Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Great Phaser Caper

In the book Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, Bob Justman writes about an event which he calls 'the great phaser caper.' The exact details of this 'caper' have been the subject of some debate and confusion among Star Trek fans, which I hope I will clear up in this post. Before I get into that, however, let me start by quoting the passage in question:
One of the ideas for Star Trek that didn't pan out was the 'great phaser caper.' During preparation for the second pilot, a toy manufacturer had designed and built some phaser weapons 'on spec.' In return, if the series sold, the manufacturer wanted to merchandise toy replicas of these props. I was thrilled: something for nothing! But Gene finally nixed the design, and the deal fell through. Unfortunately, during the intervening period, NBC Publicity, unaware we had no rights to use the spec phasers, shot a photo session with Bill Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and Grace Lee Whitney holding the 'illegal' weapons. NBC used the photos in its 'Sales Brochure.' The weapons were never used in the series; the toy manufacturer never found out. Or if he did, we never heard from him. 
--Bob Justman, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (1996), p.118
Unfortunately, the sales brochure Justman describes hasn't been reproduced anywhere, and my efforts to locate an archival copy in the Star Trek television series collection at UCLA have been unsuccessful. There is a different sales brochure reproduced in Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, but it predates Grace Lee Whitney being cast and therefore couldn't be the document in question (you can view that sales brochure here). Lacking the clear answer the brochure would provide, some fans have been led to speculate that the 'spec phasers' Justman mentions are the props used in the publicity photo shown at the top of this post. However, my research has uncovered quite a bit of evidence which suggests that this isn't the case at all. Instead, I think it's much more likely Justman was referring to the phaser rifle, and simply misremembered the number of props ("one" versus "some").

Although I have yet to locate the sales brochure at the center of this account, many publicity images from the pre-series photo session with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and Grace Lee Whitney have found their way online.  For reference, I'm including several below, in addition to the image seen at the top of this post.

During pre-production on 'Where No Man Has Gone Before,' Gene Roddenberry contacted Norman Felton, the executive producer of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., who had worked in the same capacity on Roddenberry's previous series, The Lieutenant. Roddenberry wanted to know who designed The Man from U.N.C.L.E.'s famous gun prop, because he was looking for a similar prop for use in the second Star Trek pilot.  The man he was looking for turned out to be a toy and game designer named Reuben Klamer, who was well-known for creating 'The Game of Life' in 1960. With only a little more than three weeks before the episode was scheduled to go before the cameras, Klamer agreed to have his Toy Development Center, Inc. company design and build the phaser rifle. Klamer did this at no cost, both in exchange for certain merchandising rights and to get his foot in the door if the program went to series. This chain of events is confirmed by this excerpt from a July 2, 1967 memo from Gene Roddenberry to Ed Perlstein:
Pursuant to our recent conversation, I have informed Reuben Klamer of Toy Development Center, Inc. that he is to proceed with development and fabrication of one (and if possible two) STAR TREK Phaser rifle for use in episode #2. His firm will plan and execute it at no charge to us in return for certain rights in the product as discussed between you and him at this week’s meeting in my office. This particular arrangement applies to this Phaser rifle only.
I also indicated to Mr. Klamer that I am interested in his overall proposal for development of STAR TREK devices with merchandising appeal and am recommending strongly to Desilu that the professional reputation of himself and his firm as well as the advantages of an overall deal be carefully investigated by Desilu. I see considerable advantage of offering creative and design assistance to this production office which is not currently available to us here at this studio. If we can get this kind of help at no loss in anticipated revenue, and even at some possible gain in overall net revenue, it seems to me the advantages override any other arrangements which have grown up over the years through friendship or tradition here.
Toy Development Center, Inc. design sketches for the phaser rifle
According to an interview with Klamer (and confirmed by Roddenberry's memo, which says Klamer's firm would 'design and execute' the prop), the Toy Development Center, Inc. came up with a series of sketches for the phaser rifle prop. The development process was swift, and by June 28, 1965 Gene Roddenberry had signed off on the final design, and Klamer and his team went to work. According to Klamer, 'It took a lot of hard work, at least three men on it at all times, to put it together, day and night.' Klamer delivered the prop in time, and it can be seen at various times in the finished episode.

