Occasionally, I examine a particular television program or series either known to be or believed lost forever. The amount of lost TV is truly staggering–aside from a handful of exceptions everything broadcast prior to 1948 no longer exists. That doesn’t mean it all has to be forgotten.
So many stories about Star Trek have been told and retold over the past five decades it is sometimes hard to know what actually happened and what’s apocryphal. One example is the famous letter-writing campaign launched by avid fans in late 1967 asking NBC to renew Star Trek for a third season.
That NBC received tens of thousands of letters is not in doubt. But there’s reason to believe Star Trek was never in danger, that the network never planned to cancel Star Trek at the end of the 1967-1968 season. Nor was it unprecedented for viewers to campaign for their favorite TV shows. It happened at least a half dozen times before Star Trek, as early as 1951 when viewer feedback helped convince CBS to renew Mr. I. Magination.
Whether or not the letters had an impact, NBC did renew Star Trek for the 1968-1969 season. Reportedly, the network took the extraordinary step of making an on-air announcement after the Friday, March 1st, 1968 episode (“The Omega Glory”) to assure viewers that Star Trek would return.
The network then issued a press release about the announcement. Here’s the text of the press release as reprinted in Stephen E. Whitfield’s book The Making of Star Trek:
MARCH 4TH, 1968
UNPRECEDENTED VIEWER REACTION IN SUPPORT OF “STAR TREK” LEADS TO ON-AIR ANNOUNCEMENT OF SERIES’ SCHEDULING FOR 1968-69.
In response to unprecedented viewer reaction in support of the continuation of the NBC Television Network’s STAR TREK series, plans for continuing the series in the Fall were announced on NBC-TV immediately following last Friday night’s (March 1) episode of the space adventure series. The announcement will be repeated following next Friday’s (March 8) program.
From early December to date, NBC has received 114,667 pieces of mail in support of STAR TREK, and 52,151 in the month of February alone.
Immediately after last Friday night’s program, the following announcement was made:
“And now an announcement of interest to all viewers of STAR TREK. We are pleased to tell you that STAR TREK will continue to be seen on NBC Television. We know you will be looking forward to seeing the weekly adventure in space on STAR TREK.”
The Making of Star Trek was first published in September 1968 and is the closest thing to a contemporary source about NBC’s on-air announcement that I’ve come across. I’ve been unable to find any reference of the announcement in newspapers or industry publications like Variety or Broadcasting.
It seems unlikely a recording of this announcement could still exist more than 50 years after it aired. But maybe a Star Trek fan recorded the episode on reel-to-reel audio tape. If so, I’d love to hear it.
Do any longtime Star Trek fans reading this remember hearing an on-air announcement in March 1968? Hit the comments with your thoughts and memories.