No. 118 (essentialsaltes) wrote,
No. 118

The Making of Star Trek by Stephen E. Whitfield & the Great Bird of the Galaxy

I picked up this book at an estate sale recently. The deceased was a big Trek and Clifford Simak fan, but clearly his interest in SF had peaked in the 60s.

Anyway, the book is kind of a neat look at Trek from early on and from the inside. The book was published in 1968, between seasons two and three of TOS. So although the show even then had a rabid following -- with fans helping to ensure a third season, though NBC consigned it to the Friday Night Death Slot for season 3 -- Star Trek wasn't yet Star Trek.

The book is also unique in that it focuses a great deal on the nuts and bolts of developing and producing a TV show. Sure, it's probably 45 years out of date, but it's interesting, and maybe still valuable. Lots of original memos are quoted, and some design schematics, call sheets, production logs, the show's 'bible', expense sheets, etc. all go into the mix. The book is much more about making a TV show than it is about the show itself, though there are certainly interesting tidbits along the way. One slightly alarming thing is the way that everything that is a direct quote from Roddenberry is in ALL CAPS, AS THOUGH THE VOICE OF THE METRONS WERE SPEAKING.

From the show outline (From way in the beginning. No, even long before that.) the original description of the character that ultimately, I assume, become Yeoman Rand: "With a strip-queen figure even a uniform cannot hide, Colt serves as Captain's secretary, reporter, bookkeeper -- and with surprising efficiency. She undoubtedly dreams of serving [Captain] Robert April with equal efficiency in more personal departments."

On knowing your audience for TV: "It takes an extraordinary network executive to gamble on a 'special' kind of show that might have only a limited audience. If one has to choose, the college-level audience must be ignored, since they are a minority."

[Oh that reminds me of another story, where Roddenberry is pitching Star Trek to CBS. It's a good long meeting and the CBS guys are asking lots of questions about the Trek universe and technology, etc. Ultimately, they tell him thanks but no thanks... the meeting was just a polite formality. After all, CBS is currently developing their own property, and would have no interest in hearing detailed information about a similar property.]

"Bill Shatner reacts rather badly when hearing the words "fruit salad"."

A letter from the Oriental Protective Association [sic] "firmly chastised us because these people had watched a number of the shows and had noticed it was the occidentals who always ended up with the girls. They threatened to boycott the show if we didn't give them a satisfactory answer.
So, with George's permission, I wrote them back saying that our contract with Mr. Takei was based on the Kellogg-Briand Treaty of 1925 in which Japan got three battleships for every five that Great Britain and the United States got. I promised them that on that basis, Mr. Takei would get three girls for every five that Kirk and McCoy got." Hmmm... It's at least funnier than the responses that got from Paramount, if no less a brush-off.

There are lots of amusing little notes back from the network censor. One of their stock phrases is "Avoid the open-mouth kiss."
McCoy's line, "Thank God for that fantastic strength of his ..." must be delivered in a reverent manner.
Please add a line somewhere in the script to the effect that the stolen clothes were paid for or retribution received.
Caution as Sulu is injured by the damaged console so that his scream, his fall, his subsequent grunts are not unnecessarily alarming to the viewer.
It will not be acceptable for Finnegan to kick Kirk, as this would be considered brutality.
Caution against showing extensive shots of the snake; such reptiles are upsetting to many viewers.
Tonia's seductive manner necessitates deleting the following part of her speech: "... as the instrument of your pleasure"

Given NBC's pecksniffery and comstockery, it's all the more remarkable that Star Trek was able to do what it did.

On the whole the book gives a good feeling of how many people worked how hard for how long to pull together something very difficult.
Tags: book

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