Still from 'Where No Man Has Gone Before'
After Star Trek sold, Roddenberry wrote a letter to Klamer on March 16, 1966, advising the toy manufacturer of the situation and reminding Klamer of his earlier proposal to develop props for the series on an ongoing basis, similar to the deal eventually made with model kit developer AMT. Although this letter appears in the Roddenberry files at UCLA, it can also be seen online at the Julien's Auctions site
Living up to my promise to notify you of changes in the STAR TREK situation, be advised that the series has sold as a one-hour color show to NBC to go on the air this fall. We plan to begin actual photography some time late in May. Mr. Bernard Weitzman, Vice-President of Desilu, should be in touch with you shortly to see what kind of a deal is possible or interesting to us.
Let me remind you again that a great deal of my immediate interest in any such arrangement would be in how much your craftsmen and shops can help the STAR TREK production unit in creation of items we may need, and even more specifically in design and fabrication of items which our writers have built into their scripts. Am sure you are aware of television’s tight scheduling needs and of the fact that any arrangement must contemplate your facilities adjusting themselves to our pressing production dates, sometimes on very short notice.
Hope to be talking to you soon.
The details of what happened over the course of the next month are unclear. The Toy Development Center, Inc. was sent outlines for at least five early episodes ('The Naked Time,' 'Miri,' 'The Corbomite Maneuver,' 'The Galileo Seven,' and 'What Are Little Girls Made Of?'), but by April 21, 1966 Roddenberry found their preliminary efforts to be unsatisfactory and recommended blowing the whole deal in a memo to Ed Perlstein:
I am sure Robert J. has told you this, but I am very much in favor of blowing the Klamer deal. In fact, let me be more definite about it -- I feel if we have this much trouble at this point, it would be most unwise to continue since they seem exactly the kind of people who will hang us up a few days before shooting and we would be in great trouble. We are proceeding with Matt Jefferies and a model maker based on a design which I gave Matt yesterday, a design which very much sets our thematic needs and still has considerable toy implication.
The next day, as indicated by a memo from Perlstein to Roddenberry, it was official: Klamer and his company were no longer involved with Star Trek:
I received your memo of April 21st re the above-mentioned matter and just wanted to point out to you that, officially, as of yesterday morning I told Reuben Klamer’s attorney, Billy Hunt, that we weren't interested in pursuing any research and development or any other type of deal in connection with any of the merchandising of the STAR TREK requirements for items for merchandising. As of this moment the entire matter is dead. If Klamer wants to work with us on any particular item he will first have to submit it to us and then after deliberation, we will determine whether or not we will proceed with him. Please rest assured that Klamer is not involved in the phaser rifle, phaser pistol, transicator [the early designation for the communicator] or any other item.
At some point after that date, but before 'The Corbomite Maneuver' began principal photography on May 24, 1966, Shatner, Nimoy, and Whitney were brought in for the aforementioned publicity shoot. Among the props they were given was Klamer's phaser rifle, which NBC's publicity department was unaware the series no longer had the right to use. Grace Lee Whitney described the occasion in her memoir:
The cast and creators of Star Trek were plunged into a flurry of activity long before we shot a single frame of film. We were all brought together and introduced to each other. Our real costumes and phaser weapons hadn't even been designed yet, so they put Flash Gordon costumes on us and shoved flashlights with colored lenses in our hands. 'Pretend they're gizmotronic space blasters,' they told us. Then they snapped dozens of pre-production publicity stills of us. In those early shots, I didn't look like Yeoman Rand--I looked more like Ann Francis in Forbidden Planet.
--Grace Lee Whitney with Jim Denney, The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy (1998), p.76-77.  
Of course, Whitney would have had no idea what had been discarded after the second pilot and what the photographer had brought to the shoot, but it seems very unlikely that the Star Trek production made deals with two separate toy manufacturers to build phaser props 'on spec' for the second pilot, only to abandon both results after the series had been ordered. The fact that the flashlight props were used in the publicity shoot is hardly indicative of any intent to use on the series, since a decidedly contemporary globe and flask also show up in the pictures. It makes much more sense to me that Justman simply misremembered the number of phaser rifles delivered (not a big mistake, since the production had initially asked Klamer if it were possible to build two phaser rifle props before filming the second pilot).

Thanks to TrekBBS user Maurice for his encouragement and input on this topic.

Update (7/31/2013): Star Trek History contributor and TrekBBS user alchemist has a copy of the sales brochure in question.  He informs me that it was used to promote the show's second season, and features a publicity photo of William Shatner holding the phaser rifle, along with a behind-the-scenes photograph taken during the production of 'Catspaw.'

Many of the images used in this post are courtesy of Trek Core.


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

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

The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy (Grace Lee Whitney with Jim Denney, 1998)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Gene Roddenberry's Cinematic Influences

