According to this answer Star Trek was originally going to be titled "Wagon Train to the Stars", because Gene Roddenberry had a lot of experience with writing old westerns, and his idea was to create a space western, replacing rifles with lasers and wagons with starships.

At some point (thankfully), that name was scrapped, and was changed to Star Trek.

But in that answer one question goes unanswered: why the name change? Who, what, or why did this iconic show get a name change? Who do we have to thank for this much less cumbersome name?

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    I think that was how he described it in the pitch to the network execs, not an actual title he was seriously considering. For example, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek says 'Although he publicly marketed it as a Western in outer space—a so-called "Wagon Train to the Stars" (like the popular Western TV series)—he privately told friends that he was modeling it on Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels'. And en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek:_The_Original_Series says because of his experience writing Westerns, 'he pitched his new show to the networks as "Wagon Train to the stars."'
    – Hypnosifl
    Mar 31, 2014 at 14:13
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    Note that, as per this answer to the same question, Wagon Train was a popular Western show. Actually calling Star Trek ‘Wagon Train to the Stars’ would have been a bit like calling Supernatural ‘Buffy but with Two Dudes and a Car’. Mar 31, 2014 at 14:14
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    So in an alternate universe Trekkies would be known as Wagoneers? Mar 31, 2014 at 16:38
  • It's just a silly title, that sounds too much like a western. I can just hear the executives arguing over it. "Change it!" "OK, well, how about Space Cowboys?" "Are you nuts? That's even sillier!" And so on, until they finally agreed on Star Trek.
    – Mr Lister
    Mar 31, 2014 at 18:16
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    The words "wagon train to the stars" don't appear in the original pitch document. It's just described as "a wagon train concept".
    – Valorum
    Mar 31, 2014 at 19:30

3 Answers 3


As Paul D. Waite pointed out in the comments, this answer deals with your question quite handily.

Wagon Train, a popular western, would have had quite an easy trademark case against the show if it had so blatantly used a name derived from it. They could have easily argued that any success of the space show derived in part from the explicit tie to their popular Western. Similarly, if the space show fared poorly they could argue the same link damaged their show.

Therefore, it was completely impractical to call the show Wagon Train to the Stars. Even if it had been practical from a legal standpoint, the name is too long. Most shows have snappy, 1-3 word titles. Those which don't have easy titles don't find themselves being discussed as often - people will just talk about a show called Glee more than they would Singing Teenagers With Social Issues.

The word Trek mean to travel or explore. It's not in common usage, even at that time, so it tends to stand out in people's minds. The word Star, of course, indicates that the show deals with space. At the time, when the Space Race was on, space was HUGE (which is why a 'Western, in space' was such an appealing concept).

Thus, Star Trek was chosen as a superior name. I do not know who originally thought up the name, but once they did, I expect it stuck quite quickly.

  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was scuppered from the start :( Mar 31, 2014 at 16:19
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    @PaulD.Waite: Not so much. By the time it came out, online discussions were becoming just a big as 'in-person', and DS9 is easy to type. Similarly, TNG established a pattern of calling follow-up Trek series by their subtitle, and Deep Space Nine isn't terrible to say.
    – Jeff
    Mar 31, 2014 at 17:06
  • facts, I like it. Apr 1, 2014 at 0:32

As Paul D. Waite pointed out, the term "Wagon Train to the Stars" was clearly nothing but a working title that referenced the original inspiration (the Western "Wagon Train")... but not a title ever mean to stay.

Adding to the previous answers, it's worth noting that Star Trek ended up being very different from a Western. While Star Wars and especially Firefly have a strong Western vibe to them, I can't really say that about Star Trek. Star Trek is about the exploration of new worlds the same way Westerns were about the exploration of the Western states of North America, but that's about the only real similarity they have.

Also, note that the term "Wagon train" is a reference to 19th century technology, which doesn't really fit a series taking place in the 23rd century, focusing on space ships.


Star Trek was ALWAYS the title of the show! Wagon train to the stars was how Gene Roddenberry pitched the show to the network, as noted in previous posts. By the way, you can thank Lucille Ball for Star Trek, as she owned Desilu Studios and pressed for it, as well as NBC for authorizing a second pilot after deeming "The Cage" as being "too cerebral" for American audiences.

  • 1
    You should link some evidence to support your answer.
    – Moogle
    Apr 3, 2014 at 16:23

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