Pages from the Official Star Trek Writers' Guide, 1967

The Vault
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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.

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