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Primitive Culture: A Star Trek History and Culture Podcast

May 5, 2022

Star Trek’s backdoor pilots.

The year is 1968. As Star Trek goes off the air for good, a new show—Assignment: Earth—debuts from some of the same creative team. For dedicated Trekkies, the premise is already familiar and the two leads, Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln, have a head start garnering fans of their own. That, at least, is what might have been had Star Trek not been renewed for a third season. As things turned out, the episode featuring Seven and Lincoln was simply the finale of Star Trek’s second-season, not the series, and “Assignment: Earth” was never picked up as a show in its own right.

In this episode of Primitive Culture, host Duncan Barrett is joined by Tony Black for a look at Star Trek’s most famous backdoor pilot, an episode that lays out the premise for a potential future show, using the budget and production infrastructure of an existing one. “Assignment: Earth” might be Star Trek’s most blatant use of this sneaky approach, but more recent examples include “Point of Light,” “Terra Firma,” and “All Is Possible.” These three installments of Star Trek: Discovery seem to hint pretty strongly at shows that might be coming down the pipe. And then there’s Discovery’s entire second season, which set up not only Strange New Worlds—and introduced new actors in the roles of Captain Pike, Spock, and the original Number One—but the long-awaited Section 31 show as well. What are the benefits—and pitfalls—of taking the backdoor route to a new project? And do such stories inevitably struggle to function as episodes of two different shows simultaneously?

Duncan Barrett

Tony Black

Tony Black (Editor) Duncan Barrett (Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer)