In 1964, Lucille Ball was the sole owner of Desilu Studios and the first woman to ever run a major Hollywood studio. At the time, Desilu producers were looking for ideas that could be developed into new series and they contracted two ambitious writers to develop pilots: Gene Roddenberry with “Star Trek” and Bruce Geller with “Mission: Impossible.”
Desilu took the Star Trek pilot to CBS with whom they had a first-refusal agreement but the network rejected it and opted to pick up another new space-themed show “Lost in Space.” The studio then took the pilot, “The Cage,” to NBC which called it “too cerebral” but, rather than rejecting it outright, they took the unprecedented move of ordering a second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”
The network decided to order a season but the Desilu Board of Directors balked. Fearing that the studio was overstretching itself with three expensive new programs — Star Trek, Mission Impossible, and a western called The Long Hunt for April Savage — all but one of the board members voted to cancel Star Trek in February 1966.
Lucille Ball, however, had high hopes for the fledgling show and was impressed by Roddenberry’s vision so she used her power as board chair to override the decision. Production of the show continued and the first episode aired in September of that year. As studio accountant Edwin Holly later conceded, “If it were not for Lucy, there would be no ‘Star Trek’ today.” So the next time that you’re watching Star Trek — or one of the many science fiction future worlds that it inspired — remember that you have one more reason to love Lucy!