STAR TREK was a phenomenon. I directed six and a half episodes of the original series, working a total of ninety days. I worked many more days than that on just the pilot of DYNASTY. I directed twice as many episodes of THE WALTONS and two and half times as many episodes of THE FBI; I directed more episodes of THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY and more episodes of THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIE’S FATHER than I did of STAR TREK. And yet today if you Google-search my name on the Internet, you will think I spent most of my career directing STAR TREK.
I wrote those words on February 27, 2011, when I blasted off on RALPH’S CINEMA TREK: A Journey In Film, beginning the voyage with reporting my tales behind the production of the six and a half episodes I directed of STAR TREK. I repeated that opening last September when I reported that 47 years after STAR TREK first aired:
…the phenomenon known as STAR TREK shows no sign of dimming. In fact, as of this month, September, 2013, its fame is exploding courtesy of the unprecedented fervor of a man who was in the fifth grade the year the USS Enterprise first shot into orbit. Now grown up, Marc Cushman has written a remarkable tome — THESE ARE THE VOYAGES (TOS). Books have been written about STAR TREK before. … but never has there been a chronicle like the present one.
I have just finished reading THESE ARE THE VOYAGES (TOS) Season Two, and I have to rescind my last statement: but never has there been a chronicle like the present one. Season One now has company. The current book is written with the same meticulous eye for detail as his first volume. For each of the 26 productions, Marc provides a Script Timeline – a list of the story outlines, the Draft teleplays (usually several of them, many times from different authors), and the page revisions (again many times from different authors). He provides memos of script revisions requested by the network and suggestions for changes from the STAR TREK staff. The ones from associate producer Robert Justman are hilarious. He has read all of the teleplays and describes the changes that occurred as the script was rewritten. He then moves on to details in pre-production, day-by-day production and post-production; and finally the data on the show’s airing, some reviews and even some items from the Mailbag (letters received from viewers). The remarkable thing is that it all reads so easily. He has written with a dramatic flair; he is not just bombarding you with facts; you feel as if you are taken into the production offices and onto the soundstages; you feel as if you are a fly on the wall.
For me reading it was a strangely personal experience. I directed four of the twenty-six productions, and as I read, I was reliving the experience on the one hand, but I was also made aware there were things I had not known. Case in point: when Herb Solow and John Meredyth Lucas asked me to stay on and direct another episode upon completion of the one I was filming (and I had the problem of the Jewish High Holy Days, which problem Solow solved), I did not know that request was made because Joe Pevney, one of the two regular rotating directors on the series, had called it quits after having directed fourteen productions in the first season and a half. I now know I was not the only one feeling the pressures caused by the sale of Desilu to Gulf Western, which put STAR TREK under the more stringent management of Paramount Studios.
STAR TREK’s second season was turbulent. There was easily as much drama going on behind the scenes as what was being performed before the cameras. Did you know that Leonard Nimoy almost didn’t return as Mr. Spock – that there was a replacement anxiously waiting in the wings to step in and replace him? Marc tells of the complicated and for her the heartbreaking circumstances that led to Lucille Ball having to sell her studio. He relates in detail the reasons for producer Gene Coon leaving in mid-season. It’s far more interesting than the aired excuse that he was burned out. He discusses the rumored “feud” between William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy and tells of the rumored stories of unrest between Bill Shatner and the supporting cast. And most excitingly he takes us step by step through the depressing period when cancellation of the series after only two seasons seemed a certainty. The amazing campaign by fans of the show that forced NBC to rescind their prior orders and reinstate STAR TREK on the schedule for the following year was something that had never happened before. Marc relates it in microscopic and emotionally thrilling detail.
I say again, STAR TREK was a phenomenon, and Marc Cushman’s two books (so far) shine a light that keeps the phenomenon glowing, while becoming a phenomenon in their own right. I’m anxious for Season Three.