Star Trek: The Animated Series is a footnote to some but a beacon of joy for others. NBC’s two seasons brought back the cast of the canceled Original Series, but Leonard Nimoy initially balked. Here’s his endearing reason why.
Back in Orbit
It’s tough to imagine, given just how popular the Star Trek franchise would become, that the original series only lasted for three seasons on the air. Blink through the Johnson administration and you could’ve missed the whole thing. It could have gone the way of contemporaries Flipper or Adam-12, other 60s shows that aired for just a few seasons. Luckily for the Trekkies of the world, it would survive.
Originally conceived while TOS was on the air, The Animated Series was picked up in 1973 for a minimum of 22 episodes. Creator Gene Roddenberry was generously given full creative control and subsequently brought back many writers from TOS. The goal was to promote a show directed at children, so naughtier bits that were commonplace on TOS were nixed in favor of the target audience. Since the show was animated, writers no longer needed to care about the financial limitations of special effects.
Bad First Idea
When the series was conceived, production company Filmation decided to bring back only some of the cast, namely its white members: William Shatner, Nimoy, DeForest Kellet, James Doohan, and Majel Barrett. Walter Koenig was not asked back for budgetary reasons, and Doogan and Barrett would pull double duty as Sulu and Uhura.
This left Nichelle Nichols and George Takei without a job, which did not sit well with Leonard Nimoy. He refused to return as Spock unless his castmates came in tow. Nimoy was a firm believer in the progressive spirit of Star Trek and thought the ethnic diversity of the original cast was vital. The Three Men And A Baby director also knew his friends could use the money.
Once the issue of diversity was brought to Filmation’s attention, Takei and Nichols were brought on board. The studio was embarrassed and horrified. To please Nimoy even further, it purchased a script from Koenig so he would get some cash as well. This meant the entire original cast made money off The Animated Series.
Nimoy comes off fabulously in this story, as he often does when folks recollect on the legend. The Animated Series got strong ratings but wasn’t a hit with children’s advertisers. Even still, the series was instrumental in shepherding the franchise from cancellation into a new era. It proved, as The Next Generation and Discovery would years later, that there are many more stories to tell in the world of Star Trek.
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