Thursday, May 14, 2015

And On The Seventh Day: Conflicting Production Accounts of Star Trek's Second Season

Still from "I, Mudd" (1967)
In early 2012, a friend sent me a spreadsheet which listed the shooting dates for every episode of Star Trek (1966-69). It had been meticulously compiled based on hundreds of production slates which have appeared in film trims sold by Lincoln Enterprises over the years (such as this one, for example).

A few months after receiving this document, I prepared my own spreadsheet of production dates based on various documents (daily production budget reports supplemented by daily production reports and call sheets, when available) from the Gene Roddenberry Star Trek collection at the University of California, Los Angeles. These helped fill in a few gaps, and I have relied heavily on both spreadsheets since whenever I've written about the production history of Star Trek.

Flash forward to earlier this year, when I read Marc Cushman and Susan Osborn's These Are The Voyages — TOS: Season Two (2014) for the first time. As with the authors' previous volume, a number of claims made in the book left me (pardon the phrase) raising an eyebrow. I couldn't possibly address all of those claims at once without ending up with a book of my own, so I hope you'll allow me to narrow my focus (for the moment) towards the book's "production diaries" (essentially, accounts of what scenes were shot when).

Until recently, I presumed there was little reason to doubt the shooting dates offered in These Are The Voyages, but since conducting the research for that earlier post and now this one, I have become much more skeptical of Cushman and Osborn's production diaries. I first began to suspect that the authors' production diaries did not match my own chronology  after reading a passage from the chapter devoted to "I, Mudd." Regarding that episode, Cushman and Osborn write:
The consensus was that “I, Mudd,” with all the trick photography that was needed, would take longer to film than the usual Star Trek, so an extra day was allocated. A seven-day shooting schedule was a luxury for Marc Daniels, but he would need every minute. 
--Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn, These Are The Voyages — TOS: Season Two (eBook Edition, March 2014)
This brief passage stood out to me for a couple of reasons. First, as broadcast, "I, Mudd" doesn't have many trick photography shots in it. In point of fact, beyond six stock shots of the Enterprise, there are only three special photographic effects in the whole episode. One of the three is a standard transporter materialization — an expensive, but ultimately routine effect by this point in the series. The other two are split screen shots, which showcase a multitude of androids with the help of a locked off camera and an optical printer (and of course, twins). Incidentally, although Cushman and Osborn twice claim that these split screens were accomplished without an optical printer, my sources at Star Trek History have confirmed otherwise. I have included stills of all three shots below. Second, my own information (the spreadsheets I previously described) indicates that "I, Mudd" filmed over the course of six days, not seven, going before the cameras on August 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 21, 1967.

Still from "I, Mudd" (Scene 31, 1967)
Still from "I, Mudd" (Scene 39, 1967)
Still from "I, Mudd" (Scene 85, 1967)
Regarding the episode's use of trick photography, I consulted with the production paperwork for "I, Mudd" available in the Robert Justman Star Trek collection at UCLA, for more information. Although the final episode does not contain a great deal of special photographic effects work, I recognized the possibility that other effects may have been planned, only to be discarded during filming or editing. Therefore, I needed to find out how much trick photography was actually planned for "I, Mudd." To answer that question, I turned to the episode's special photographic effects memo, which was prepared just prior to production on August 10, 1967:
Scene 1: OPTICAL HOUSE - Standard Enterprise Flyby
Scene 10: OPTICAL HOUSE - Standard Enterprise Flyby
Scene 13: OPTICAL HOUSE - MATTE stars into shot shooting past Sulu. We may not need this shot, but if we do, one was made for "METAMORPHOSIS."
Scene 14: OPTICAL HOUSE - Standard Enterprise Turn or Peel Off.
Scene 24: OPTICAL HOUSE - Standard Enterprise Flyby
Scene 27: OPTICAL HOUSE - MATTE approach to planet onto Main Viewing Screen. Use the grey planet in Library.
Scene 30: OPTICAL HOUSE - Standard Enterprise orbit of planet.
Scene 31: STAGE - Tied down camera. Standard "STAR TREK" MATERIALIZATION. Actors should not overlap each other when in the materialization position.
Scene 39: STAGE - Tied down camera. This will be a SPLIT-SCREEN to create many Alice Androids. This will probably be a 3-way split in an attempt to show as many Alices as possible. The outside edges of the frame could have a girl on the frame line to indicate there are more. Please call Eddie Milkis & Frank Vanderveer when ready to make the shot for Scs. 39-50-85.
Scene 50: STAGE - Tied down camera. Shot made same as Scene 39 above.
Scene 85: STAGE - Tied down camera. Shot made same as Scene 39 and 50 above.
Scene 86: OPTICAL HOUSE: Standard Enterprise Flyby.
Based on this document, twelve special photographic effects shots were planned for "I, Mudd," only eight of which appeared in the final episode (scene 86, a stock shot of the Enterprise leaving orbit, became two stock shots). The special photographic effects shots planned for scenes 13, 24 and 27 were abandoned, but these were all intended stock shots. Ultimately, only one new special photographic effects shot planned for "I, Mudd" was abandoned: scene 50, a tied down camera shot (in which the camera was locked into place to allow for multiple shots to be taken that would later be combined into one shot by using an optical printer) that would have been similar to the effect used in scenes 39 and 85 (both pictured above). In light of that fact, it's safe to say that "I, Mudd" wasn't filled with time-consuming trick photography that would have slowed down the schedule. There's certainly no evidence in the files at UCLA that there was any "consensus" that the episode would need seven days to complete because of its special photographic effects needs.

What then, led Cushman and Osborn to conclude that the episode was planned as a seven day shoot, if there weren't plans for a plethora of time-consuming shots? Judging by the evidence in the archival record at UCLA, it was almost certainly the episode's shooting schedule that led the author's astray. To give you an idea what a shooting schedule from Star Trek looks like, I have reproduced the entire shooting schedule for "I, Mudd" below.








At first glance, the above schedule seems to confirm that "I, Mudd" was intended to shoot in seven days, rather than the usual six. Upon closer inspection, however, it becomes clear that Cushman and Osborn have overlooked a crucial piece of information: more than half of the schedule's first day  — 5 and 2/8 pages, to be exact — wasn't spent on "I, Mudd" at all. Instead, it was dedicated to picking up several scenes with Barbara Luna for "Mirror, Mirror" that had been postponed two weeks before when the actress developed a sudden illness.

