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The Stories Behind 8 Back-to-School Essentials

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Annoy your kids with your newfound school supplies knowledge and they'll actually want to go back to school.

1. The Lunch Box

In the early part of the 20th century, most kids packed their school lunch in an empty cookie, biscuit, or tobacco tin. In 1935, a company called Aladdin tried to create a market for specialized lunch boxes by putting Mickey Mouse on the cover of their tin box. But even The Mouse couldn't convince kids to buy en masse. Aladdin didn't give up, though, and they had their first bonafide lunchtime hit in 1950 when they released the Hopalong Cassidy lunch box to young baby boomers. Available in red or blue, the box and thermos combination featured a crudely drawn picture of the popular TV and radio cowboy on one side.

As lackluster as that sounds, Aladdin sold 600,000 Hopalong lunch boxes in a single year. Hoping to hop in on Hopalong's success, the King of Cowboys, Roy Rogers, asked Aladdin about getting his own lunch box. But Aladdin turned him down, saying one cowboy was enough for them. So Rogers went to American Thermos, who upped the ante by covering the entire box and thermos with a full-color likeness of Rogers, setting a new standard in lunch box design. In 1953 alone, an impressive 2.5 million Roy Rogers lunch boxes were sold. But Roy's lunchtime reign was short-lived, because you can't keep a good mouse down. The Disney School Bus, featuring Mickey and the gang, became the most popular lunch box ever with 9 million units sold after it was released in 1956.

During the lunch box heyday, between 1950 and 1970, around 120 million boxes were sold, featuring cartoon characters, comic book heroes, Barbie, and even The Beatles. But things began to change when concerned moms started crusading against metal boxes, claiming they could be used as weapons on the schoolyard. Thanks to these efforts, the State of Florida banned metal lunch boxes in 1972, forcing the manufacturers to switch to plastic. After the change, sales declined quickly until 1985 when a metal Rambo lunch box for kids became the last of its kind. Today, soft, fabric lunch boxes are all the rage, but they still feature popular characters like Spider-Man, Batman, and, of course, Mickey Mouse. [Muppet Babies lunchbox image courtesy of rubylane.com. Order it now!]

2. Crayola Crayons

Early childhood education started in Europe in the 1820s, but didn't really take a foothold in America until the 1860s and '70s, when kindergartens began springing up all over the country. Even back then, art was considered an important part of a child's education; however most of the art supplies available at the time, like paint or pastels, were very messy in the hands of a five-year old. Wax crayons were recognized as a great solution to this problem, so as many as 300 companies began making them to cash in on the new, lucrative educational market.

However, there was one concern: most of the pigments used to make crayons were highly toxic. So when kids inevitably chewed on their drawing utensil, they wound up getting sick. That is until the Binney and Smith Company developed new, non-toxic pigments as part of their Crayola brand crayons, first released in 1903. The unforgettable name was created by Mrs. Binney when she combined the French word for chalk, craie, with the first part of the word oleaginous, meaning oily, which described the wax used to make the crayons. From their initial offering of eight colors, the line has expanded over the years to include 150 shades, including metallic versions and others with glitter infused into the wax.

And no discussion of crayons is complete without mentioning the classic Sesame Street tour of the Crayola Factory:

3. Elmer's Glue-All

For almost as long as kids have been eating glue, they've been eating Elmer's Glue-All. First released in 1947 by Borden, the dairy company, the glue wasn't a big seller until they added the now-familiar bull logo to the bottle. Over the years, rumors have spread that the bull meant the adhesive was made using animal hooves or hides, but those are just urban legends. In fact, the original Glue-All was made from casein, a milk by-product that Borden had in large supply thanks to their dairy operations.

The bull came to be on the label after Elsie, Borden's famous spokescow, was hired to star in the 1940 film Little Men. Her shooting schedule prevented her from attending the World's Fair that year where she had always been incredibly popular. So, in desperation, Borden found a bull they could use instead, called him Elmer, and said he was Elsie's husband. Elmer was a big hit with Fair-goers, too, so he became the spokesbull for the company's chemical division. His face was added to the glass bottle of Glue-All in 1951, which is when sales finally took off. A year later, the packaging changed to the now-familiar white plastic bottle with the orange dispenser tip and has stayed that way ever since.

