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John Byrne
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Posted: 02 February 2017 at 11:19am | IP Logged | 1  

I can still feel the thunderbolt that hit me when I walked into my local K-Mart and saw this on the rack, totally without warning. Reading it was an amazing adventure, revealing to me the behind the scenes workings of Hollywood. Of course, as the veils have been stripped away over the decades since, we've learned that much of the "Inside STAR TREK" aspects of this book were "veils" themselves. There's a high quota of myth-making, here.

One of the elements that's most interesting, to me, is the presentation in detail of Roddenberry's original pitch (said to be as he first wrote it, but clearly not). It's an curious "what if" to imagine what would have become of STAR TREK had it followed that blueprint, possibly set in 1995 and with a "half Martian" Mr. Spock!

Despite Roddenberry's best intentions, I find myself imagining something closer to LOST IN SPACE than "our" STAR TREK.

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Brian Hague
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Posted: 02 February 2017 at 4:33pm | IP Logged | 2  

As I recall, that was going to be a "half-Martian" Spock with red skin who eats through a plate in his stomach. Martin Landau was sought for the part. Imagine a Star Trek starring Jeffrey Hunter and Martin Landau or Jack Lord and Martin Landau. The word "taciturn" comes to mind. 

Roddenberry. like Lucas and Lee, is a creator who was blessed with extraordinarily talented employees and collaborators along the way who helped shape and craft the final result into something wonderful the creator alone could never have envisioned let alone accomplished.

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 02 February 2017 at 11:06pm | IP Logged | 3  

Love this book. Myth-making aside, it's still an invaluable resource in terms of examining the production of a weekly series, and for the specifics behind the creation of the characters and the universe (with excerpts from the show's Writers' Guide, etc.). Still one of the best making-of books ever published, even if it's not as based in reality as advertised.


As an aside, I recently ordered copies of a number of the cast's autobiographies (specifically, Takei's, Nichols', and Doohan's), as well as STAR TREK CREATOR and GENE RODDENBERRY: THE LAST CONVERSATION. Still need to get Koenig's and Grace Lee Whitney's. I have Shatner's (well, his ghostwriter's) STAR TREK MEMORIES and MOVIE MEMORIES. I also have Nimoy's I AM SPOCK, although I'd like to track down a copy of I AM NOT SPOCK, as well. 

And, of course, I have various other making-of books, such as INSIDE STAR TREK (which is pretty indespensible), STAR TREK- PHASE II: THE LOST SERIES (an in-depth look at what almost was), and Marc Cushman's THESE ARE THE VOYAGES series (full of B.S., but with some really great raw data mixed in). I also highly recommend the recent RETURN TO TOMORROW: THE FILMING OF STAR TREK- THE MOTION PICTURE, which is a fascinating anatomy of a trainwreck.

I'm also eager to sit down and read both volumes of the recent THE FIFTY-YEAR MISSION series, which is an oral history of the entire franchise, compiled from many, many interviews.


I have a desire to catch up on a lot of the older making-of and autobiography books, so as to get a sense of all the different perspectives from the show's key players. 


Edited by Greg Kirkman on 02 February 2017 at 11:38pm
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John Byrne
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Posted: 02 February 2017 at 11:24pm | IP Logged | 4  

I AM NOT SPOCK

•••

Years ago, tongue firmly in cheek, Roger Stern speculated that Nimoy's next book would be I AM NOT PARIS.

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 02 February 2017 at 11:40pm | IP Logged | 5  

Heh.

I seem to recall someone--Nichelle Nichols, maybe?--joking that they should release an autobiography entitled, "I AM ALSO NOT SPOCK".
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Peter Hicks
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Posted: 03 February 2017 at 9:14am | IP Logged | 6  

I love, love, love reading books about the making of TOS. I am currently halfway through These Are the Voyages Season 1. The original Making of Star Trek paperback was a grail that I read cover to cover many times in my youth.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 07 February 2017 at 12:27am | IP Logged | 7  

--Resuming off-topic discussion from NEW VISIONS thread--


Aleksandar Petrovic:

Greg mentioned 
Star Trek: The Motion Picture, so I looked for other Star Trek stories that Gene Roddenberry might have written, beyond TOS. It seems there are only the following two:

1. Star Trek: The Motion Picture - a long gestation there, starting as an unproduced episode (Robots Return) of an altogether different project (Genesis II)  in 1973, then becoming an unproduced movie (Star Trek: The God Thing) in 1976, then an uproduced pilot (In Thy Image) for Star Trek: Phase II in 1977, then finally becoming an actual Star Trek movie (but without a story credit for Gene) in 1979. 