Here is how Cushman and Osborn briefly describe the first day of filming on "I, Mudd" in the second volume of These Are The Voyages:
Filming began Monday, August 14, 1967, on Stage 9, for the Enterprise sets. William Shatner had the day off. Nimoy and Kelley were present for their brief encounter with Norman in the corridor. James Doohan was needed for his physical confrontation with Norman in engineering. Also shot was Norman in “Emergency Manual Control,” the upper deck of engineering. 
--Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn, These Are The Voyages — TOS: Season Two (eBook Edition, March 2014).
This account, along with the rest of the author's production diary for "I, Mudd," was almost certainly drawn from the episode's shooting schedule. Based upon conflicting information found in a number of film trims generously provided by Star Trek History, as well contradictory filming dates indicated in a February 10, 1968 post-production report sourced from the Gene Roddenberry collection, it's highly unlikely that Cushman and Osborn had access to the episode's daily production reports or call sheets. This makes sense, as (unfortunately) neither of these documents survive in the public files at UCLA.

Unfortunately, using a shooting schedule — a document prepared before production begins — to find out what actually happened during production is rather unreliable, to say the least. To draw an appropriate analogy, this would be like relying on a contractor's estimate as a precise account of the day-to-day construction of a building from the ground up.

William Shatner  filming a scene from "I, Mudd" on August 14, 1967 (courtesy of Star Trek History)

Indeed, Cushman and Osborn's chronology runs into trouble the moment you compare it to slates found in film trims from "I, Mudd." For example, the authors claim that William Shatner was given the day off on August 14, 1967; two film clips of slates dated 8-14-67 prove that Shatner was on set and working that day (see above). The authors also claim that the brief scene from the teaser between Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, and Richard Tatro (as Norman) in the Enterprise corridor was filmed on August 14, 1967; another film trim shows that the scene was actually taken on August 18, 1967. In fact, none of the film clips provided by my friends at Star Trek History match the filming dates printed in Cushman and Osborn's book. Even the date on this clip, which actually appears in These Are The Voyages, does not line up with the authors' text!

For a complete account of these discrepancies, I have created the table below. "Film Clip" indicates the date found on production slates provided by Star Trek History, "Schedule" indicates the date planned in the shooting schedule, and "TATV" indicates the date described in the text of These Are The Voyages.


Based on the dates from these eleven film clips, it seems that the production actually followed the shooting schedule for "I, Mudd" fairly closely, with one notable exception — the eight scenes from the episode that had originally been penciled in for August 11, 1967. Those scenes ended up being delayed when filming on "The Deadly Years" went over schedule by approximately half a day. Rather than move on to "I, Mudd" after "The Deadly Years," as originally planned, the production opted to film the scenes with William Shatner and Barbara Luna needed to complete "Mirror, Mirror" instead. In fairness to Cushman and Osborn, These Are The Voyages does correctly note the August 11, 1967 overages on "The Deadly Years," as well as the scenes from "Mirror, Mirror" that were subsequently shot later in the day:
Day 7, Friday, August 11. The production [of "The Deadly Years"] was extended into the first half of a seventh day. For the last scene in sickbay, Shatner, Nimoy, Kelley, and Doohan had to go through the grueling makeup process one more time. At the lunch break, Nimoy, Kelley, and Doohan were dismissed. Pevney checked out, too. Shatner had his old age makeup stripped away for his love scenes with the now healthy Barbara Luna, finishing “Mirror, Mirror” under the direction of Marc Daniels. 
--Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn, These Are The Voyages — TOS: Season Two (eBook Edition, March 2014). 
Beginning with its account of the very next day of filming, however, the chronology in These Are The Voyages starts to really run off the rails. Cushman and Osborn assume that the 2 and 7/8 pages for "I, Mudd" originally scheduled for August 11 were pushed until August 14, and that these pages occupied the episode's entire first day of principal photography. Neither the evidence nor common sense, however, support this view. For example, a film clip provided by Star Trek History shows scene 3 being shot on August 18 (in the completed episode, note that scenes 2 and 3 have been combined into one long take with no coverage, lasting from about 0:07 to 1:14).

Page 3A, "I, Mudd" Cast Sheet (August 1967; personal information omitted)

Additionally, a revised page from the episode's cast sheet (pictured above) shows the stunt engineers needed to film scenes 16, 18, and 19 scheduled for August 21, not August 14. Judging by the straightforward blocking of the eight scenes in question  — scenes 2-3, 4-5, and 17 were each accomplished in a single shot with no coverage; scenes 16 and 18-19 portray an action sequence with only five different set-ups  —  they appear to have been rushed. Tacked on to an already busy schedule (prior to these eight scenes being added, August 18 and 21 already had 16 and 5/8 pages planned between them), it's understandable that Marc Daniels chose to shoot the extra material as simply as possible. There was simply no time for multiple camera set-ups and complex staging.

However, even if this archival evidence did not exist, common sense would still call Cushman and Osborn's timeline into question. It is highly unlikely, for example, that associate producer Bob Justman would have allowed the cast and crew to spend an entire day filming less than three pages of material — material originally scheduled as only part of an 8 and 1/8 page day. The series could not afford such a lapse — it was struggling to finish episodes on time for air dates as it was. To illustrate this point in anther fashion, even "Amok Time," which at seven days was the most generously scheduled episode of season two, never planned to shoot less than 4 1/2 pages in a day — and that relatively low figure was to allow for the completion of the episode's complex fight choreography occupying its memorable climax. In general, most days on Star Trek had between 7-10 pages planned to go before the cameras.

Common sense calls other portions of Cushman and Osborn’s production timeline into question as well. Their most head-scratching account pertains to the work done in the INT. LOUNGE set, which they claim was done in half a day on Friday, August 18, 1967:
Day 5, Friday. Work continued on Stage 10, now in the “Interior Lounge” for numerous sequences including one complex scene which was left out of the completed episode… While the cast ate lunch, the company moved to Stage 9 where many Enterprise sets had been collapsed to make room for a new set, “Int. Control Room,” which involved Spock, Norman, and one of the Alice models. 
--Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn, These Are The Voyages – TOS: Season Two (eBook Edition, March 2014)
Quite frankly, when you compare this timeline to the shooting schedule, the numbers simply do not add up. In total, 16 3/8 pages were planned for the INT. LOUNGE set, several more pages than Star Trek ever filmed in a single day, let alone half of one. To give those numbers some perspective, consider the fact that "The Doomsday Machine," which was the only episode of the series planned for and shot in five days, scheduled its busiest days with 13 1/8 pages. It comes as no surprise, then, to find out that the INT. LOUNGE scenes were actually scheduled to be shot across two days (Wednesday and Thursday, August 16-17, 1967). Based upon production slates, filming apparently followed the pre-production plan for these scenes fairly closely.

