Monday, September 29, 2014

Lieutenant Lee Kelso...on ice!

Paul Carr as Lieutenant Lee Kelso in "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (1965)
Amongst the bonus features that accompany the first season of Star Trek on Blu-Ray is a picture-in-picture commentary track dubbed "Starfleet Access." Featured on six episodes -- seven, if you buy the set on the now defunct HD-DVD format -- it includes text information as well as on-camera interviews with cast, crew, and other participants.

On the Starfleet Access track for "Where No Man Has Gone Before," the late Paul Carr talks about his role as the doomed Lieutenant Lee Kelso in the show's second pilot. Recalling a conversation with producer/creator Gene Roddenberry that occurred just before Kelso's death scene was filmed, Carr claims:
[Roddenberry said] 'Don't worry about it, kid. We're gonna freeze you and bring you back!' And they never did.
Until recently, this recollection struck me as rather unlikely, but a discovery in the Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection at UCLA suggests to me that it may have a kernel of truth to it, although it seems to have been greatly exaggerated.

On January 20, 1966, Roddenberry sent off a number of form letters to the cast and crew of "Where No Man Has Gone Before." Roddenberry's letter to Paul Carr, however, was slightly different. The first two paragraphs were exactly the same as the letters sent to everybody else in the production, but Roddenberry added a third paragraph specifically addressing Carr:
Dear Paul:
Just a note to keep you in touch with the STAR TREK situation. As you may know, NBC has a new policy this year in which they view films but give no comments on them until after a network "party line" has been established. But we do have some private comments from good friends there that the showing went well and there was even some enthusiasm. We do know they like the quality of the film and the quality of the performances, and the final verdict will probably now depend upon how it fits into their scheduling, what their audience tests show re attitudes toward sf adventure, etc. But we are encouraged and in fact we have yet to get a negative comment.
I will leave for New York on Tuesday for some sales meetings, hopefully explain the direction of the series, answer questions, etc. As soon as we have any definite news, will let you know.
Paul, the reason I send this note to you is that we were all so much pleased with your performance we hope to resurrect "Lt. Lee Kelso". Some of this will depend on audience test reaction to the character, NBC attitudes and so on, but just wanted you to know I am definitely thinking in that direction.
Gene Roddenberry
Forty years later, Carr remembered Roddenberry's promise to resurrect Lee Kelso as something that happened while the second pilot was being shot in July 1965, but Roddenberry's letter suggests the thought didn't occur until well after the pilot had been completed and shown to NBC executives in January 1966.

Ultimately, nothing came of the idea, which may have simply been an empty promise of the kind that Gene Roddenberry liked to make to keep actors in his good graces. Carr never appeared on camera as Lee Kelso or any other character on Star Trek again (I've been unable to confirm it, but Carr may have had a small voice over role as a Denevan pilot in "Operation--Annihilate!").

Author's note: Apologies for the title. I couldn't help myself.

Image courtesy of Trek Core.


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

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