Gene Roddenberry’s The Secret Defence of 117 Script

Years ago, I wrote about a “lost” television episode written by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. Titled “The Secret Weapon of 117,” it first aired in syndication in March 1956. Viewers may have seen the episode while watching Stage 7, Chevron Hall of Stars, or Don Ameche Presents, depending on where they lived and the regional sponsor in their TV market. The last known broadcast came five years later in April 1961. The episode then seemingly disappeared. Roddenberry supposedly sold copies of the script through his Lincoln Enterprises company.

Earlier this year, Michael contacted me with the news that he had a copy of the script. His wife found it at an estate sale in Virginia in 1996, part of a larger collection of scripts and material from various Roddenberry projects (including the unsold pilot “Genesis II” from the early 1970s). Michael’s copy of the script is dated December 1953 and bears the title “The Secret Defence of 117” (note the British spelling).

Curiously, the script is also marked “FOUR STAR THEATER,” which is most likely a typo. Four Star Playhouse, produced by Four Star Productions, aired on CBS from 1952 to 1956. Four Star later produced syndicated dramatic anthology series Stage 7, which aired in parts of the country as Chevron Hall of Stars and Don Ameche Presents.

Click on one of the thumbnails below to view the cover, title page, and first page from Michael’s copy of “The Secret Defence of 117” script:

Did Roddenberry write “The Secret Defence of 117” in 1953 as an potential installment of Four Star Playhouse? Why did it take so long for the script to be filmed? Most importantly, does a copy of the episode, broadcast under the title “The Secret Weapon of 117,” still exist?

4 Replies to “Gene Roddenberry’s The Secret Defence of 117 Script”

  1. It’s quite likely it was submitted to Four Star Productions but either rejected or just filed away for later consideration. They likely received hundreds, if not thousands of scripts and could only do so many in a season. Roddenberry became a writer full time in 1956 so it could be that he was starting to become a name around the mid-50s which made the producers more interested in the script. It’s more common than people realize for a piece of writing to sit for years before being punished or used. Even if you submitted a manuscript to a publisher today you’d be lucky to see it in print in two years.

    The name “Four Star Theater” may not be a typo but a working title for the show before it aired. If so then the script was submitted before the show first aired. Although the dates don’t match. It might be that he started the script using the working title but didn’t finish it until a couple years later and forgot to alter the title. He may also not have wanted to retype the title page (which would have meant using a manual typewriter).

  2. Four Star Theater and Four Star Playhouse were the same show.
    This was a filmed 30 minute anthology program on CBS featuring four rotating stars in individual episodes. It’s original intended title was Four Star Theater (which was already a radio program) as indicated in newspaper articles in March 1952. However, the following month articles started calling it Four Star Playhouse and this was the title used when it went to air in September. This is likely because there already was a ‘Four Star Theater’ airing on New York’s WPIX and other stations throughout the country which would air theatrical films as well as a ‘Four Star TV Theater’ that had aired in 1949 and 1950 on Chicago’s WGN that aired theatrical films. However, Billboard magazine and some TV listings and newspaper articles across the country still referred to this show as Four Star Theater, while most used the Four Star Playhouse name.
    Four Star Playhouse/Theater was a Four Star Production.

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