off, but Gene and Majel ultimately got hitched. Awww.
A fitting tribute
Sadly, the world lost a legend on October 24, 1991. At just 70-years-old, Gene Roddenberry passed away. Although Star Trek fans were distraught by the news, they were comforted to know that the man who brought them the ultimate sci-fi fantasy was getting a fitting tribute. A year after his death, half of Gene’s ashes were taken into space by the Columbia Space Shuttle and returned to Earth. Seven years later, his ashes were once again taken into space, and this time they disintegrated into the atmosphere. He was reunited with the Enterprise once more.