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Gene Roddenberry’s 1968 Memo Addressing Problems With Star Trek

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Kirk_Spock_McCoyNearly 50 years after the show premiered, the original Star Trek is one of the most beloved and iconic TV series of all time. All the spinoffs and tie-ins that have come in the decades since wouldn’t have happened if Gene Roddenberry hadn’t created something special back in 1966. In spite of a great cast and plenty of behind-the-scenes talent, Star Trek’s original three-season run wasn’t without its problems. In fact, a 1968 memo from Gene Roddenberry shows the series’ creator addressing character development issues with Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and others.

Kirk, Spock, and McCoy were the core of the show, a triad that together represented the span of human character. McCoy was the heart, Spock the mind, and Kirk the will. But Roddenberry was concerned that his captain had begun to lose his way and become too “jolly.” Suggesting that Kirk’s leadership and the weight of command had been lost somewhat in building his camaraderie with the crew, Roddenberry reminded his writers:

Kirk must guard his tongue, guard even his affection for others … The trick is something akin to making Captain Kirk seem at times a bastard but keeping the audience in on the fact that he is a really good guy in a tough job which requires a certain amount of command “play acting.” He knows all eyes are on him constantly…

One of the most often heard complaints re: Kirk from fans is that he is too “jolly,” and that he seems to be actively seeking friendship and approval from his subordinates. Our audience likes Kirk best of all when he is at his toughest and then they like contrasting cabin scenes where we learn in privacy that he is not as tough as he pretends.

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NASA Launching World’s Largest Solar Sail In 2014

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It’s been many years since gas prices were at a level that was actually fitting for the product’s worth. But for all the griping I could do, I can’t deny the convenience of a gas station. If I’m traveling somewhere far, I don’t have to worry about stocking up all the fuel I’d need beforehand, because I know I can just stop at some point along the way. Astronauts and their spacecraft do not have this luxury, and as such, the freedom of space travel has been a limited commodity for humankind. But let’s imagine a craft that wouldn’t need the heavy, space-wasting bulk of liquid propellant in order to travel from one planet to the next.

The only way to travel.

The only way to travel.

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Read Gene Roddenberry And Isaac Asimov’s Star Trek Discussions

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Forget Tupac and Biggie, Issac Asimov and Gene Roddenberry is the rivalry for the ages. In November 1966, two-months after the premiere of Star Trek, renowned science fiction novelist Isaac Asimov wrote a scathing article about the numerous scientific inaccuracies found in many sci-fi TV shows of the day. Gene Roddenberry took offense to this article written for TV Guide and wrote Asimov a respectful letter about the work his staff puts into making Star Trek as accurate as possible.

In a series of letter exchanges between the two sci-fi greats, Isaac Asimov and Gene Roddenberry discuss the many criticisms of Star Trek and the type of struggles Roddenberry had with the network to put the sci-fi series on the air.

“Star Trek almost did not get on the air because it refused to do a juvenile science fiction, because it refused to put a “Lassie” aboard the space ship, and because it insisted on hiring Dick Matheson, Harlan Ellison, A.E. Van Vogt, Phil Farmer, and so on.” Roddenberry continued, “getting Star Trek on the air was impossible, putting out a program like this on a TV budget is impossible, reaching the necessary mass audience without alienating the select SF audience is impossible, not succumbing to network pressure to “juvenilize” the show is impossible, keeping it on the air is impossible.”