2. Encounter at Farpoint - Star Trek: The Next Generation opener (Season 1, Episodes 1-2), co-authored by Gene. 

Unless I am missing something (The Cage got cannibalized for The Menagerie) , that would be a grand total of 11 stories from Gene Roddenberry (with three of them co-authored) as far as Star Trek goes. Very little indeed straight from the creator. I am sure there is a story to tell as to why Gene did not contribute more during those 25 years from the series' debut in 1966 to his passing in 1991. 

p.s.
Regarding the roles of Coon and Freiberger - how taking over the series changed the material's chemistry along the way - this type of thing is why I am very fond of the way Brits do TV series on their side of the pond. There are frustratingly few episodes each season or series as they would say (something like Star Trek would likely only get 6 episodes a year). This situation is stemming from a very different business model in the UK (for example, if approved, the whole season is always produced so there is no 'lets make half of it, and see how it goes'; there is no pressure either to churn out 100 episodes of something for syndication, etc.), but what I love about it is that writing is single-sourced - usually all 6 episodes are fully written by a single author (or a pair of authors at most, working together on every episode). There is no room full of people factory-producing uneven stuff. The end result is a tight product without filler, with concise and coherent consistent world, and overall continuity of vision. If Star Trek with Gene Roddenberry was actually happening over there, we would probably only get those 11 stories directly from him on film, and as two seasons/series, maybe even some years apart.   

+++++++++++

The writing format of many TV shows has changed considerably, in the past few decades. A lot of shows these days have a dedicated Writers' Room, where stories are hashed out in detail before getting aside to a particular writer. To cite but one example, BREAKING BAD (which I consider to be quite possibly the best-written and executed drama I've ever seen) had a core staff of writers who locked themselves away for countless hours, working out every beat of every story. Specific writers (be they from the core staff, or from outside) would then flesh out the actual screenplay, which was still subject to revisions from the rest of the writing staff. So, any given episode was not really the specific vision of a single writer. It was very much a collaborative effort.

In the case of TOS, things were much more old-school. Writers from all 'round would submit scripts (be they assigned or unsolicited), and then the TREK brain trust (mainly Roddenberry, Coon, and Fontana) would go to work on those scripts, in order to make them fit in line with the series they wanted to make. In many cases, scripts had to be almost totally rewritten, since, especially early on, most writers didn't quite get the nuances or style that the TOS staff were trying to create.

The most famous example of this, of course, is "The City on The Edge of Forever". Harlan Ellison wrote a fantastic, award-winning script...but one which would have been too expensive to produce, and didn't quite feel like the STAR TREK which had developed, during that first season. So, uncredited, Roddenberry, Coon, and Fontana all took passes at reworking the script, until, they ended up with the version which made it to air. 
 

So, while Roddenberry didn't write too many episodes from scratch, he definitely had a major--and uncredited--influence on many, many other episodes. I'd have to double-check, but I believe the reason he didn't write more episodes is because he was simply too busy rewriting other scripts, and, early on, going about the actual business of producing the show. By all accounts, that first season of TOS, in particular, was an absolute meat-grinder for the cast and crew, with everyone either exhausted and/or hospitalized by the end of the season.


Edited by Greg Kirkman on 07 February 2017 at 12:30pm
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John Byrne
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Posted: 07 February 2017 at 11:45am | IP Logged | 8  

As I noted elsewhere, one of the things I learned from the otherwise largely disappointing THESE ARE THE VOYAGES books is that episodes were not filmed as discrete entities. That finishing an episode at 10:30 Friday morning did not mean an early weekend. Instead, it meant jumping right into the next episode -- probably at 10:45!

As Lily Tomlin put it, they don't call it "Show Art".

(I speculate that this is why some shots from different episodes are identical, especially in the third season. Shooting past Spock's station on the Bridge toward Kirk's chair might have been the last bit filmed for one episode, and the first for the next.)