Since I've become seriously interested in the development and production of Star Trek, I've found a number of books and websites which claim that Gene Roddenberry publicly admitted the influence of a few science fiction films, particularly Forbidden Planet (1956), on the program's early development. Recently, for example, Mark Clark wrote in the book Star Trek FAQ (2012) that 'Roddenberry freely credited Forbidden Planet as an inspiration for Star Trek.' However, in all my research, the only direct quote from the writer/producer that I've found about the movie directly contradicts this sentiment. When asked by a reporter in the 1970s if the Star Trek concept had been heavily influenced by Forbidden Planet, Roddenberry replied:
Definitely not...the only time I ever thought of Forbidden Planet specifically when I was laying Star Trek out was when I said to myself that here were some mistakes they made in the film that I did not want to repeat. I think one of the obvious mistakes, and one that amazed me when I saw the show, although I generally liked [it], was the fact that you had a ship capable of interstellar travel and you had a cook aboard who scrubbed pots and pans by hand and I said, 'Hey, come on, it just doesn't fit.' At least they would have had a radar range oven or something if they had interstellar capacity! But, no, I cannot remember a single time during the planning of Star Trek that I looked at another show and said, 'I will borrow this.'
--Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman, Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages (1995), p.9
After doing some research, however, it's clear that Roddenberry either misremembered events or wasn't being entirely truthful in his answer. A memo from the UCLA files, which is reprinted in David Alexander's Roddenberry biography, sheds some light on the movie's influence:
To: Herb Solow
From: Gene Roddenberry
CC: [Pato] Guzman
Date: August 10, 1964
You may recall we saw MGM’s 'FORBIDDEN PLANET' with Oscar Katz some weeks ago. I think it would be interesting for Pato Guzman to take another very hard look at the spaceship, its configurations, controls, instrumentations, etc. while we are still sketching and planning our own. Can you suggest the best way? Run the film again, or would it be ethical to get a print of the film and have our people make stills from some of the appropriate frames? This latter would be the most helpful. Please understand, we have no intention of copying either interior or exterior of that ship. But a detailed look at it again would do much to stimulate our own thinking.
Also, would much appreciate it if you could provide me with a credit list on that picture, specifically the director, art director, special effects men, etc. Thank you.
--David Alexander, Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry (1994), p.202
Looking at Forbidden Planet and 'The Menagerie' today, it's clear that, although Star Trek is far from a one to one copy of the movie (in many ways, the film's production design has more in common with the look of Lost in Space than it does with Star Trek), it certainly was influenced by the movie:

Still from Star Trek, 'The Menagerie' (1965)
Still from Forbidden Planet (1956)
Still from Star Trek, 'The Menagerie' (1965)
Planetary matte painting from Forbidden Planet (1956)
Still from Star Trek, 'The Menagerie' (1965)
Still from Forbidden Planet (1956)
Again, I don't mean to suggest that Star Trek simply copied Forbidden Planet, but Roddenberry's memo and the accompanying images certainly demonstrate that Forbidden Planet was a stronger influence on Star Trek (particularly the first pilot) than Roddenberry was willing to admit in the 1970s. Of course, there are other similarities (and I am far from the first to notice them): both Forbidden Planet and Star Trek grounded their interstellar adventures by using contemporary naval terminology, and the relationship between Commander J.J. Adams (Leslie Nielsen) and Dr. Ostrow (Warren Stevens) is very reminiscent of the way Kirk and McCoy would interact on Star Trek.
Still from Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964)
Less well known than Forbidden Planet, but of similar importance to the development of Star Trek, is the film Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964). Unlike Forbidden Planet, which was one of a number of films Oscar Katz, Herb Solow, and Gene Roddenberry ran on the Desilu lot during the development of the series, Robinson Crusoe on Mars was still in theatres when Gene Roddenberry saw it during the development process. Roddenberry first wrote about the film in a memo to Oscar Katz on July 21, 1964, prior to the film's Los Angeles release:
I would like to bring to your attention a science fiction film titled 'Robinson Crusoe on Mars'. As yet it is unreleased in this area, but it has been given excellent reviews in Variety and the Reporter and is regarded as a sleeper. Since it is unlike many of the pictures we have been seeing, dealing directly with planetary exploration and survival, it might be a good idea to screen this one if it is possible to obtain a print.
Two weeks later, on August 3, 1964, Roddenberry had seen the film and indicated as such in a memo to Herb Solow:
As mentioned, I saw the above motion picture and considered it extraordinarily good, better than anything we have run here. Suggest we get a print when possible so that Oscar can run it for himself. Also, would like appropriate department heads and personnel here to see it. Would much appreciate your office obtaining a complete credit list for this film. Many thanks.
Still from the trailer for Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964)
It's easy to see why the film appealed to Roddenberry from its trailer, which opens by proclaiming, 'This film is scientifically authentic. It is only one step ahead of present reality!' Roddenberry and others would make similar audience appeals, however far-fetched, about Star Trek. Unlike Forbidden Planet, Roddenberry's interest in the complete credit list of Robinson Crusoe on Mars yielded a few important behind-the-scenes hires. The film's director, Byron Haskin, was brought on as associate producer (Haskin ended up clashing with Roddenberry, and wasn't asked back for the second pilot). The superlative Albert J. Whitlock, a matte painter for the movie, did matte paintings for 'The Menagerie' as well as several later episodes. And although Van Cleave was only considered to score the first pilot (according to a December 8, 1964 note by Gene Roddenberry), his orchestrator on Robinson Crusoe on Mars was Fred Steiner, who went on to score a number of Star Trek episodes (and an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation).

In terms of casting, both films clearly had an influence on Roddenberry and others at Desilu. In an October 14, 1964 casting memo from Gene Roddenberry to Kerwin Coughlin, Paul Mantee (the lead in Robinson Crusoe on Mars), Leslie Nielsen, and Warren Stevens were all considered for the role of Captain April (later changed to Captain Pike). Likewise, in an October 30, 1964 casting memo from Roddenberry to Herb Solow, Anne Francis was listed as one of a few possibilities for the role of Vina in 'The Menagerie.' Ultimately, none of these actors would be cast in the first pilot, but Warren Stevens (Dr. Ostrow in Forbidden Planet) and Victor Lundin (Friday in Robinson Crusoe on Mars) would later be cast in guest roles in 'By Any Other Name' and 'Errand of Mercy,' respectively.

