The next time one of your friends complains about the fake geek girls ruining fandom, please direct them to this very significant part of television history.
In 1968, Star Trek was not doing so well. See, people can't actually see the future. They had no way of knowing that Star Trek was going to become a Thing with a capital T. The ratings were low, and it was very likely that the show was going to be cancelled after season 2. And, there was behind-the-scenes drama going on with the network as well:
NBC figured Gene Roddenberry for a loose cannon – and they were right. Gene was as iconoclastic as he could possibly get away with, and he suffered a fair amount of slings and arrows due to his unrelenting envelope-pushing. NBC was also convinced that Star Trek was watched only by drooling idiot 12-year olds with no buying power. They managed to ignore the fact that people such as Isaac Asimov, a multiple PhD, and a multitude of other intellectuals enjoyed the show. So, of course, the Suits were always looking for reasons to cancel shows they didn’t trust to be raging successes. They used faulty Neilson Rating numbers to “prove” that Star Trek was failing badly, and decided to cancel it.
The fans were not having it.
Bjo Trimble and her husband organized the first letter-writing campaign to save the tv show. And fans really responded!
This was all accomplished before the Internet. Only the very rich had computers; many big corporations farmed their computer work out. We mimeographed newsletters and& mailed them out to addresses we got from SF conventions, book dealers and even some ST fan mail that Gene helped us obtain from the fan mail service that Paramount contracted with. The newsletters had guidelines for letters, and asked each person to write a letter and then pass the information along to at least 10 people, asking them to write a letter and pass the information on as well. Thus was the Rule of Ten born.
But that's not all...
It's a little-known fact that Lucille Ball was actually a hugely powerful figure behind the scenes in television in the 1960s.
She and her husband Desi Arnaz founded Desilu Productions in 1951. By 1964, they were divorced, and Lucille Ball had full control of the company. It was her influence that made the difference. Even though some at the studio weren't thrilled by Roddenberry's ideas, she was.
In 1965, Roddenberry got a pilot order from NBC and produced the original Star Trek pilot "The Cage." It was rejected by the network, reportedly because it was "too cerebral," and for most shows that's where the story would have ended. Luckily for Roddenberry, he had Ball on his side. The story goes that she still thought the Star Trek idea had legs, and used her considerable influence in television to push for NBC to give Roddenberry a second chance. The network made the exceedingly rare move of ordering a second pilot from Roddenberry, who overhauled almost the entire cast of characters from "The Cage" and eventually produced "Where No Man Has Gone Before." That pilot was accepted, the show was given a series order, and the rest is history.
We owe these ladies a debt.
Star Trek is one of the most influential sci-fi series of all time. And it wouldn't exist if it hadn't been for them. In the 60s, any show that didn't have three seasons didn't make it to reruns. Just think about it. A world without data, without Picard. Without the brilliant, zany, wonderful Trek fandom.