Gene Roddenberry was ready to expand Star Trek only one year after the original series began
During the second season of Star Trek: The Original Series, creator Gene Roddenberry and writer Darlene Hartman had planned a spinoff that would have focused on Dr. M’Benga, who filled in for Dr. McCoy aboard the Enterprise twice. Called Hopeship, the series would have taken place on a Federation hospital ship. The show never went into production which is unfortunate.
The Star Trek doctors really have always remained in the background. Occasionally, they would get their own episode, but, for the most part, even though they were listed as stars on the shows, they served to move the main plot along. On the original series, we learned very little about Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, and, of course, even less about Dr. M’Benga.
A Star Trek series that followed doctors and nurses as they dealt with alien plagues, performed miracle surgeries, and stood between crewmembers and certain death would have been an interesting spinoff. Perhaps we would have gotten to know their family lives and so much more about their backgrounds. And, with shows like Dr. Kildare and Ben Casey as guides, there would have been a lot of options for story ideas.
Dr. M’Benga, according to the purchased but never produced script, Shol, was originally from Uganda. His brother, Commander Simon M’Benga, was the first officer aboard Hopeship which would have added a familial connection to the series. And with Dr. M’Benga having had his medical internship on Vulcan, odds were good he would have encountered plenty of Vulcans. So with space, doctors in the 22nd century, and Vulcans, this series had great potential.
Though Booker T. Bradshaw, who portrayed Dr. M’Benga, passed away in 2003, this spinoff could still work. We have a lot of focus on captains and admirals. It’s past time for some focus to be on the doctors who help keep these crews all in one piece.