SPECIAL: These Are The Voyages – Season Three

When I posted on my website for THESE ARE THE VOYAGES – Season Two, I wrote:

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.

Now as I post about THESE ARE THE VOYAGES – Season Three, I write:

STAR TREK’s third season was cataclysmic. There was definitely more drama going on behind the scenes than what was being performed before the cameras. I should know. I was embroiled in one of those storms.

In 1968 I was fired mid-production of THE THOLIAN WEB. As I reported on my post for THE THOLIAN WEB:

When I reported at 7:30 that Monday morning (the first day), the set (the bridge of the Defiant) was ready, the crew was assembled, I was prepared. But there were no actors. The four of them were in wardrobe, having their final fittings for their silver space-suits. I was told they had been at the studio the day before (Sunday) for their FIRST fittings. As of the end of the day on Friday, since construction of the wardrobe for the first sequence Monday morning had not even begun, a change in the schedule should have been made; but nothing had been done by the production department to adjust for this predicament. … Finally Bill Shatner’s suit was completed, so I filmed some isolated close-ups of Captain Kirk. There weren’t many, and it meant filming the close-ups before we had staged and rehearsed the scenes in which they occurred. Just before noon the other three skin-tight silver space-suits were ready, and we could begin. (At the end of the day I was a half day behind) … (At the end of the third day of filming) I was asked to come to producer Fred Freiberger’s office at the completion of the day’s shooting. There he informed me I was being removed from the project. Because I was still a half a day behind, I was being replaced by what he called a “fireman”, someone who could come in and just get it in the can.

The following day news of my firing was heralded in the pages of Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. What I didn’t know at the time was that there were even more violent storms involving other STAR TREK personnel swirling around. That’s what I’m learning now from Marc Cushman’s brilliant third and final THESE ARE THE VOYAGES.

I find the similarity between the events of that third season and THE THOLIAN WEB to be stunning. Captain Kirk Roddenberry, commanding his starship STAR TREK through the uncharted outer space perils of network television, lost his first officer Mr. Spock Gene Coon, who had left the season before, driven away by the change in command after the purchase of Desilu by Paramount. Plagued by the same changes being made because of the sale of the studio, Captain Roddenberry was more than dismayed when the network reneged on its promise to move the series from its Friday night 8:30 spot to Monday at 7:30, and instead moved it to the deadliest spot possible, Friday night at 10. His response? He would not be a hands-on producer with the show in that graveyard spot. Just as in THE THOLIAN WEB when Captain Kirk was lost in space while being transported back to the Enterprise, Captain Roddenberry was going to be absent from his ship, STAR TREK.

Bones Robert Justman, in a way the doctor for the series, the engine that drove the production side of the show, one who was ready, able and eager to move into the producer seat vacated by the departing Coon, found himself rejected by the network and the studio. He continued to serve the inexperienced sci-fi outsider who was brought in to occupy the coveted seat.

Female Communications Uhura Dorothy Fontana, who had been with STAR TREK since its inception, when she was Roddenberry’s secretary and in its first season rose to the position of story editor and very productive contributor of superior teleplays, now found herself in a position where her communications regarding scripts to the new inexperienced producer were not always heeded. The fact that this was happening in spite of the fact that she knew more about STAR TREK scripts than anyone connected to the show (barring Captain Roddenberry) was not only counterproductive, it was insulting.

And finally just as the Tholians created a web to capture and destroy the Starship Enterprise, the studio and the network created a web to destroy STAR TREK. The studio (Paramount) was not happy with the films costing more to produce than what the network was paying. Executive in charge of production Douglas Cramer had a scorched earth policy. If a director could not complete a film in the mandated six days, he was put on the Do Not Hire list. Joining me on that list were two other experienced STAR TREK directors: Vincent McEveety, who had directed six productions, and John Meredyth Lucas, who had written scripts, directed and served as producer for the series. The network (NBC) was even more diabolical. Twice they had cancelled the series — at the end of Season One and again at the end of Season Two, only to restore it to the schedule because of overwhelming response from outraged STAR TREK fans. This time at the end of Season Three, without announcing whether or not the series would return in the fall, the network announced STAR TREK would return in twelve weeks for a series of summer reruns. When the reruns ended, so did STAR TREK, its original five-year mission cut off after three years.

