Here’s Why Star Trek: The Original Series Was Canceled After 3 Seasons

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While many longtime fans might be turning their attention toward the newly-announced Picard or the upcoming third season of Discoveryit’s impossible to deny just how important Star Trek: The Original Series was. The iconic ’60s show that kicked off one of the world’s greatest franchises might not have aged as well as its contemporaries, but it’s hard to ignore the influence it’s had on the sci-fi genre as a whole.

Of course, while most of the other shows in the franchise saw lengthy runs – even Enterprise, for its many mistakes, saw four seasons – The Original Series only aired from 1966 to 1969, with less than 80 episodes under its belt. This begs the question: how did one of the world’s most iconic shows end up getting canceled after a mere three seasons?

As ScreenRant notes, when it first debuted, Star Trek: The Original Series was met with middling reviews and ratings. Unlike other shows at the time – which were mostly focused on entertainment – creator Gene Roddenberry chose to focus on a mix of sociopolitical issues. As a result, the franchise attracted a younger, more educated audience, but it regularly ended up in the third place during its time slot, a problem compounded by the fact that, in the 1960s, there were only three major broadcast networks (NBC, ABC, and CBS).

While a successful letter-writing campaign saved the show from cancellation after its second season, the third run of episodes was doomed before production began. Along with a significant slashed budget, the show was moved to air at 10 p.m. on Fridays, a time which many refer to as the “death slot.” Exhausted from serving as showrunner, Gene Roddenberry took a step back, and his replacement, producer Fred Freiberger, had to contend with a less-than-stellar pool of writers, in addition to the aforementioned problems. Needless to say, ratings continued to drop and it was axed shortly after.

NBC’s decision to cancel Star Trek: The Original Series is widely considered to be one of the biggest mistakes the network has ever made, but thankfully, the franchise managed to bounce back. Following the success of Star Wars, Roddenberry’s magnum opus made a triumphant return with a series of films (that kicked off in 1979), which in turn paved the way for The Next Generation. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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