Historian's Note: During the development of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Gene Roddenberry also screened a number of recent science fiction films, including Blade Runner (1982) and Aliens (1986). The memos I have uncovered at UCLA suggest Roddenberry, Oscar Katz, and Herb Solow screened a number of films during the development of Star Trek, but Robinson Crusoe on Mars and Forbidden Planet are the only two that the archival record specifically names. I would love to know what some of the other titles were, if they've been mentioned elsewhere that I've overlooked.

Shameless Note: If you like this blog and want to support my research, consider shopping on through one of the affiliate links below. I'll receive a small percentage of any purchase you make there, as long as you check out within twenty-four hours after clicking the link.

Images from 'The Menagerie' courtesy of Trek Core.


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

Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry (David Alexander, 1994)

Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages (Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman, 1995)

Star Trek FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the First Voyages of the Starship Enterprise (Mark Clark, 2012)

Films Cited:

Forbidden Planet (1956) -- DVD Version / Blu-Ray Version

Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) -- DVD Version / Blu-Ray Version

Monday, July 15, 2013

Star Trek's Chief Engineer Who Almost Wasn't

It's hard to imagine Star Trek without the Enterprise's Chief Engineer, Mr. Scott. James Doohan's performance as the irritable Scotsman was a fixture of the franchise for over thirty years. Doohan played the character in all three seasons of the original series, both seasons of the animated series, the first seven feature films, an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, three video games, and a number of television commercials. In popular culture, the character's name has been immortalized by the phrase, 'beam me up, Scotty,' even if those exact words were never uttered on the show.

In light of this, it might come as a surprise to learn that, shortly after NBC picked up the program, series creator and producer Gene Roddenberry sent Doohan a letter explaining that he wouldn't be picking up the actor's option for the series. The actor later recalled this incident in his memoir:
Three or four days after hearing that the pilot had sold, I got a letter from Gene Roddenberry saying, 'Thanks very much, but we don't really think we're going to need an engineer.' I think they were probably trying to save money. I got the letter about eleven o'clock in the morning, and I called my agent, Paul Wilkins. Paul was pissed because the letter should have gone to the agent. He said, 'You just wait there. We'll see about this.' I could tell from the tone of his voice and the pauses he took that he was trying to hold his temper.

He went to Gene Roddenberry and Herb Solow, Herb being the executive in charge of production on behalf of Desilu. Paul was not one who was easily ignored. He was six foot two, with silvery dark hair. Then Paul called me and said, 'You're back on the show.' I didn't have a commitment for 'every show produced'; they only signed me up for some of the episodes.