Further complicating matters are the two scenes in the INT. CONTROL CENTER set, which Cushman and Osborn misidentify as "Int. Control Room." The authors' claim these two scenes occupied the rest of the episode's fifth day of shooting after lunch. However, scenes 44 and 44A  (marked with a letter because it was added to the shooting script after the scene numbers had already been locked) cover only 1 1/2 pages of material, a figure that surely would have driven Bob Justman and the studio up the wall if it actually took Marc Daniels half a shooting day to complete. Alongside all the other evidence, the fact that Daniels was asked back to direct four subsequent episodes of Star Trek strongly suggests this didn't happen.

William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy have lunch while shooting Star Trek (circa 1967)
Another problem with Cushman and Osborn's "production diaries" is the way the authors are able to deftly identify which scenes were shot before and after lunch. This happens twice in their account of the filming of "I, Mudd," as well as more than twenty other times in These Are The Voyages – TOS: Season Two. This may seem like a minor point, but when you examine the daily production reports kept while Star Trek was being filmed, it becomes clear that even when these documents have survived (many are completely missing in the UCLA collection, while others are sadly incomplete) there's often no way to determine which scenes book-ended lunch. Occasionally, this information can be deduced based upon when actors were called to the set and what scenes were shot that day, but in many cases even that information won't give you a concrete answer. By constantly inserting details such as these into their books, Cushman and Osborn have created a better flowing narrative, but stands as a poor example of archival history.

I've included a portion of the production report for the second day of filming on "The Devil in the Dark" below to illustrate what can and cannot be ascertained from this paperwork. Unfortunately, the daily production reports for "I, Mudd" and a whole bevy of season two episodes do not currently exist in the Roddenberry or Justman collections at UCLA, but surviving paperwork indicates these reports were consistent during the show's three season run.

Excerpt from the daily production report for "The Devil in the Dark" (January 17, 1967)
These Are The Voyages' insistence that "I, Mudd" finished in seven days rather than six leads to a cascade of further complications when it comes to accounting for the production of "The Trouble with Tribbles," the very next episode produced. Confronted with a production slate indicating a scene from "The Trouble with Tribbles" shot on August 22, 1967 (when Cushman and Osborn claim "I, Mudd" was still filming), the authors suggest the following:
Bob Justman’s production reports state that the medical lab scene was shot on August 23, 1967. The clapboard, held by Bill McGovern as the camera began rolling says August 22. But “I, Mudd” was still filming under the guidance of Marc Daniels on August 22. A possible explanation: as production crews rush through filming, the white tape placed on a clapboard with the date written across it is sometimes accidentally left on from the day before … and it could be several camera “takes” before anyone notices. On a hectic TV production schedule, anything can happen...and quite often does. 
--Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn, These Are The Voyages – TOS: Season Two (eBook Edition, March 2014) 
There are multiple problems with this explanation, however.

(1) At least one other film clip bearing the same date has surfaced, and it's from the filming of "The Trouble with Tribbles," not "I, Mudd." The scene in question (53, set up "K") takes place during Act III of "Tribbles."

(2) The aforementioned production slate pictured in the book shows Scene 33, set-up "A," take 2. This was literally the last scene planned to shoot during the first day of "The Trouble with Tribbles." Assuming the production stuck to the planned schedule (and every production slate made available to me by my friends at Star Trek History, as well as every post-production document in the Roddenberry files at UCLA, supports this assumption), the only way Cushman and Osborn could be correct is if the slate had the wrong date on it for the whole first day of filming on "The Trouble with Tribbles."

(3) As I've argued extensively already, post-production documents (see below) and production stills support the conclusion that "I, Mudd" wrapped production on August 21, 1967. It simply wasn't being filmed on August 22, 1967; by then, the production had moved on to "The Trouble with Tribbles."

In light of all these issues, it seems highly unlikely that Cushman and Osborn even had access to the daily production reports for "The Trouble with Tribbles," like they claim, especially since that documentation is no longer available in the UCLA collections. If they do, I'd sure love to see it.

Excerpt from season 2 post-production report (February 10, 1968)
Although Cushman and Osborn are savvy enough to recognize that they have to provide some sort of explanation for the August 22, 1967 slate for their chronology to work, they offer no explanation for the other slate which illustrates their chapter on "The Trouble with Tribbles." Unfortunately, the information on this slate also contradicts their narrative. Writing about the final day of filming before the labor day break, they put forth the following narrative:
Day 6. Wednesday, August 30. It is an old Hollywood tradition to shoot the fight scenes last, just in case one of the performers gets a black eye. On this day, still on the bar set, the brawl between “Earthers” and Klingons was filmed. 
--Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn, These Are The Voyages – TOS: Season Two (eBook Edition, March 2014)  
The only problem with this account? Scene 41 takes place right in the middle of the bar fight which was scheduled to occupy the episode's final day of filming – and the date on the clapperboard is clearly August 29, 1967, not August 30. To date, no film clips from Star Trek with a slate dated August 30, 1967 have surfaced. The post-production report shown above clearly shows that filming was completed in six days, and wrapped on August 29. Given the preponderance of evidence, it's more than likely that the cast and crew of Star Trek weren't filming at all on August 30, 1967, but were instead enjoying some much needed time off during their labor day break.

Still from "The Trouble with Tribbles" (1967)
Ultimately, the so-called "production diaries" in These Are The Voyages (volumes one and two, at least – I haven't read a word of volume three) are simply too problematic for me to consider them reliable accounts of the making of Star Trek. They present pre-production information as representative of what actually occurred when the cameras were rolling, despite numerous examples of the production having to adapt to delays and other changing circumstances. They frequently ignore the information found on slates in film clips (in many cases, this even includes the film clips used to illustrate the book). In some cases, even when the daily production reports are available, Cushman and Osborn misunderstand or misrepresent what this documentation actually indicates. Such bad assumptions and, worse, outright invention have no place in what is supposed to be the definitive history book about the making of Star Trek.

--

Stills from "I, Mudd" and "The Trouble with Tribbles," as well as the behind-the-scenes image of Shatner and Nimoy at lunch, are courtesy of Trek Core.

The restored film clip from "I, Mudd" is courtesy of Star Trek History.

