Star Trek Guide

Herbert F. Solow, Desilu Exec Behind 'Star Trek' and 'Mission: Impossible,' Dies at 89

He also worked at MGM and shepherded other shows like 'Mannix' and 'The Courtship of Eddie's Father' during his career.

Herbert F. Solow, who as head of production at Desilu Studios oversaw the development of such landmark TV dramas as Star Trek, Mission: Impossible and Mannix, has died. He was 89.

Solow died Thursday in his sleep of natural causes at an undisclosed location, a family spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter.

Solow also served as an executive with MGM, where he shepherded Medical Center, Then Came Bronson and The Courtship of Eddie's Father, before producing the 1970 documentary Elvis: That's the Way It Is and co-creating the series The Man From Atlantis.

A native of New York City, Solow started his career in the mail room at William Morris, then worked for NBC in foreign sales, as program director for the network's films division and as head of daytime on the West Coast. He also had a stint overseeing daytime operations for CBS.

Solow was hired by Lucille Ball's Desilu as vp production in 1964. He signed Gene Roddenberry, who had pitched him the idea of Star Trek, to a development deal, then got NBC to pay $875,000 for the script for a two-hour movie after CBS had passed on the project.

"I changed Spock from a red-skinned, fairly sinister alien with a pointed tail into the intellectually superior, green-blooded Vulcan he is today," Solow said in a 2009 interview with the BBC.

"I named characters, developed Starfleet, talked with Gene about the need to infuse the series with a purpose. I created the idea of the captain's log to set up each episode, and a thousand other things. Gene had a great idea. He didn't have a salable idea until we developed the pilot."

Star Trek made it to the air on Sept. 8, 1966, and lasted three seasons and 79 episodes.

"On jury duty, a woman shows up in her Star Trek uniform. The judge says, 'What is this?'  And she says, 'It symbolizes truth.' Every once in a while, I look around and I say, 'What have I done?' Because people come up with the weirdest things," he remarked in a 2008 interview for the TV Academy Foundation website The Interviews.

"But again, [Star Trek] has helped a lot of people. There's a balance to it. Many of the astronauts … are astronauts because of Star Trek. People have gone into science because of Star Trek. People have changed their lives and live a better life because of Star Trek."

Star Trek was the first project he commissioned; CBS' Mission: Impossible, which also premiered in September 1966, was the second.

He and his wife, Dr. Harrison Solow, wrote books including 1996's Inside Star Trek: The Real Story and 1997's The Star Trek Sketchbook. She also co-wrote 1994's Gene Roddenberry: The Last Conversation.

After Desilu was sold to the conglomerate Gulf+Western in 1967, it was combined with the operations of Paramount Television, where Solow became a vice president, but his stay there was short-lived.

Solow later worked for Hanna-Barbera and went out on his own to produce the features Brimstone & Treacle (1982), Get Crazy (1983) and Saving Grace (1986).