Return To Tomorrow

FILMED November 1967

September 7, 2012

Eighteen months ago today I posted the PROLOG, my first entry, on this website. In the following weeks, for reasons I explained in that PROLOG, I started this cinema journey by writing of my adventures on STAR TREK, but I only covered six of the seven treks I had made. I omitted RETURN TO TOMORROW with the lame excuse, “RETURN TO TOMORROW, about which the less said the better.” There have been some impassioned Comments regarding this exclusion:

I admit that when I first saw Return, I was in the full, ecstatic glow of having discovered Star Trek, and EVERY new episode was a gigantic adventure and true revelation. While you view the show from the perspective of an established Hollywood veteran professional with high standards for quality storytelling and drama, I see that episode as an essential moment in my adolescent growth!

and

Are you ever going to do a write-up of “Return to Tomorrow?” From what you say about it here it appears you didn’t enjoy filming it, but I’ve always liked that episode and would love to know more about it.

and

Return to Tomorrow isn’t represented here and if you don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine. BUT I think there’s a lot to recommend it. … This was my family growing up and I know I’m not alone there.

So I have been left with a burning question: If RETURN TO TOMORROW has left such a very deep impression on many young fans, what is my problem regarding it? That is a mystery, a mystery that intrigues me. So why not hop aboard and come with me as this part of the journey sets out to solve that mystery, as we return to RETURN TO TOMORROW.

Before I continue, I want to make clear that I am not out to bash the show to vindicate my negative feelings. I am not trying to convince admirers of this episode that their affection for it is misplaced. I truly want to discover the reasons for my feelings, and the first one came with the opening of the wall into the large inner chamber.

On paper the receptacle for Sargon was described as being a large translucent globe, glowing with an inner light. To me it looked overwhelmingly like a very large Ping Pong ball. I guess I made my reaction public. Some time ago I saw an interview of James Doohan (Scotty) on the internet, and he laughingly recalled that I had referred to the receptacles as large Ping Pong balls.

When we filmed the scene where Sargon inhabits Kirk’s body, I recognized Bill’s performance had taken it to the limits, but I still found it acceptable. When viewing the scene in the completed film, I have always been uncomfortable with it. Bill seemed to be doing a vocal imitation of the stentorian performance of James Doohan, who had acted Sargon’s voice-over in the show’s opening scene and the scene in the chamber when the group first encountered Sargon in the receptacle. Which is ironic, because Bill wasn’t copying Doohan’s performance; Bill’s performance came first. When James recorded his performance in postproduction, he was modeling his interpretation on what Bill had done. I now recognize there is a distinct difference in the timbre of the voices of the two men (Bill’s voice is a baritone while Doohan’s voice is a bass) and once the transference has taken place and it is Bill’s voice representing Sargon, I still hear Captain Kirk speaking, not Sargon. Doohan, when he did his original recording of his scenes (the opening scene in the Bridge and the later scenes when he was in the receptacle) had used the speech pattern and rhythm that Shatner used in the scene when Sargon occupied Kirk’s body. During Doohan’s early acting career he had appeared on some 4,000 radio programs, a medium where the voice was the only means an actor had to express his performance, and Doohan became a master. What ideally could have been done in post production was to have taken Doohan onto the looping stage and recorded him doing Sargon’s speeches in the scenes when Sargon occupied Kirk’s body and replaced Shatner’s voice with HIS voice. But the added time plus the added expense it would have taken to complete the film (Doohan’s voice should have been overlaid on ALL of the scenes in the film when Kirk’s body was the receptacle for Sargon) would have been prohibitive.

RETURN TO TOMORROW was the fourth film I directed in the second season of STAR TREK, and it was the third film under the new Paramount regime with its imposed restrictive shooting schedule demanding films be completed in six days with the added restriction that each day would end at 6:12 pm. Leonard Nimoy in his Archives of American Television interview discusses the stress and tension this earlier quitting time brought to the set (although he states incorrectly that the quitting time was 6:18 pm).