--James Doohan with Peter David, Beam Me Up, Scotty: Star Trek's 'Scotty' in his own words (1996), p.127-128.
Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman's Inside Star Trek: The Real Story elaborates on on Roddenberry's decision to release Doohan from his contract:
Doohan was confused by Roddenberry's direct communication and informed his agent, Paul Wilkins, that apparently he'd been fired. Wilkins became irate and met with Roddenberry, and by the close of business that same day, Doohan was returned to the Enterprise engine room. Millions of fans should be thankful to Paul Wilkins for getting Doohan back on board. NBC was unaware of Roddenberry's attempt to fire Doohan. 
--Herb Solow and Bob Justman, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (1996), p.153.
Archival evidence shows that these accounts are mostly correct.  In a letter dated April 11, 1966, Gene Roddenberry wrote to James Doohan:
Dear Jim:  
As you probably know by now, STAR TREK will be on the air this coming September.
Due to changes in format, budget structure, and character concepts, we cannot pick up a number of options, including yours. But we do hope that “Engineering Officer Scott” will reappear in future stories and hope we will be fortunate enough to find you interested and available at that time.  
Let me thank you for your important contribution in the making of the STAR TREK pilot. As mentioned many times before, I value your talent and ability highly and it will always be a particular pleasure for me when we are able to work together.  
Cordially yours,
Gene Roddenberry
Although Doohan remembered receiving Roddenberry's letter 'three or four days' after learning the second pilot had been sold, in truth this more likely happened four or five weeks after he first heard the news.  Daily Variety reported that NBC had picked up the program as early as March 1, 1966, and repeated the news on March 11 and March 15.  Since it's unlikely that Doohan (and his agent) ignored the Hollywood trade papers, the actor must have simply misremembered the order of events. Solow and Justman's book claims the meeting between Paul Wilkins and Roddenberry returned Doohan to the series in one day; Doohan's book suggests a similar timeline, but claims the meeting was between Wilkins, Roddenberry, and Solow. Whoever the participants of that meeting, the official deal between Doohan and Desilu wasn't finalized until six weeks later on May 19, 1966.  On that date, casting director Joe D'Agosta wrote a memo to Desilu business affairs attorney Ed Perlstein:
James Doohan has agreed to work on the television series 'Star Trek' on a non-exclusive basis subject to his availability. He will appear as the recurring character, Scott, for a guaranteed salary of $850 for six days and a guarantee of five shows out of the first thirteen shows.
Obviously, Roddenberry had miscalculated the program's 'change in format.' Out of the first thirteen episodes produced (including the second pilot), Doohan appeared in a total of eight shows, three more than he was initially guaranteed, and as many episodes as series regulars George Takei and Grace Lee Whitney appeared in. Owing to the character's usefulness, Roddenberry had Joe D'Agosta negotiate another 'handshake' agreement with Doohan's agent. Per a memo from D'Agosta to Roddenberry, that deal was finalized on November 11, 1966, guaranteeing the actor another five shows for the first season (again at a rate of $850 for six days per show). In addition, the deal had a provision for extra shows, if Doohan's scenes were scheduled to be completed in less than five days:
If we use Jim less than six days, we may hire him at the following rates: These shows, however, are not to be included in the guarantee.
One day 300.00
Two days 500.00
Three days 600.00
Four days 700.00
If he is originally scheduled to work one to four days and in fact works five or six days, he is to be paid a pro rata of the salary and the show will not be included in the guarantee.
By the end of the first season, Doohan had appeared in a total of 15 episodes, and the producers decided to sign him to an exclusive, four-year contract, as indicated by this March 16, 1967 memo from Joe D'Agosta to Ed Perlstein:
I am happy to advise you that James Doohan has signed an exclusive contract with Desilu for the 1967/1968 broadcast season for three subsequent years after this year on a nine out of 13 of each 13 programs produced and pro rata for cycles of less than 13 shows terminable by Desilu at the end of any 13-program cycle.  
The compensation which is for up to five consecutive days work per episode is:  
First Year: $ 850
Second Year: $1,100
Third Year: $1,350
Fourth Year: $1,600 
Billing is at Producer’s discretion.
Doohan would continue to appear in more episodes than his contract guaranteed him. By the end of the series he had appeared in a total of 66 of the show's 79 episodes, which wasn't a bad run for an actor who was almost dismissed before Star Trek even premiered on television. It remains unclear why Roddenberry chose to release Doohan in the first place; even less understandable is why Roddenberry chose to break the news directly to the actor rather than through his agent, which was and is the standard practice in Hollywood. Perhaps, as Doohan speculated, it was a way of cutting costs, although given the number of first season shows which included Doohan, this was almost certainly unsuccessful. It is also possible that Roddenberry made the mistake of bypassing Doohan's agent out of inexperience; after all, before Star Trek, he had only produced a handful of pilots and a series which lasted only one season, The Lieutenant.

Image courtesy of Trek Core.


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

Beam Me Up, Scotty: Star Trek's 'Scotty' in his own words (James Doohan with Peter David, 1996)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The First Draft of the Making of Star Trek

One of my favorite discoveries in the Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection at UCLA is Stephen Whitfield's typed manuscript of The Making of Star Trek, which the author sent to Roddenberry so the writer-producer could edit it. Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman's Inside Star Trek: The Real Story has this to say about the preliminary version of the book:
During the time it took to write The Making of Star Trek, Whitfield continually requested that Roddenberry edit the newly written material. But Roddenberry procrastinated and finally read the book after it was typeset, and in galleys, and spent 'one long night' with Whitfield 'making changes.' Owing to the book's printing deadline, very few changes were incorporated, and the book was published much as Whitfield had written it.
--Herb Solow and Bob Justman, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (1996), p.402
I've only had the opportunity to compare a few sections of the manuscript to the published book, but in all of those cases, Solow and Justman's account appears to be correct.  Whitfield's typed manuscript has a few handwritten changes from Roddenberry that were implemented, but for the most part it rarely deviates from the book as it was published.  Hitting store shelves shortly before the program's third season premiere, The Making of Star Trek was in many ways the first draft of the behind-the-scenes history of Star Trek.  In this post I will highlight a few of the changes that were made to Whitfield's original manuscript, as well as correct some of the inaccuracies the popular book has perpetuated over the course of at least thirty-three separate printings.

