Lucille Ball was the unlikely influence and support behind the ever-lasting Star Trek franchise.
As Far Out Magazine reports, Ball got involved in the project back in 1966 when Star Trek writer Gene Roddenberry asked Ball’s Desilu Productions to help bring a show called Wagon Train to the Stars to the screen. The company had just had major successes with I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and more, so it took a chance on Roddenberry’s vision.
At that time, Lucille Ball was the head of Desilu, and she took it upon herself to help Roddenberry write a script for the pilot, which changed names to Star Trek. The board of directors voted against the project once it came to fruition, but Ball overruled the decision before pitching the show to NBC.
NBC accepted the series and aired the pilot titled The Cage in 1966. Sadly, the episode was a disappointment to both the critics and viewers. Ball was still convinced that the series would be a hit, however. So she financed a second pilot—appropriately titled Where No Man Has Gone Before—and NBC agreed to give it another chance.
As history proved, Lucille Ball’s instincts about Star Trek were right. The series has lasted several generations, bred spinoffs and movies, and tuned into one of the most beloved franchises of all time.
‘Star Trek’ Creator’s Son Gives Lucille Ball ‘Tremendous Credit’
Gene Roddenberry helmed the series until his passing in 1991. His son, Rod Roddenberry has since taken over to keep Star Trek alive. He is the executive producer of several Star Trek series including Picard, Strange New Worlds, and Lower Decks.
While talking to UInterview in 2021, Rod admitted that he never read any formal stories on Lucille Ball’s influence on Star Trek. But he learned the story during his childhood. And he expressed how much he appreciated her dedication to his father.
“My understanding is that she didn’t play by rules,” he said during a YouTube interview, “I think she took a chance on this guy and on this show because no one else was doing it and it was different. So whether you call that ingenious foresight on her part or insanity on her part she deserves tremendous credit for being the one who gave my father the chance”.
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