By the latter sixties television’s voice delivering any sort of message had pretty much been muted. Action had replaced the thoughtful dramas of TV’s Golden Age. That was why STAR TREK was so unique. It could comment on current issues using them as adventures of the future. But STAR TREK many times went a step further, becoming prescient in presenting our dreams for the future. Kirk’s speech about space is an example. It was written and filmed two years before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

In spite of Paramount studio’s cutting almost a half-day from the shooting schedule, Jerry Finnerman’s photography remained exemplary. His lighting as always continued not only to light the bodies, but it illuminated the inner drama.

Unlike the problem I described above with Bill’s portrayal of Sargon having to be compared to James Doohan’s voice-over performance of the same character, the character of Henoch only appeared as Leonard presented him. What I appreciated so much in Leonard’s performance of this totally evil man was the way he charmingly played against the evil. That is something in which I so strongly believe. Charming evil is so much more effective.

Just like with William Windom, the first time I became aware of Diana Muldaur was when I saw her in a John Houseman stage production when his theatre company was based at UCLA, and I cast her in an episode of I SPY. A few months later I cast her in RETURN TO TOMORROW. Diana was a strong actress, a beautiful woman with that cool quality that Hitchcock used so effectively in the women in his films. She would return in a different (and better) role the following season of STAR TREK and later would become a regular on the next STAR TREK regeneration.

Note the author credit on the title page of the script:

The author screen credit on the final film was:

Gene Roddenberry had rewritten John T. Dugan’s script to the extent that he felt he had earned full teleplay credit, with Dugan retaining credit for story. Obviously when it was submitted to the Writers’ Guild for arbitration, they found in favor of Dugan and awarded him full author’s credit. But Dugan was unhappy with the final script as rewritten by Roddenberry and according to the procedures of the Writers’ Guild replaced his name with the alter ego name, John Kingsbridge.

I was not aware until I started my website of the writer conflict on this episode, but even as we filmed, I was aware of my conflicted feelings on the resolution of the drama. I never saw John T. Dugan’s original script. I do not know how his version ended, but his renouncement of credit for the film indicates his very strong objection to Roddenberry’s version.

I think this is the final piece of the puzzle of my problem with the film. There was something profound in Sargon’s desire to return after centuries to help humanity. Question: But with his overwhelming intelligence, his enormous power, why did Sargon so readily turn his back on his mission to help mankind and consign himself and Thalassa to an eternity that only provided for their being together forever. There is no conclusion to the original situation of the world encountering fascinatingly unbelievable intelligence from eons ago. The lack of that closure is what I miss.

I think I have resolved my feelings about RETURN TO TOMORROW. I realize that even flawed, the fascination and power of Dugan’s original concept has managed to survive. I will no longer assign the film to my spam box, and it and THE THOLIAN WEB will have to compete forever to avoid being at the bottom of my favorite STAR TREK list.

The Journey Continues

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39 Responses to Return To Tomorrow

  1. Larry says:

    Thank you, Ralph, for finally writing about this episode. I watched it again just the other night, in fact.

    I’ve always found it provocative and entertaining. Love Kirk’s “If a man was supposed to fly…” speech, Diana Muldaur, and charming/evil Spock/Henoch. And George Duning’s original music score is pretty great, too.

    Speaking of music: Did you stay involved through the editing of the score into this (and other) episodes? Or was it all done separately without the director’s participation?

    • Ralph says:

      Hi Larry: On STAR TREK I was not involved in the music in post production.Earlier on DR. KILDARE I had been, and I was very involved on the movies I made for television. I loved doing that, but in episodic television, by the time they got to doing the music, I was somewhere else filming.

  2. Josh Lee says:

    Many thanks again, Ralph, for providing an insightful glimpse into another Trek episode. I’ve always enjoyed the performances in this one. I read somewhere that in dailies after viewing Kirk’s “Risk is our business” speech, Bob Justman turned to his side and said, “That’s what we pay him the big bucks for.” Or words to that effect. Everybody always talks so much about the cast. Was there anyone on the crew you particularly got on with or who you thought did a really fantastic job? Thanks so much and I hope to A) catch you on another show or movie page here and B) keep enjoying your one a day-ers. Fanfare – this is, of course, the 46th Anniversary of Star Trek’s premiere. How did I celebrate it? By watching Kirk’s speech from above FIRST and THEN opening my e-mail and finding you discussed it! It was terrific. Have a great day!!! LL & P.

