Which TV Show Was Originally Pitched As “Wagon Train to the Stars”?
Answer: Star Trek
To understand why Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry pitched Star Trek: The Original Series to Desilu Productions and NBC as “Wagon Train to the Stars”, you first need to understand Wagon Train.
Star Trek was pitched in 1964, which was halfway through the “second run” of the popular Western series Wagon Train. The show ran from 1957-1962 on NBC and then from 1962-1965 on ABC, and frankly, to just call it popular is to sell the entire show short. Wagon Train was incredibly successful and insanely popular, viewership was high across the entire run of the 284 episodes, and in the latter years fans were happy to sit through movie-length 90 minute episodes. The show centered around the adventures of a wagon train headed out to California and the entire mechanism of the wagon train’s movement provided perpetual fodder for new encounters, adventures, and creative plots.
If that sounds familiar, it should. Swap out the cowboys with Star Fleet officers and the great expanse of the American West with the great expanse of space, and you’ve got Star Trek. The wander-the-Earth exploration that drove Wagon Train to success is exactly the kind of wander-the-Earth (pardon, universe) exploration that would make Star Trek, all its derivatives, as well as other Sci-Fi hits like Farscape and Stargate: SG-1, so popular.