Gene Roddenberry and Isaac Asimov had some communication after Asimov wrote some disparaging comments about the scientific accuracy of Star Trek. They eventually became firm friends and Roddenberry turned to him for advice on how to better portray the character of Kirk who was supposed to be the centre of the show but was being overshadowed by the characters of Spock and McCoy.

Asimov wrote

Then, too, it might be well to unify the team of Kirk and Spock a bit, by having them actively meet various menaces together with one saving the life of the other on occasion. The idea of this would be to get people to think of Kirk when they think of Spock.

To which Roddenberry replies

Your comments on Shatner and Spock were most interesting and I have passed them on to Gene Coon and others. We've followed one idea immediately, that of having Spock save his Captain's life, in an up-coming show.

Which episode is Gene Roddenberry referring to in this letter?

The full correspondence can be found here

  • 2
    The Asimov idea was dated June 1967 and G.R.'s response was a few weeks later which, from listed air dates would put you in season 2 at the earliest. Thanks for the link to the letters by the way ATB - never seen them before...very interesting.
    – Kerr Avon
    Sep 22, 2016 at 22:39

2 Answers 2


Spock had already saved Kirk's life early in the series. In "The Man Trap" he interrupted the salt-sucking monster from draining Kirk in McCoy's quarters.

But the episode airing closest to the June-July 1967 timeline of the correspondence that also featured Spock saving Kirk's life would be "The Apple". In that episode Spock pushes Kirk away from a flower that was about to fire poisonous dart-like thorns into Kirk.


For additional context, the full correspondence wasn't about a single episode, but the overall direction of the two main leads, as the correspondence occurred between Season 1 and Season 2.

Asimov recommended ways that Shatner could still stand out as the primary lead:

The problem, then, is how to convince the world, and Mr. Shatner, that Mr. Shatner is the lead.

It seems to me that the only thing one can do is lead from strength. Mr. Shatner is a versatile and talented actor and perhaps this should be made plain by giving him a chance at a variety of roles. In other words, an effort should be made to work up story plots in which Mr. Shatner has an opportunity to put on disguises or take over roles of unusual nature. A bravura display of his versatility would be impressive indeed and would probably make the whole deal a great deal more fun for Mr. Shatner.

In his second volume of behind the scenes TOS details "These Are the Voyages: Season Two" - author Marc Cushman references this same correspondence and draws a line of reasoning that Roddenberry took all of these suggestions to heart, writing:

Roddenberry appreciated Asimov's suggestions. Before the second season was over, Kirk would dress up as a WWII Nazi, be garbed as a Roman slave, and as a warring tribesman on a primitive planet....the final consensus, however, was, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em". Kirk and Spock would be a team.

The full correspondence includes this final word from Roddenberry:

Shatner will come off ahead by showing he is fond of the teenage idol [Spock]; Spock will do well by displaying his loyalty to his Captain. In a way it will give us one lead, the team.

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