Lucille Ball kept the Starship Enterprise in flight.
The comedy icon’s company, Desilu Productions, was responsible for Gene Roddenberry’s original “Star Trek” series.
Desilu was one of the largest independent production companies in Hollywood and of course was the driving force behind Ball’s star-making vehicle “I Love Lucy,” which ran from 1951 to 1957.
But it was also responsible for “The Andy Griffith Show,” “The Untouchables,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” and more.
Ball and then-husband and eventual “I Love Lucy” costar Desi Arnaz formed Desilu in 1950. Ball made most of all of the creative choices while Arnaz handled the business. The two worked as partners for years until they divorced in 1960, and Ball purchased Arnaz’s share of the company in 1962.
Ball was the head of a major studio, and thus one of the most powerful women in Hollywood at the time.
When the landmark “The Untouchables” ended its run in 1963, Desilu desperately needed another big hit. Herbert Solow, who was hired to find projects for the studio, brought Ball two proposals: one for Roddenberry’s “Star Trek” and another for “Mission: Impossible.”
It was clear that the “Star Trek” pilot would be expensive to film, but Ball — who actually believed the series was about travelling USO performers — overruled her board of directors and got the pilot produced.
The pilot, titled “The Cage,” famously flopped. However, NBC pulled an unlikely move and ordered a second pilot, which came to be called “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” only retained Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock from the first pilot, and became the show it is known as today. Ball agreed to finance this reshoot, again over the preferences of her board of directors.
So Ball is the one who let “Star Trek” live long and prosper. Thanks, Lucy.
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