    • Ralph says:

      Actually the “That’s what we pay him the big bucks” line was said by Gene Coon after Bill’s impassioned speech about love to the Companion (the cloud) in METAMORPHOSIS. As to your other question, Jerry Finnerman because of STAR TREK became one of my closest friends. He was an incredible director of photography, a true artist who painted with light. I feel that Jerry has not been given his full due on his enormous contribution to the series and that also applies to producer Gene Coon, who left the show a third of the way through the second season.

      • Josh Lee says:

        My mistake. Thanks for clearing that up, Ralph. I hope these wonderful artists receive their due. Trek fans are really into the details so maybe the uber-talented behind the scenes folks will do just that and rightfully so. See you on the next episode whatever show it is!

  3. Phil says:

    “Have no fear…Sargon is here!” – an amusing crack by Bill Shatner during one of the ‘Star Trek’ blooper reels.

    Ralph, your blog is a priceless window back to some of the shows I watched as a kid.

    Regarding ‘RTT’, it was so cool how you did the abrupt cut to from Kirk in sickbay to the Uhura scream scene…even when you know it’s coming, it never gets old. Plus, we must use our imagination to figure out what ‘bad’ Spock did to her.

    Ralph, will you be reviewing ‘Nanny & the Professor’ soon? I loved that show and just watched one of your episodes, “E.S. Putt”, at hulu.com. What golf course did you film at? There’s a gorgeous shot of a mountain in the distance while looking down the first fairway.

  4. Daniel Rudolf says:

    Most sources I know say that Gene Coon left the series because 1. he was worn out by the overwhelming task of producing (and writing and re-writing) such a very demanding series and 2. he wanted to try out his hands (and typewriter) on different projects (notably It Takes a Thief). Years later he co-wrote an unsold pilot produced by Gene Roddenberry.

    As of Return to Tomorrow, I think the final screenplay is much of GR’s work, as it’s full of “Roddenberrisms”, Kirk’s inspirational speech for example.

    • Ralph says:

      Mitigating circumstances would question your statement, “I think the final screenplay is much of GR’s work”. If Roddenberry did indeed claim full authorship as the title page indicates, John T. Dugan had the right to request the matter be submitted to the Writers Guild for arbitration. The original script and all of the subsequent rewritten versions would then be sent to the Guild, where they would be assigned to a Guild member. My friend Max Hodge told me he served as an arbitrator several times. His duty was to read all of the scripts and then provide the final allocation of credit. The fact that Roddenberry did not receive even a co-authorship credit indicates the Guild found his contribution to be less than that required for him to even receive co-authorship credit. The final credit, Written by John Kingsbridge, indicates Dugan chose, for whatever personal reasons, to use his alternate name registered with the Guild.

      • Daniel Rudolf says:

        I guess you are right.

        This reminded me of a famous story in connection with Star Trek. When Harlan Ellison wrote “The City on the Edge of Forever” (which many people claim to be the best episode of the original series), his screenplay was deemed to be too expensive to produce on a TV budget and had other problems as well. Gene Roddenberry and Dorothy Fontana did heavy rewrites on the script, which harshly angered Ellison. (There is a debate on the subject, my personal opinion is that the rewrote episode is better than Ellison’s original material.)

        So, Ellison wanted to use his registered pen-name “Cordwainer Bird” in the credits. However, Roddenberry knew very well that the science fiction community is much aware of the meaning of this name. If the episode goes under “Cordwainer Bird”, all sci-fi writers would know, they shouldn’t write for Star Trek, as their work is butchered by the producers. So (according to Justman and Solow), Roddenberry went to Ellison and told him that he will “never work in this town again” if he uses the pseudynom. The episode has the credit “Written by Harlan Ellison”.

        Ellison got his revenge when he subjected his original screenplay for the Writer’s Guild awards, and he won the prize for Best Dramatic Teleplay. And he is a harsh critic of Star Trek and Roddenberry up to this date.

    • Susan Harris says:

      I have to say, I can’t believe Roddenberry was responsible for the “risk is our business” speech. Admittedly my test for this is unscientific: I hated just about all the episodes where Roddenberry got a writing credit, and I really love that speech, so I assume that it came from Dugan.