4. The Mechanical Pencil

One of the drawbacks of the standard #2 pencil is that you have to sharpen it all the time. But with a mechanical pencil, all you do is click, click, click and you're good to go. It might surprise you to know that this mechanical marvel was first patented way back in 1822 by Sampson Mordan, who called it a "propelling pencil."

Concealed as a small cylinder, the pencil would expand in length as one end was pulled out, revealing the lead from the other side. When finished writing, the owner would simply collapse the pen into its original form, making the useful little device highly portable. They were especially popular with wealthy Victorians who preferred cylinders of silver or gold, the more ornately decorated the better, sometimes working precious stones into the end cap. Even laymen had propelling pencils, though, often cast in the likeness of animals, Egyptian mummies, cannons for the military man, or disguised as everyday items like nails and screws.

Mordan's design was just the start of a whole new industry, with nearly 200 mechanical pencil patents filed throughout the late 1800s, most featuring their own unique way of getting the lead out. The push-button, ratcheting design didn't come along until 1879, but it has stood the test of time and is now the most common type of mechanical pencil on the market.

5. Binder Clips

After your kids finish their first assignment of the school year, a 10-page paper titled, "What I Did Over Summer Vacation," they're going to have to bind all those pages together. Thankfully there are plenty of inventions available to do just that.

They could start with the most recent paper-holding innovation, the binder clip. Developed in 1910 by Louis E. Baltzley, the flexible black metal clip with silver handles has remained unchanged for over 100 years, proving the old adage, "If it ain't broken, don't fix it."

6. 3-Ring Binders

Another option would be a 3-ring binder, invented by German office supply innovator Friedrich Soennecken in 1886. Naturally, he invented the hole punch to go along with the binder, too. He also contributed to the style of penmanship known as "round writing," a predecessor to the cursive handwriting that we all spent hours and hours practicing in elementary school.

7. The Stapler

Of course there's always the stapler, which went through many variations until Henry Heyl patented his design in 1877. The key difference between Heyl's stapler and earlier models was the ability to not only punch the staple through the paper, but to also bend the staple prongs under once it was through, thus securing the pages together in one motion. But with Heyl's design, you still had to feed the staples in one at a time. A spring-loaded magazine was soon developed that could feed the staples into the rest of the mechanism. [Image credit: Daniel Manrique.]

When stationery wholesaler Jack Linksy founded the Parrot Speed Fastener Corporation in the 1930s, few could've imagined that his humble company—later known as Swingline—would change the world of paper-fastening forever. But that's just what he did when he developed the 1937 Swingline Speed Stapler No. 3. According to Linsky's son-in-law Alan Seff, to load a stapling machine before the Swingline came along, "you practically needed a screwdriver and a hammer to put the staples in. He and his engineers devised a patented unit where you just opened the top of the machine, and you'd plunk the staples in." Amazingly enough, the mechanics of the modern stapler have remained virtually unchanged.

8. The Paperclip

Last but not least is the granddaddy of paper binding technologies—the mighty paperclip. Since the late 1860s, there had been a handful of bent-wire clasp designs that used friction to hold papers together. But the curved clip we're all familiar with, known as the "Gem," was first introduced around 1892. No one ever took out an official patent for the design, so there's no definitive record of when it was actually developed.

Because of this hazy history, the invention has been attributed to many different people over the years, perhaps most famously to English sociologist and Charles Darwin-enthusiast Herbert Spencer, who coined the term "survival of the fittest." There's also a Norwegian, Johan Vaaler, who designed a series of clips that were successfully patented in 1901, though they were far from the first. However, because patriotic Norwegians wore paperclips on their lapels as a symbol of unity during the Nazi occupation of World War II, the legend of Vaaler's innovation grew as a matter of national pride. Unfortunately, none of his designs were put into production before his patent expired, so neither he, nor anyone else for that matter, can truly be called the inventor of the paperclip.
* * * * *
Do you remember your favorite lunch box from your school days? Is there something unusual on your kid's school supply list this year? Did you have any first-day-of-school traditions? Tell us all about it in the comments below.

This story originally appeared in 2010.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Little Women
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Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is one of the world's most beloved novels, and now—nearly 150 years after its original publication—it's capturing yet another generation of readers, thanks in part to Masterpiece's new small-screen adaptation. Whether it's been days or years since you've last read it, here are 10 things you might not know about Alcott's classic tale of family and friendship.