At the wrap party at the conclusion of photography on TURNABOUT INTRUDER, the 24th episode of the third season and the 79th and final episode of STAR TREK: The Original Series, James Doohan (Scotty) couldn’t believe that a show this good with such a vocal fan base could be canceled. He insisted they would be back. Walter Koenig (Checkov) commented, “… and of course he was right. It just took ten years longer than he thought.”

That is just a small part of the amazing drama that Marc Cushman brings to life so vividly in this final volume of his series. The amazing thing is that he does it as he microscopically presents the detailed evolution of each of the 24 productions filmed that season — from the author’s pitch through story development to final script, into pre-production, production, post production, airing and reaction, the mailbag and memories. I am in awe of the enormity of the project, profoundly moved as I was by the previous two volumes and very grateful that he did it.
voyages 3

The journey continues

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13 Responses to SPECIAL: These Are The Voyages – Season Three

  1. Vinnie Vinson says:

    Hi, Ralph! I didn’t realize you were from Iowa until tonight. I live in Des Moines. I enjoy your showbiz stories, especially those about “Star Trek.”

    Over your long directing career, could you single out the NICEST star you ever encountered? I’m curious.

    Thanks, and Merry Christmas!

    • Ralph says:

      Not only am I from Iowa, I was the director of the Des Moines Playhouse the season 1953-54. The nicest limited to one? Can’t do that. But here’s a longer list: Beulah Bondi, Mickey Rooney, Barbara Stanwyck, Lloyd Bridges, Rachel Ames, Burgess Meredith, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Steve Brooks, DeForest Kelley, Leonard Nimoy, Will Geer, Harry Guardino, James Whitmore, Bradford Dillman, Buddy Ebsen, Joan Blondell, Pat O’Brien, Richard Long, Cicely Tyson, Ralph Meeker, Ralph Bellamy, Walter Pidgeon — the list is endless.

  2. Steve Gennarelli says:

    Thanks Ralph for these new comments on “The Tholian Web”. You really have done a good job wetting my appetite for the “These Are the Voyages” books, which I plan on getting sometime soon.
    Its amazing that “Star Trek” took such a perilous journey toward becoming the Billion dollar profit machine that it is today for Paramount/CBS.
    Sad to think that of those final 24 segments of classic “Star Trek” only 1 was filled on location, “The Paradise Syndrome”. Imagine how much better some of those fairly forgettable segments would have been had they put some Cash into them.
    Thanks again Ralph for the skills and talent you contributed to “Star Trek”. You were definitely one of the unsung heroes that have made Trek a timeless classic.

  3. Tim miller says:

    Ralph, Thanks so much for all the work you’ve done – collecting all these details into a cohesive web resource, I write and direct videos for a large corporate group, and it’s such a blast! But what great fun it must be to as part of the studio system with access to real actors who are prepared and accustomed to daily work! I look forward to more of your insights!

  4. C. Ralph Adler says:

    Hi Ralph–

    Just feeling an urge to say hello after reading These Are the Voyages Season Three and being reminded of your wonderful contributions to Star Trek and, as I’ve learned from reading the rest of this site, television in general. Generosity is an often undervalued commodity in life, and you have been so generous in sharing your stories and your understanding of the art and craft of filmmaking. And all for free! Your tales of both wonder and woe have been immensely entertaining but also telling: most enlightening, to me, are your insights into the collision, collusion, and (when things are good) collaboration among people who bring vastly different talents to the work day when the work seems impossible (like making a TV show in six days). As interesting as your stories are from the point of view of learning about filmmaking, they are even more instructive about human nature and that strange thing we all do every day–get out of bed, go to work, and interact with others to get something done…something, we hope, that will leave the world a little brighter and lighter.

    So here’s hoping you’re well as the new year begins!

