SPECIAL: These Are The Voyages – Season Two

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.

voyages 2

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.

The journey continues

This entry was posted in Star Trek. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to SPECIAL: These Are The Voyages – Season Two

  1. marilyn wenrich says:

    Hi Ralph, I know you dont remember me, but was in a play you directed in Mason City, Ia called Ali Baba & the 40 thiefs. Was in Roosevelt Jr Hi at the time with your cousin our career thru the years & remember you with true fondsDeanna Richer, who was one of my best friends. Have followed your career thru the years & have been so proud to have known you & be directed in a play by you. Talked to Deanna many times when she was alive & living in Vegas & do miss my old friend. Remember your mother at Wilsens Jewelry& Erv was my Dads Accountant in Mason as well. Will try to get these books & tell some of my friends in book clubs to get them as well. Sounds like it will be very good & informative reading. Stay well & happy. I live in the Magnolia Texas area today. Bless you, Marilyn

    • Ralph says:

      Marilyn: How nice to hear from you. I was in Mason City last October for the first time in many years and probably the last time. The high school where we performed Ali Baba is still there, but it’s no longer a high school. Your friend and my lovely cousin Deanna as you know is gone. De was here visiting me in Carmel on 9/11 –the day of the terrible twin attacks in New York. We stayed in touch, but that was the last time I saw her. I’m sure you will enjoy the STAR TREK books. I am totally impressed author with Marc Cushman. We have not met, but have been corresponding (e-mail is so great) for the last six months. He has promised me Season Three due in October will be even more exciting.

  2. C. Ralph Adler says:

    Hi Ralph–Let me echo your appreciative comments for Marc’s fine pair of books. I too am looking forward to Season Three, although I’m bracing for even more difficult stories than what we’ve heard so far about the first two years. (I’m especially wary about learning why Bob Justman quit mid-season–he must have reached the absolute end of his rope.) The books have affected me in a variety of ways–of course, it’s incredible to hear these fascinating tales about the creative process behind the writing, producing, and directing of Star Trek. The diverse personal aesthetics of Coon, Justman, Fontana, Roddenberry, Senensky, and so many others, all interacting (colliding) in debates and epic written critiques of story outlines and script drafts–this is why Star Trek, when it was good, was SO good…all of these first-class minds pounding away to make it work. I wonder if other series of the era had the benefit of this messy but necessary process–one of the great contributions of these books is the chance to see a model for how a production team, or any professional team, can work in concert, if not always on the same wavelength. At the same time, I find myself reacting emotionally to Cushman’s personal assessments, both pro and con. At times I’m nodding along while reading, delighted that he’s capturing the same feelings I have had watching Star Trek since I was 13 years old in 1967. And at other times, I’m enraged by his negative views (and here again, I stand in defense of Return to Tomorrow, and especially Kirk’s iconic briefing room speech about risk and “why we’re here”…long ago I committed this speech to memory, and in countless boring, interminable business meetings I’ve doodled it out on paper, verbatim, over and over again…it captures the absolute essence of Star Trek, and to me it’s a classic television moment, a rare symbiosis of talented scripting, performance, music scoring, and, yes, direction, AND words to live by!). After so many books about the production of Star Trek, I actually believe that when Cushman’s trilogy is done, there will be no need for any more “making of” tomes about the original series. These Are the Voyages, I think and hope, will be the final word on how and why Star Trek became a timeless phenomenon. And, as always, my deep appreciation to you, Ralph, for your contributions to the series. (Beyond whatever creative crimes we will hear about Fred Freiberger in Volume Three, none could compare to the travesty of firing you half-way through shooting The Tholian Web!)

    • Ralph says:

      Ralph: I sent a copy of what you wrote above to Marc Cushman. I wanted to be sure he saw it. He responded:

      Thanks for sharing this, Ralph. I very much enjoyed reading Mr. Adler’s take on the books as well as his feelings about “Return to Tomorrow.”