1. LOUISA MAY ALCOTT DIDN'T WANT TO WRITE LITTLE WOMEN.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Louisa May Alcott was writing both literature and pulp fiction (sample title: Pauline's Passion and Punishment) when Thomas Niles, the editor at Roberts Brothers Publishing, approached her about writing a book for girls. Alcott said she would try, but she wasn’t all that interested, later calling such books “moral pap for the young.”

When it became clear Alcott was stalling, Niles offered a publishing contract to her father, Bronson Alcott. Although Bronson was a well-known thinker who was friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, his work never achieved much acclaim. When it became clear that Bronson would have an opportunity to publish a new book if Louisa started her girls' story, she caved in to the pressure.

2. LITTLE WOMEN TOOK JUST 10 WEEKS TO WRITE.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Alcott began writing the book in May 1868. She worked on it day and night, becoming so consumed with it that she sometimes forgot to eat or sleep. On July 15, she sent all 402 pages to her editor. In September, a mere four months after starting the book, Little Women was published. It became an instant best seller and turned Alcott into a rich and famous woman.

3. THE BOOK AS WE KNOW IT WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN TWO PARTS.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

The first half was published in 1868 as Little Women: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. The Story Of Their Lives. A Girl’s Book. It ended with John Brooke proposing marriage to Meg. In 1869, Alcott published Good Wives, the second half of the book. It, too, only took a few months to write.

4. MEG, BETH, AND AMY WERE BASED ON ALCOTT'S SISTERS.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Meg was based on Louisa’s sister Anna, who fell in love with her husband John Bridge Pratt while performing opposite him in a play. The description of Meg’s wedding in the novel is supposedly based on Anna’s actual wedding.

Beth was based on Lizzie, who died from scarlet fever at age 23. Like Beth, Lizzie caught the illness from a poor family her mother was helping.

Amy was based on May (Amy is an anagram of May), an artist who lived in Europe. In fact, May—who died in childbirth at age 39—was the first woman to exhibit paintings in the Paris Salon.

Jo, of course, is based on Alcott herself.

5. LIKE THE MARCH FAMILY, THE ALCOTTS KNEW POVERTY.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Bronson Alcott’s philosophical ideals made it difficult for him to find employment—for example, as a socialist, he wouldn't work for wages—so the family survived on handouts from friends and neighbors. At times during Louisa’s childhood, there was nothing to eat but bread, water, and the occasional apple.

When she got older, Alcott worked as a paid companion and governess, like Jo does in the novel, and sold “sensation” stories to help pay the bills. She also took on menial jobs, working as a seamstress, a laundress, and a servant. Even as a child, Alcott wanted to help her family escape poverty, something Little Women made possible.

6. ALCOTT REFUSED TO HAVE JO MARRY LAURIE.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Alcott, who never married herself, wanted Jo to remain unmarried, too. But while she was working on the second half of Little Women, fans were clamoring for Jo to marry the boy next door, Laurie. “Girls write to ask who the little women marry, as if that was the only aim and end of a woman’s life," Alcott wrote in her journal. "I won’t marry Jo to Laurie to please anyone.”

As a compromise—or to spite her fans—Alcott married Jo to the decidedly unromantic Professor Bhaer. Laurie ends up with Amy.

7. THERE ARE LOTS OF THEORIES ABOUT WHO LAURIE WAS BASED ON.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

People have theorized Laurie was inspired by everyone from Thoreau to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s son Julian, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. In 1865, while in Europe, Alcott met a Polish musician named Ladislas Wisniewski, whom Alcott nicknamed Laddie. The flirtation between Laddie and Alcott culminated in them spending two weeks together in Paris, alone. According to biographer Harriet Reisen, Alcott later modeled Laurie after Laddie.

How far did the Alcott/Laddie affair go? It’s hard to say, as Alcott later crossed out the section of her diary referring to the romance. In the margin, she wrote, “couldn’t be.”

8. YOU CAN STILL VISIT ORCHARD HOUSE, WHERE ALCOTT WROTE LITTLE WOMEN.

Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts was the Alcott family home. In 1868, Louisa reluctantly left her Boston apartment to write Little Women there. Today, you can tour this house and see May’s drawings on the walls, as well as the small writing desk that Bronson built for Louisa to use.