Special Thanks: The "I, Mudd" shooting schedule was carefully transcribed by the ever-helpful Sandra Bulk, who turned around the document in only a few days, while it took me several weeks to research and write the majority of this piece. David T. and Curt M. of Star Trek History generously provided a great deal of information about numerous film clips in their collection, and even granted me permission to use one of these rare stills here. Kevin K. generously donated his time and industry experience helping me understand and decode various production documents. Finally, I'd like to thank the small group of helpful readers who have donated countless hours proofreading and critiquing this and many other pieces that have appeared on Star Trek Fact Check. They are: Maurice M.David E.David T.Curt M.William S.William J.Neil B.Kevin M.Kevin K., and George N. Star Trek Fact Check started as a one-man operation, but it wouldn't have grown to where it is today without your help. Any errors that remain are entirely my own.

Author's Note: Unlike the print edition, the eBook edition of These Are The Voyages — TOS: Season Two is without pagination. I did not have the print edition available for reference while preparing this post, which is why the passages quoted are not identified by page number.

Sources:


Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy: 1931-2015

Leonard Nimoy's first close-up as Spock in "The Menagerie" (1964)
Frequent readers of this blog will know that I'm not usually at a loss for words, but on the subject of Leonard Nimoy's death, I am almost speechless. For as long as I can remember, Star Trek and Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock have been a part of my life. Now Nimoy is gone.

I had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Nimoy in person twice in my life  in the early 2000s, at a Seattle-area Star Trek convention alongside William Shatner, and more recently, at a Hammer Museum event where he spoke about his career as a photographer alongside fellow Star Trek (2009) actor Zachary Quinto. On both occasions, I was struck by the depth of the man's intelligence, the warmth of his sense of humor, and the genuine affection he showed for both his friends and his fans.

True to his character's now iconic salutation, Mr. Nimoy lived long and prospered, finding success as an actor, director, author, poet, singer, and photographer in a career that spanned seven decades. He may be most famous for portraying Mr. Spock on Star Trek (a role which garnered him three consecutive Emmy nominations), but Nimoy leaves behind a tremendous body of work far beyond this role. He'll be long remembered and deeply missed by many.

Goodbye, Mr. Nimoy.

Image Courtesy of Trek Core.

Friday, February 13, 2015

On Pickups and Lifts in 'The Man Trap'

Still from 'The Man Trap' (1966)
This one is in response to a question from blog reader Neil B., who writes, "In 'The Man Trap' chapter in These Are The Voyages — TOS: Season One, Marc Cushman and Susan Osborn say a shot of Nimoy in the command chair was postponed and done as a pick-up while shooting 'The Naked Time.' Isn't it possible that it's just a lift from 'The Naked Time' that was edited into 'The Man Trap' at a later date?"

Like many questions I get from readers, I didn't immediately know the answer, but I thought there was a good chance I could find out. For whatever reason, the production records for 'The Man Trap' are exceptionally intact in the Roddenberry and Justman collections available for public viewing at the University of California, Los Angeles. I traveled there a few weeks ago looking for answers.

For reference, this is what it says in the revised and expanded edition of These Are The Voyages:
Day 2, Thursday. The first full day of production was also spent on the bridge, with the camera rolling between 8 a.m. and 6:50 p.m. Daniels was one-quarter day behind when he took his last shot. Two scenes had been postponed and would be filmed during production of the next episode -- "The Naked Time." One was the brief shot in the teaser, of Spock in the command chair and the unusual placement of Lt. Uhura and Lt. Leslie at the helm -- the plot for "The Naked Time" explaining why. With the addition of the Captain's log entry that opens the episode -- not in the shooting script, but written and recorded later -- Roddenberry felt the audience needed to see Spock on the bridge when Kirk refers to him. He was right. 
--Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn, These Are The Voyages — TOS: Season One (Second Edition, December 2013), p.199.
This is identical to the way the passage reads in the first edition of the book, except for one sentence at the end that has been omitted:
The second scene -- Kirk's first visit to the bridge in this episode -- features Bruce Hyde (as Lt. Kevin Riley) at the helm, a character introduced in the next episode. 
--Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn, These Are The Voyages — TOS: Season One (First Edition, August 2013), p.173
Although clunky — the book now refers to a pair of postponed scenes, but identifies only one — Cushman and Osborn were wise to omit this sentence. As previously mentioned on this blog, Bruce Hyde isn't in "The Man Trap" at all.

Unfortunately, just about everything the authors have left intact in this passage is wrong, too. Cushman and Osborn claim that the second day of production on "The Man Trap" — Thursday, June 23, 1966 — was spent shooting on the bridge, but this is incorrect. Per the daily production report, this day was actually spent filming in the botany section, the transporter room, the corridor, and in McCoy's quarters. Scenes on the bridge were taken on the first and fourth days of filming (Wednesday, June 22, 1966 and Monday, June 27, 1966).

Moreover, although the June 23, 1966 shooting call was at 8 o'clock in the morning, the first shot wasn't taken until 8:15. George Takei, Garrison True, and three unidentified extras were not dismissed until 7 o'clock at night, not 6:50.

Regarding the supposed pick-ups done a week later for the teaser, the first place I looked was the shooting script — revised on June 17, 1966 — which reads as follows:

"THE MAN TRAP"

TEASER

FADE IN:

1 EXT. PLANET (STOCK)

Rotates in space...

2 & 3 OMITTED

4 EXT. CRATER'S CAMP - DAY - WIDE ANGLE

ESTABLISHING Planet M-113. The planet largely barren, some unusual low vegetation. The Crater campsite is a crumbling remains of what might once have been a weird sort of temple. There is considerable sign of archaeological digging around it. In the far distance, barely seen, are other crumbling remains of a civilization which must have existed here once. Also a shed, a heaping of tools, supplies and archaeological artifacts, statues, carvings, and so on, leading to a doorway in the temple, a room of which has obviously been converted to Crater's living quarters. (TRANSPORTER EFFECT) as CAPTAIN JAMES KIRK, DOCTOR McCOY, and a Crewman DARNELL SHIMMER into existence. They look about them, reacting to the surface of this new planet. As they move toward the stone door opening to the living quarters:

                                                        KIRK
                                       Shall we stop to pick some
                                       flowers, Doctor? When a man
                                       visits an old girlfriend, she
                                       usually expects something like
                                       that.

Still from "The Man Trap" (1966)
As evident from this excerpt, no shots on the bridge were scripted for the opening scenes of "The Man Trap" —  or the rest of the teaser, for that matter — at least in the shooting script associate producer Bob Justman donated to UCLA, along with many other production files from the show.

By the time the episode's shooting schedule had been prepared (June 20, 1966), the earliest scenes on the bridge planned to go before the cameras were numbered 32-34. These moments were described in the shooting schedule as, "Kirk [sic] & Uhura argue-announcement from Landing Party re: death stuns Uhura-she exits." They were far removed from the episode's teaser. After examining the daily production reports for both "The Man Trap" and "The Naked Time," I found no evidence that any shots from the former were delayed and picked up during the filming of the latter.