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John Byrne
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Posted: 07 February 2017 at 11:58am | IP Logged | 9  

There were a number of decisions made very early on that most definitely contributed to the eventual iconic status of STAR TREK. Some have been mentioned before, but a brief list would include...

• Not making the ship a "flying saucer" or, worse, a silver cigar with flames shooting out the back

• Not having the crew in "futuristic" hairstyles (The actors were themselves opposed to this, since they had to live in the real world)

• Keeping the uniforms simple and practical (We saw some of the wacky designs William Theiss could concoct in various civilian and alien garb, so we can be glad he reeled it in)

• Holding back on the "space slang" (Altho I understood such language would be perfectly natural, I still cringed at "go chase an asteroid" and "she was nova, that one!"

• Minimum metric (certainly "wrong" for the Future, but...)

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Aleksandar Petrovic
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Posted: 07 February 2017 at 12:57pm | IP Logged | 10  

I was thinking some more about what I said earlier, categorizing Gene Roddenberry's grand total of 11 Star Trek stories as 'very few'. It is very few indeed when compared to the Star Trek behemoth as a whole - a drop in the bucket - but on its own, it is actually more than enough. 

For example, I realized that the amount of Star Trek stories Gene conceived himself essentially equals the storytelling amount George Lucas directly conceived for Star Wars (6 films worth, which I assume would be a rough equivalent of 12 TV episodes). 

Are 11 stories enough to properly establish a world, and communicate a vision? Definitely. I am thinking about the amount of storytelling that 11 individual issues of New Visions provide with 48 pages each. If the series was a new sandbox from scratch (some brand new universe with brand new characters), there would be enough meat by issue 11 to have a clear idea what it all is about. 

In other words, even if Gene's original stories were the only ones ever produced on screen, we would still have Star Trek (maybe in its purest form?).

As for hospitalizations - I am not necessarily fan of less is more philosophy, but I will take quality over quantity any day (and that usually ends up being 'less is more'-like). Fatigue and rush seep into final product no matter how much you try to hide it, regardless of the medium.   


Edited by Aleksandar Petrovic on 07 February 2017 at 1:03pm
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Peter Hicks
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Posted: 07 February 2017 at 2:35pm | IP Logged | 11  

• Not making the ship a "flying saucer" or, worse, a silver cigar with flames shooting out the back
*************************************************
Actually, the Enterprise is a saucer and THREE cigars! And it looks pretty cool in the Gold Key comics when three flames are shooting out the back!

Another key decision was Roddenberry's insistence on a "timeless" symphony style soundtrack. "Futuristic" electronic weird music was discouraged.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 09 February 2017 at 2:47am | IP Logged | 12  

So, I received a few of the books I'd ordered. One of them (for which I paid a mere $3.99 to an online, used bookstore)  is TO THE STARS, George Takei's autobiography. It must be my lucky week, because, upon opening the book and seeing the title page, I discovered that it was autographed by the man! Cool!
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Joe Boster
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Posted: 09 February 2017 at 5:57pm | IP Logged | 13  

If you were really lucky it would say To Greg... I got mine when he was a guest at the science fiction &comic convention at Shrine Hall when it came out.  Still need to read it. 

IDW's City on the Edge of Forever comic based on Ellison's original story was good. But I like what showed up on screen better. Felt more like Star Trek. They should use this for the next Star Trek Movie! 


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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 15 February 2017 at 2:29am | IP Logged | 14  

Received Grace Lee Whitney's autobiography, and have James Doohan's on the way. A glance at Whitney's makes it look like it's gonna be a tough read, as it gets pretty deeply into her personal descent into horror (alcohol/drug/sex addiction, etc.) and recovery.

There's also been more than a little speculation that the executive who sexually assaulted her just prior to her termination from STAR TREK was none other than Gene Roddenberry, but she never publicly revealed the perpetrator's identity before she died. 
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Brian Hague
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Posted: 15 February 2017 at 3:01am | IP Logged | 15  

It's true that she didn't confirm the identity, but she does describe a number of aspects of the man in her book such as his size, the location of his office, and perhaps most telling, the gift he pressed upon her after the assault. 

That is a difficult book to read, but I found it worth the journey, despite the religious nature of some of her observations and conclusions. Reading it in close time with Susan Sackett's tell-all about her relationship with Roddenberry might prove a bridge too far in maintaining respect for the man on a personal level.