      The scene Mr. Adler refers to is certainly stirring and inspiring. I agree with him there. My only point in what I wrote is that the speech Kirk makes is just that — a speech. It is not the way people really talk … unless they are standing in front of an audience and trying to get elected, or rally others to follow them into battle. Gene Roddenberry had a tendency at times to write this way, to have his characters make speeches, where Gene Coon’s dialogue had more of a natural feel to it. Having said that, Kirk was, in a sense, indeed trying to rally the others to follow him into battle. And it was Gene Roddenberry’s vision, and passion, and maybe even some of the speeches he wrote, that have inspired so many of us to follow Star Trek and to be moved by the positive themes woven into these episodes. Further, there is no question that William Shatner is good at this sort of thing, as a result of his experience on the stage. I feel that no actor alive could have brought more life and vitality into Kirk than William Shatner did … and few could have delivered that speech with as much passion and conviction. So, it is certainly an iconic moment in an iconic episode of an iconic series. I would have liked to have seen the writing and the delivery toned down just a little, but hearing how those lines, and Shatner’s delivery, moved Mr. Adler, and no doubt moved many others, pleases me greatly. As Bob Justman said about Star Trek, in general, “I love them all; even the much maligned ‘Spock’s Brain.’” I do, as well.

      Please feel free to post my reply on your site if you feel it will be of interest. Best, Marc.

      • rick daniel suegreen says:

        Hi Ralf: I have just read the very interesting and impassioned post contributed by C. Ralph Adler, I one million per-cent agree with everything the man says, it was like reading what I WOULD SAY! Thank you Ralf for defending that scene with the dramatic and impassioned speech to our CAPTAIN to his fellow officers, this has always been one of TREKS greatest moments, of many caught on film, I love everything about it, it is dramatic, rousing and always makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end! For me Star Trek has always been grand, larger than life, this was an epic odyssey, spawned even before the legendary Neil Armstrong set foot upon the shimmering virgin Moon. For then and unlike now Star Trek was always a very romantic and passionate, full-bloodied opus. Grandiose, lush and very very bold and dramatic! this was a Shakespeare to the stars. For me this concept and approach is much more superior to any of the other dull and colourless incarnations of STAR TREK, especially the utterly inferior STNG, for me the follow up series was bloodless devoid of all the things that made me CRAZY about STAR TREK in the first place!! Here like in LET THAT BE YOUR LAST BATTLEFIELD we have the polar opposite in approach; Take all the PASSION and DRAMATISM out of the series and then go through the numbers, where was the ground-breaking concepts of the original TREK? When watching, or attempting to watch the spin-off series, the acting, especially of the lead players simply sent me to sleep! I wanna hear those SPARTACUS like rousing speeches that the wonderful Bill Shatner could do in his sleep, much of STAR TREK IS BILL SHATNER, his persona, his broad/dramatic acting gamut, this fused with the beautiful concepts and superior writing made the show legendary, and is the reason for it being my favourite television show of all time, and this post is for BOTH Ralphs,… William Shatner is my favourite actor of ALL TIME, he always will be. I will always have a profound sadness in me because I never got to meet him, or shake his hand. I am so happy, as WE ALL ARE to be able to converse we another STAR TREK legend; the wonderful man and human being running his own STAR TREK, ; this site! In time, just as STAR TREK did, Ralph’s following will grow, his universe of experience is as interesting as the world of STAR TREK, for us RALPH SENENSKY’s journey continues!! As to a footnote to the topic the other Ralph brought up, I conclude that his remark- “He would like to see the writing and delivery TONED DOWN just a little”! That says it all, I respect Marc, I haven’t read his book, and according to you Ralph it is amazing, so well done Marc you have contributed more to the world of STAR TREK than I, but I agree with Ralph Adler, I absolutely know where he is coming from, ; that larger than life, full-blown, full bodied scope is what many of us love about our beautiful Lady STAR TREK. Live Long and Prosper everyone. Love from Rick Daniel Suegreen.

  3. C. Ralph Adler says:

    Ralph, thanks so much for acting as liaison between Marc and me. I’m moved to jump on over to his website to continue the conversation. As always, I send you my best wishes for all good things to come your way.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *