Wagon Train in space
March 13, 2010 10:34 PM   Subscribe

A one-hour dramatic television series.
Action - Adventure - Science Fiction.
The first such concept with strong central leas characters plus other continuing regulars.


Gene Roddenberry's original pitchfor Star Trek (.pdf) - featuring Robert M. April, captain of the S.S. Yorktown. (via)
posted by Artw (44 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Gah. Lead characters. pitch for.
posted by Artw at 10:37 PM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nice find! :) The story ideas are fascinating, considering that we can see how many of them evolved from a simple descriptive paragraph into fully-realized episodes.
posted by zarq at 10:56 PM on March 13, 2010


SETS -- Our format is tailored to practical production and cost factors. Use of stage sets, backlot and other locations are ximplified [sic] by Captain April's "Class M" Orders. And our own "Parallel Worlds" concept. The majority of story premises can be accomplished on such studio backlots locales and sets such as Early 1900 Street, Oriental Village, Cowtown, Border Fort, Victorian Drawing Room, Forest and Streamside.

Oddly, just this evening I was reading Zack Handlen's TV Club entries on Star Trek wherein he discusses the wearying frequency in the cash-strapped seasons of visits to the Nazi Planet, the Mobster Planet, the Roman Planet, and so on. Given that many of my recollections of the original series are after-school viewings from thirty years ago, I tend to recall much of the makeshift reuse of standing sets, however inappropriate, as neutral. However, with episodes I have seen more recently the minimalist set design strikes me as either eerie (the surreal Spectre of the Gun) or cheesy (everything else, really).

And I am so glad that I do not live in the world where Star Trek ran a fourth season and I got to see Kirk and Spock in Oriental Village and Victorian Drawing Room.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:59 PM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


So basically, their pitch is for three million Wacky Wayside Tribes?
posted by dunkadunc at 11:04 PM on March 13, 2010


The 'skipper', about thirty-four, Academy graduate, rank of captain.
Ok, got that.
Clearly the leading man and central character.
Yup, nailed that one.
This role is designated for an actor of top repute and ability.
Errr…

Actually, it's interesting how close they generally stuck to the character concepts, if not the specific character details Roddenberry outlined (i.e conflating the executive officer and first lieutenant, which is sometimes obvious in series 1). Except maybe for José, the navigator:

José is painfully aware of the historical repute of Latins as lovers - and is in danger of failing this ambition on a cosmic scale.

Sorry, this just didn't work on the odd occasion they tried applying it to Chekov…
posted by Pinback at 11:05 PM on March 13, 2010


"She IS very female; disturbingly so."
It's disturbing that someone can be disturbingly female.
"Slim and dark in a Nile valley way.."
Um what?

Thought this paragraph was funny, didn't we just have a thread about this?
It could be 1995 or 2995. In other words....far enough into the future for galaxy travel to be fully established (happily eliminating the need to encumber our stories with tiresome scientific explanation).</i<
posted by amethysts at 11:21 PM on March 13, 2010


Pinback: Sorry, this just didn't work on the odd occasion they tried applying it to Chekov…"

Chekov was modelled after Davy Jones of The Monkees to attract a younger audience, hence the goofy mop-top wig he started out with.
posted by bwg at 11:34 PM on March 13, 2010


And I am so glad that I do not live in the world where Star Trek ran a fourth season and I got to see Kirk and Spock in Oriental Village and Victorian Drawing Room.

Are you frikkin' kidding, ricochet biscuit? I would have loved to see Spock repeatedly phaser Dorian Grey to no effect while he laughed diabolically.
posted by clockzero at 11:47 PM on March 13, 2010 [13 favorites]


I recently finished watching every episode of every Star Trek with a friend, so this is a really neat read in light of that. What struck me very early into it: apparently since show is set in the future, galaxy travel is well established and so they've happily eliminated "the need to encumber our stories with tiresome scientific explanation."

Oh, if only
posted by Monster_Zero at 11:59 PM on March 13, 2010


Great minds, eh, amethysts?
posted by Monster_Zero at 12:01 AM on March 14, 2010


Having flashbacks to when I read the original writer's bible for "ST:TNG", which described a mysterious and fearsome alien race meant to be the main protagonist for the Federation -- a shadowy race who were to eclipse the Klingons and Romulans in cruelty and bloodlust, whose mere mention chilled the blood and sent the heart racing.