    And with many, many thanks to a remarkable artist and human being…


  5. Josh Lee says:

    Hello again, Ralph. I wanted to finish the book before I said anything but I couldn’t wait. (I’m on the Frank Gorshin episode.) You had mentioned how in the second season the changeover from Desilu to Paramount meant budget cuts and watching the clock to an even greater degree. Well, it looks like it just kept getting worse and worse throughout the third season. It never registered to me that there were fewer extras on the ship until Gene pressed for them and did not get them from Freiberger. I’m not going to say it was by the numbers exactly but the care and extra push for quality seem to have just gone out the airlock. I’m amazed that so many of the shows turned out as well as they did. Now when I think of The Tholian Web (which has been my favorite episode my whole life), I’ll grind my teeth over how they treated you. I do admire the fact that you took the time to do the work to the best of your ability despite the head office breathing down your neck. And it shows. Ok, no more gushing. This time, anyway. I was very interested to hear about Stan Robertson from NBC. I’d never heard of him at all prior to these books and enjoyed reading some of his notes. Also, I have to say that Douglas Cramer looked like either a typical suit or somebody in the Mafia. Maybe he was ok (I doubt it) but that picture wasn’t flattering. I have always appreciated the writers but I had no idea how much they kept going back to the grindstone on things. Amazing. And I knew even less about all the crew. They sure sound like they were a great bunch of guys, especially Bob Justman, Jerry Finnerman and Matt Jefferies. Also, I’ve looked at some interviews on the Television Academy’s website. I could watch that every day for a very long time indeed. There’s so much great stuff from which to choose. Sorry so long but I’ve missed saying hi for a while. Thanks so much for work that not only holds up almost 50 years later but will outlast all of us. Take care.

  6. C. Ralph Adler says:

    Hi again, Ralph!

    I have a technical question for you, based on your Tholian Web experience. You said in These Are the Voyages, Season Three that you refused to accept a director’s credit on the episode. I’m curious to know, in terms of union rules and artists’ rights, at least for the time: Did you deserve a credit, by union rules, for having directed x minutes of the aired program, or for directing any of it at all? Would the studio have given you a credit if you requested or demanded one? Would a dual credit (you and Herb Wallerstein) have been allowed, either by union or studio rules, or would there have been a tussle over which director would receive credit? I can’t say I remember more than a handful of cases where I’ve seen a shared director’s credit either in movies or television, and certainly, from that era (the 60s), I can’t recall one instance of a TV show that credited two directors. As I said, my questions come from both historical and industry curiosity. Thank you for revisiting those terrible Tholian days one more time!

    C. Ralph Adler

    • Ralph says:

      The director’s credit would automatically have been a shared credit. If the studio had wanted to deny the credit, which I don’t think would have happened, the Director’s Guild would not have allowed that. It was totally my choice that I not be given credit. I did however also stipulate that I was to share the forthcoming residuals.

  7. C. Ralph Adler says:

    Very interesting, and VERY good to hear that you’re sharing fully in the unpredictable bounty that Star Trek has become.

    • Ralph says:

      I’m wondering about the “unpredictable bounty” that I am sharing. Do you think think that because STAR TREK is now so popular, is now still playing on the Sci-Fi Channel, that residuals are pouring in? Wrong! I received 5 residuals on each of the STAR TREK’s that I directed. After that they went strictly into the Paramount coffers.

      • C. Ralph Adler says:

        Yes, I know…I just meant that as far as the residuals went, you got as much as you could for Tholian Web. I sense that residual structures are somewhat more reasonable in today’s contracts (though still hotly negotiated in SAG, DGA, and WGA contracts), but it’s a travesty that the artists who molded the clay that became Star Trek received such paltry remuneration–and haven’t been considered, in retrospect, for even a modest reward from what has become a perpetual money making machine franchise. (I’ve always wondered how that no-money system in the Star Trek future really works…you’re a starship captain, and you don’t receive compensation for it? So the groceries, rent, and high-orbit skydiving lift tickets are free?). Well, if respect, appreciation, and love count as compensation, Ralph, you have it in infinite quantities from your admirers!

  8. Scott says:

    Ralph, I’ve read and listened to your interviews on the filming of This Side of Paradise, Metamorphosis, The Tholian Web (and others) many times and really enjoy hearing the details of how exactly you directed these shows.
    This Side is definitely one of my favourite shows, beautifully directed and I love your blocking and shot composition.

    I really just wanted to say thank you for your work!

    Scott, in New Zealand

    PS: I did see an interview with you for The Archive of American Television and you nearly told a story ‘you had never told before’ about working on Star Trek, would you care to tell a long life fan? 😉

    Anyway, thanks again, Ralph.

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