How Lucille Ball Saved “Star Trek” From Being Cancelled

Fans of the original Star Trek television series know that it was produced by Desilu Productions because the logo is a familiar part of the end credits of the show. What fans may not know is that Lucille Ball is the one who pulled the trigger on making the show happen in the first place. When Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball divorced, they remained business partners until 1962, when Lucy bought out her ex-husband. She had become the most powerful woman in Hollywood, splitting her time between running the production company and starring on The Lucy Show. In 1964, two men made a pitch to Lucy. Bruce Geller had an idea for a show called Mission: Impossible, and Gene Roddenberry pitched Star Trek. By the time the pilot script for Star Trek came in, Lucy’s top men advised her against it. The show was expensive — so expensive that they would lose thousands per episode.......if the were even able to sell it to a studio. Roddenberry’s Star Trek script was full of weird jargon and missing the lighthearted escapism that had passed for science fiction on TV before. Desilu executive Ed Holly told Lucy that if they did both shows, they would have to sell the company and go bankrupt. Lucy understood that if Star Trek worked, it could be big because there had never been anything like it on TV, and if it hit, it would bring in money from merchandising and reruns. It was a gamble, but Lucy made the call to begin production on the sci-fi series. On September 8, 1966, the first episode of Star Trek aired on NBC, and 56 years later the franchise continues. Lucy’s gamble paid off in the long run, but not soon enough for Desilu Productions. Ed Holly was right, and in 1967 - before Star Trek was even canceled - Desilu Productions was sold to Paramount.