A race called the "Ferengi"!
posted by RavinDave at 3:44 AM on March 14, 2010 [7 favorites]


And I am so glad that I do not live in the world where Star Trek ran a fourth season and I got to see Kirk and Spock in Oriental Village and Victorian Drawing Room.

Yeah, they had to invent the the plot-device known as 'the holodeck' before that became practical -- especially after using the Guardian of Forever already for somewhen else.
posted by mikelieman at 3:56 AM on March 14, 2010


"INFECTION: A female crew member discovered to be pregnant, and the growing realisation it could be the larvae of an alien, using her body like some insects plant their eggs in other living insects."

And Gene created Alien.
posted by feelinglistless at 3:59 AM on March 14, 2010


Pinback: He's really pitching Jeffrey Hunter here since this is close to the original pilot. Hunter was an actor of repute. He'd even played Jesus.
posted by feelinglistless at 4:01 AM on March 14, 2010


This was quoted extensively in The Making Of Star Trek, which I bought back in the mid-70s. Gene has comments throughout the book, all in upper case.
posted by rfs at 5:50 AM on March 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hey, the logo is in the Fender guitar font. Rock on, little space dudes.
posted by fleetmouse at 6:36 AM on March 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


What was the pitch for Scooby Doo, the other great rationalist series?
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:38 AM on March 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Last night the family watched Forbidden Planet and I was struck by how close the Star Trek premise was to this movie from about a decade before, particularly the first pilot episode, "The Cage." Star Trek even copied the look and feel of FP (planet set, Morbius house sets, star ship sets) albeit on a cheaper scale. Even some of the lines of the script were similar (the mad scientist's daughter's remark about the star ship crewmen was similar to Vina's remark about the Captain being a 'fine specimen'). By the way, the effects from FB look incredible in widescreen.
posted by jabah at 6:38 AM on March 14, 2010


Huh. So Mr. Spock is the only original character name they kept? Fascinating.
posted by yoga at 6:44 AM on March 14, 2010


I'm pretty sure that Roddenberry said that he was directly inspired by Forbidden Planet.
posted by octothorpe at 6:46 AM on March 14, 2010


feelinglistless: "Pinback: He's really pitching Jeffrey Hunter here since this is close to the original pilot. Hunter was an actor of repute. He'd even played Jesus."

And yet the network execs didn't like Hunter at all.

Enter Shatner.

Since I grew up knowing Shatner as Kirk, of course I thought he was perfect. Those who say he can't act are just flat out wrong.
posted by bwg at 6:57 AM on March 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


such studio backlots locales and sets such as Early 1900 Street, Oriental Village, Cowtown, Border Fort, Victorian Drawing Room, Forest and Streamside.

The studio backlot sounds like a Team Deathmatch server.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:56 AM on March 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


David Gerrold has written that it was quite a coup for ST to get Shatner, who was considered one of the up-and-coming likely next great actors of the day.
posted by localroger at 8:18 AM on March 14, 2010


The only place I've ever heard of Wagon Train is from Star Trek being described as "Wagon Train in space." I have to assume that it was something like Star Trek in the Old West.
posted by lore at 8:19 AM on March 14, 2010 [11 favorites]


visits to the Nazi Planet, the Mobster Planet, the Roman Planet

Didn't they also go to a Roman Nazi planet? Or maybe it was Nazi Romans?

Huh. So Mr. Spock is the only original character name they kept? Fascinating.

/raises eyebrow
posted by device55 at 8:44 AM on March 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


And I am so glad that I do not live in the world where Star Trek ran a fourth season and I got to see Kirk and Spock in Oriental Village and Victorian Drawing Room.

I advise you to revisit The Squire of Gothos, where a proto-Q adversary called Trelane traps Our Heroes in what I can only assume is that very Victorian Drawing Room.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:02 AM on March 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


trying to find out if there really was a star trek episode with roman nazis, now I'm trapped on tv tropes. send help!
posted by device55 at 9:25 AM on March 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


THE PET SHOP. Exactly duplicating St. Louis, 1918, a city where women are so completely the masters that men have the status of pets.