When, then, were these shots aboard the bridge added? Post-production. On August 1, 1966, (Cushman and Osborn incorrectly date this as August 10, 1966) Bob Justman wrote to Gene Roddenberry about the state of the episode's teaser:
After viewing "THE MAN TRAP" with Sandy Courage this afternoon, I am of the opinion that we need Narration for the opening of the TEASER. The TEASER starts out with a shot of the Enterprise orbiting about a planet and then we DISSOLVE FROM that to an ESTABLISHING SHOT of planet surface and then from that to a shot of Kirk and his companions materializing on the surface of the planet. These three shots take quite a bit of time on the screen.
And since this is liable to be our first or second show on the air, I think it would be wise to establish where we are and what we are doing, over these opening shots. Therefore, feel free to write a lengthy narration for Captain Kirk. It could run as much as half a minute, if you wished it. 
Roddenberry's hand-written response was simple, "Agree. Am writing it." Justman's memo makes one thing clear: as of August 1, the beginning of the episode's teaser still matched the shooting script, dissolving directly from an optical of the Enterprise to an establishing shot of the planet surface. On August 4, 1966, seven pages of editing notes were delivered, and the newly revised teaser was scripted for the first time:
REEL 1
Teaser voice over begins over SHOT of ship in orbit.
                                                        KIRK'S VOICE OVER
                                       Captain's log Star Date 1513.1. Our
                                       position...orbiting Planet M-113, the
                                       home of an ancient and long-dead
                                       civilization. On the Enterprise,
                                       Mister Spock temporarily in command
                                       while ship's surgeon McCoy and
                                       myself beam down to the planet
                                       surface.
Voice over will carry through ESTABLISHING SHOT of Bridge, CLOSER ON MISTER SPOCK as he eyes the ship's viewing screen, ANGLE ON SHIP'S VIEWING SCREEN showing the planet slowly rotating there; then to ESTABLISHING SHOT of the planet surface which leads to materialization of the landing party.
These revisions were scripted at some point during the period of August 1-4, 1966. Marc Daniels simply couldn't have filmed the suggested pick-ups during "The Naked Time," which was shot from June 30-July 11, 1966. At that point, the revised teaser hadn't even been scripted.

When, then, were these pick-ups shot? As it turns out, they weren't pick-up shots at all, but editorial lifts from other episodes. The wide shot is from "The Naked Time," as Cushman and Osborn point out. The close-up, however, is from "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" (which was filmed from July 28 to August 9, 1966, with the bridge material already in the can by the time Roddenberry and Justman were tweaking "The Man Trap"). The camera framing in "The Man Trap" is a little different than in "What Are Little Girls Are Made Of?" — suggesting it's an outtake — but the lighting, the folds on Spock's shirt, and the position of his hands all strongly suggest it's the exact same set-up. Compare the shots for yourself below.

Still from "The Man Trap" (1966)
Still from "The Naked Time" (1966)
Still from "The Man Trap" (1966)
Still from "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" (1966)
Images courtesy of Trek Core.

Thanks to Neil B. for suggesting this post, and identifying the close-up of Spock in "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" His suggestions helped improve this piece; any errors that remain are entirely my own.

Sources:

The Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection (1964-1969)

The Robert H. Justman Collection of Star Trek Television Series Scripts (1966-1968)

These Are The Voyages: TOS, Season One (Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn, August 2013)

These Are The Voyages: TOS, Season One [Revised and Expanded Edition] (Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn, December 2013)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Fact Check: CBS Watch! Magazine (Star Trek Special Issue)

December 2014/January 2015 issue of CBS Watch! Magazine

If you've paid a visit to the supermarket this month, you may have seen the latest issue of CBS Watch! magazine, which is devoted to the original Star Trek television series. As I indicated last weekend, although the magazine is filled with beautiful and rare photographs taken during the production of the series, the text often leaves something to be desired. Rather than write a more traditional review, I've decided to do a fact-check of some of the magazine's more bizarre claims, in the order that they appear in the magazine. The text of each claim is quoted as it appears in the magazine, not paraphrased.

Without further ado...

Selections from Roddenberry's RIT lecture can be found on Inside Star Trek (1976)
Claim: At a lecture at the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1976, Roddenberry joked about the original failure of his dream. "The first pilot was rejected on the basis of being too intellectual for all you slobs out in the television audience," he said. "It did go on to win the international Hugo award, but I suppose many things turned down by networks would win awards." (Page 12)

Verdict: False. Although it incorporates much of the footage from the first pilot, "The Menagerie, Parts I and II" was awarded the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1967, not Roddenberry's original pilot. Star Trek's only two-parter beat out "The Corbomite Maneuver" and "The Naked Time," which were also nominated, along with Francois Truffaut's adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 and Richard Fleischer's film, Fantastic Voyage.

The impressive bridge set built for "The Menagerie" (1964)
Claim: "We spent more on those sets [for the first pilot] than any studio in television had ever spent before in building a comparable thing. I think probably we spent more than even any motion picture had spent," Gene Roddenberry later said in Star Trek: The Making of the TV Series, which he co-wrote with Stephen E. Whitfield. (Page 14)

Verdict: Partly true. Although the first pilot was enormously expensive for television -- the final budget came in at $615,781.56 -- this number simply doesn't compare to the money being spent on contemporary A-pictures. Consider the costs of films like 1963's Cleopatra ($32 million), 1962's Mutiny on the Bounty ($19 million), and 1959's Ben-Hur ($15 million), the cost of producing television sets (even for an expensive show like Star Trek) just doesn't compare.

Ricardo Montalban in "Space Seed" (1967)
Claim: "I don't think Gene had ever written science fiction before," [Samuel] Peeples told author Joel Engel for the biography Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek. (Page 16)

Verdict: False. Roddenberry's familiarity with science fiction before Star Trek is debatable, but he had written science fiction at least once prior to Star Trek. Roddenberry's script for “The Secret Weapon of 117,″ part of the anthology program Stage 7, first aired on March 6, 1956. Although the episode is not currently available for public viewing, it reportedly stars Ricardo Montalban "as one of a pair of aliens trying to assess whether or not Earth has the technology to retaliate against infiltration and invasion by their species" and was definitely science fiction.

Leonard Nimoy as Spock in "The Menagerie" (1964)
Claim: Nimoy's Spock was one of the few crossovers from the original pilot to the later incarnation of Star Trek: The Original Series.

