“Star Trek” won the initial support of Desilu Productions. Lucille Ball believed in the project and delivered the backing for the first pilot episode. When NBC rejected it, Ball, as head of Desilu Studios, pulled strings and got it financed for the second pilot episode. The rest is history.
NBC was interested in working with the legendary comedian, so this added to Ball’s effort to launch the show. She was certain it was going to be a hit, and by the second season, it was. But the Desilu/Trek adventure would not last. In 1967, Gulf and Western bought Desilu Studios, and “Star Trek” went to Paramount.
The Infamous Kiss
While “Plato’s Stepchildren” (1968) holds a spot on the list of bad episodes, it has one redeeming quality. This is the episode that is now celebrated for inclusivity. At first, showrunners wanted Spock to plant the interracial kiss upon Lt. Uhura. That’s when Shatner’s narcissistic side took over.
He would not allow anyone else to partake in something that would be considered groundbreaking in 1968. He believed that he should do the kiss scene because, as he put it, “If anyone’s going to be part of the first interracial kiss in television history, it’s going to be me.”
The Kiss That Was Dismissed
NBC complained about too many provocative scenes in the series. This was one of them. And it wasn’t only NBC, the BBC flatly refused to air this episode. But the actors on the show felt strongly about making this statement, as they saw it, in the midst of the civil rights and feminist movements.
It's amazing to think that something as simple as a kiss could cause such a stir at any point of TV history. But that was the case. Actors intentionally flubbed their lines for the scene that NBC wanted to use in its place. Therefore, with no other option, the kiss between Shatner and Nichols had to be used.
Sneaking Scenes by the Censors
Some writers at “Star Trek” used resourceful means to get preferred scenes on the air. Screenwriters Herb Solow and Robert Justman were adept at this. In the episode called, “A Private Little War,” there were bold references to the Vietnam War. Captain Kirk specifically compares the conflict he witnesses on Planet Neural to “wars on the Asian continent.” During this time, any reference to America’s very unpopular war would not make it past censors.
So, this is what they did. A very racy scene with Kirk kissing a woman who was not fully dressed was taped just to distract the censors. It did, and the war reference stayed.
The ‘Shore Leave’ Adventure
Filming “Shore Leave” on location with a Bengal tiger was even more exciting than expected. William Shatner anticipated the proposed scene in which he wrestles the tiger with machismo. That is until he witnessed the 150-pound wildcat ripping into a large chunk of raw meat. Then, the tiger got loose. Cast and crew stood petrified.
According to Shatner, he felt “sheer abject terror.” A grip on the set triggered the beast by stumbling with film equipment. The tiger loosened the stake of its chain! Luckily, the trainer appeared and grabbed the chain. This is a prime example in TV history of a real animal being used on set.