Having recently completed William Shatner's Star Trek Memories - and stopped laughing at the way he treated Leonard Nimoy's bike - I started to wonder what other practical jokes were played - such as the telegrams to Hawaii or the monster on the plane.

What practical jokes were played during the production of TOS?

This includes cases such as with the suit salesman and the big, tall, and green Gene Roddenberry.

  • 1
    +1 Fun question. I would like to see you answer this question yourself by detailing the examples you provide. Mar 8, 2016 at 8:18
  • 1
    @Wikis have the first one up. I'll edit in the other two soon.
    – Mithical
    Mar 8, 2016 at 8:59

2 Answers 2


Casting Shenanigans

In her autobiography, The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy, actress Grace Lee Whitney (who played Yeoman Janice Rand) describes several practical jokes involved cast members arranged by Gene Roddenberry during the TOS years and during the production of the first TOS film:

  • John D. F. Black was hired by Roddenberry to assist with casting for TOS in April 1966. Gene brought him an "unknown young actress" and left her alone with him. When Gene returned, he found the actress in only her underwear in Black's lap. Black was extremely embarrassed and Gene demanded, "What's going on here?" Then, a bunch of people burst in with champagne and cake. It turns out that the actress was actually Majel Barrett (Roddenberry's girlfriend and frequent Star Trek actress). Gene had asked her to seduce Black as part of a practical joke.

Meet Your New Secretary

  • When Robert Wise was hired as director of The Motion Picture, Roddenberry arranged for him to have a secretary. The secretary was chewing bubble gum and filing her nails and telling Wise she wouldn't be able to work long that day because she needed to "have a bunion removed". This "secretary" was actually Grace Lee Whitney.

You can read more about the two pranks above in Whitney's autobiography here.

The Bicycle

As mentioned by Mithrandir in the original question, William Shatner had played a series of pranks on Leonard Nimoy involving Nimoy's bicycle.

  • As explained in Shatner's book Star Trek Memories (and also on stage at the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Star Trek) how he and Nimoy competed to arrive first at the canteen when lunch breaks were announced during filming on a Paramount lot in the 1980s. Nimoy bought a bicycle so that he could always make it there first. Shatner responded by locking the bicycle to a fire hydrant, hiding it in his trailer (which was guarded by his dogs), and mounting it to the roof of the sound stage!

The Case of the Disappearing Bagels

UPDATE (6 August 2016):

Today at the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Star Trek in Las Vegas, William Shatner took to the stage and discussed some of the pranks he pulled during the filming of the movies. He mentioned the bike story (in Mithrandir's answer), but he also mentioned one involving Deforest Kelley:

  • According to Shatner, he would try to make Kelley question his faculties by stealing his bagels from the toaster in the canteen on the film lot before they finishing toasting. Apparently, he sometimes did this more than once during the same break.
  • I knew about the first, that was in Star Trek Memories, but not the second. +1.
    – Mithical
    Mar 8, 2016 at 7:47
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    I remember reading that the "Wrath of Khan" scene, where Savik, Kirk and McCoy were getting on the elevator, would have the elevator doors close, and then the camera stayed on the doors for a couple of seconds. Kirstie Alley is apparently very ticklish, and DeForest Kelly and Shatner were pretty merciless when she was stuck in there while the doors were closed. Aug 10, 2016 at 18:06
  • Can you add the ones that I mentioned in my question?
    – Mithical
    Sep 12, 2016 at 8:36

I'll post this answer, detailing the pranks in the question, sort of, as @Wikis said, to give an idea what I'm looking for.

Spock's bicycle

When the actors went for lunch, LN would get on his bike, rush to the front, and get his food while the others were still waiting, because he had to have his makeup job done soon. One day, when lunch was called, he couldn't find it. So he yelled, "Hey guys, give me my bike!" and they gave it back. The next day, it was missing again, but this time... it was hanging from the rafters. And he went crazy, looking for the bike, and then everyone was laughing and looking above his head, and there it was - dangling just out of reach.
The next day, William Shatner buyers a heavy chain, and a really strong lock... and locks up the bike. And so Leonard starts screaming "Who did this?!" at which point Bill walks him to the lunch place.
Next day, Nimoy bring chain cutters, and gets the bike loose. 45 minutes later... It's gone. Bill put it in his dressing room... with some... Uh.... Territorial dogs.
I have to insert Leonard Nimoy's comment here:

Bill's dogs are meaner than he is, and that's not easy.

Next day... Leo brings his bike, in his Buick, and leaves the bike in the car. He says it best here:

Guess who had my car towed away.

As an aside, William Shatner actually still had the bike at the time of his writing his Star Trek Memories, which is where I read the story.

The pants salesman

There had been for a while, going around the set, a salesman determined to sell a pair of pants. Apparently, he was really driving them crazy.

And then... for one episode, they needed to have a giant, green, android-like creature. In William Shatner's words:

Several days later, Cassidy sat down in Phillips' undersized makeup chair and allowed the artist to transform him from a smiling young actor into an evil, hulking monster. First Freddie covered Ted's head with a latex skinhead wig; then he applied a sort of grayish-green base coat over Cassidy's entire face. Once all that was done, Phillips darkened the area around each of the actor's eyes and employed a black grease pencil to sharpen the angles of Ted's cheekbones, forehead, and chin. The end result was quite frightening and really served to drain all the humanity from Cassidy's face. In short, he looked like an android.
Star Trek Memories by William Shatner (pp 143/144)

Then Gene had a slightly evil idea. He took this evil green creature, gave it his phone, sat it in his director's chair in the office, and told the guy who was selling pants to come in. (Gene, Shatner, and some other people were hiding behind the office door.)

The unsuspecting guy walked in. The green monster holds up a hand, signals to wait a minute, says something in the phone. Turns to the pants guy. ...and amazingly, the pants guy doesn't freak out. Instead, he tries to sell a suit to the big green monster in front of him.

Gene, Shatner, and the other people can't take it any longer, so they burst out laughing and come out of hiding. And, whaddya know, the pants guy isn't annoyed - instead, he tries to sell all of them suits. (And Gene and Shatner feel guilty over the joke so they each buy some pants.)

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