"Star Trek" is one of the most iconic science fiction franchises in the world. When the original series debuted on television in 1966, few could have imagined the cultural impact it would have over 50 years later.

An uncertain beginning

The show's evolution from a low-rated science fiction series into a media empire spanning television spin-offs, hit motion pictures, novels, etc., is the stuff of Hollywood legend. However, "Star Trek" had a very fraught journey to the screen. Science fiction was not as in vogue on television in the 1960s as it is today. Hollywood executives were reluctant to take a chance on a ambitious drama set in space. "Star Trek" may have never been made if not for the direct involvement of entertainment giant Lucille Ball.

Lucille Ball's crucial role in 'Star Trek'

Ball was not only a gifted comedic actress, she was also an extremely savvy businesswoman. She and her husband, Desi Arnaz, built Desilu Productions, the studio they created to launch their iconic situation comedy "I Love Lucy" in October of 1951. Desilu Productions quickly gained a reputation for producing television shows of unparalleled quality. Within a decade after opening its doors, it became one of the most prominent production studios in Hollywood.

After the cancellation of "I Love Lucy" in 1960, Ball and Arnaz divorced. In 1962, Ball bought out Arnaz's stake in Desilu, becoming its sole owner. This move resulted in her being the first woman to head a major Hollywood studio; she also became one of the most powerful women in television.

Under Ball's leadership Desilu continued to prosper, producing a number of well-regarded television series, including: "The Lucy Show" (1962), "Mannix" (1967), "That Girl" (1966), and "Mission: Impossible" (1966).

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A few years after assuming control of Desilu, Ball began looking for high-concept television series to bolster the studio's waning production slate. She was presented with a pilot script for a "space western" by a writer named Gene Roddenberry. Ball was instantly intrigued by the script. Though she did not have prior experience with the genre of science fiction, she saw enormous potential in the series.

However, the Desilu board of directors vehemently disagreed. Their main concern was great expense inherent in producing "Star Trek." Undeterred, Ball bought the script and approved production. The voyages of the starship Enterprise were set to begin.

Eventually, Desilu did buckle under the financial strain of producing the series. In 1967, Ball sold the studio to Paramount Television. The studio's entire programming library, including the rights to "Star Trek," was included in the sale.

"Star Trek" has since become more than just a short-lived science fiction show that spawned a pop culture phenomenon. Its idealistic vision of the future continues to inspire and bring joy to millions. Its legacy was made possible due to the intervention of one extraordinary woman: Lucille Ball.