Considering the egalitarian world of Star Fleet, you’d think a woman could be captain of the USS Enterprise. William Shatner’s Captain Kirk is iconic, but it would have been groundbreaking had the role been a woman.
Rumor has it that the producers considered casting a woman as the Enterprise’s first officer. Nichelle Nichols (who played Lt. Uhura) auditioned for the role, but ultimately the producers rejected Number One, a logical and emotionless female officer, choosing to cast Leonard Nimoy over Spock, downgrading the character to the rank of first officer (by Gizmodo).
Not Picking a Woman as Captain Kirk says more about TV executives in the late ’60s than it does about series creator Gene Roddenberry. Considering the pilot was funded by none other than Lucille Ball, one would have thought casting a woman as Captain Kirk was a possibility, but Roddenberry had some executives to contend with. Roddenberry chose his battles wisely, delighting in crafting a groundbreaking series featuring an inclusive cast with Nichols and George Takei as central characters (per Gizmodo).
Roddenberry pushed for “Trek” to be revolutionary. The show broadcast the first interracial kiss on network television, boldly going where no one had gone before. There’s no doubt that “Star Trek” was groundbreaking, taking television to the stars and beyond, but having a female Captain Kirk would have made a huge statement about gender equality.
Turns out Trekkies wouldn’t get a female Star Fleet captain until Janeway hit the screens in”Star Trek: Voyagerin 1995, nearly 30 years after the original series captured the popular imagination. In a genre dominated by men, it’s amazing how different science fiction would be if it weren’t for Mary Shelley and Lucille Ball.