Saturday, October 25, 2014

Star Trek on the BBC: 1969

This is the first of what will probably be several long updates about Star Trek episodes and their repeats on the BBC. The recently launched BBC Genome project makes it easy to search BBC schedules and it is now possible to do from a computer what would otherwise have taken months in a library to complete. 

Star Trek was first used to fill the six month gap between series six and seven of Doctor Who. Patrick Troughton spun off into space at the end of The War Games on 21st June 1969 and two weeks later, after a break for Wimbledon, on 12 July 1969 Where No Man Has Gone Before started an unbroken 25 week run which ended on 27 December 1969.

Use the player below to listen to the 1969 trailer for Star Trek which aired on BBC1 as The War Games ended.

From the BBC's perspective Star Trek must have looked like an obvious replacement for Doctor Who. Both series were given the same start time of 5.15pm so there seems to have been an expectation that they would draw the same audience. Star Trek's optimistic view of humanity's future in space also chimed perfectly with real life events. Apollo 11 lifted off for the Moon on Wednesday 16th July, between the broadcast of Where No Man Has Gone Before and The Naked Time. In fact Apollo 11 passed behind the Moon and entered lunar orbit at around 6.20pm, just after The Naked Time finished at 6.05pm on Saturday 19 July. In addition to this real life outer space action, BBC1 was preparing for the launch of colour television on 15 November 1969; Arena, shown the same day, was the first episode broadcast in living colour.

Don't try to make sense of the order. Things start sensibly with Where No Man Has Gone Before, and following that with the character based The Naked Time makes some sense, but the BBC appears to be pulling episodes off the shelf at random. If you've ever argued with another fan about whether production order or NBC's broadcast order is the correct way to watch Star Trek then the BBC's schedule might reduce you to tears. In addition the observant among you will notice that the 25 week run is not long enough for Star Trek's first season. Five episodes have not yet been shown; The Enemy Within, Miri, Court Martial, The Alternative Factor, and Operation--Annihilate!

One small note before we get to the lists. Dates have been written backwards for ease of sorting so 1969-07-12 is 12 July 1969. Life may not be too short for me to go through the BBC Genome listings for 79 individual Star Trek episodes, but it turns out it is too short for me to go back and subsequently rewrite the dates into a more readable format. 

1969-07-12: Where No Man Has Gone Before
1969-07-19: The Naked Time
1969-07-26: The City On The Edge Of Forever
1969-08-02: A Taste Of Armageddon
1969-08-09: Mudd's Women
1969-08-16: Tomorrow Is Yesterday
1969-08-23: The Menagerie Part 1
1969-08-30: The Menagerie Part 2
1969-09-06: The Devil In The Dark
1969-09-13: Charlie X
1969-09-20: Shore Leave
1969-09-27: Space Seed
1969-10-04: The Man Trap
1969-10-11: Dagger Of The Mind
1969-10-18: The Corbomite Manoeuvre
1969-10-25: Balance Of Terror
1969-11-01: The Squire Of Gothos
1969-11-08: What Are Little Girls Made Of?
1969-11-15: Arena
1969-11-22: The Return Of The Archons
1969-11-29: This Side Of Paradise
1969-12-06: The Doomsday Machine
1969-12-13: Errand Of Mercy
1969-12-20: The Conscience Of The King
1969-12-27: The Galileo Seven


1) 1969-10-18: The Corbomite Maneuver. Memory Alpha lists this as being first broadcast on 16th December 1970. BBC Genome offers 18 October 1969, and both the Daily Mirror and the Daily Express agree; although the Daily Express does go a bit mad again by suggesting that this is a colour broadcast on what was then only a black and white channel (maybe they were trying to point out it was made in colour). In this case BBC Genome is almost certainly correct, although there are good reasons for thinking The Corbomite Maneuver was given an unscheduled repeat in December 1970 (again, something I'll get to in the next update). EDIT: 26/10/14: sorry, that was utterly wrong. The Corbomite Maneuver was almost certainly not repeated in December 1970.

2)1969-12-06: Memory Alpha lists The Alternative Factor as being broadcast on this date while the BBC Genome site opts for Court Martial. Going to newspaper listings for the day we find the Daily Mirror agrees with BBC Genome while the Daily Express opts for The Doomsday Machine. It may look like the Daily Express is randomly pulling episode titles from a hat but they actually appear to be the only newspaper with correct television listings. 1972 is the year The Doomsday Machine first appears in the Radio Times as repeat sandwiched between This Side Of Paradise and Errand Of Mercy. This also happens in 1974 and 1979. I'll keep banging on about the BBC's original transmission order because it is used as the template for subsequent repeats. At least until around 1984 which seems to be the first time the BBC repeated Star Trek in the original NBC order. Working backwards The Doomsday Machine must have premièred on BBC1 between the first-run dates for This Side Of Paradise and Errand Of Mercy; which is 6 December 1969. To find out what was actually broadcast on this date would require access to what the BBC called PasB (Programme as Broadcast) documentation, and that is locked away in the BBC's Written Archives at Caversham. I'm confident that The Doomsday Machine was shown 6 December 1969 but without access to the PasBs we may never know for sure.
The Daily Express 6 December 1969

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