16 Surprising Behind-The-Scenes Facts About The Original Star Trek
Even fluent Klingon speakers don't know everything about Star Trek: The Original Series. You might know the title sequence narration by heart but did you know that the theme song has official lyrics? Or that the words “Beam me up, Scotty” are never actually said on the show?
These history of Star Trek: The Original Series is riddled with myths and misunderstandings. But the show has a rich history including a small, but significant role in the Civil Rights movement, and struggle to make it onto the air, and a defining role in building the foundation for modern fandom.
Even if The Original Series isn’t your favorite Star Trek, or even if sci-fi isn't your thing, there’s no denying that Star Trek was and remains one of the most important and groundbreaking shows in television history. Its cast, crew, and creator were committed to boldy going where no one had gone before. By doing so, they have left a lasting impact on the galaxy.
So grab some synthale or a cup of tea, Earl Grey, hot, and check out these Star Trek facts.
It Wasn’t The First Show To Feature An Interracial Kiss – But It Was Still ImportantPhoto: NBC
Although Star Trek is often erroneously credited as the first series to feature an interracial kiss on television, Captain Kirk was actually beat to the punch (kiss?) by British series Hot Summer Night. It should also be noted that the kiss between Kirk and Uhura was not exactly consenual; the crew members were telekinetically forced to kiss one another by an alien race called the Platonians.
That said, the moment is an important part of television history and one that almost didn’t happen. The network wanted the crew to film two versions of the scene – one with a kiss and one without. According to the cast, Nichelle Nichols and William Shatner deliberately flubbed the takes without the kiss so that the network would have to use the ones with the kiss. Very smooth, Captain.
As recounted in These are the Voyages: Season Three, producer Fred Freiberger recalled:
“The network at that time was very nervous; they thought we'd lose the whole Southern audience, and all of that stuff. They said, ‘Why can’t it be Nimoy who kisses her instead of Shatner?’ I said, ‘For the very reason you want it to be – because he’s a Vulcan and it’s going to be acceptable to everybody that the black girl is kissed by a Vulcan. I want it to be Shatner; it’s got to be him.’ ...It was really a very big thing, and I wanted Star Trek to do that.”
So now I'm pissed on a whole other level, and to a whole new degree…. Somehow, I guess, they found it more acceptable for a Vulcan to kiss me, for this alien to kiss this black woman, than for two humans with different coloring to do the same thing. It was ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous…
The Original "Number One" Was A WomanPhoto: NBC
In the original pilot, “The Cage,” the first officer was a woman – an unnamed Number One played by Majel Barrett, who later married Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. Apparently, test audiences did not like the character and viewers complained that the character was too “pushy” and “annoying.”
Although Barrett didn't stay on as the first officer, she did secure a role in the series as Nurse Chapel. She also supplied the voice for most of the onboard computers throughout the series.
Martin Luther King Jr. Convinced Uhura To Stay On The ShowPhoto: Dick DeMarsico / Wikimedia Commons
Although Nichols did not face discrimination on set, the actress did endure a great deal of it in other parts of the studio. Nichols wasn’t allowed to enter the studio through the same gate as the rest of the cast and crew. Not only that, but some of the studio guards would allegedly harass her, telling her that the show had replaced her with a “blue-eyed blonde.” After dealing with this treatment for a year, Nichols told Roddenberry that she wanted to leave the show.
Fortunately, shortly after talking to Roddenberry, Nichols ran into a man who would change her mind: Martin Luther King Jr. THe civil rights leader, a big Trekkie, approached Nichols at an NAACP fundraiser and gave the communications officer some words of encouragement. Nichols recounts the conversation: “He said I had the first non-stereotypical role, I had a role with honor, dignity and intelligence. He said, 'You simply cannot abdicate, this is an important role. This is why we are marching. We never thought we'd see this on TV.’”
Years later, Astronaut Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space, would cite Uhura as inspiring her to pursue a career at NASA – a clear and concrete example of why representation matters.
The Vulcan Salute Is Actually A Jewish BlessingPhoto: NBC
One of the many things Nimoy contributed to the show was the “live long and prosper” symbol. Although many people believe it to be a variation of the peace sign, it’s really a variation of a gesture made during a Jewish ritual.
Being Jewish himself, Nimoy witnessed the gesture when he was younger and chose to use it as a Vulcan greeting. He has said of the salute: "People don't realize they're blessing each other with this. It's great.” No, you're great, Mr. Nimoy.
The Theme Song Has LyricsPhoto: NBC
Every time a theme song is played on air or through a streaming service, the composer of the song is paid royalties. Roddenberry decided he wanted a 50% piece of that delicious royalties pie. He wrote lyrics to accompany Alexander Courage’s song, solely for the payout, saying “Hey, I have to get some money somewhere. I'm sure not going to get it out of the profits of Star Trek."
The lyrics were so ridiculously bad (intentionally so) that they never were used. Here’s a snippet to feed the poet within: “My love is wand'ring in star-flight / I know / He'll find in star-clustered reaches / Love, / Strange love a star woman teaches.” Hey, no one ever said he was a lyricist.
The Costumes Were Made In A SweatshopPhoto: NBC
Star Trek was filmed on an incredibly low budget – $193,000 per episode, or about $1.3 million in today’s currency. To put that into perspective, a modern one-hour drama can cost roughly $3 million per episode.
To make ends meet, the studio had a non-union sweatshop create all the costumes for the show and then had them secretly smuggled onto the set. Guess that replicator didn't work for real, huh?