      Either way, I think it is above par for Kirk’s inspirational speeches. What he says about the willingness to take risks is still relevant–even more relevant, I would say–in 2012.

      I am interested to hear, Ralph, that you were not involved with doing the soundtrack–because that’s the only quarrel I would have with that scene. And with many other scenes, where Shatner is going along just fine without any help and all of a sudden HERE COMES THE THEME MUSIC!

  5. Ralph Adler says:

    Let me add my thanks for your taking the time to write about this episode. It’s fascinating to read your emerging understanding of your conflicted feelings about its quality. Your assessment of Shatner’s performance as Kirk was possessed by Sargon is right on: it is perhaps the most “Shatnerian” of performances throughout the series. I know now, however, that when we young ‘uns watched Star Trek in the 60s, we ate up Shatner’s ham and bean meals! We LOVED Kirk’s passion and pacing. We were positively stirred by those empassioned, halting speeches. Interesting that I cringe a bit today watching the Sargon possession take place, while I thrill every time I see the “risk is our business” speech. Both Shatner, both generously over the top, but with different results in my take on performance quality. I’m also very interested in your observation about the soft conclusion to the story. It never occurred to me. I had always accepted that because the body transfer had gone so badly, Sargon knew that his plan to bring his knowledge and wisdom to the galaxy was just a bad idea. But I see now that such a ages-old smart dude should probably have been able to come up with a better way.

    Your courage in taking on a review of your RTT experience makes us all smarter! Please know that many, many of us count the viewing of that episode as a joyous, formative, central experience in our young lives. (I can’t explain why, Ralph, but just accept that it is!) And, yes, that’s due in part to provocative themes, memorable acting, Finnerman’s beautiful pictures…and your skill at whipping up the best story possible out of the material given to you.

    (I have to also say…Diana Muldaur, in both of her Trek performances and in other TV shows of the era, radiated an uncommon beauty and intelligence. That can’t be “acted,” or “directed,” as far as I can tell, so I have always had a real fondness for that lady.)

    Ralph

  6. Ralph Adler says:

    Make that “such AN age-old smart dude”…sorry for the error!

  7. Susan Harris says:

    Thank you for posting about RETURN TO TOMORROW. I can understand your frustration with being unable to realize your vision due to the new (and insane) constraints imposed by the shooting schedule. And of course when Gene Roddenberry rewrote something he rarely improved it.

    All I can say is, I thought it was one of the more touching and thought-provoking episodes Star Trek ever did. I personally liked the fact that Shatner did Sargon’s voice while Kirk was embodying Sargon; it made the whole thing just weird enough, and it was consistent with the way Thalassa and Hanek’s embodied voices were handled. And although I agree that Shatner’s performance of first being possessed by Sargon is right on the edge between awesome and awful, I still wouldn’t give it up.

    The ending is very rushed, especially the part where Spock dies and is restored to life. But it did give us Sargon and Thalassa’s farewell, which is a beautiful moment (though we perhaps didn’t need to see Chapel squeeing over it).

    Also, as a female fan, I really appreciate Diana Muldaur’s performance as Mulhall. She was the first of the female guest stars who was credible to me as a scientist. So thank you for casting her.

    Thanks for the writeup!

  8. Wonderful website, Ralph, and thank you for finally clearing up the mystery about your feelings related to “Return to Tomorrow.” Much appreciated.

  9. Paul M says:

    It is interesting to note that the “Risk is our business” speech inspired Jason Alexander from Seinfeld to pursue acting according to an interview:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CU_-xoKNgGs

    I also like Deforest Kelley’s table slamming devil’s advocate point of view preceding Kirk’s speech.

    • Ralph says:

      Thank you, Paul. I appreciate when Comments are left that add interesting information to the excitement of my journey.

  10. Daniel Rudolf says:

    I’ve just rewatched this episode today, and it was much better than I remembered. The acting is a bit far-fetched, I agree, but overall, the episode has an interesting sci-fi concept, a nice premise, some great “Roddenberry touches”, and Nimoy plays a villain just perfectly. And it gave me the real “facing the unknown” feel, which Metamorphosis also has. Anyways, I think you’ve got the “lucky straw”, the next episode was the awful “space Nazis” one, which Vincent McEveety had the misfortune to direct.

