Bread And Circuses

Filmed September 1967

It would be four months, four busy months, before I returned to Desilu Studio for another voyage of STAR TREK. When I returned, I discovered it had been a busy time at Desilu as well. Gulf Western, owner of Paramount Studio right next door, had purchased Desilu. The wall separating the two studios had been torn down, and it was now just one big unhappy family.

It was not unusual to use buildings on the studio lot as locations. If the film being shot was a Hollywood story, there was no problem; the locations merely represented the studio in the story. The newsreel sequence of dissidents being arrested was very short, a mere two sequences, only three shots. That hardly justified the time it would take to film at a location off the lot. Therefore, for budgetary reasons, we had to shoot buildings on the lot, even though they were less than perfect choices.

When I first came to STAR TREK, Gene Coon told me that although the shows were scheduled to be filmed in six days, in reality they were averaging out to six and a half days per episode. The edict from the new owners was that ALL SHOWS MUST BE COMPLETED IN SIX DAYS. But there was more. A normal shooting day had a crew call of 7:30 am for an 8:00 am shoot. Actors’ calls were based on the amount of time needed for makeup and hair to have them ready for the 8:00 am shoot. The day ended at 7:00 pm. Another order from the new management was that filming must end at 6:12 pm. That was 48 minutes less per day; 48 minutes times 6 is 288 minutes; 288 minutes divided by 60 is 4.8 hours, which is twelve minutes less than a half day’s shooting time. In other words it was now being demanded that STAR TREK be filmed in five and a half days. I was now challenged with completing a SPARTACUS-like saga on a schedule that would have satisfied the executives at Ziv Studio in the fifties.

To start this impossible mission we returned to Bronson Canyon, where I had filmed the idyllic THIS SIDE OF PARADISE. But it was a part of Bronson Canyon new to me. I had previously filmed in the pristine forest section of the canyon. The area of the cave, although much used for filming by Hollywood studios, was a new location for me.

Septimus was portrayed by the highly respected character actor, Ian Wolfe. Ian at this time was seventy-one years old. He had come to Hollywood in 1934 after a successful career on Broadway. I collect old movies (my library at the present time includes around 2500 titles), and there are times when I wonder if any movie filmed in the thirties and forties was produced without Ian in the cast. His final screen appearance (and there were over three hundred of them) was in Warren Beatty’s DICK TRACY in 1990.

The interior of the cave was shot at the location in Bronson Canyon. And again Jerry Finnerman has to be commended. When filming an interior away from the studio, everything had to be lit from the floor. There wasn’t the advantage of hanging lamps and lighting from above. Filming within the restricted confines of the cave added to the difficulty, plus which all the heavy lighting equipment had to be CARRIED to the cave over very rocky terrain, and cable from the generator to light had to be laid over the same terrain.  With all of this Jerry still managed to do more than just get it photographed. In the cave as in his work back at the studio, there was an artist at work.

I had a major concern with the script; I felt it telegraphed the ending of the story. I wanted to be sure the sun the slaves spoke of was the one in the sky. I had TWO Genes working this time. Both Roddenberry and Coon divided up the scenes to be revised so as to establish the slaves’ religious belief in the Solar Sun.

STAR TREK was Jerry Finnerman’s first assignment as a director of photography. He had been Harry Stradling’s operator for several years, a great training ground; Stradling was one of the giants of the profession. He was the one who urged Jerry to take the STAR TREK assignment. Jerry, like so many gifted artists, was not the most confident human being on the planet. In fact at the beginning of the first season of STAR TREK his insecurity led him to request being let out of his contract. Fortunately wiser heads at the studio prevailed. I think he was told that if he quit, he would never work in Hollywood again. That persuaded him to stay on, and I believe he is due the major credit for the visual look of the show. Again, as in the cave, he didn’t settle for the drab gray of the jail cell walls. Jerry, although he had a fine crew of gaffers, set all of the lights. He painted with light. The amazing thing was how fast he was.


Television scenes at that time rarely ran longer than three minutes. The first conversation between the Enterprise trio and the two Romans was more than twice that. The page count for the sequence was eight and one-eighth pages. The scene was cerebral exposition and did not call for any movement once the five people entered and were seated. (Plus which any movement would have required additional camera setups and time to light them.) It was on days like this that I was appreciative of the five talented actors who comprised the cast. I must put in a word here about leading actors in episodic television. Bill Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley, after a long twelve hour day such as the one including this sequence (and there were three additional short scenes in this same set that only involved Shatner and guest stars), they would then go home with the requirement to memorize the scenes for the following day. To do it at all was an accomplishment. To do it with such skill — I bow my head in admiration.