Verdict: Partly true. Although a few performers from the first pilot (Edward Madden, Jon Lormer, Robert Johnson, Majel Barrett, Janos Prohaska, and Malachi Throne) later appeared as different characters in subsequent episodes, Nimoy was the only actor to reprise his role from the first pilot in a subsequent episode. Although the character of Christopher Pike appears in "The Menagerie, Parts I and II," he's played in those episodes by Sean Kenney, not Jeffrey Hunter.

Still from "Arena" (1967)
Claim: "Arena," most memorable for its battle sequence, was adapted by scriptwriter Gene L. Coon from a short story by popular science fiction writer Fredric Brown. (Page 18)

Verdict: Partly true. Although Brown gets screen credit, Coon wrote "Arena" as an original teleplay. Credit was awarded to Brown only after de Forest Research pointed out numerous similarities to Brown's short story that could result in litigation against Desilu. Chalk it up to a case of cryptomnesia on Coon's part.

Jeffrey Hunter in "The Menagerie" (1964)
Claim: After his role as Christopher Pike, Hunter returned to feature film acting. While filming a movie in Spain in 1969, Hunter was severely injured, and he died during surgery on May 27, just a week before the airing of Star Trek's finale. (Page 21)

Verdict: Partly true. Although the story goes that Hunter turned down the second Star Trek pilot to focus on feature film roles, he continued to work in television thereafter, even going as far to star in another pilot (Journey into Fear) in 1965. Hunter was seriously injured during the filming of ¡Viva América! (1969), but his death actually happened several months later, when he fell at his home in Van Nuys and hit his head on a banister.
Gene Roddenberry's original Star Trek pitch document (1964)
Claim: Roddenberry's pitch even included some eerily familiar ideas for future episodes, including "The Day Charlie Became God," which saw one of the Enterprise crew members given incredible powers, much like the second Star Trek pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before." (Page 22)

Verdict: True. Roddenberry's original pitch document, available here, includes six one sentence story concepts and nineteen longer story ideas, a number of which became the basis of later episodes. "The Day Charlie Became God" was later developed into a teleplay by D.C. Fontana called "Charlie's Law," and produced as the first season episode "Charlie X."

John Hoyt as Dr. Philip Boyce in "The Menagerie" (1964)
Claim: Dr. Phillip "Bones" Boyce, played by John Hoyt, whose nickname would carry over to DeForest Kelley's Leonard McCoy... (Page 24)

Verdict: True. Although Boyce isn't identified by his nickname in any final dialogue, Roddenberry's aforementioned original pitch document from early 1964 identifies the doctor as, "Captain April's only real confidant, 'Bones' Boyce considers himself the only realist aboard, measures each new landing in terms of the annoyances it will personally create for him."

Still from "The Menagerie" (1964)
Claim: For the production of "The Cage," the southern California desert became the planet Talos IV--known as Clesik to its native inhabitants. (Page 27)

Verdict: False. Behind the scenes photos (which can be seen on birdofthegalaxy's fabulous flickr page, here and here) show that the exterior of Talos IV was actually built on a soundstage with a painted backdrop, which is pretty obvious in the episode itself. Pages 6-10 of Bob Justman's shooting schedule (available here) confirm these "exteriors" were actually shot on stage 16 at Culver Studios.

Leonard Nimoy and Peter Duryea in "The Menagerie" (1964)
Claim: Leonard Nimoy's Spock looks on as Peter Duryea's Lt. José Tyler fires his phaser... (Page 28)

Verdict: False. Dedicated fans know that the term "phaser" wasn't coined until after the first pilot was completed. Captain Pike and company carry "Laser pistols" according to the revised teleplay dated November 20, 1964, and dialogue in the complete episode refers to "hand lasers." The same caption also refers to Number One leading an "away team," a term which wouldn't be used until Star Trek: The Next Generation; Star Trek instead referred to "landing parties."

Majel Barrett in "The Menagerie" (1964)
Claim: Her [Number One's] presence was one element of the pilot that caused NBC to pass on it, asserting that it wasn't "believable for a woman to be in charge." (Page 32)

Verdict: Probably false. Roddenberry often repeated this claim, which can be found in print in The Making of Star Trek (1968) and heard on Inside Star Trek (1976), but Herb Solow vehemently denied it in Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (1996) and elsewhere. Recalling NBC's response after the first pilot, Solow says the network told the production, "We support the concept of a woman in a strong, leading role, but we have serious doubts as to Majel Barrett's abilities to 'carry' the show as its costar" (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, page 60).

Still from "The Savage Curtain" (1969)
Claim: In July 2014, former Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue cover girl Bar Rafaeli [sic] made a bit of a blunder when she posted a quote attributed to President Lincoln to her Instagram feed. not realizing that the words were Gene Roddenberry's from "The Savage Curtain" script, not really Lincoln's. (Page 39)

Verdict: Partly true; partly unknown. Bar Refaeli did quote from the script to "The Savage Curtain" in a July 16, 2014 Twitter post, mistaking it for a genuine Abraham Lincoln quote. However, the teleplay to "The Savage Curtain" was written by Gene Roddenberry and Arthur Heinemann; without examining the various script drafts of the episode, it's hard to say if the quoted words were Roddenberry's alone, as the magazine claims.

Lucille Ball
Claim: Lucille Ball, the comedy legend and star of I Love Lucy, was a producer on Star Trek because of her position at the studio and, because she was a big believer in the show, was instrumental in helping Roddenberry keep it alive. Using her pull as a studio head -- a rare amount of power for a female in the 19960s -- Ball was able to convince the higher ups to give Star Trek a second chance. (Page 46)

Verdict: False. Ball was the head of Desilu, and in that position, instrumental in getting Star Trek made, but she was not in any useful sense of the word a "producer" on Star Trek. Also, according to Herb Solow, Ball had little to do with convincing NBC to order a second pilot. In Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, Solow recounts a meeting with Mort Werner, held soon after the NBC schedule was announced for the fall of 1965 (and Star Trek wasn't on it):
Mort, Grant [Tinker], and Jerry [Stanley] were still taken by what we'd accomplished. And Mort had a complaint: 'Herb, you guys gave us a problem.'
'Sorry, Mort, we tried our best.'
'That's the problem. I didn't think Desilu was capable of making Star Trek, so when we looked over the pilot stories you gave us, we chose the most complicated and most difficult of the bunch. We recognize now it wasn't necessarily a story that properly showcased Star Trek's series potential. So the reason the pilot didn't sell was my fault, not yours. You guys just did your job too well. And I screwed up.'
I shook my head in awe. No, no, this wasn't a network executive talking to me. This was the Good Witch of the East come to lay gold at our feet. I conjured up all my good thoughts. 'So let's do another pilot.'
'That's exactly why we're here. We'll agree on some mutual story and script approval, and then, if the scripts are good, we'll give you some more money for another pilot.'
-Herbert F. Solow, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (1996), page 60
It appears that this myth about Lucille Ball first originated in an online piece by Will Stape in 2007, and has been repeated in several other places online since, including this piece from blastr in 2013.

