Read Roddenberry's 1968 Trek TV memo on how to fix 'too jolly' Kirk

Contributed by
May 13, 2013

He may not have been around as much during the show's final season, but Star Trek's creator was definitely still focused on his characters.

By 1968, as production on the third (and ultimately final) season of Star Trek: The Original Series was beginning, Gene Roddenberry was withdrawing from the daily grind of TV production. To make matters worse for the show, it had been denied a more desirable (and possibly audience-growing) timeslot by NBC, and the per-episode budget had been slashed. It was the beginning of the end for the show, but even though he only retained his executive producer title from a distance, Roddenberry still found ways to make his feelings known about his world and his characters.

In a 1968 memo to addressed to "ALL CONCERNED," Roddenberry outlined his concerns about the continuing development (or lack thereof) of Star Trek's main characters. The show's tone had shifted somewhat, and Roddenberry wanted to make sure his writers and producers were fighting to keep the characters "growing, individualistic and orchestrated ... alive!" 

Roddenberry began by discussing Kirk, noting that many fans had begun to complain that he was too "jolly" and that he seemed to be focusing too much on gaining friendship and approval from his subordinates. Kirk, Roddenberry argued, needed to be a leader first.

"The trick is something akin to making Capt. Kirk seem at times a bastard, but keeping the audience in on the fact that he is really a good guy with a tough job which requires a certain amount of command 'play acting,'" Roddenberry wrote. "He knows that all eyes are on him constantly."

Turning to Spock, Roddenberry noted that the character was too often relegated to speaking only when asked to speak.

"Spock's role should go far beyond merely providing a captain with information upon request," Roddenberry said. "In our best scripts, he has volunteered information, had opinions, pressured the captain, argues with him ... and there is certainly no rule on 'Star Trek' that Spock cannot occasionally be proved right and Kirk wrong."

Furthermore, Roddenberry emphasized that fans wanted Spock not just to interact and discuss with Kirk, but to "battle" with McCoy as well.

"The single most numerous and most consistent complaint from fans of all age groups and levels has been the fact that Spock and McCoy no longer 'battle' as they once did," Roddenberry said. "Again, no one dropped the idea, no one is at fault. We simply didn't realize how well it worked and how much the fans loved the bickering between our Arrowsmith and our Alien. No one believes for a moment that they do not secretly like each other, but let them show it, and we invariably are deluged with irritated fan responses."

 Roddenberry went on to note that it was important in season three to better utilize the talents of the rest of the Enterprise crew, including Scotty, Uhura, Sulu and Chekov, with a particular emphasis on Scotty's protection of his beloved ship.

"Jimmy Doohan is capable of handling anything we throw at him," Roddenberry said. "And the more protective of his engines and his prerogatives as chief engineer, the better the character seems to work. Nichelle Nichols and George Takei deserve more attention this year, too. Let's develop them further as multi-dimensional individuals."

 Less than a year after this memo was written, in February of 1969, NBC canceled Star Trek after 79 episodes. The writers didn't have much time to implement Roddenberry's thoughts in the end, but it's interesting to see just how close he was to these characters even when he was no longer on set every day. Check out all five pages of the memo below. 




(Mission Log Podcast via 1701 News)

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