9. LITTLE WOMEN HAS BEEN ADAPTED A NUMBER OF TIMES.

In addition to a 1958 TV series, multiple Broadway plays, a musical, a ballet, and an opera, Little Women has been made into more than a half-dozen movies. The most famous are the 1933 version starring Katharine Hepburn, the 1949 version starring June Allyson (with Elizabeth Taylor as Amy), and the 1994 version starring Winona Ryder. Later this year, Clare Niederpruem's modern retelling of the story is scheduled to arrive in movie theaters. It's also been adapted for the small screen a number of times, most recently for PBS's Masterpiece, by Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas.

10. IN 1980, A JAPANESE ANIME VERSION OF LITTLE WOMEN WAS RELEASED.

In 1987, Japan made an anime version of Little Women that ran for 48 half-hour episodes. Watch the first two episodes above.

Additional Resources:
Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography; Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women; Louisa May Alcott's Journals; Little Women; Alcott Film; C-Span; LouisaMayAlcott.org.

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13 Forgotten Sequels to Popular TV Shows
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While sequels can promise bigger and better things to come, sometimes they fall short ... really short. Here are 13 sequels to popular TV shows you probably forgot existed (if you ever even knew they existed at all).

1. THE BRADYS (1990)

After the success of The Brady Bunch during its five-year run on ABC during the early 1970s and in syndication throughout the 1980s, rival network CBS commissioned a sequel series after seeing positive ratings from A Very Brady Christmas, a 1988 made-for-TV reunion movie. Two years later, The Bradys debuted with its original cast, except Maureen McCormick, who declined to reprise the role of Marcia Brady. She was replaced with Leah Ayres. While the original Brady Bunch was a 30-minute comedy, The Bradys was a soapy, hour-long “dramedy,” with adult-themed storylines like Mike starting a career in politics, Marcia battling alcoholism, Bobby becoming paralyzed after a race car accident, and Peter dating an abusive woman. Yikes!

Considering The Bradys's harsher subject matter and themes, the new TV show only lasted for a few episodes in early 1990. CBS aired The Bradys on Friday nights against ABC’s TGIF juggernaut lineup of Perfect Strangers, Family Matters, and Full House. Including A Very Brady Christmas and The Bradys, there were whooping seven TV spinoffs and sequels for The Brady Bunch, including The Brady Kids, The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, The Brady Girls Get Married, Day by Day: "A Very Brady Episode," and Kelly's Kids—which was a “backdoor” pilot that never became a new TV series.

2. THE NEW GIDGET (1986 - 1988)

After the high rating numbers for the 1985 made-for-TV movie Gidget's Summer Reunion, original series producer Harry Ackerman launched a sequel the following year called The New Gidget with actress Caryn Richman in the titular role instead of Sally Field. It still followed Frances Elizabeth “Gidget” Lawrence, who was now grown up and married to her longtime boyfriend Jeff “Moondoggie” Griffin. The pair lived in Santa Monica and still made it to the beach once and a while, despite their busy lives as a travel agent (her) and an architect (him). The New Gidget only lasted for two seasons, which is actually double the original 1960s series. However, the latter is far more popular because it was Sally Field's breakout role.

3. THE MUNSTERS TODAY (1987 – 1991)

After a made-for-TV reunion movie called The Munsters’ Revenge failed to get off the ground, producers Lloyd J. Schwartz and Bryan Joseph created The Munsters Today instead. The new TV show was in full color and took place in 1988, which was 22 years after the black-and-white original went off the air. However, CBS passed on the sequel, so it aired in first-run syndication. The Munsters original cast Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster) and Yvonne De Carlo (Lily Munster) declined to appear on the new TV show, while Al Lewis was not happy he was not considered to reprise the role of Grandpa.

In 2012, NBC commissioned Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Hannibal) for a new TV reboot starring Jerry O'Connell as Herman Munster and Portia de Rossi as Lily Munster called Mockingbird Lane. The reboot was eventually canceled, but the broadcast network aired the failed TV pilot as a Halloween special later in the year. In 2017, it was reported that Seth Meyers was reportedly working on an all-new reboot of The Munsters for NBC.

