fans will know Roddenberrry pitched the series to NBC as "Wagon Train
to the stars", but few posters will know exactly what he meant by it. He wasn't simply calling Trek
a western in space. Wagon Train
was a hugely popular series that ran from 1957-65. Character actor Ward Bond starred as the wagonmaster, and Robert Horton played the scout. Image: http://ctva.biz/US/Western/WagonTrain1959_title.JPG width=500 Image: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d6/Robert_Horton_Ward_Bond_Wagon_Train.JPG width=400
The series depicted life on a wagon train just after the civil war, on its trek (get it?) from St Joseph MO to San Francisco, facing the perils of Indians, bandits, deserts, and snowy mountains.
The show's format was flexible. Episodes could focus on Bond or Horton (or very occasionally, both), but often the emphasis would be on a name guest star -- for example, Rod Steiger as a blind man determined to prove he can drive a wagon, or Lee Marvin as a bandito
who claims one of the passengers is a deserter from the Alamo -- with Bond and/or Horton appearing only in wraparounds.
Apparently, ST was originally intended to follow this format, at least to a degree: some Kirk episodes, perhaps a handful focusing on Spock (Kirk's "scout"), but many emphasizing big parts for guest stars, with Kirk as peripheral. You can kind of see this in the early episode "Charlie X".
But Shatner's ego would not permit this. He insisted Kirk be central to episodes whenever possible, in every scene and if they could work it out, every shot (gotta say one thing for Shatner - he wasn't lazy). Shatner frequently demanded dialogue or action intended for other characters be given to him, leading to the supporting cast diving him the heartfelt nickname "Shat".
The unsuccessful first ST pilot "The Cage" (which you can watch here
), written by Roddenberry, had been a slow moving sci fi about mind control and illusion, with some Adam and Eve thrown in. It was like a very mediocre Outer Limits
, and certainly not what Roddenberry had promised NBC. Not surprising it was rejected.
"Where No Man Has Gone Before", written by Samuel Peeples (like Roddenberry, a veteran of the classic western Have Gun Will Travel
) was much more to the network's taste. The Enterprise as the Ponderosa, where we see a variation of the standard western story of the hero's friend (Gary Mitchell) who becomes sheriff then has power go to his head, forcing the Cartwrights (Kirk and Spock) to destroy him.
As in "The Cage", "Where No Man Has Gone Before" also uses the Adam & Eve story, though it does not emphasize the mating (i.e. sex -- this is network TV in 1964, remember) aspects as "The Cage" had.
Roddenbery himself admitted that for all the gadgetry and sci fi philosophizing, what may have sold the pilot to NBC was the fact that at the climax Kirk and Mitchell engage in a good old fashioned western fist fight.