Leonard Nimoy in an early Star Trek publicity photo (1964)
Claim: Nimoy used these small parts as stepping stones to bigger television roles, including a memorable guest spot on Gene Roddenberry's The Lieutenant in 1964, where the writer and producer was already starting to cast the nascent Star Trek. (Pages 57-58)

Verdict: False. Nimoy's guest appearance on The Lieutenant, in an episode titled "In the Highest Tradition," first aired on February 29, 1964, and probably was filmed in late 1963. Roddenberry's written pitch for Star Trek wasn't completed until March 11, 1964, and he didn't have a meeting (or sign a deal) with Herb Solow at Desilu until April of 1964. Whenever Roddenberry began considering Nimoy for the part, he certainly wasn't starting to actually cast the series when Nimoy guest starred on The Lieutenant. Moreover, actor Gary Lockwood claims he's the one who suggested Nimoy for the part to Roddenberry, but only after The Lieutenant was off the air (the last episode of the series aired on April 18, 1964).

Gene Roddenberry, DeForest Kelley, and Jake Ehrlich, Sr. (1960)
Claim: [DeForest Kelley] worked steadily in TV and film until 1960, when he auditioned for a Gene Roddenberry-directed pilot called "Sam Benedict." The role ultimately did not go to Kelley, but Roddenberry kept him in mind for future roles and invited him to the premiere of "The Cage." (Page 63)

Verdict: False. Gene Roddenberry never worked as a director in film or television, and he never wrote a pilot called Sam Benedict. Roddenberry did write a pilot in 1960 called 333 Montgomery, based on a book about famous lawyer Jake Ehrlich, which starred DeForest Kelley. Ehrlich's life later became the inspiration for the short-lived series Sam Benedict, which aired during the 1962-63 season, but that show didn't involve Roddenberry or Kelley. 333 Montgomery is currently available on YouTube in three parts: here, here, and here.

Walter Koenig as Chekov in "Catspaw" (1967)
Claim: In 1965, the Soviet media had criticized the "utopian" Star Trek's marked absence of Russians. Agreeing that the other space power of the day should be represented on the U.S.S. Enterprise, Roddenberry began the search for a suitably Slavic ensign. (Page 67)

Verdict: Contested. Roddenberry did write a letter to the editor of Pravda on October 10, 1967 in which he said, "about ten months ago one of the stars of our television show, STAR TREK, informed us he had heard that the youth edition of your newspaper had published an article regarding STAR TREK to the effect that the only nationality we were missing aboard our USS Enterprise was a Russian." Whether or not the editorial in the alleged youth-edition of Pravda actually existed remains an open question, but Roddenberry's letter suggests the story was more than a publicity stunt. More can be read about the issue at Snopes.

Still from "Plato's Stepchildren" (1968)
Claim: [Recalling "Plato's Stepchildren," Nichelle Nichols says,] "That is how the first interracial kiss happened on TV." (Page 68)

Verdict: False. This myth was pretty thoroughly debunked by The Agony Booth last month, and I offered some additional comments regarding the scene here.

Still from "The Trouble with Tribbles" (1967)
Claim: It wasn't until the first episode of the second season, "The Trouble with Tribbles," that the [Klingon] race began to emerge as the perfect foil to Kirk and Co. (Page 76)

Verdict: False. The Klingons, established in season one's "Errand of Mercy," first re-appeared in season two's "Friday's Child," the third episode produced for the second season and the eleventh to air. The Klingons actually make their third appearance on Star Trek in "The Trouble with Tribbles," which was the fifteenth episode aired during season two, and the thirteenth produced. As for the first episode of the second season, "Amok Time" was the first episode to be aired in season two, and "Catspaw" was the first produced.

Lawrence Montaigne in "Amok Time" (1967)
Claim: [Lawrence] Montaigne, who was originally considered for the role of Spock before Leonard Nimoy decided to leave Mission: Impossible for Star Trek, played the Vulcan Stonn in "Amok Time" as well as the Romulan Decius in "Balance of Terror." (Page 98)

Verdict: False. Although Desilu did have Montaigne at the ready in early 1967, in case contract negotiations with Nimoy for the second season fell through, there's no evidence that Montaigne was in the running for the role of Spock in 1964 and Nimoy never left Mission: Impossible for Star Trek. Indeed, Nimoy didn't appear on Mission: Impossible until after Star Trek was cancelled, when the actor joined the cast as Paris for two seasons from 1969 to 1971.

Special thanks to blog reader Neil B. for loaning me his copy of the magazine for review, and suggesting this article in the first place.

Select images courtesy of Trek Core.

Sources:

The Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection (1964-1969)

The Making of Star Trek (Stephen Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry, 1968)

Inside Star Trek : The Real Story (Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman, 1996)

CBS Watch! Magazine (December/January 2015)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Recommendations: Space Doubt and Return to Tomorrow


Still from "Assignment: Earth" (1968)
I haven't been writing much lately -- I've been rather busy with real life, although I do have a few pieces in the works -- but I wanted to take a moment and recommend a couple of Star Trek related items that should be of interest to readers of this blog.

First up is a series of blog posts that I've been enjoying this week over at Space Ghost. That blog's author, who calls himself "Sham Mountebank," has been doing research into a mostly undocumented portion of Star Trek history: the show's initial and subsequent transmissions on the BBC. These began in 1969, not long after the show was cancelled by NBC, and continued throughout much of the 1970s. Star Trek's initial run on the BBC wasn't without a little controversy, as it turns out.

Mountebank has written five pieces on Star Trek so far, covering the show's transmission on the BBC in 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, and 1974-76.

A painting by Roger Stine, which adorns the cover of Return to Tomorrow (2014) 
Secondly, I'm recommending the new book from Creature Features publishing, Return to Tomorrow, which isn't just a great book about the making of Star Trek--The Motion Picture, but is a remarkable piece of nonfiction, period. The author, Preston Neal Jones, does an superb job of juxtaposing interviews with countless members of the cast and crew into a compelling and rich narrative, and he does it with a minimum of editorializing. Better yet, these interviews were all conducted during the film's lengthy post-production process, leaving the memories of all involved fresh and detailed.

