Gene Roddenberry's original 1964 Star Trek pitch

Originally published at: Gene Roddenberry's original 1964 Star Trek pitch | Boing Boing


‘President Capone’ is the “Simpsons did it first” of Back to the Future II alternate timelines.

…and of course we know where “Back to the Future II did it first” ended up.

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Tell me you don’t hear the sound bite in your head!



As wild as that pitch is, note that Roddenberry doesn’t go truly crazy by describing the nature of the Federation: a post-scarcity money-free society based in Fully Automated Luxury Communism. A wise decision, considering he was trying to sell this to broadcast network suits at the height of the Cold War.

Some of the story ideas later on in the pitch hint that he had a larger political agenda but he was clever in how he phrased things, focusing on ironic plot twists rather than the underlying messages. I’m sure Roddenberry watched Rod Serling’s methods closely in that regard.


Rodenberry did a few “Have Gun Will Travel” episodes. That show had a similar structure with a new setting every week, though it only had one main character. You can see a bit of his style as later expressed in Star Trek. You can also see an Armenian western version of that dance the green girl did in the Star Trek pilot. (Spolier: it looked just like the one in Star Trek.)


Some German must have been in the room


Did this episode ever get made? Seems like a wonderful idea.


Regarding this equation, Roddenberry later explained that while he was aware of the Drake equation he didn’t have ready access to it to include in his pitch, so he just made something up that looked sufficiently complex to stand in for it.

edit: I see this is even mentioned in the Drake equation Wikipedia article.


Some of it made its way into this episode.


Not so much actually.

This one though…




He kept as much of that in the show as he could

Spock was nominally XO in 1966 but we hardly, if ever, see him doing that job—whenever we hear somebody passing Kirk’s orders down the chain of command it’s always Uhura, over the intercom

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Jeepers! I never knew Robert April was in the original pitch. I always thought he was a fresh creation pulled out of nowhere for the Animated Series for no particular reason.

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Link appears to be broken now. It always times out when I try to see the pdf.

In addition to the episode @gracchus mentioned the pitch reminded me of the ST:TNG episode “Justice” where the crew visit a utopian planet where everyone is well-behaved because any crime is punishable by death.


The whole idea was to have Earth and the Federation be tame and boring, so that it wouldn’t be curious why the Enterprise was so far out, because that is where the interesting things were happening. Space Communism came much later, extrapolated from throwaway lines in TOS and the original crew movies, and the first few seasons of TNG hinting that capitalism was considered quaint and obsolete.



Poor Wesley… at least he seems to be doing well as Jeopardy!

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It’s hard to nail down Roddenberry’s politics. My assessment based on what I’ve read about him is that at the time he pitched the show he was (like many in Hollywood) a JFK/LBJ mid-century social liberal and anti-authoritarian who was starting to show a fascination with revolutionary Marxist counter-culture and Civil Rights movements in the U.S. as a natural evolutionary step from the Great Society welfare state – more radical than Serling was at the same time. He obviously didn’t mind making a lot of money himself as a producer, but that’s the showbiz.

That anti-capitalist strain was there in TOS, and not just in throwaway lines. Anyone out for financial profit, be it Harry Mudd or the mine management in “Devil in the Dark”, was assumed to be up to something shady and/or destructively exploitative. Earth was, as you note, boring and tame precisely because scarcity of basic human needs and the conflicts that went along with them had been solved by technology (e.g. the food synthesiser, the transporter, fusion drives, other TOS tech) and colonisation of the solar system: SF plot devices that allowed him to establish a Federation that was a Marxist utopia.

I don’t think it was as fleshed out an ideological vision of the Federation at the time of the pitch (though he retconned it as such in TNG era interviews), but Space Communism (or at least Space Anti-Capitalism) was present even though he studiously left out any discussion of the nature of the government the USS Yorktown served.


Obviously he was not going to go to Desilu and NBC saying, “This is a Communist show, about Communists. On this show Communism is good, because we like Communism. I myself am a Communist.” Writers can’t even do that now :confused:


I would argue that his post-scarcity vision isn’t reached via communism, but via liberal democracy. They’re constantly stopping at planets “arrested” in their “natural” development in some way, which indicates to me, not necessarily an embrace of communist theory, but of modernization theory. The post-scarcity situation comes about via liberal democracy, not communism, in his vision. That was a major debate among scholars and intellectuals at the time - what is the best way to get to the “end of history” so modernization theory was floated as an alternative to the Marxist-Leninist narrative being advocated by the Soviet Union…


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