4. THE NEW WKRP IN CINCINNATI (1991 - 1993)

In 1991, nine years after the original WKRP In Cincinnati left the airwaves on CBS, its sequel series called The New WKRP In Cincinnati debuted in syndication. The new TV show brought back many of its original cast, such as Gordon Jump, Frank Bonner, and Richard Sanders, while other cast members dropped in for special guest appearances, like Loni Anderson and Tim Reid. However, with a mixed critical response and the numerous problems of first-run syndicated TV shows (including inconsistent time slots and air dates), The New WKRP In Cincinnati was canceled two years later.

5. NEW MONKEES (1987)

In 1986, The Monkees were at the top of pop culture (again) after MTV aired reruns of the classic 1966 TV show for a new audience. Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Davy Jones reunited (minus Michael Nesmith) for a special 20th anniversary tour, while their albums were reissued and a new one was released. In fact, there was so much excitement over The Monkees's revival that Columbia Pictures Television announced a new sequel TV series with a nationwide talent search to find the New Monkees.

After auditioning thousands upon thousands of young hopefuls, Jared Chandler, Larry Saltis, Konstantinos "Dino" Kovas, and Marty Ross (who also played guitar for a power pop band called The Wigs) were selected to star, as well as release a new synth pop-driven, self-titled album to coincide with the premiere of New Monkees in syndication.

Much like the original, the new TV show followed the adventures of a struggling young band that lived together, but the difference being they lived in a giant mansion with a butler, many unexplored rooms—which was the source of said adventures—a diner with a sassy waitress, and a talking computer named Helen.

However, by the time the new TV show and album were released to the public in 1987, The Monkees had become passé again. New Monkees was canceled after just 13 episodes, despite a 22-episode series order. The new album also bombed and failed to garner a single hit.  

6. SANFORD (1980 - 1981)

During the 1970s, Sanford and Son (a remake of the BBC’s Steptoe and Son) was a smash hit for NBC. Although the series was widely popular, it was canceled in 1977 after Redd Foxx left to star in The Redd Foxx Comedy Hour for rival network ABC (which was eventually canceled after only four months). Foxx later came back to NBC for the return of Sanford and Son in 1980.

However, Demond Wilson, who played Lamont Sanford, didn’t want to return, so NBC just centered the sequel series around Fred Sanford and his new business partner Cal Pettie (Dennis Burkley). It was simply called Sanford, while his son Lamont was written out of the show with the explanation that the character moved away to work on the Alaskan pipeline. Unfortunately, Sanford was not nearly as popular as the original Sanford and Son, so it was canceled after two seasons in 1981.  

7. THE NEW LEAVE IT TO BEAVER (1986 - 1989)

After ABC canceled Leave It To Beaver in 1963, rival network CBS brought The Cleavers back in the 1983 made-for-TV reunion movie Still The Beaver. The movie had such positive reviews and ratings, the Disney Channel picked it up for a sequel series the following year, but ultimately, it was canceled in 1985. Cable network TBS later picked up the series and renamed it The New Leave It To Beaver in 1986. It ran for an additional three seasons before it was canceled for good in 1989.  

The New Leave It To Beaver followed a middle-aged Wally (Tony Dow) and Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver (Jerry Mathers ) with their own families and children. After The Beaver divorced his wife, his widowed mother June (Barbara Billingsley) moved in with him to help raise his two sons. Fan favorite Eddie Haskell (Ken Osmond) also returned with his sons, Freddie and Bomber, who were played by Osmond’s real-life sons, Eric and Christian, respectively. Fun fact: A young Giovanni Ribisi also appeared on The New Leave It To Beaver as the character Duffy Guthrie; he was credited as Vonni Ribisi at the time.  

8. TEAM KNIGHT RIDER (1997 - 1998)

In 1997, NBC created Team Knight Rider as a sequel to the hit early 1980s TV show Knight Rider. Instead of a man and his high-tech car, it featured a team of five members with their very own high-tech vehicles called the Foundation for Law and Government (or F.L.A.G.). Although the original was a pop culture hit back in the early 1980s, Team Knight Rider failed to live up to expectations in the late 1990s. It was canceled after one season in first-run syndication in 1998.  

