Updated: August 31, 2023
STAR TREK ART GALLERY #20
Star Trek was created by Gene Roddenberry, whose interest in science fiction dated back to the 1940s when he came into contact with Astounding Stories. Roddenberry's first produced science fiction story was The Secret Weapon of 117, which aired in 1956 on the Chevron Theatre anthology show. By 1963 Roddenberry was producing his first television series, The Lieutenant, at MGM.
In 1963, MGM was of the opinion that "true-to-life" television dramas were becoming less popular and an action-adventure show would be more profitable ( this prediction turned out to be right, and led to series such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E ). Roddenberry had already been working on a science fiction concept called Star Trek since 1960, and when he told MGM about his ideas, they were willing to take a look at them. As the production of The Lieutenant came to an end, Roddenberry delivered his first Star Trek draft to MGM. The studio was, however, not enthusiastic about the concept, and a series was never produced.
Roddenberry tried to sell his "wagon train to the stars" format to several production studios afterward, but to no avail. In 1964,
it was rumored that Desilu was interested in buying a new television series. Desilu was a much smaller company than MGM, but Roddenberry took his chances, greatly aided with the help of Desilu Executive Herb Solow. This led to a three-year deal with Desilu in April 1964.
The first attempt to sell the Star Trek format to broadcasting network CBS ( Desilu had a first proposal deal with the network ) failed. CBS chose another science fiction project, Irwin Allen's more family-oriented Lost in Space instead of Roddenberry's more cerebral approach. But in May 1964, NBC's Vice-President of Programming Mort Werner agreed to give Roddenberry the chance to write three story outlines, one of which NBC would select to turn into a pilot.
One of the submitted story lines, dated 29 June 1964, was an outline for "The Cage", and this was the story picked up by NBC. Now, the daunting task that Roddenberry and his crew faced was to develop the Star Trek universe from scratch. Roddenberry recruited many people around him to help think up his version of the future. The RAND Corporation's Harvey P. Lynn acted as a scientific consultant, Pato Guzman was hired as art director, with Matt Jefferies as an assisting production designer. This phase of creativity and brainstorming lasted throughout the summer, until in the last week of September 1964 the final draft of the "The Cage" script was delivered to NBC, after which shooting of the pilot was approved.
The first pilot:
In early October, preparations for shooting "The Cage" began. A few changes in the production crew were made: Roddenberry hired Morris Chapnick, who had worked with him on The Lieutenant, as his assistant. Pato Guzman left to return to Chile and was replaced
by Franz Bachelin. Matt Jefferies finalized the design for the Enterprise and various props and interiors. By November 1964, the
sets were ready to be constructed on stages Culver Studios Stage 14, 15, and 16. Roddenberry was not happy with the stages, since they had uneven floors and were not soundproof, as Culver Studios had been established in the silent movie era when soundproofing
had not been an issue to consider. Eventually, in 1966, the rest of the series was shot on Paramount stages 9 and 10, which were in better shape.
Casting of the characters was not a problem, apart from the lead role of Captain Pike ( still known as "Captain April" at this
point, later renamed "Captain Winter" before finally choosing "Pike" ) who Roddenberry convinced Jeffrey Hunter to play. Leonard Nimoy (Spock) had worked with Roddenberry on The Lieutenant. Majel Barrett, also a familiar face from The Lieutenant, got the part
of the ship's female first officer, Number One. Veteran character actor John Hoyt, who had worked on many science fiction and
fantasy projects before, was chosen to play the role of Doctor Phil Boyce. Young Peter Duryea and Laurel Goodwin were hired as
Jose Tyler and Yeoman J.M. Colt, respectively. The extras were cast from a diversity of ethnic groups, which was significant
because integration was not a usual occurrence in 1960s television, and segregation was still a reality in the United States.
To produce the pilot episode, Robert Justman was hired as assistant director; he had worked on The Outer Limits shortly before. Makeup artist Fred Phillips was brought in as well, whose first job it was to create Spock's ears. Another veteran from The Outer Limits was producer-director Byron Haskin, who joined as associate producer. On 27 November 1964, the first scenes of "The Cage"
( or "The Menagerie," as it was briefly known ), were shot. Filming was scheduled to be eleven days, however the production went highly over budget and over schedule, resulting in sixteen shooting days and US$164,248 plus expenses.
But there were still a lot of visual effects to be made. An eleven-foot filming model of the USS Enterprise, designed by Matt Jefferies, was built by Richard Datin, Mel Keys, and Vern Sion in Volmer Jensen's model shop, and was delivered to the Howard Anderson Company on 29 December 1964.
In February 1965, the final version of "The Cage" was delivered at NBC and screened in New York City. NBC officials liked the
first pilot. Desilu's Herb Solow says that NBC was surprised by how realistic it looked, and that it was "the most fantastic thing we've ever seen." The reason the pilot was rejected was because it was believed that it would attract only a small audience, and
they wanted more action and adventure. They also had problems with the "satanic" Spock and the female first officer ( Number One ). However, NBC was convinced that Star Trek could be made into a television series, and that NBC itself had been at fault for
choosing the "The Cage" script from the original three stories pitched. Also, after spending US$630,000 on "The Cage" ( the most expensive TV pilot at the time ), they didn't want to have their money wasted. NBC then made the unprecedented move to order a