Two of the three additional scenes in the set where the Pro-consul had spoken to KIrk and his companions involved the servant slave girl, redressed in a costume that I thought would have been more appropriate on Maria Montez when she portrayed Scheherazade in ARABIAN NIGHTS a quarter of a century earlier for Universal Studio.

The scenes in the arena are the part of BREAD AND CIRCUSES most harmed by the time restrictions imposed by the new management. The sequences were literally shot on the run. The satiric look at live television was there, but the spectacle of the Roman arena was far less than it should have been. The second gladiator with Flavius was a very fine stunt man, Max Klevin, with whom I had worked in New York on NAKED CITY. I knew what he was capable of, both in choreographing and performing the action. There was so much more that could have been done that would have been exciting and entertaining, but it required the time to stage and rehearse, with necessary care taken to avoid injury to the actors involved. That set piece should have been the highlight of the production; but those bloodhounds in black suits were nipping at our heels.

The role of Spock was both a starmaker and potential cage for Leonard Nimoy. The unemotional character was an unusual creation that added substance, even comedy, to the series. But most of the time, for an actor with Leonard’s capabilities, it was limiting. Whenever there was a way to release him from these strictures (as in THIS SIDE OF PARADISE) it was edifying and entertaining. I’m not sure which Gene was responsible for the jail cell scene between Spock and Doc after the arena (although I have my suspicions), but I felt it gave Leonard (and DeForest too) a chance to break away from the usual comic bickering relationship of their characters.

Gene Roddenberry was doing a rewrite on the final climactic scene before the trio beam back up to the Enterprise. It was so last minute that I left the studio the evening before filming it without the rewritten pages. Gene promised it would be waiting for me at the studio early the next morning, and when I arrived at the studio at 6:00 am, as he had promised, the script was there. While I was in the jail cell set planning my day’s work, Ted Cassidy (Lurch on THE ADDAMS FAMILY television series) came into the set. He was guest starring on MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE on an adjoining sound stage. I didn’t know him, but either Leonard or DeForest was on the set and did. We planned a little prank to get the day off to a happy start. When we filmed it, everyone knew what was going to happen except Bill Shatner. You may have seen it on one of the blooper reels that has been around for a long time.

And here’s the climactic ending including the rewritten sequence that Bill thought we were doing before he was abducted.

As I wrote before, my early concern about the script was my fear the ending was being telegraphed, so both Genes worked, rewriting various scenes to establish the Roman slaves’ religious belief centered on the planet Sun, setting up the farewell scene to that week’s planet.

Some time near the end of filming BREAD AND CIRCUSES, Herb Solow, executive in charge of production for Desilu Studios, and John Meredyth Lucas, the incoming new producer of STAR TREK (replacing the soon-to-be-departing Gene Coon), came to me to check my availability to stay on and direct another STAR TREK. My preparation period would begin the day following completion of the current show. I regrettably had to decline. I never worked on the Jewish High Holy Days (Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur), and they were going to fall right in the middle of the next show’s schedule. Not to be deterred, Herb got out a calendar to see whether the conflict could be resolved. Rosh Hashannah would fall on the last two days of preparation. No problem, he said. I could have my preparation completed by then, so that it would not be necessary for me to come to the studio on those two days. The fifth day of filming would be on Friday, October 13. Yom Kippur began at sundown on that day. Again no problem, he said. I could leave the studio late afternoon, and John, also a member of the Directors Guild of America, would finish directing the day’s work. And that’s the way it worked out, and John from then on always referred to himself as my Yom Kippur director.

The journey continues

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21 Responses to Bread And Circuses

  1. detectivetom says:

    I congratulate you on not sacrificing your religious beliefs for your job. Unfortunately many do not (no matter their denomination). I do not think many today would do the same.

  2. Dave Eversole says:

    Though I am not a member of your faith, I deeply admire people such as yourself and Steven Hill, who do put their personal beliefs and convictions ahead of their career.