    For some reason, this episode got itself into popular culture. In the 1996 sci-fi comedy Space Jam, Michael Jordan gives a glowing alien basketball to his NBA colleagues, and one of them responds, “That looks like something out of Star Trek.” Also, in an episode of Criminel Minds, characters are talking about this episode.

    • Blair Schirmer says:

      Space nazis?

      “Patterns of Force” was a terrific conceit even though its execution in the script was not the best. I thought McEveety (who did spectacular, iconic work directing “Balance of Terror”) handled the wide variety of scenes and relatively large cast size extraordinarily well, especially considering this was after Paramount took over and instituted the five and a half day shooting schedule. (Rumor has it that new producer John Meredyth Lucas, whose script this was, allowed the shooting to proceed at a somewhat more leisurely pace than Paramount would have liked–still, an extra half day isn’t much.)

      “Patterns” fell short in making Professor Gill something of a non-character, and in introducing the villain of the piece, Melakon, only in the episode’s penultimate scene. Still, the idea is a fascinating one, much of the episode is well-written, and the several bouts of humor peaking with Spock climbing on Kirk’s back in order to escape their jail cell is genuinely funny while drawing the humor out of the nature of each actor’s character.

      A tip of the hat to McEveety for “Patterns, for getting the best out of a problematic script and the good half dozen guest stars.

  11. Corylea says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this episode. I actually never had a problem with Sargon’s voice, because it made sense to me that Sargon’s disembodied voice would be different than his voice as produced by Kirk’s throat. I thought the voice of Sargon-in-Kirk SHOULD sound partly like Kirk’s own voice, since it was produced with his vocal chords, after all. So I think that one’s a feature, not a bug. 😉

  12. sid says:

    Are you kidding me? You can’t figure out why this episode is so powerful? It’s a love story with one of the best endings ever, about the virtue of sacrifice – and nobility. Fabulous message. And that ‘risk’ speech – still gives me goose bumps. One of the more adult-themed episodes. Gets better the older you are when watching it too.

    • Ralph says:

      And as I get older and further away from the traumas that accompanied the making of the film, it is easier for me to see its worth. I am waiting with bated breath for Marc Cushman’s second season edition of THESE ARE THE VOYAGES, due out in November, to read his detailed and unvarnished presentation of the story of the making of the film.

      • Blair Schirmer says:

        Speaking to your comment here, and your remark in the body of the essay:

        Question: But with his overwhelming intelligence, his enormous power, why did Sargon so readily turn his back on his mission to help mankind and consign himself and Thalassa to an eternity that only provided for their being together forever. There is no conclusion to the original situation of the world encountering fascinatingly unbelievable intelligence from eons ago. The lack of that closure is what I miss.

        According to Marc Cushman in volume 2 of These Are The Voyages, that is very much the reason why author Dugan, a deeply spiritual man, wanted his name off the script. He was profoundly dismayed by Roddenberry consigning Sargon and Thalassa to oblivion rather than a continuing existence of some kind. If I am recalling Dugan correctly, he believed strongly that souls continue beyond the body, and so could not effectively ‘approve’ of Roddenberry’s altered ending of Dugan’s script by keeping his name on it.

        The ending as filmed also bothered me very much when I re-watched the episode for the first time in two decades. Minds as remarkable as Sargon and Thalassa, who had managed to survive in spheres for half a million years, would surely be able to build suitable android bodies from which to create more advanced vessels to inhabit that would be capable of tactile and other sensation, not to mention capable of carrying out Sargon’s stated altruistic mission. A very unsatisfying resolution, as written. It also deprived us of a return engagement with two of Star Trek’s more intriguing aliens!

        Many thanks, Ralph, for your fascinating posts. If you have a moment, it’s my understanding from Cushman’s books that a Star Trek director would have all of a week to prepare a shoot. I’ve seen the script pages you’ve included here, of course; is there any place in which you write in detail about what that week of preparation entails? Is it largely a close reading of the script, breaking it down shot by shot, figuring which scenes you need to shoot out of order, and when… and so on?

