What would you learn as a fly on the wall of the Starship Enterprise? Find out by exploring the Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Collection at UCLA’s Young Research Library. Despite running for just three seasons, the forward-thinking series blazed its way into fans’ hearts with its universal ideals and storylines that touched on complex moral dilemmas and pushed the boundaries on contemporary social issues like multiculturalism and sexism.
“He wasn’t afraid to ask questions,” says Rod Roddenberry, CEO of Roddenberry Entertainment and son of the legendary Trek creator/showrunner. “He loved challenging the status quo.”
After the series ended in 1969, Gene Roddenberry donated more than 35 boxes of paperwork amassed during the show’s run. The collection includes story development notes; outlines with handwritten edits; scripts and revisions; correspondence between Roddenberry and writers, producers and network executives; casting memos; broadcast standards and practices notes; fan mail and more.
One series of memos tracks the development of the opening “These are the voyages …” narration, now one of the most famous voice-overs in television history. An early story document describes the series as “Wagon Train to the stars” and sets the scene with: “The time could be 1995 or even 2995 — close enough to our times for our continuing cast to be people like us, but far enough into the future for galaxy travel to be fully established.” Notes on stories that were never produced include a Civil War episode where whites are slaves and Abraham Lincoln is black.
As modern-thinking as Roddenberry strived to make Star Trek, which featured the first interracial kiss on scripted television and was routinely vetted by NASA and other scientists for accuracy, the collection shows that the series was still a reflection of the times. Although the pilot originally featured a female character as the ship’s executive officer, a memo spelled out the producers’ opinion that it would be hard to sustain viewer interest in “a woman doing things that should be done by a man.”
In the episode “Mudd’s Women,” the character of Mudd, who trafficked women, was depicted as a lovable scoundrel. Popular with viewers, he recurred in several episodes.
“Star Trek was progressive in so many ways,” says the younger Roddenberry, “but when you dig a little deeper … it’s interesting when you look at what was acceptable then and what’s acceptable today.”