The story behind the lost Milton Berle episode of 'Star Trek'

The comedian was almost cast as an important character.

"Lost episodes" generate a lot of buzz for any classic television series, but when it comes to Star Trek, they create a frenzy.

Acclaimed science fiction writer Norman Spinrad wrote the scripts for two episodes of the original Star Trek series. The first episode he wrote, "The Doomsday Machine," is a favorite among fans and critics alike. The second, however, never made it to air. 

After the success of the first episode, series creator Gene Roddenberry commissioned Spinrad to write another teleplay and gave him two conditions. The first was that it had to be filmed on an overgrown back lot in Culver City, California. The second was that comedic legend Milton Berle had to appear in it.

Berle was primed for a comeback in the late 1960s after a string of career missteps, and Star Trek was going to be his way back to the top. Spinrad went ahead and wrote the script, with Berle acting as a God on an alien planet, but things quickly started to unravel.

Spinrad claims producer Gene L. Coon rewrote the dramatic script to suit Berle's comedic talents. 

"Basically, Coon rewrote a serious anthropoligical piece of material into something being played for laughs," Spinrad said. "I was so pissed off that I called up Gene Roddenberry and said, 'Gene, you cannot do this. You have to kill this script.'"

Roddenberry agreed, and the script disappeared along with Berle's chance at a comeback — or so we all thought. 

A few years ago, a fan gave Spinard a copy of his lost script. The author quickly published the piece of work and put it on Amazon, only for it to be taken down by CBS, which owns the rights to the original Star Trek series. 

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Mike 16 months ago
Milton Berle played quite a few serious roles in movies and on TV.
One I recall in particular: on Ironside, Milton played a very ill-mannered talk show host who was getting threats, and chief Ironside had to save his hash ...
What I really recall is that Milton Berle co-wrote the episode (one of several that he did over the years).
WilliamJorns 19 months ago
I never knew about this episode! This is the first I've heard about Milton Berle almost appearing on Star Trek. I do know that David Gerrold, who wrote "The Trouble With Tribbles," originally wanted Boris Karloff to play the interstellar merchant who brings the tribbles onto the space station. That, of course, never happened.
StevenSullivan 19 months ago
The first and only time I saw Berle do some dramatic acting was on this episode of The Big Valley, and he really did some good acting👍 A Flock of Trouble
RedSamRackham 19 months ago
* I've seen Berle do a straight dramatic role on Kraft Suspense theater episode That He Should Weep for Her.
TonyClifton 40 months ago
He was on an episode of "The Mod Squad" as a clown kid's show host, and was quite brilliant!
Delmo 52 months ago
Poor Uncle Miltie-he misses out on an episode of Star Trek, then years later his SNL appearance airs only once and is never syndicated. At least he got to appear on Batman as Louie The Lilac.
AlanRamsey Delmo 40 months ago
You can see Milton's SNL appearance, as it is available on the SNL DVD box set for 1978 or 79.
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