Star Trek: The Original Series actually aired out of order.
Star Trek premiered on Sep. 8, 1966, with “The Man Trap”, the first-ever episode of Star Trek to air on television, and gets to carry that mantel for the rest of time. The problem is, however, that it wasn’t the first episode produced. Many know that the first episode of Star Trek was actually called “The Cage”. It featured Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike and was apparently so hated by those involved that Trek creator Gene Roddenberry reshot the pilot with a new cast, save for Leonard Nimoy as Spock.
The second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” was actually the first episode produced with the intention to air. It was the second pilot of the original Star Trek series and was the first one created. Yet it was the second to air.
The first to air was “The Man Trap”, which featured the horrifying and iconic salt vampire. So why did those involved chose to air the series out of order?
Star Trek aired out of production order when it first aired.
Now, there’s been some debate about this. CBR claims that the episode aired first because of the early episodes, it highlighted the transporter the best. The writer of the article doesn’t source this fact, and there doesn’t appear to be anything to corroborate that piece of information.
Now, according to Inside Star Trek: The Real Story by Robert H. Justman and Herbert F. Solow, they write that the reason the show aired out of order was about which episode was best to lead off. They write that the other contenders, “The Corbomite Maneuver”, “Charlie X”, “Mudd’s Women”, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, and “The Naked Time” all had something about them that they thought wouldn’t work as the premiere episode. Ranging from a teenage-centric episode to slavery.
So, instead “The Man Trap” won out because it featured an action-focused storyline, wasn’t “too exotic”, and of course the monster. Yet, that wasn’t the big selling point, instead, it was the fact it explored a strange new world.
A tentpole idea for the series.
To be fair, this isn’t the first time or the last time a show aired out of order. A famous example that many of you readers may remember watching but may not remember this detail about is Batman: The Animated Series. “On Leather Wings”, the episode that premiered the Man-Bat, was the first episode created but “The Cat and The Paw Part 1”, the 15th episode of the series, was the first one to air.
Clearly, some shows just try to hook you by appealing to their fanbase, even if it’s not the best idea in hindsight.