        • Ralph says:

          Hi Blair: To try to answer your question, at that time a director’s contract for an episode stipulated 6 days of preparation and 7 days of filming. The 6 days of prep were devoted to casting, scouting locations in those films that required filming outside of the sound-stage — locations off the lot (as in BREAD AND CIRCUSES and THIS SIDE OF PARADISE) and exteriors using buildings on the lot (BREAD AND CIRCUSES). Once those matters were in place, I started at the beginning of the script, staging scene by scene and shot by shot. As I’ve stated elsewhere on this website, although I am not proficient at drawing, I had a method of creating a storyboard in my director’s script of the film. There was no planning on my part for which scenes were be shot out of order. Everything was shot out of order.

  13. Charles Ilardi says:

    I just revisited this site as my 13-year old daughter is now interested in Star Trek. Your comments here and regarding the other episodes that you worked on are just fascinating. It is ironic that you said that you did not have a say on the music scores, as I first noticed your episodes because quite a few of them had scores by George Duning; I guess SOMEONE saw that his work worked very well with yours, as he wrote very sensitive scores, and you seemed to be the ST director who inbued the most inter-personal sensitivity into the usual Sci-Fi action. And right on regarding Finnerman: I had read somewhere that he used black-and-white film techniques (in terms of highlighting) to shoot color, and that (and the use of colored gels and light masks) gave his work such a dimensional quality.

    • Ralph says:

      Jerry did indeed use black and white technique (cross lighting) in lighting color. But so did all of the great cameramen — those older ones who had moved into television from film and the younger ones (like Finnerman, William Spencer, Ted Voigtlander et al) who had been operators in film and moved up to directors of photographer in television.

      • Charles Ilardi says:

        Oh my…thank you for replying so quickly, Mr Senensky! (my computer does not update as fast as you respond, so I am only seeing this now) Super correct about Voigtlander, who did great work in B&W (Ben Casey) and color (Little House on the Prairie). But I remember watching hour -after-hour of crime dramas (because my dad had control of the TV!) that-no doubt due to time constraints-all had that flat, generic lighting. For someone like me, I thought the funniest joke in the move “Airplane!” was Joe Biroc’s cinematography, which faithfully reproduced that generic ’70s era TV lighting! [sorry, I know I’m getting off-topic]

        • Daniel Rudolf says:

          (Okay, I promise this is the last time I mention The Next Generation – and of course I insist that the original series was always far superior.)
          When TNG started in 1987, Roddenberry and Bob Justman hired a talented cameraman, Edward R. Brown to shoot the series. (If I’m correct, they originally wanted to hire Jerry Finnerman, but he was busy doing Moonlighting. They probably hired Brown, who was around the same age, because their styles were very similar.) Brown photographed the series in its first two seasons, and did an excellent job with cross-lighting, and shadows, etc. He was even nominated for an Emmy – and, in a strange twist of fate, he competed against Finnerman! (Neither of them won, however.)
          But the younger producers, who step-by-step took over, saw Brown’s cinematography as “too dark” and having “too much shadows”, “making the sets look cheap”, etc. When hack Rick Berman took control over the series in season 3, he fired Brown and replaced him with a younger cameraman, Marvin V. Rush. Rush did just what Berman wanted – completely soft and flat lighting, throwing in lights everywhere, making everything clean and lifeless, making the show look like a daytime soap opera. It’s such a shame…

          Also, Hungarian cameraman Lajos Koltai, who worked a lot in Hollywood, told a story recently. When he worked in his native country, Koltai was known for his stylistic and very dark cinetamography, with lots of shadows. When he got his first job in the US, as DoP on a big budget Disney feature, the remake of Born Yesterday with Melanie Griffith & Don Johnson, Koltai flew overseas to do some test shots. After watching the dailies, the producers confronted him: “We’ve paid many millions of dollars to get these stars for our movie. So we want to SEE THEIR FACES on the screen!” Koltai got their message, and photographed the film in a conventional, flat way, unlike his previous work. When later he dined with famous Italian cameraman, Vittorio Storaro, he asked him about this film. Storaro replied, “It was nicely photographed. But one thing is missing from it: you, Lajos!”

