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The National Broadcasting Company, now formally called NBC Universal Television or, simply, NBC, is a US television network, founded in 1939 (as part of the NBC radio network, founded in 1926), based in New York City's Rockefeller Center. As of May 2004, it became part of NBC Universal.

Star Trek affiliationEdit

By airing on 8 September 1966 the first season episode "The Man Trap", NBC has gained the distinction of becoming the very first US television network to air a Star Trek live-action production, introducing the phenomenon to the general US populace. However, NBC lost out on the world premiere to Canadian network CTV, which had aired the episode two days earlier. [1] Yet, by canceling the original Star Trek series less than three years later, it has also garnered NBC the enduring wrath of generations of "Trekkies".

The Original SeriesEdit

NBC 1966-167 television brochure cover with William Shatner and Andrea Dromm

Cover NBC's 1966-1967 TV season information brochure

The original Star Trek aired on NBC from 1966 to 1969. On the occasion of its debut in the television season 1966-1967, NBC released an eight-page promotional information brochure, introducing the series to interested parties. The brochure was in its entirety reprinted in the 1996 reference book Inside Star Trek: The Real Story. The network attempted to cancel the series twice, in 1967 and in 1968, but renewed it for an additional season both years, due to letter-writing campaigns.

Near the conclusion of the second season, cancellation was made definitive by NBC. However, and much to the dismay of NBC, it found itself subsequently and suddenly confronted with a public outcry in the form of the famed, massive letter campaign, complemented by a deluge of phone-ins and unusually large picket-lines at both the New York City headquarters, and the Burbank, California, location, the likes of which, no network or studio had ever been confronted with before (years later, it turned out that the cancellation was an East Coast decision, the West Coast actually wanted to continue with Star Trek). The ultimate saving of Star Trek constituted the by Gene Roddenberry secretly funded and coordinated letter-writing campaign, initiated by Bjo Trimble and her husband in late-1967 and early-1968, which succeeded in making a shell-shocked NBC buckle and to renew, albeit reluctantly, Star Trek for a third season. Ironically, the funding Roddenberry provided, was not even his own; He managed to claim the money as business expenses from Paramount Television. For decades, network and public were led to believe that it was a spontaneous action organized by Trekkies, but Robert Justman and Herb Solow (formerly a NBC executive before his tenure at Desilu) debunked the "spontaneous" nature of the campaign in their book Inside Star Trek: The Real Story.

The original series was first aired Thursday nights at 8:30, where it replaced the show Laredo. For its second season, it moved to Friday nights at the same time. After being renewed for the third season, NBC moved it into the 10pm timeslot in place of the recently canceled Actuality Specials. Originally, NBC had intimated to Roddenberry a new, more family-oriented timeslot of Monday or Tuesdays 7:30PM for the third season, and he threatened to pull out if the network did not do so. Roddenberry grossly overestimated his value as perceived by network and studio, and since he did not possess the political and diplomatic skills – nor would he ever have – to deal with upper network or studio echelons (Solow had always ran interference for Roddenberry and the network and studio, but the former had left the production by now), the network was only too happy to call his bluff. When the network finally doomed Star Trek to the "graveyard slot" of Fridays 10PM, Roddenberry, having stated at the time to a newspaper, "If the network wants to kill us, it couldn't make a better move" (Toledo Blade, 15 August 1968) and his bluff gone awry, felt that he had no choice but to recuse himself from the remainder of the series. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story)

NBC canceled Star Trek definitely in February 1969. [2] Production on the series ceased in June of that year, leaving the entire production at US$4.7 million in debt. (Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry, p. 399)

The Animated SeriesEdit

Former Original Series writer D.C. Fontana reported in the fanzine Star-Borne of 22 June 1972 that, "Paramount...[is] enormously impressed by the quantity (and quality) of fan mail they continue to receive. The possibility seems to be slowly developing of a Star Trek feature movie for theatrical release, aimed at becoming the new Star Trek television pilot...on the network front, NBC still expresses great interest in doing Star Trek in some form. Both NBC and Paramount continue to receive a great deal of mail and have had to assign secretaries for the sole job of answering it." [X]wbm

NBC's surprising complete turnaround (who had canceled the live-action precursor in 1969, purportedly for poor ratings performance) not only stemmed from the spectacular resurgence of the Original Series in syndication, but also from its own accounting department. Shortly before Fontana's report, NBC had replaced its old Nielsen rating system with a new and updated one. When they ran the original Original Series figures through their new system they found out much to their surprise that it had not only reached full penetration into their most coveted target audience, the male population between 18 and 45, but also that the series had been one of the most successful series, the network had ever aired. The sickening realization hit upon the dismayed network executives, that they had slaughtered the goose that laid the golden eggs, something that every Star Trek fan at the time could have told them, and which they actually had done in the first place. Hurriedly approaching Roddenberry to see if the series could be revitalized, turned out to be unfeasible, as Paramount had only a few months earlier cleared out their warehouses from the vast majority of the remaining Star Trek production assets, they either being scrapped, given away or simply stolen. Recreating them, calculated at US$750,000, was deemed far too cost-prohibitive. It did however, lead to NBC ordering the creation of Star Trek: The Animated Series. (Star Trek - Where No One Has Gone Before, pp. 51-52)

Even though they did not produce the new series themselves, Paramount Pictures, possessing all rights and title to the Star Trek brand, was legally the owner of the new property. The animated Star Trek aired on NBC from 1973 through 1974, with re-runs airing during 1975.


No Star Trek series has aired on the national NBC network since, yet several of the Star Trek films have made their network debut on NBC, including Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (in 1994) and Star Trek: Insurrection (in 2001, although the initial premiere was pushed back several weeks due to the events of September 11, 2001. Hence, it finally premiered in 2002, to coincide with the theatrical release of Nemesis).

While reviled by Star Trek fandom ever since for its cancellation decision in 1969, NBC, ironically, to this date receives residual income from the airing in syndication of the Original Series, as the original contractual obligations stipulated that net profits had to be shared between the Desilu/Paramount Television (26⅔%), Roddenberry's production company Norway Corporation (26⅔%), Captain Kirk performer William Shatner (20%) and NBC (26⅔%). (NBC: America's Network, p. 220)

The Next GenerationEdit

In the fall of 1986, NBC had another chance to air an entirely new Star Trek television series, when Paramount's Television Group President John S. Pike approached then NBC President Brandon Tartikoff for Star Trek: The Next Generation, that was in development at the time. On that occasion Tartikoff declined, as interest in science fiction for television was at an all time low at the time (after The Next Generation started its run, it was for years the only new science fiction series being aired). Tartikoff was yet to revise his stance on Star trek, and NBC missed out on one of the most successful science fiction productions in television history. (William Shatner Presents: Chaos on the Bridge)

NBC executive staff involved with Star TrekEdit

  • Jerry Stanley - Vice-President of Program Development
  • Brandon Tartikoff - President of NBC Entertainment
  • Grant Tinker -Vice-President of West Coast Programming
  • Mort Werner - President of Programming

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

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