In the first passage I want to highlight, Whitfield writes about the casting process on 'The Menagerie,' the first pilot.  I have bolded the sentences which differ between the manuscript (the first quoted paragraph) and the book (the second quoted paragraph):
By that time, the rest of the cast had already been chosen.  Leonard Nimoy would play the part of Mr. Spock.  Ever since his appearance on an episode of the 'Lieutenant', Gene had always wanted to cast Leonard in the role of an Alien.  Majel Barrett was Number One, the First Officer.  Peter Duryea (Dan Duryea’s son) played the part of the navigator, Jose Tyler.  Doctor Philip Boyce was played by John Hoyt.  The part of Yeoman J.M. Colt was played by Laurel Goodwin.  Vina was played by Susan Oliver.  Ed Madded was cast in the part of the geologist, and a young negro actor played the part of one of the officers on the ship.
The decision to have a negro in the cast caused a lot of raised eyebrows.  An integrated cast was not a common place occurrence at that time.
By that time, the rest of the cast had already been chosen.  Leonard Nimoy would play the part of Mr. Spock.  Ever since his appearance on an episode of 'The Lieutenant,' Roddenberry had always wanted to cast Leonard in the role of an alien.  Majel Barrett was to play Number One, the ship’s Executive Officer.  Peter Duryea (Dan Duryea’s son) was cast as the Navigator, José Tyler.  Dr. Philip Boyce was played by John Hoyt.  The part of Yeoman J.M. Colt was played by Laurel Goodwin.  The guest star role of Vina was played by Susan Oliver.  Ed Madden was cast in the part of the geologist.  In the lesser roles, a mixture of racial types was featured.
The decision to have an obvious mixture of races in the cast caused a lot of raised eyebrows.  Integration was not commonplace on television at that time.
--Stephen Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry, The Making of Star Trek (1968), p.111
The revisions between the two versions make sense, since 'The Menagerie' doesn't feature any black actors or extras (it's possible Whitfield confused which pilot Lloyd Haynes played the short-lived role of Lieutenant Alden in). However, even the claim that the first pilot represented 'an obvious mixture of races' is a bit of a stretch. Of the six intended main characters, only José Tyler was written of being anything other than Western European descent, and the actor who was ultimately cast in the part (Peter Duryea) was of Western European descent.

In fact, internal casting documents suggest most of the actors considered for the role of José Tyler were white. An October 14, 1964 memo from Roddenberry to Kerwin Coughlin (a casting director who worked on the first pilot and had a history with Desilu programs including I Love Lucy) suggest the following names: Joby Baker, Marc Cavell, Victor Arnold, Robert Brown, Joe Bova, Ross Martin, Richard Jaeckel, and Bruce Dern. Coughlin's response to Roddenberry's memo, sent the following day, included additional possibilities for the role: Peter Brooks, Tom Lowell, Russell Horton, Steve Terrell, Tom Skerritt, Alan Reed Jr., Teno Pollick, Larry Merrill, Michael McDonald, Claude Johnson, Bill Gray, Jack Grinnage, James Dobson, Bobby Diamond, Jerry Dexter, James Davidson, Michael Greene, Christopher Connelly, Robert Cabal, John Ashley, Barton Heyman, and Jimmy Goodwin. Finally, in a November 17, 1964 memo to Coughlin, Roddenberry wrote, 'Rather like the looks of Jerry Rannow as a possible Navigator.'  Most of these actors were of Western European descent.

Whatever the intentions of Roddenberry, Justman, Solow, and others, to anyone who sees 'The Menagerie' it is clear that the speaking roles were all cast with white actors, and there's only one two non-white background actors.  One plays the assistant transporter operator (pictured in the first photo above), who appears in a couple of brief scenes. The other (pictured in the second photo above) appears on the left-hand side of the frame in the background of a few shots on the darkened bridge near the end of the episode.* In other words, it's unlikely that the casting of the first pilot, in terms of racial integration, caused many eyebrows to be raised at NBC.