          Sorry for the long comment…

  14. Robert English says:

    found and came across this site. It is very informative and interesting to hear about all your personal accounts with directing Star Trek. Thank you so much for sharing your personal experiences with this classic show.

    With that being said, Mr. Senensky, I remember reading the background of all the episodes and always regarded all your contributions to Star Trek highly. Like so many others, I am glad to come across this wonderful site and hear your perspectives on the episodes you did helm.

    Being a fan of the original Star Trek from the 80s on, I used to always wonder how it was like to direct an episode of the show. Im sorry about your bad experiences and disagreements on this episode. Completely different than the previous episodes.

    I’m sure many of fans and readers on this site are very curious about how your relationship was to the producers and actors on this legendary show. Sounds to me with the shortened filming schedule per episode, tensions were perhaps higher between the cast and crew. Just curious to know how your relationship was with each of the stars and co-stars of the show. Such as did you have problems with Shatner’s ego or the competition Shatner and Nimoy had? Was Kelly just laid back and down to earth from your experiences? How were Doohan and the other co-stars like and how was your working relationship with them? Was Takei at odds with Koenig for being the new kid on the block and “stealing” episodes? To put it simply, What kind of camaraderie and tensions did you have with and see with the cast and crew?

    Sorry for the long comment. THank you so much for your time. I praise your direction and your contributions to Trek are greatly appreciated. Thank you so much for everything.

    • Ralph Senensky says:

      First let me correct something you wrote:
      “I’m sorry about your bad experiences and disagreements on this episode.”
      It was NOT a “bad” experience — merely a disappointing one, as it always was if a production did not live up to my expectations. And there were no disagreements on the set. True the shortened restrictive schedule imposed by Paramount added pressure — to everyone — but professional producers, directors, actors absorb that pressure as they continue to do their jobs. RETURN TO TOMORROW was the fifth STAR TREK I directed. By that time there was a working professional relationship between me and the cast. Rather than the tension caused by the added pressure creating problems, there was a team effort and cooperation to overcome the difficulty. The other questions you raise about possible problems between cast members — there may have been some, but again actors come to a set to give a performance. That is where their attention and energy goes. I can truthfully say I saw no manifestations of that sort of behavior between cast members.

  15. Tim Messenger says:

    Mr. Senensky – Thank you for the hard work you put in, not only the series, but this thoughtful and fascinating blog. As a fan of Star Trek TOS, it gives that ‘Fly on the Wall’ ‘You Are There’ feel. It’s much a kin to Marc Cushmans instant classic These Are The Voyages – Season One. Season Two will be released in days, and I cannot wait! On this episode RTT …. not a fav. I agree with your comments on it. I think you did the best you could with the material. On a totally different subject, what are your impressions and memories of Lucille Ball. I’ve always been fascinated by her contributions to the TOS. Again, Sir … Thank you ! All the Best..

    • Ralph says:

      I too am awaiting impatiently the arrival of Marc Cushman’s second season of THESE OF THE VOYAGES. As for Lucille Ball, I never met the great lady. I was a big fan long before I LOVE LUCY and Desilu Studios. I remember years ago reading in a review that Lucille Ball was born to play the roles Ginger Rogers was getting. If you are not acquainted with her work pre-LUCY, I suggest you view THE BIG STREET, BEST FOOT FORWARD and THE DARK PAST. Once you see those I’m sure you’ll look up more of the great things she did way back then.

  16. Tim Messenger says:

    Thanks for responding Mr. Senensky! – I would say that that The Big Street is one of her best performances. What a Bi#/+ ! On another subject, tell me a little more about Diana Muldaur. I always thought she was so beautiful and what a great voice and “presence’ … kind of wasted in RTT …. again thanks for your time and insights! Take Care!

    • Ralph says:

      Since I don’t text, I have to ask what does Bi#/+ mean? You are so right about Diana Muldaur. I obviously felt the same way. I had seen Diana in a theatre production directed by John Houseman and cast her in an episode of I SPY. Then RTT followed the next year by her best STAR TREK role in IS THERE IN TRUTH NO BEAUTY. I also directed her in a BANYON, SEARCH, JUDD FOR THE DEFENSE She was a total professional. Always brought intelligence as well as her beauty to the roles she played. And if you haven’t found it yet, do look at the second STAR TREK. There she was not wasted.

