As executive producer, Roddenberry kept his hand in the game, but he essentially sat there watching his life’s work fall apart. With the shakeup and the budget cuts, key people were let go. D. C. Fontana, a significant talent, was cut. Producer Gene L. Coon, who had been instrumental in the show’s success, was also dropped. Sci-fi authors were jumping ship.
It was the beginning of the end. Those 100,000 fan letters saved the show, but NBC only kept it going for another season to plan its demise. It disappeared from the air the first week of September in 1969.
Shatner's Roddenberry Problem
There was plenty of drama and disharmony between the cast and the showrunners pretty early on in the show's run. For example, Shatner complained about Roddenberry during the third season. He wrote in his book “Star Trek Memories,” that the show was “getting sloppy.” He complained that scripts were wanting and blamed it on Roddenberry for drifting away from the show.
He reserved most of his ire towards Roddenberry for cashing out on merchandising, or as he put it, saying he tried to “milk every possible cent” from “his dying cash cow known as Star Trek.” It is safe to say that Shatner wasn't pleased with Rodenberry's attitude toward his baby.
NBC Canceled the Show
Despite the high-quality television programming of “Star Trek,” NBC was determined to get rid of it. While held accountable by those fan letters, the network nevertheless plotted its end. Network executives disliked Roddenberry. He publicly confronted the execs about their decisions on budgets, creative control, and time slots.
They believed he promoted the letter campaign. The network also had a problem with the showrunner’s provocative content, claiming it was too racy for a television audience. However, the network aired reruns of the show the very summer it was canceled. If that doesn't scream out hypocricy at the highest level, then we don't know what does.
Roddenberry Stepped Down
With the decision to air the show on the Friday night “death slot” while cutting the budget back by $10,000 per episode, it was just a matter of time before Gene Roddenberry decided that the only logical solution was to jump ship. He said he “couldn’t bear another moment” and said the “double-cross” by NBC was the last straw.
But you know what they say - the show must go on. And that's exactly what happened. Fred Freiberger stepped in as showrunner for the third and final season. An experienced television writer and producer, Freiberger had a reputation for churning out episodes on time and on budget.
Nichelle Nichols Almost Quit
Nichelle Nichols was getting bored. She didn’t have many lines, she hated working with Shatner, and she was thinking about moving to Broadway. She wanted a change and then this happened. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta King stopped by to visit. The influential activists congratulated the show for representing their community with dignity. M.L.K., Jr. was Nichols’ hero.
To hear them say that they allowed, and even encouraged their children to watch “Star Trek” was all that Lt. Uhura had to know. It was a huge honor. And, besides, the prominent leader told her not to leave the show.