In the second passage I want to highlight, Whitfield addresses NBC's position on an integrated crew aboard the Enterprise.  Again, I have bolded the sentence that differs significantly in the manuscript (the first quoted paragraph) and the book (the second quoted paragraph):
A word of caution (not an ultimatum) was expressed once more regarding the plans for an integrated crew aboard the Enterprise. A number of the network officials were afraid of the consequences, from a strictly dollars-and-cents point-of-view. By putting a negro in the crew they might lose the Southern states, by putting a Mexican in the crew they might lose Texas, Arizona and parts of California, and so forth.
A word of caution (not an ultimatum) was expressed once more regarding the plans for an integrated crew aboard the EnterpriseThere were still those who were afraid of the consequences, from a strictly dollars-and-cents point-of-view. By putting a Negro in the crew they might lose the Southern states, by putting a Mexican in the crew they might lose Texas, Arizona and parts of California, and so forth. 
--Stephen Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry, The Making of Star Trek (1968), p.127 
Although the revised passage is less specific about its subject, even the latter version seems clear that the author is talking about people from NBC. All the evidence I've uncovered, however, suggests that this simply wasn't NBC's attitude towards interracial casting. The best evidence of this is an August 17, 1966 memo from NBC Programs Vice President Mort Werner to Gene Roddenberry, which is reprinted in Inside Star Trek: The Real Story:
Mr. Gene Roddenberry
Hollywood, Calif. 
Dear Gene:  
Census figures, in the mid-1960s, indicate that one American in every eight is non-white. It is reasonable to assume that this percentage also applies to the television audience.
I choose this statistic to call to your attention once again to NBC's longstanding policy of non-discrimination. Our efforts in the past to assure the fact that the programs broadcast on our facilities are a natural reflection of the role of minorities in American life have met with substantial success. I would like to congratulate those producers who have extended themselves in this regard and I invite all of our creative associates to join us in an even greater effort to meet this fact of American life.  
NBC's employment policy has long dictated that there can be no discrimination because of race, creed, religion or national origin and this applies in all of out operations. In addition, since we are mindful of our vast audience and the extent to which television influences taste and attitudes, we are not only anxious but determined that members of minority groups be treated in a manner consistent with their role in society. While this applies to all racial minorities, obviously the principle reference is to the casting and depiction of Negroes. Our purpose is to assure that in our medium, and within the permissive framework of dramatic license, we present a reasonable reflection of contemporary society.  
We urge producers to cast Negroes, subject to their availability and competence as performs, as people who are an integral segment of the population, as well as in those roles where the fact of their minority status is of significance. An earnest attempt has been made to see that their presence contributes to an honest and natural reflection of places, situations and events, and we desire to intensify and extend this effort.  
We believe that NBC's pursuit of this police is pre-eminent in the broadcasting industry. It is evident in both the daytime and nighttime schedules and particularly in such popular programs as I SPY, THE ANDY WILLIAMS SHOW, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., RUN FOR YOUR LIFE, and many other presentations. While we have made noticeable progress we can do better, and I ask you for your cooperation and help.  
--Herb Solow and Bob Justman, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (1996), p.76-77
The final passage I want to highlight immediately follows the previous one I quoted from The Making of Star Trek.  Except for some minor changes in capitalization, the manuscript and the final version are identical:
The overseas sales representatives were also greatly concerned about the matter. A Chinese crew member could lose sales for the show in Indonesia, etc., etc., etc. Gene began to realize that if he listened to all of these people, the Enterprise would have ended up an all-white, Protestant, Caucasian crew. This could then rebound with the same result in a great many foreign countries, because why should they believe that 200 years from now such a ship will be manned by an all-American crew? So many different people became embroiled in so much controversy that they ended up leaving Gene alone to do it the way he wanted.  
--Stephen Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry, The Making of Star Trek (1968), p.127-128  
Again, archival documentation suggests that this is the opposite attitude the overseas sales representatives assigned to the program had towards interracial and international casting.  In a September 28, 1966 memo from Roddenberry to casting director Joseph 'Joe' D'Agosta, the writer-producer noted:
Just a reminder that when we met with the foreign sales force they were particularly insistent that our overseas sales potential is greatly enhanced if the international makeup of the Enterprise is reflected in actors and extras.
I think we have been hitting a logical percentage with our Oriental and Negro actors and extras, but our Latin sales potential, particularly South America, may need some attention. I realize there is no one South American 'type', and we may have to go a bit overboard on characterization in extras to achieve it, plus purposely play in some Spanish accents in actors now and then to get what we need.
Despite these inaccuracies, and a general tendency to favor Roddenberry's narrative of the series' production, The Making of Star Trek remains an important document in the history of Star Trek.  The book includes countless interviews with the cast and crew, conducted before the passage of time could erode their memories, and reprints dozens of production memos and other internal documents which remain unavailable outside of an archival setting.

Historian's Note: Stephen Whitfield was the pen name of Stephen Edward Poe, who met Gene Roddenberry during the production of the first season of Star Trek as a representative of Aluminum Metal Toys (AMT).  The Making of Star Trek (which, despite Ballantine's decision to give co-authorship credit to Roddenberry, Poe wrote alone) was his first published book.  Poe died in 2000.

Thanks to TrekBBS user Maurice for both his constant encouragement and his willingness to type out the Mort Werner memo from Inside Star Trek: The Real Story.

*Update 9/8/2014: Thanks to blog reader and Trek-expert extraordinaire Larry Nemecek for spotting this second non-white extra on the bridge in the first pilot. I stand humbly corrected!

Images from 'The Menagerie' courtesy of Trek Core.


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 (Documentary, 1998)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Captain's Log, Stardate: Unknown

Captain Kirk (William Shatner) records a log in "Dagger of the Mind"
The number of web pages and fanzine articles Star Trek fans have devoted to justifying and explaining the franchise's "stardate" system is incalculable. I won't attempt to step on their toes here; rather, I am interested in the behind-the-scenes history of the stardate system on the original Star Trek television series.

Here's the history of the stardate system according to a magazine authorized by Paramount Pictures to promote the thirtieth anniversary of the franchise in 1996:
Few Star Trek topics generate as much heated debate as the stardate system, the time calculation used by the United Federation of Planets which was introduced to the classic series by Gene Roddenberry, who borrowed the notion from the Julian date currently used by astronomers. Developed by Joseph Justus Scaliger (who named his dating system after his father, Julius Caesar Scaliger), the Julian time calculation measures the number of days elapsed since 1 Jan. 4713 BC, the date derived by Joseph Justus. In the case of the 30th anniversary of the air date for the original series (8 Sept. 1996), that's 2,450,335 days. To make it easier, astronomers only use the last five digits – making 50335 the Julian date for the Star Trek anniversary. For Star Trek, Roddenberry added a single digit after the decimal point (50335.2) to represent one of the 10 time measurements in a 24-hour period... Roddenberry borrowed the five-digit Julian date, shortening it to four digits and renaming it "stardate." Not a precise measurement of each episode’s time frame, the stardate was simply a reminder that the series was set in the future. (Star Trek 30 Years Special Collector's Edition, 1996, p.81)
Like a lot of promotional material related to Star Trek, this account gives complete credit to series creator Gene Roddenberry, but a little research suggests that the truth of the matter is more complicated.