  17. Tim Messenger says:

    Sir – I was referring to Lucys character in The Big Street. .. her character was a real bitch. I guess I should have just written that to begin with. Sorry ! I’m curious if you’ve seen either of the new Star Trek movies. Either 2009 or last years Into Darkness. .. if so … what’s your take….if not. ..would you be interested in seeing them? Thanks ! All the Best ..

    • Ralph says:

      I did not see either of the the two STAR TREK films in a theatre. I do have DVDs of both of them. I have viewed the earlier one. I’ve viewed the beginning of the later one and will get to it some day. My take? Let’s say there is a generational gap!

      • Tim Messenger says:

        I can agree with that. I liked the first one much more than the second. My wife, who’s never appreciated Star Trek like I do, really likes it though. Leonard Nimoy, who as you know, Directed 2 Trek movies, said a while back that he could never Direct a film like the new Treks. He said that there are just so many new Technical things to deal with involving the Special Effects etc, that he would be out of his element. Unfortunate! 2016 will be the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek, which began as a series in 1966. I’ve been saying to anyone that will listen, that I hope that they can make quality time in the planned 2016 Star Trek film, for as many of the original Actors as possible. In a wheel chair, on a cot, filmed wearing a red shirt at the Motion Picture Country home if necessary ! Obviously I’m attempting to be funny, … but with serious undertones. This next film will probably be the last chance to gather together “our heros’ Shatner… Nimoy… Nichols.. Takei..Koenig… but I want even more. I would like some of the other actors who appeared in the series in the new movie too. Eddie Paskey… Billy Blackburn…. John Winston… These folks and so many more contributed to make a classic, I hope that they will get the chance to ‘Explore strange new Worlds” again. And maybe the Producers can consult a certain Director, who’s Directed 7 classics, on how to bring a little more “Trek’ back to Star Trek. Take Care Mr. Senensky … Again Thanks for this Great site, and the opportunity to communicate with someone of your stature!! Awesome…

  18. The StarWolf says:

    Curses! Now I, too, think of the things as big ping-pong balls.

    As for the ending, I’m not surprised. Nor was I when I saw it as a teen. I suspect it was forced by the studio execs who were afraid of change. Given the level of technology Sargon and Co represented, they couldn’t be allowed to stick around and give the Federation a sudden boost which would have them practically ruling known space in a few years.

    If this seems far fetched, consider THE CHANGELING. This is one of my favourite episodes, but I cannot shake the feeling that Kirk’s bungling should have seen him be demoted. See, a commanding officer, in whichever branch of the service, has to be able to think fast on his feet. Yet, Kirk lets a golden opportunity to obtain frighteningly advanced tech (remember, something the size of a water cooler stood up to the Enterprise’s most powerful weapon and nearly trashed the ship in return) slip through his fingers. I’m not Starfleet Command material yet it occurred to even me that Kirk should have ordered Nomad to allow Scotty to do a full scan of the probe’s inner workings “because I, as your creator wish to see what changes were made to my design since the accident with The Other”. There’s no way Nomad could logically refuse and the federation would have gained huge insights. But, no, not for the first time, kirk blew it. Ditto in the first movie where V’Ger disappears into the next plane of existence without leaving behind a Federation-equivalent of a flash drive with its accumulated store of knowledge for Starfleet scientists and engineers to pore over.

    This why though I didn’t much care for the VOYAGER series per se, I loved the fan-made virtual VOYAGER seasons 8 & 9 as these were free of studio interference and they had the Federation using tech from all the aliens they’ve run into to build ships even the Borg were scared of.

  19. Ben Jones says:

    Ralph, This was the first Star Trek episode I watched. I remember lying on the floor in my Grandfathers living room on a visit to him in Knoxville and when it came on I was mesmerized. I’ve been a fan ever since. Hope you are doing well, and it’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since we worked together in “Randy’s House”.

  20. Pingback: Star Trek – Return to Tomorrow (Review) | the m0vie blog

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