Love or hate the film (and, to be honest, I've always been a bit indifferent, although the movie has grown on me), Star Trek fans won't want to miss out on this remarkable book, which is limited to 1,000 copies.

Hopefully, by the end of this weekend, I'll be able to finish my piece fact-checking some of the claims made in the newest issue of CBS Watch, which is dedicated to the original Star Trek. Suffice it to say, many of the images inside are beautiful and well-worth the $9.99 list price of the magazine, but some of the claims in the text leave this fact-checker scratching his head.

Update (12/27/2014): According to Creature Features, the first edition of Return to Tomorrow has sold out, but they "are now taking orders for an upcoming second edition, projected for arrival in February/March."

Images courtesy of Trek Core.

Friday, November 28, 2014

TV's First Interracial Kiss?

Still from "Plato's Stepchildren" (1968)
Last weekend, The Agony Booth posted an article which examined the familiar claim that William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols' kiss in the Star Trek episode "Plato's Stepchildren" was the first interracial kiss on television. There is a lot of worthwhile research to be found in the article, which I encourage you to read in full, but the author ultimately reaches this conclusion about the infamous scene between the Enterprise's captain and communication officer:
...short of watching hundreds of hours of TV programming produced prior to 1968, much of which isn't currently available to watch in any form, there’s no way to conclusively state that any of these kisses were truly 'the first.' But simply going by the list above, were Kirk and Uhura really TV’s first interracial kiss? Heck, no; it’s Emergency — Ward 10 all the way. I think even that episode of Sea Hunt is far more deserving of the title than Star Trek.
Unfortunately for Star Trek fans, Shatner and Nichols may have to settle for the qualified title of 'first black/white kiss on a scripted American TV drama,' which doesn't quite roll off the tongue. But this may be our answer for why the kiss, as brave and daring as it was, went almost completely unnoticed by the public for years: there were so many noteworthy kisses that came before it that by the time Star Trek shattered that particular taboo, it wasn't much of a taboo anymore. And I think recognizing that fact is far more important than bestowing a questionable accolade upon a TV show decades later.
In general, I find the author's argument here to be well-supported, and I think it's especially valuable to point out the difficulty of making claims about television firsts when so much of television history is unavailable. However, I do think it's worth pointing out a couple of Star Trek-related details that the author gets wrong. At one point, for example, they make the following claim:
As it turns out, the first references to Star Trek having 'TV’s first interracial kiss' don’t show up until the 1980s, and the mainstream media didn't take notice until the early 1990s, which was not-so-coincidentally about the same time Shatner and Nichols were putting out memoirs that talked about filming the episode.
This is actually a revised version of the passage, which originally stated, "the first references to Star Trek having 'TV’s first interracial kiss' don’t show up until the early 1990s." Eagle eyed readers at the TrekBBS* quickly pointed out that Alan Asherman's Star Trek Compendium (first published in January of 1981) described the scene as "the first interracial kiss on network television." Not long after those comments were made, the passage in question was updated.

However, even the updated version isn't entirely accurate. A brief search of newspapers from 1968 to the present (utilizing ProQuest) brings up a number of references to Star Trek depicting the first interracial kiss on TV in the mainstream media, the first of which predates Asherman's book by more than two years. The three pictured articles below are the oldest publications to show up in ProQuest when searching for "Star Trek" and "interracial kiss."
No Title (The Chicago Tribune, January 4, 1987)
"Nichelle Nichols zooms thru space on Star Trek II" (New Amsterdam News, June 19, 1982)
"A Visit to Star Trek's Movie Launch" (Boston Globe, December 10, 1978)
ProQuest also locates a dozen other articles from several mainstream publications from 1990-1992, which describe the moment as "television's first interracial kiss." All of these articles were printed at least a year before the publication of the relevant memoirs by William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols (Shatner's Star Trek Memories was published in October 1993; Nichols' Beyond Uhura was published in October 1994), which makes it hard to buy the claim that the mainstream media didn't take notice of the kiss and its alleged relevance until those memoirs came out.

That said, I think the author is absolutely right in their judgment that "TV's first interracial kiss" was a retroactive label applied to "Plato's Stepchildren," not one used at the time of the episode's first broadcast. Although a few ProQuest searches are far from definitive, the fact that the first two instances I've found where Star Trek is lauded for depicting the first interracial kiss on television appear in pieces promoting Star Trek--The Motion Picture and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan leads me to wonder if this chestnut was generated by Paramount's publicity machine? Decades after the fact, it may be impossible to locate its origin (although I welcome comments below if somebody can find earlier instances of the claim, or knows more than I do).

Another claim made in the article is something I've addressed before, but it is worth briefly tackling again. The author writes:
There’s a long, documented history of skittish network executives and censors meddling in the creative affairs of TV shows, and pretty famously in the case of Star Trek, too.
For one obvious example, season one’s “The Alternative Factor” cast a black actress as a Starfleet officer who was originally supposed to have a romance with the episode’s white villain Lazarus. That aspect of the plot was mysteriously jettisoned at the last minute, leaving huge holes in the plot and lots of downtime to be filled by pointless shots of Lazarus wandering around a planet’s surface (and now you know the real reason why “The Alternative Factor” ended up so incoherent).
There actually isn't any evidence to support the theory that an NBC executive or a censor in standards and practices had the script to "The Alternative Factor" gutted at the last minute to eliminate a potential black/white romance. It's plausible, and others have suggested it before -- Alan Asherman speculated this may have happened in 1981's Star Trek Compendium, and Dave Eversole similarly speculated as such in an article about the script currently available at Orion Press -- but I've been looking for a memo or an interview actually confirming that speculation for years now, and have yet to locate one. Indeed, the closest piece of evidence I've found thus far, a Roddenberry story memo, suggests the romance was dropped because of similarities to "Space Seed," not because of any network or studio interference (and, again, I'm happy to be proven wrong here; if somebody has been able to turn up something that I haven't, I'd love to hear about it in the comments below).

*Author's note: I currently post on the Trek BBS under the username Harvey. Thanks to Trek BBS users Indysolo (for pointing out the passage from Alan Asherman's book, and sending me scans of the pages in question) and Ssosmcin (for noting that this language first appeared in the original, 1981 edition of the book).

Top image courtesy of Trek Core.

Sources:

The Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection (1964-1969)

Star Trek Memories (William Shatner with Chris Kreski, 1993)

Beyond Uhura (Nichelle Nichols, 1994)