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 15 February 2017 at 9:58am | IP Logged | 16  

I'll probably end up getting Sackett's book, too. I'm not a fan of hiding behind comfortable lies, and find the different points of view illuminating.

There is a certain amount of horror in learning more and and more about the flaws of a man who has been lionized for his progressive, peaceful vision of the future, though. Irony upon irony. 

It sort of amazes me that, despite this information being out in public view for a long time, Roddenberry and the TREK brand name really haven't been tarnished by it. Perhaps it's a case of the work being stronger than the flawed people who created it, or fans being able to separate the singer from the song.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 15 February 2017 at 10:40am | IP Logged | 17  

There is a certain amount of horror in learning more and and more about the flaws of a man who has been lionized for his progressive, peaceful vision of the future, though. Irony upon irony.

••

Roddenberry appears to have been a not atypical Hollywood producer. Nuff said.

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Aleksandar Petrovic
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Posted: 15 February 2017 at 11:10am | IP Logged | 18  

I have not heard before of what I read above, but I am aware of David Gerrold's (writer who was behind a couple of TAS episodes) beef with Gene Roddenberry over Gene's decanonizing of TAS (DG: "I always felt that Star Trek Animated was part of Star Trek because Gene Roddenberry accepted the paycheck for it and put his name on the credits. And DC Fontana—and all the other writers involved—busted their butts to make it the best Star Trek they could"). 

I am with David on that one.

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 09 March 2017 at 10:50pm | IP Logged | 19  

The Great Bird of The Galaxy works in mysterious ways.

A member of this forum (who shall remain nameless, unless he wishes otherwise) saw this thread, contacted me, and explained that he'd initially intended to offer to send me his old copy of I AM NOT SPOCK at no charge. However, upon examining the book, he noticed that it was autographed by Leonard Nimoy, and asked if I wanted to work out a price for it. I replied that he'd be best served by flipping it on eBay, but that I was still interested, depending on price.

A week passed. Nothing. Then, I received another e-mail, saying that he'd accidentally spilled coffee on the book, staining the pages, but leaving the book still perfectly readable. He offered to send it for free, and I just received it today.

The downside? The book--a paperback edition--is split completely into two halves. If anyone has any good tips on mending old paperbacks back into one piece, that would be great.

The upside? Thanks to a random and deeply generous act of kindness, I now have a signed copy of I AM NOT SPOCK at no charge. That's just awesome. I really, really need to earn some good karma to "pay" for this gift. 
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Andrew Saxon
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Posted: 10 March 2017 at 1:56am | IP Logged | 20  

As fascinating as I find the behind-the-scenes information and stories, I do sometimes worry that I might one day cross an invisible marker and destroy the 'magic' of the series for myself. This thought occurred to me recently when, while watching Devil In The Dark, I suddenly started thinking about the way William Shatner had to deal with the death of his father during the filming of the episode. Suddenly I was no longer looking at Captain Kirk but at Mr Shatner's stand-in. Might the day come, I now wonder, when I will switch on an episode and all I will see will be model spaceships and actors rather than the characters and stories that I have loved so long?
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John Byrne
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Posted: 10 March 2017 at 5:36am | IP Logged | 21  

Over the years, fellow Trekkies have occasionally said "Gene Roddenberry was a real a**hole!"

To which I reply, "Assuming that to be true, he's the a**hole who gave us STAR TREK!"

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Shaun Barry
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Posted: 10 March 2017 at 10:58am | IP Logged | 22  


Greg:  Judicious use of white Elmer's glue, up & down the outside spine and the inside middle, perhaps?


 
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 10 March 2017 at 11:39am | IP Logged | 23  

Yeah, that's what my research indicates. I'll get some glue geared more toward crafts/paper/scrapbooking, though, since those glues are more flexible than standard white Elmer's. We'll see how it goes.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 11 March 2017 at 11:13pm | IP Logged | 24  

Well, after a day of curing, Elmer's craft glue (for fabric and paper) seems to have done the job. We'll see how it holds up in the long run, and upon reading of the book.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 29 March 2017 at 1:04am | IP Logged | 25  

Picked up Susan Sackett's book. Looks like it delves into some of the more sordid details of Roddenberry's life, and it should prove illuminating when compared and contrasted with the other biographies and behind-the-scenes books I've acquired.
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