  3. Lisa M. says:

    This episode was always a lot of fun — maybe the scenes of the TV gladiator games were as grand as they might have been, but they perfectly captured the studio wrestling look — and of course the scene between McCoy and Spock in the jail cell was one of those that we fans just ate up! Such a great job Kelley and Nimoy did there.

    That slave girl may have looked out of place, but that scene of Kirk waking up — she had already left — was always fascinating and innocently sexy to us fangirls at the time!

    Always liked the guest stars in this one — William Smithers, Logan Ramsey, of course Ian Wolfe, and Rhodes Reason.

    Great episode and great memories!

  4. Mark Holcomb says:

    Wasn’t interested in this one as a kid, but having watched it more than a few times in adulthood it’s become a favorite. Definitely not kid stuff, it works on every level — from action to satire to social commentary. And you succeeded in masking the payoff; even now the “sun”/”son” distinction takes me by surprise. Great work!

  5. Michael Hart says:

    “Bread and Circuses” and “Metamorphosis” were always among my favorite episodes, thanks in large part to your deft director’s hand and sensitivity to character interaction and development. The jail cell scene here between Spock and McCoy (“Really, Doctor?”) is most definitely my single favorite scene in all of Star Trek because of the attention paid to the relationship of these two characters and the glimpse into their inner workings. Kudos to you, and many thanks!

  6. Christopher Brent says:

    An excellent episode with an excellent storyline. I wish that Flavius had survived. His death scene was tragic, yet heroic. Like any brave warrior, his death was very noble.

    Definitely one of the best second season adventures.

  7. Josh Lee says:

    I always enjoyed Bread and Circuses. It’s a great Kirk episode with plenty of action and that wonderful scene with Spock and McCoy. I think the TV satire works wonderfully with the great line contained above about ratings and “doing a special” on Flavius. And Drusilla…wow! Pretty racy stuff for back then! Not that there’s anything wrong with that… ;)

  8. Ralph Adler says:

    Ralph, the sun/son reveal at the end of the episode has always struck me in several ways. First, it was just a cool twist, throwing a new “reverse angle” light on the story we had just seen, allowing us to rethink the moments with the slaves. Second, it just felt good, especially coming from Uhura…nice use of her character as a spiritual being. Finally, though, I felt confusion. This story beat seems to celebrate Christ and Christianity. Yet Gene Roddenberry made no secret of his rejection of traditional religion as it might play a role in Star Trek and the future it projects. Did he approve of this because he saw it through a humanistic lens–Christ not as the center of a religious institution, but a moral, caring person spreading a gospel of love? Further, the writer, director, and two leads of the episode are Jewish..did anyone take issue with Star Trek stopping to acknowledge the arrival of Christianity on this planet? Let me be clear–I really liked this moment and have no negative feelings about its inclusion. It just seemed to be outside of Roddenberry’s view of how mankind will evolve. Thanks, Ralph, for any insights you can provide on this!

    Ralph Adler

    • Ralph says:

      I never discussed with Roddenberry the conflict you mention about his personal feelings about religion. But I must assume that like the cast who checked their possible ill feelings at the gate in the morning as they reported to act, Gene checked his conflicting feelings there too. Bill, Leonard and I also left our Jewish heritage at the gate. We all had a story to tell, Gene to write, the guys to act and me to direct. When John F. Kennedy was elected president, it was expected that his Catholicism would not affect the performance of his duties. The same expectations applied to all of us. And as further proof, I did not know until this moment that one of the writers of the script was Jewish. Now my question is, which one?

  9. Ralph Adler says:

    I believe I read in one of the Trek books that Gene Coon was Jewish. I could very easily be wrong on that.

  10. Phil says:

    I’m sure it was an unintentional oversight…you forget to mention William Bramley! His juicy lines during the arrest of “the barbarians” are burned into my memory. A few weeks ago, I was watching an episode of the western ‘Iron Horse’ on the Antenna-TV channel. A scene started with a wide shot, so you couldn’t recognize any faces. But, when I heard that distinctive voice, I knew it was Bramley…and I knew the good guys were in trouble! Check out his 4th season episode of ‘The Fugitive’…he played a cop who was paid off by the one-armed man to beat up Dr. Kimble in an alley! He did ten episodes of ‘Gunsmoke’…I assume Dillon had to blast him a few times.

