These excerpts from a 31-page photocopied writers’ guide for the original Star Trek series show how early Trek episodes were crafted. The guide, written in 1967, was meant to help writers for the year-old show—as well as prospective writers working on spec scripts—nail the tone and content of a typical “Trek” episode.
The pages list characters and their attributes (Captain Kirk is “a space-age Horatio Hornblower, constantly on trial with himself, a strong, complex personality”), outline dos and don’ts of costuming (no pockets; no space suits), and suggest places where writers working outside the studio can seek technical advice (ask nearby universities, “your local NASA office,” or anyone in the “aero-space research and development industry”).
Coming at the tail end of a decade and a half of science fiction television of variable quality, “Star Trek” was eager to establish itself as a new breed of more realistic space opera. The third page image below describes a scenario in which Captain Kirk comforts a female crewmember as an alien vessel attacks. The guide asks readers to identify the problem with this “teaser.” The answer: “Concept weak. This whole story opening reeks too much of ‘space pirate’ or similar bad science fiction.” Captain Kirk would never hug a fellow crewman as danger approached; he’d be too busy trying to solve the problem.
It’s clear that the guide’s anonymous author knew that those in charge were asking a lot of their writers. At the end of a list of Frequently Asked Questions appears this one:
Q: Are you people on LSD?
A: We tried, but we couldn’t keep it lit.