Monday, August 5, 2013

Star Trek's First (Associate) Producer

Byron Haskin in the documentary miniseries Hollywood (1980)
Byron 'Bun' Haskin may not be a name that registers on the radar of many Star Trek fans, but as the Associate Producer of 'The Menagerie' he was an important early contributor to the series. In the book Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, Bob Justman remembers running into Haskin on his way out from an interview with Gene Roddenberry for the Associate Producer job:
Before leaving, I recommended my friend, director and postproduction photographic effects whiz Byron Haskin. 
In an odd coincidence, on my way out of the studio, I met Byron on his way in.
'Hi, Bun. What are you up to?' 
He was his usual crusty self. 'Hi, Bobby. I'm gonna see some guy with a really weird name, Rodenberg or Rosenberry . . . or whatever. I don't know. Probably another rank amateur who doesn't know diddley [sic] and wants me to save his ass. He's looking for an associate producer type for some kind of science-fiction show.' 
'Well, good luck, Bun.' I smiled. I didn't mention where I'd just been. I went back to work on The Outer Limits, and Byron got the Associate Producer job with Gene.
--Bob Justman, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (1996), p.30
Justman's background was as an assistant director for television, including The Outer LimitsThe Thin Man, and The Adventures of Superman. In 1964, he had no experience as an Associate Producer. Neither did Haskin, but as a veteran director and special effects artist, Haskin was more than qualified for the job.

In the thirties and forties, Haskin rose through the ranks at Warner Bros. until he became the head of the studio's special effects department. During his tenure there, Haskin was nominated for four consecutive Best Effects Oscars and given a Technical Achievement Award for developing a triple head background projector in 1939. In 1948, Haskin transitioned to directing, and by 1964 he was a veteran director who had made a number of recognizable science fiction movies, including The War of the Worlds (1953), Conquest of Space (1955), and Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964).

Haskin had this to say about being hired for the position when he was interviewed in 1984, shortly before his death:
(Gene) Roddenberry, who had the idea, who eventually formulated the whole series, called me. He knew my reputation as a special effects expert and a director of science fiction, and asked me if I would like to be an advisor in the preparation. He didn't have any staff or anything together at the time. I said, 'Yes, sure.' Why not? What you need one one of these shows, to ramrod them through, is an understanding person who knows when to say -- 'Take all the time you want' -- or if you're noodling, say -- 'Cut it out and let's get going.'
Bobby Justman and Lee Katzin, who had alternated as assistant directors on OUTER LIMITS were both sharp guys. So I told Roddenberry he needed Justman, and he put him on. Justman was on for the pilot, and then he went to producing himself. I was there also.
--Byron Haskin, Interviewed by Joe Adamson, A Director's Guild of America Oral History (1984), p.280
Justman and Haskin did work together on The Outer Limits, but according to Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, it was Herb Solow who made the decision to bring Justman aboard as assistant director, not Roddenberry. Solow does say that he chose Justman after checking for recommendations from 'producer and director friends around town,' one of whom may have been Haskin.

In the same interview, Haskin described his function on the pilot episode:
I supervised the planning of special effects, worked with NBC color people, and was sort of the standby expert -- I did not have any further function than that.
I don't think I had screen credit, because I didn't want screen credits that didn't say 'Directed by -- .' (Laughs) So I was on it two or three months, got some good money out of it, and had a lot of fun. 
--Byron Haskin, Interviewed by Joe Adamson, A Director's Guild of America Oral History (1984), p.280
Byron Haskin's credit on 'The Menagerie, Part II' (1966)
While Haskin doesn't have credit on the released version of the original pilot, he is credited as an Associate Producer (alongside Bob Justman) on 'The Menagerie, Part II," which incorporated a great deal of footage from the original pilot.

Bob Justman corroborates Haskin's account that Haskin supervised the planning of the pilot's special effects in Inside Star Trek: The Real Story:
Justman met with Roddenberry and Associate Producer Haskin to question the show's creator closely about how he wanted various elements of the pilot's production handled: which effects were necessary and which others could be eliminated or revised to make them more doable.
 --Herb Solow and Bob Justman, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (1996), p.34
On the other hand, the book doesn't portray Haskin's time as Associate Producer as anything close to 'a lot of fun.' On the contrary, Justman describes the 'escalating tension' between Roddenberry and Haskin, which was apparent as early as the preproduction phase of the pilot:
'You can't do it that way,' Byron would say to Gene.
'Why not?'
Byron folded his arms across his chest. 'Because it can't be done that way. I've been in this business forty years. You can't reinvent the wheel.'
Gene would look at him and then me, exasperated.
So later, when Byron and I were alone, I'd step in, gently. 'You know, we're all after the same thing, the effect that Gene wants to see. It's not how we end up doing it; it's the final result that counts. Maybe you can find another way to do it, Bun. Or maybe you can dream up an even better effect--and one not so expensive.'
Byron would harumph a bit and allow as how he could try; and sometimes, he'd come up with an answer to the problem. And sometimes not. But it was like pulling teeth. Gene greatly disliked going through the same motions consistently.
--Bob Justman, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (1996), p.34
In his 1984 interview, Haskin seems to imply that he only took the Star Trek job on a short-term basis, taking the money for a few months work and forgoing screen credit when it was done. Inside Star Trek: The Real Story suggests it was Roddenberry's decision not to have Haskin back for the second pilot and subsequent series, not Haskin's, in the following exchange between Roddenberry and Justman:
'Great news, Bob! We're going to make another Star Trek pilot.'
'Wonderful, Gene. I'm very happy for you.'
'I want you with me again, and this time you have to be my Associate Producer. I won't take no for an answer.'
'But what about Byron?'
'He won't be back, period. You're the one I want.'
It was Gene's ball game and he had decided to keep Haskin out of the lineup. It stood to reason; the two of them didn't get along. Gene reassured me that I wasn't cutting my friend out of the running.
--Bob Justman, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (1996), p.61
Whatever the circumstances of Haskin's departure, he seems to have kept watching the series when it finally premiered the fall of 1966.  He had this to say about the evolution of the program two decades later:
What happened between that and the purchase of the series, I don't know. In the warfare of selling it to a network, a great deal of the original excellence was lopped off, I thought. It was pretty well made later, but nothing near the class of the original pilot film, because the standards were lower. They compromised in every direction. Jeff Hunter, who was playing the guy -- I didn't think he was a ball of fire anyhow. 
Like OUTER LIMITS, it fought through a certain hit and miss interest, and then took off. It didn't really go to town the first half season, but by fidelity to the concept and continued exposure of the Mr. Spock character with the phony ears -- Leonard Nimoy -- and so forth, it caught on. The audience began to show an interest in the weirdos -- that's what the kids liked. Teenage kids became aficionados. Geez, it's a classic now.
Roddenberry supervised all the stories for a while, like Stefano did, and Roddenberry was a class concept man. He was never the writer Stefano was, but he had good concepts -- he avoided the comic strip kind of thinking that goes with a great deal of this stuff. 
--Byron Haskin, Interviewed by Joe Adamson, A Director's Guild of America Oral History (1984), p.281.
After Haskin departed Star Trek in early 1965, the Hollywood veteran eased his way into retirement. From 1965 to 1967 his only credit was on 'The Menagerie, Part II.' Then, in 1968, he completed his last two directing assignments: The Power, a feature film produced by his old friend, George Pal, and an episode of The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. His last credit was in 1969, as the co-writer of a film called The Great Sex War.

Image from 'The Menagerie, Part II' courtesy of Trek Core.

Sources:

Byron Haskin, Interviewed by Joe Adamson, A Director's Guild of America Oral History (1984)

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

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