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Early Trek - How TOS Might Have Been Tags: Star Trek: TOS The Making of Star Trek Gene Roddenberry Stephen E. Whitfield

Originally posted on the "old" FanCentral by Phil Friel on February 18, 2010 at 8:26am

History is totally in the blood for me. I'm a hardcore history buff, and I'm fascinated by history of any kind, past or future (like many SF geeks, I've made up a few "future" and "alternate" histories of my own over the years). I majored in history at university, and I'm a history teacher by trade, although I packed it in very early on (thirty years ago) to become a DJ (more fun, and a lot more money).

So it's hardly surprising that I often mix my love of history with my obsession with SF/sci-fi. What could be more fun than researching the history of SF, Star TrekDoctor Who or some of my other favourite sci-fi shows? And when I'm talking about history here, I'm not referring to the above-mentioned made-up future/alternate histories (which I also love), but the real thing - the factual, background history and details of how SF literature or my favourite sci-fi series were conceived and brought into being.

As a huge fan of Star Trek, particularly TOS, it was a given that I'd be totally fascinated by the history of Trek, in particular the early history of TOS - how Gene Roddenberry came up with the idea, what all of his earliest concepts and ideas were, and how they evolved into the TOS that we all know and love. In my youth (25+ years ago), I used to dig up a lot of information from older TOS books (this was in the pre-internet era) with lots of behind-the-scenes info, and a particular favourite topic of mine was the initial (pre-James T. Kirk) creation and evolution of TOS history.

I recall one early book - I think it was "The Making of Star Trek", by Stephen E. Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry - that had a great influence on me. Up until that point I'd only ever read TOS fiction, and this was the first time I'd ever come across anything documenting early TOS history. This book gave an abundance of info on Roddenberry's earliest TOS concepts and scripts, and, if I recall correctly (I'm going on 25+ year-old memories here), an entire chapter dealt with Captain Robert April, the first Captain of the Enterprise, featured in the TAS episode "The Counter-Clock Incident" (I think that's what it was called - it's been years since I've seen it), complete with background info and script excerpts - this was amazing!

Some of the differences with later, televised TOS were startling. I remember being totally shocked that Spock was a half-Martian, not half-Vulcan, with crazy pointed eyebrows and red-tinged skin (instead of green), and he had lots of emotions. There were no transporters in these initial concepts, and ships had to routinely dock with the Enterprise, but this was deemed to be far too costly for the SFX budget, so the concept of the transporter was introduced (basically a beam of light and throw in some tinsel - can't get much cheaper than that). The transporter is such an integral part of the Trek universe now that it's incredible to think back and realize that it was only thought up to save money.

As revisions and changes were made to the early Trek concepts, Robert April evolved into Christopher Pike, so we also get a lot of great background info on this part of TOS conceptual history. And, since "The Cage" was already a particular favourite story of mine, I was hooked. One of my favourite "What-If?" scenarios has always been "What if the first pilot, "The Cage", had been accepted by the networks?" What if Jeff Hunter had stayed in the role of Captain Pike (assuming he didn't die in a car crash in 1969) and there never was a James T. Kirk (I can hear Kim and the other female Kirk fans wailing in anguish)? What if Majel Roddenberry had remained Number One, and Spock a less important character? And no McCoy, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu or Chekov? How different would the show have been, and how long would it have lasted?

This line of thinking opened up for me a whole new universe of a Totally Alternate TOS - it was enough to make the mind boggle and get tied up in knots! As I'm unaware of anything like this in Trek fiction, I've always thought that a TOS series and entire future TOS/TNG/DS9/VOY/ENT chronology built upon this alternate concept would be a great experiment for a series of Trek fan fiction, with maybe even a few stories in collections like The New Voyages and Strange New Worlds.

I'd certainly love to see something like this! What about the rest of you FanCentral Trekkies/Trekkers?

As a bonus, here are the complete Comments to the above post:

Comment by SPOCKBOY on February 18, 2010 at 4:24pm

Great article!
I too love history, and dream of going in back in time to Desilu to watch it all unfold.
Anyway, if you're a fan of Star Trek AND Doctor Who, a friend of mine made a trilogy of crossover videos.
I made the first installment (this video) and he made a whole 30 minute adventure out of it. (this link is now dead)

Comment by Phil Friel on February 18, 2010 at 5:23pm

Thanks! As a true-blood "historian", I've always thought in terms of "what-ifs" and alternate histories. And the alternate version of Trek that I mentioned, splitting off from those initial pre-TOS concepts and developments, has always been one of my favourite "what-ifs".

Love your video, by the way. I'm also a big fan of Doctor Who, so mixing Who and Trek is fun with a capital F-U-N. I'll make sure to have a look at your friend's full-length version when I get a bit more free time.

I've also been looking at the Trek photos you've been uploading. Very nice. Keep 'em coming!

Comment by SPOCKBOY on February 18, 2010 at 6:20pm
Yes, the "what if" thing.
I always shudder when I think how easily Star Trek could have been Lost in Space!
The idea of Trek is so outlandish when you think about it. A green blooded pointed eared alien on a faster than light space ship that runs on crystals with a machine that magically sends you anywhere you want to go in an instant with magical fairy sparkles to boot!
Dangerous ground to be treading!

Thank God Rodenberry and Justman and Jeffries kept it respectable. :)


Comment by Mike on February 18, 2010 at 9:51pm
Originally, Jack (Hawaii Five-O) Lord was the 1st choice for Kirk. They passed on him because he wanted partial ownership of the show, and actors did NOT make demands like that in the '60s--shrewed thinking on his part, though. But suppose he'd gotten the part, and Shat had wound up playing Steve McGarret. Trek might've lasted 12 years, and Five-O only 3! We'd be going to Five-O cons (actually, I think they have them), and watching Hawaii Five-O: The Next Generation. Imagine Patrick Stewart saying, "Book 'em, Danno."

Comment by Phil Friel on February 22, 2010 at 11:06pm
Up until TOS appeared, the vast bulk of US sci-fi was much more like Lost In Space - B-Grade kiddie's stuff (UK sci-fi was a lot more serious and adult, with the likes of Quatermass and Doctor Who). Roddenberry went out of his way to NOT create something like that. He wanted something with a lot more class, a lot more quality. And that's exactly what we got, thankfully.

As for Jack Lord being the first choice for Kirk - as much as I liked him in Hawaii Five-O, I simply can't picture him in the role of Kirk. And he certainly wasn't the glamour boy that Bill Shatner was, and wouldn't have been such a great hit with the ladies. Hey, Kim & co. - who would you girls have preferred? Shatner or Lord? I think we all know the answer to that one. :)



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