    • Ralph says:

      Bill was a favorite of mine and we worked together many times. Have you read the post for THE BULL ROARER? That’s where he says my favorite line of dialogue from his roles: You wanna ride on my bulldozer?

  11. Paul Sibbald says:

    Wonderful work sir.
    Perfect blend of action, and intimate character development. Sorely missing from some of the best that Hollywood has to offer these days. You really brought out the very best in your actors which (other than blocking, cinematography and a thousand other decisions) is what directing is all about. :)
    Thanks so much for posting this!

    (my little dedication to TOS)
    http://tinyurl.com/akg6vq6

    Take care,
    :)Paul

  12. Michelle Schacht says:

    Even with the shortcomings, “Bread and Circuses” is one of my favorite episodes of Star Trek. (The magazine ad for the Jupiter 8 sports car is one of the small touches that I particularly like.)

    What brought me to this site was searching for information on Jerry Finnerman.

    Growing up, I watched the series after school when it was in syndication on UHF stations. The prints that were run were well-worn and washed out.

    The series looks stunning on blu-ray and it really makes it easy to appreciate the talent that Mr. Finnerman had. (I watched “Obsession” earlier today and loved how Garrovick’s cabin was colored magenta, while the corridor outside was bathed in green. I doubt any modern TV shows would dare to be as bold.)

    Mr. Senesky, I’m still in the process of going through your site and I’m amazed at how many of the shows I grew up with (and still like a great deal) are ones that had episodes you directed.

    One minor thing though…

    In the blooper reel, Ted Cassidy was in costume as “Injun Joe” from the Hanna-Barbera series “The New Adventures of Huckelberry Finn” (a live-action/animation hybrid).

    The series aired on NBC for one season (1968-1969), and a much more menacing Ted Cassidy (as Injun Joe) can be seen in this clip: http://youtu.be/dGt2CkfpvQY

    • Michelle Schacht says:

      Ever since the time the blooper reels hit the convention scene in the 70’s, the consensus was Ted Cassidy was in character as Injun Joe.

      I was trying to be helpful in my previous post, but after watching the clip again, I realized I was propagating an error… (I noticed that his hair was longer in the blooper reel clip than it was in the opening to the Huck Finn series. This lead me to do more investigating.)

      I believe Mr. Cassidy is actually in character as Hachita from the film “Mackenna’s Gold”…

      • Ralph says:

        Let me add to the confusion. BREAD AND CIRCUSES was filmed in September, 1967 on the Paramount lot. THE NEW ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN series was 1968-69. MACKENNA’S GOLD was a Columbia studio production in 1969. And in checking Ted Cassidy on the IMDB, he NEVER appeared in a MISSION IMPOSSIBLE.

        • Mort Todd says:

          There was a lot of publicity for the Huck Finn show in Summer 1967, and an August interview with Cassidy said he was looking forward to his upcoming role, so it is possible they were shooting in September. The animated aspect of the series took a lot of time so it did not premier until the next year.

  13. Neville Ross says:

    @Paul Sibbald:

    Sorely missing from some of the best that Hollywood has to offer these days.

    Give me a break, Paul. There are a lot of modern shows that have ‘the best to offer’ just like yesterday’s TV. If you can’t find the best of the present, that’s your fault, not the TV industry’s. There’s good and bad in every era-the trick is to finding the great and forgetting the bad.

  14. margo says:

    I am so excited to find this website. You obviously directed some real classics which are loved by many. I guess my question is what do you think of the Star Trek Movies and how they evolved, including the new one out? Oh and a Happy recent Birthday to you, Mr. Senensky!

    • Ralph says:

      Hi Margo: I haven’t seen the most recent STAR TREK movie. I did see the first one. My reaction to it was like my reaction to most new films released today. I find the hyped up energy, frenetic pacing disconcerting. I can sum up my reaction to that earlier STAR TREK by saying that for the first time, I didn’t believe Leonard Nimoy’s performance as Mr. Spock. Spock’s rhythm and speech were speeded up in a way that for me changed his characterization.

  15. Tim Messenger says:

    They showed this episode last night on ME TV. I always liked this episode very much. To me, whenever the show went on location, it added a realism that kicked things up considerably. The scene between Bones and Spock is one on the best interactions they EVER shared. Masterfully staged and shot. A classic!

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