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Did You Know Lucille Ball Saved ‘Star Trek’?
BEAM ME UP, LUCY How Lucille Ball Saved ‘Star Trek’ in the 1960s
Did you know that Lucille Ball — the iconic comedian best known for her 1950s show “I Love Lucy” — is the reason “Star Trek” exists today? Ball was a Hollywood force in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and she produced hit after hit with her production company. In fact, Desilu, co-founded by Ball and her then-husband, Desi Arnaz, was responsible for hits like “The Andy Griffith Show” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” The two were partners in the company until their divorce in 1960, and in 1962, Ball took over Arnaz’s share. In that moment, Ball became one of the most powerful women in Hollywood, and Desilu, one of the biggest independent production companies at the time, had a lot of pull in the industry. In 1963, one of Desilu’s biggest hits was coming to an end. “The Untouchables” was a crime drama starring Robert Stack. Ball needed
a replacement, and two potential shows hit Ball’s desk: “Star Trek” and “Mission: Impossible.” In 1965, Ball took the pitches to her longtime network collaborator, CBS. They said no to “Star Trek” (but yes to “Mission: Impossible”), but Ball wasn’t about to give up on this new science fiction show, so she took it to NBC. The network was skeptical at first but ordered a pilot. The pilot starred Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Pike and Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock. There was no James T. Kirk to be found — not yet, anyway. The pilot, titled “The Cage,” was a disappointment. NBC executives weren’t about to put it on air, but they decided to order a second pilot after Ball agreed to help finance it.
Leonard Nimoy as Spock. NBC executives liked what they saw. The new pilot, titled “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” was put on NBC’s fall schedule, though it wasn’t the first episode aired on NBC. That honor went to the episode titled “The Man Trap,” which aired on Sept. 8, 1966. While Gene Roddenberry’s original “Star Trek” only lasted three seasons, it went on to become a major TV and film franchise. One of its recent iterations, “Star Trek: Discovery,” is about to enter its third season on the streaming service CBS All Access — all because Lucille Ball saw potential in a little show back in 1965.
The second pilot starred William Shatner as Captain Kirk, and he was joined again by
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