Star Trek: Pages from the writers' guide for the original series

Pages from the Official Star Trek Writers' Guide, 1967

Pages from the Official Star Trek Writers' Guide, 1967

The Vault
Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
May 14 2013 11:45 AM

Pages from the Official Star Trek Writers' Guide, 1967

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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”).

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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.

The entire guide isn’t online; you’ll have to make a pilgrimage to Harvard’s Houghton Library to see it. Thanks to the Houghton Library's Leslie Morris.

Read more in Slate about Star Trek.

Star Trek Guide 1

The Star Trek Guide.1967. Call number f AC95.A100.967s. Purchased with the Roger Eliot Stoddard Book Fund, 2011. Collection of Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Trek2Final

The Star Trek Guide.1967. Call number f AC95.A100.967s. Purchased with the Roger Eliot Stoddard Book Fund, 2011. Collection of Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Trek3Final

The Star Trek Guide.1967. Call number f AC95.A100.967s. Purchased with the Roger Eliot Stoddard Book Fund, 2011. Collection of Houghton Library, Harvard University.