9. MELROSE PLACE (2009)

In 2009, more than 15 years after the massive success of the original Melrose Place on Fox, The CW and producers Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer debuted a new TV show with the same title. The new primetime soap opera, much like the original, followed the lives of several 20-somethings living in a fictional apartment complex in West Hollywood with a cast that included then-pop star Ashlee Simpson-Wentz (now Ashlee Simpson-Ross).

While cast members from the original series—including Josie Bissett, Thomas Calabro, Laura Leighton, Daphne Zuniga, and Heather Locklear as Amanda Woodward—appeared as special guest stars, Melrose Place couldn’t find a devoted audience and it received a mixed critical response. It was canceled after one season.  

10. WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW!! (1985 - 1988)

In 1985, six years after ABC canceled the original What’s Happening!! in 1979, screenwriter Eric Monte created a sequel series called What’s Happening Now!! The new TV show still followed Raj (Ernest Thomas), Dwayne (Haywood Nelson), and Rerun (Fred Berry) living in the neighborhood of Watts in Los Angeles, but now the characters are in their mid-20s instead of teenagers. Both TV shows, which were based on Monte’s coming-of-age film Cooley High, lasted for just three seasons each. Both received higher ratings in syndication than their original runs. Fun fact: Martin Lawrence made his TV debut in What’s Happening Now!!; he played a recurring role during its final season in 1987-88.  

11. DALLAS (2012)

While the original Dallas aired for 13 seasons on CBS from 1978 to 1991, its follow-up of the same name only lasted for three on TNT, from 2012 to 2014. Dallas followed the next generation of Ewing Oil’s family feud with many of the original cast members returning for another go-around. The original Dallas had a big influence on pop culture during the 1980s with its “Who shot J.R.?cliffhanger and ad campaign that fueled its popularity for 13 seasons.  

12. SAVED BY THE BELL: THE COLLEGE YEARS (1993 - 1994)

From the late 1980s through the 1990s, young Americans watched the many adventures of Zack Morris and his friends throughout junior high and high school. While Good Morning, Miss Bliss and Saved By The Bell were staples of Saturday morning programming, Saved By The Bell: The College Years premiered in primetime on NBC in 1993.

Instead of taking the original cast to college, the sequel only followed Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez), and Screech (Dustin Diamond) as freshmen living in the dorms of the fictional California University. However, Tiffani Amber Thiessen reprised her role as Kelly Kapowski after the pilot received poor ratings. Executive producer Peter Engel regretted the decision not to involve the original cast.  

“I should’ve taken all the six kids to college. I should’ve insisted we take them all and I didn’t. It was my decision and I made a mistake,” Engel admitted to The Wrap in 2016. “I was trying to make it different than Bell and I think we made it too different,” he concluded. “I think we lost some of our—what’s the word?—innocence.”  

Saved By The Bell: The College Years was just too different for longtime fans and young viewers, while also too cheesy and cornball for mature audiences during primetime. It was canceled after only one season in 1994.

Meanwhile, Saved By The Bell: The College Years wasn't the only new TV show from Peter Engel in 1993. Saved by the Bell: The New Class debuted a few months later and was a hit on Saturday mornings for NBC; it lasted for a respectable seven seasons.  

13. STAR TREK: PHASE II (1978)

While Star Trek: The Next Generation is the official sequel to the original series, Star Trek: Phase II was the first planned follow-up, which ultimately went unproduced and unaired. After a growing Star Trek cult following and the surprise success of Star Wars in 1977, Paramount Pictures wanted their own science fiction phenomenon on the big screen, so executives asked Gene Roddenberry to adapt Star Trek into a feature film. However, plans for a movie were later scrapped when executives believed interest couldn’t support two big sci-fi movies, so instead, Roddenberry started working on a new TV series for Paramount Television Services (PTVS was slated to be the “fourth” television network), which ordered a two-hour pilot and 13 episodes that would premiere in 1978.

Many of the original cast members from Star Trek agreed to return, including DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, and Walter Koenig, while Leonard Nimoy turned down the series altogether and William Shatner was just too darn expensive to cast at the time. New characters including a Vulcan named Xon and Captain Willard Decker were created to fill the void. But due to production problems, budget concerns, and the demise of PTVS, the Phase II project was canceled, as its story elements and characters evolved into Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which was released in 1979. Luckily, Roddenberry eventually got his sequel TV series with The Next Generation in 1987. Check out test footage from Star Trek: Phase II above.

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