Um...Did I miss a day in American History class?
posted by PlusDistance at 9:38 AM on March 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


device55: The Romans had machine guns - it was an alternative universe where Rome never fell - maybe that's what mixed you up.
posted by rfs at 9:39 AM on March 14, 2010


"Wagon Train in space to the stars."

FTFY.
posted by vhsiv at 10:08 AM on March 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


device55: The Romans had machine guns - it was an alternative universe where Rome never fell - maybe that's what mixed you up.

Oh right.
posted by device55 at 10:46 AM on March 14, 2010


The was also one about nazis (with machine guns).
posted by doctor_negative at 11:12 AM on March 14, 2010


TORX. The first major menace to Earth.

So Roddenberry invented those nifty screws, too?!?! heh heh
posted by kuppajava at 11:51 AM on March 14, 2010


Huh. So Mr. Spock is the only original character name they kept? Fascinating.

Robert April appears in Star Trek: The Animated Series.

/nerd-pedant
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:55 AM on March 14, 2010


device55: trying to find out if there really was a star trek episode with roman nazis, now I'm trapped on tv tropes. send help!

Inspired by earlier comments, I went over there as well to find out what they called "Immaculate (or at least non-sexual) conception with an alien baby" (as described in the pitch and realized with Deanna Troi in Next Generation and other sci-fi shows before and since), and I just lost half an hour reading about other pregnancy tropes instead.

I go to Wikipedia when I want to know a quick answer for something, though I always have a nag in the back of my head that I might need to check my source; tv tropes is the opposite -- I could never find a quick answer there but I never doubt the validity.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:21 PM on March 14, 2010


trying to find out if there really was a star trek episode with roman nazis, now I'm trapped on tv tropes. send help!
posted by device55 at 12:25 PM on March 14 [2 favorites +] [!]

I'm sorry, but TVTropes is a black hole, like Sid Meier's Civilization games. Once you fall into it, say goodbye to the rest of your day...
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 2:29 PM on March 14, 2010


From the linked article: …must continually fight the temptation to risk many to save one.

Huh. So it was there all along.
posted by adamrice at 2:45 PM on March 14, 2010



Robert April appears in Star Trek: The Animated Series.

/nerd-pedant


And all of the other characters mentioned appear in the first pilot, "The Cage," save that Jose Ortegas has become Jose Tyler -- Desilu Productions had produced I Love Lucy (starring Desi Arnaz) a decade earlier and as it was terrifically popular, it was still in syndication when the pitch was made. The network executives were keenly aware that audiences of the day would be confused and frightened by having two different Hispanic characters on television.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:29 PM on March 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


RavinDave, another interesting bit from the TNG bible is Roddenberry's passing mention of maybe having a "Klingon marine" on the show. Of course, Worf ended up being the major breakout character; "Heart of Glory" is still my favorite TNG season one episode, by far.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:56 PM on March 14, 2010


RavinDave, another interesting bit from the TNG bible is Roddenberry's passing mention of maybe having a "Klingon marine" on the show. Of course, Worf ended up being the major breakout character; "Heart of Glory" is still my favorite TNG season one episode, by far.

I have always found that interesting -- that a minor recurring character signed on for only half the episodes in the first season becomes the most-frequently appearing character in the franchise, on two series and in five movies. It's as if Gunther became the seventh lead on "Friends" and slopped over into "Joey" as a co-lead for another several seasons.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:30 PM on March 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


His estimate for the number of stars in the galaxy is 7,700,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. That's about 10^22 off, a slight overestimate.
posted by snoktruix at 1:26 PM on March 15, 2010


I want to see the Victorian drawing room episode, because I know its climax involves Kirk telling us that "the murderer -- is someone -- in this. Very. ROOM!!!" I mean, come ON.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:09 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mr. Spock
In the Victorian Drawing Room
With the Universal Translator

Star Trek: Clue!
posted by zarq at 3:18 PM on March 15, 2010


I'm sorry, no matter how many times I read it, I just can't fathom a captain named Robert April.

Captain April. Might as well rename Spock "May" and McCoy "June".
posted by bwg at 5:48 PM on March 15, 2010


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