According to biographer Joel Engel, when Roddenberry wanted a futuristic way to measure time, he called writer Samuel Peeples.  Peeples had been a consultant on 'The Menagerie' and wrote the second pilot which sold the series:
The two men had a few drinks while brainstorming, and soon began chuckling over their imaginative 'stardate' computations. 'We tried to set up a system that would be unidentifiable unless you knew how we did it,' Peeples says.

They marked off sections on a pictorial depiction of the known universe and extrapolated how much earth time would elapse when traveling between given points, taking into account that the Enterprise's warp engines would be violating Einstein's theory that nothing could exceed the speed of light. They concluded that the 'time continuum' would therefore vary from place to place, and that earth time may actually be lost in travel. 'So the stardate on Earth would be one thing, but the stardate on Alpha Centauri would be different,' Peeples says. 'We thought this was hilarious, because everyone would say, 'How come this date is before that date when this show is after that show?' The answer was because you were in a different sector of the universe.'

--Joel Engel, Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek (1994), p.64
Whether or not you accept Peeple's account, one thing's for certain: the stardate system doesn't appear in Roddenberry's final draft of 'The Menagerie' (dated November 20, 1964), nor does it appear in the finished episode. The first time the familiar dating system does appear is in Samuel Peeple's first draft of 'Where No Man Has Gone Before,' dated May 27, 1965:

The script went through a number of revisions, first by Peeples and then by Roddenberry, but the stardate system as established in that first draft was relatively unchanged by the time the 'final draft' of the teleplay, dated July 8, 1965 (some additional revisions would occur after this date):

In the documentary adaptation of Herb Solow and Bob Justman's Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (1998), script researcher Kellam de Forest recalls:
The script originally had dates in it like 2362, and months, and days. I thought that sounded a little awkward for the twenty-third, twenty-second century, so I thought that there should be another dating system.  So I checked, that, yes, astronomer's had a way of dating called [the] Julian Day System.
With respect to the plethora of contributions he and his firm made to Star Trek, in this case the passage of thirty-three years appears to have clouded Mr. de Forest's memory. After reading the first draft of the script, as well as the July 14, 1965 de Forest Research report for the episode, it's obvious that 'Where No Man Has Gone Before' never utilized a conventional dating scheme. However, the archival evidence does indicate that the Julian day system was recommended by de Forest Research (and not Roddenberry, as the magazine I quoted earlier stated). There are two comments from the de Forest Research report for the second pilot addressing the use of stardates:

(Page 2, Scene 3) 
But on star date 1312.4 – Astronomers already have adopted a method of dating which makes possible the counting of the number of days elapsed between widely separated observations called 'the Julian Day'. Today July 14, 1965 is 2,438,956 in Julian days.  A Julian cycle is 7,980 years, and the Julian day measurement would be scientifically authentic. Suggest “on Julian B 1312.4”.  This date would be August 5, 3271.

(Page 65, Scene 175) 
C-1277.1 to 1313.7We presume dates are in days, Kirk would only be 36 days  old.  For conventional dating suggest 3235 to 3271.  For Kirk’s birth date in Julian system figure would be in millions.  If desired, can be calculated.

Although de Forest Research made many script comments that were incorporated into the program, these suggestions were ignored. Roddenberry chose to stick to the stardate terminology rather than name-check the Julian day, and the confusing gravestone markings in the script can be seen on the prop in the finished episode.

Kirk's gravestone from 'Where No Man Has Gone Before'

de Forest Research would reference the Julian day in their research reports for three early first season episodes ('The Corbomite Maneuver,' 'What Are Little Girls Made of?' and 'Dagger of the Mind'), but their attempts to get stardates to match the real-life dating system were eventually abandoned. By the end of the first season, their efforts concerning stardates dealt with three issues: stardates that didn't match the numbering scheme of each season, stardates that weren't numbered sequentially within a script, and stardates that directly conflicted with other episodes. Getting stardates to be progress sequentially from episode to episode was a lost cause, since episodes were often aired out of production order.  An explanation to this problem, similar to the one Samuel Peeples recalled in his interview with Joel Engel, can be found in the Star Trek Guide for potential writers:

In short, the stardate system was probably invented by Roddenberry and Peeples for use in the second pilot, not Roddenberry alone. Although the system they designed had similarities to the Julian day system, which was recommended by de Forest Research, Roddenberry was probably unaware of the real-life dating scheme, and de Forest Research's to get the series to abide by its rules were eventually dropped.

Thanks to TrekBBS user Sir Rhosis for the 'Where No Man Has Gone Before' script excerpts. His script reviews for the original series at Orion Press have been an invaluable resource and come highly recommended.

Images courtesy of Trek Core.


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

Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek (Joel Engel, 1994)

Star Trek 30 Years Special Collector's Edition (1996)

Inside Star Trek - The Real Story (Documentary, 1998)