While researching the Honorary Unsubscribe for writer D.C. Fontana, I came across a bit of Star Trek trivia that caught my eye — something I, as a life-long Trek fan, never knew.
You know how Star Trek’s captain was named “James Tiberius Kirk”? That middle name was thought to have come from The Lieutenant — the show Gene Roddenberry worked on before Star Trek. In The Lieutenant (1963–1964), Gary Lockwood starred as USMC Second Lieutenant William Tiberius Rice. (Lockwood later guest starred in Trek’s (second) pilot episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”.)
Yet the captain character was only named as “James T. Kirk” until a writer wanted to use his middle name in an episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series. That writer: David Gerrold, who wrote “The Trouble With Tribbles” for the original series, and later went on to be well regarded as a Hugo- and Nebula Award-winning science fiction author. Gerrold didn’t even know about the Lockwood character’s name until 2014: it was a total coincidence that they matched! (Gerrold says was inspired to name a character Tiberius by the 1934 novel I, Claudius.)
Roddenberry Went Out on Limbs
One episode of The Lieutenant brought huge controversy: “Set It Right” was about a black Marine facing racial prejudice from a character played by Dennis Hopper(!). The Marine was played by Don Marshall, who later starred in Land of the Giants, and that character had a fiancée who was played by …Nichelle Nichols, who went on to be a leading character on Star Trek, Lt. Uhura.
But when “Set It Right” was delivered to NBC, the network refused to run it: “racial controversy” was Just Not Done in 1960s entertainment television. NBC even refused to pay for its production, leaving the production company on the hook. Roddenberry, the series’ creator, was so incensed over that rejection that supposedly, he decided Star Trek stories should be allegorical morality plays. Famously, the season 3 episode “Plato’s Stepchildren” featured William Shatner’s Kirk being forced by aliens to kiss Lt. Uhura for their entertainment — the first interracial kiss shown on television.
The actor connections don’t end there. Other Lieutenant players who also came along for the Star Trek ride included Leonard Nimoy (Spock), Walter Koenig (Chekov), and Majel Barrett (the first officer “Number One” in the first pilot, and Nurse Chapel subsequently). Oh, and one other Lieutenant actor who later guested on Trek: Ricardo Montalbán as Khan, which role he later reprised in the second Star Trek film, The Wrath of Khan.
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