I previously maintained a website named Trekology to share my research into science fiction in movies and on television. That site is no longer available, but here are portions that you may find worthwhile today:
Star Trek on the Radio in Los Angeles
In 1973 I produced a Los Angeles radio documentary series about Star Trek for my employer, KIQQ-FM. That documentary series launched me on a great deal more behind-the-scenes research into Star Trek.
A few years later, I completed a full formal study of Star Trek — a doctoral dissertation about Star Trek and its persuasive storytelling, which culminated in my earning a Ph.D. degree in communications from Indiana University, Bloomington.
I invite you to download my eBook (pdf, about 7 MB) completely free of charge. The downloadable document contains all my research findings and commentaries on Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and other franchises in the science fiction genre on American television up through the late 1970s:
My radio documentary was named “The Universe of Star Trek.” I wrote and produced this work using a then-unique format that would permit its broadcast between the music, news, and commercials on the radio station in Los Angeles. There were 22 individual episodes of the radio documentary that were broadcast in 1973 — each running from just over 1 minute to slightly longer than 3 minutes.
The purpose I had for the radio documentary series was to explore why Star Trek not only endured its cancellation by NBC-TV but survived and grew in popularity. Gene Roddenberry’s cooperation with the production of this radio documentary led to my access to others involved in Star Trek, including a sampling of original series cast members and writers.
You can listen to 4 of the most popular episodes of “The Universe of Star Trek” radio documentary here:
With Star Trek Creator Gene Roddenberry
Gene Roddenberry (1921 – 1991) created Star Trek so he certainly was well aware of the power it had. Within the basic, but powerful, storytelling mode is a whole universe of possibilities to persuade a planetary audience and to influence people’s thoughts, values and even personal behaviors. From the original series through the major motion pictures, Star Trek is a textbook example of how to use narrative entertainment to achieve such persuasive power.
How did Gene Roddenberry explain the so-called “Star Trek phenomenon” — the power of Star Trek to persuade a worldwide audience through entertainment? He “said it all” in about five minutes total time. Listen to his voice here recorded in a 1982 speech he gave in New Haven, Connecticut:
I met Gene Roddenberry inside his office in Burbank at the Warner Bros. Television studios where these recordings were made. Only limited portions were broadcast on Los Angeles radio in 1973. This page today provides you the opportunity to hear full-length responses Gene Roddenberry gave to my questions. You can experience his soothing voice, his intense personality, and feel his deep passion for Star Trek.
One significant aspect of Roddenberry was that even though he was a television producer, he much preferred books:
Roddenberry told me that he was sure that his appetite for reading directly influenced his writing and producing of Star Trek:
He credits starting out at Lucille Ball’s studio, Desilu, which was named after Lucy and her first husband Desi Arnaz. Desilu later sold to Paramount Pictures. It was under the leadership of Lucille Ball that Desilu was willing to spend “more than an ordinary amount of money” to make Star Trek work:
While he was writing the original format for Star Trek, when Roddenberry did not have science fact fact to rely upon he improvised:
Roddenberry created the basic concept of Star Trek from the ground up, but he told me that he wanted to share credit with others, including William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForrest Kelley, and others, saying it was “a creation of many people”:
A woman was second in command in the first version of Star Trek, Mr. Spock was fourth in line, and none of that survived the development of the series because of NBC demands for changes:
The economics of mid-sixties television production today seem more implausible than faster-than-light space travel. But the original Star Trek pilot — the one that didn’t sell — cost a little over $600,000:
Roddenberry explained how he worked as a producer, fostering joint contributions from everyone on Star Trek:
He gave a clear picture of how the writing was carefully crafted to give the storytelling a high degree of believability:
Because of television network censorship restrictions in those days, Star Trek had to hide what the producers and writers intended to be persuasive messages within stories of action and adventure in space:
He explained that he promoted an atmosphere of practical joking to relieve the pressures of production on Star Trek.
He declined to name his favorite Star Trek episodes:
In what would be the final season of the original series, Roddenberry backed out of producing (and got screen credit as executive producer) after failing to convince NBC not to put Star Trek in what he considered to be an unfavorable time slot.
Roddenberry believed that NBC made a business decision to cancel the marginally-rated series in 1969. But, then, the network came to understand the power of the original Star Trek to attract the particular demographics that are highly-desirable in show business:
He insisted on maintaining the quality of the original Star Trek series when he produced the 1973 animated series that was broadcast on NBC-TV:
Was Star Trek valuable in predicting how life may actually be in the future?
Roddenberry told me that he would hate for mankind to go “barging around and getting involved in other societies and civilizations” in the cosmos because humanity did not, in his view, yet have the wisdom to handle extraterrestial contact:
After the documentary series was broadcast on KIQQ-FM in Los Angeles Roddenberry wrote me a letter expressing his thanks for my work in helping people to remember Star Trek.
Wesley Joe and I coauthored a chapter about Battlestar Galactica in a nonfiction book New Boundaries of Political Science Fiction that you will very much enjoy reading if you are interested in Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica.