Monday, July 25, 2016

Leonard Nimoy vs. Desilu Studios

Publicity photo of Leonard Nimoy from "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (1965)
Dedicated fans will know that Leonard Nimoy was involved in a contract dispute with Desilu before the beginning of Star Trek's second season, but they may not be familiar with all the details. At the time, the issue was not widely publicized. A brief item in the May 31, 1967 issue of Daily Variety, which stated that Nimoy had resolved his "salary demands with Desilu, [and] re-signed for next term," appears to be the only time any part of the dispute was made public during Star Trek's first run.1

As far as I have been able to determine, the contentious negotiation — which was more complicated than a simple salary dispute — was not described in any detail until David Alexander's Star Trek Creator (1994), which relied on a mix of archival sources and at least one new interview to reconstruct the back-and-forth between Leonard Nimoy and the studio. Subsequently, these events have been recounted in Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman's Inside Star Trek (1996), Mark Clark's Star Trek FAQ (2012), and Marc Cushman and Susan Osborn's These Are The Voyages — TOS: Season Two (2014), as well as in a number of online sources.

According to David Alexander, Leonard Nimoy's dissatisfaction with his contract began early on during the production of the first season, several months before Star Trek debuted on NBC:
Approximately five episodes into filming the first season's shows, before the program was even on the air, Leonard's agent, Alex Brewis, called for a meeting. Present at the meeting was Gene [Roddenberry], Brewis, and Morris Chapnick, who had been Gene's production assistant on The Lieutenant and the first two Star Trek pilots. Morris now worked as Herb Solow's assistant and remembers the meeting clearly.
From the scripts they were filming, it was clear that Spock's importance to the storyline was nearly equal to that of the captain. Spock was not just a minor supporting character, and consequently Nimoy wanted more money. Chapnick's memory of the meeting is that Gene was inclined to agree, but Morris—then working for Herb Solow, the executive in charge of production—thought differently. At that time, Desilu had the Star Trek and Mission: Impossible casts, thirteen actors, under contract, and Chapnick reasoned that if the studio gave a raise, however meritorious, to one actor, they would face the probability of the other twelve demanding the same.
Morris rejected Nimoy's agent's demand, which created a mild schism between Morris and Gene. Gene at first thought that Chapnick was disloyal to what he, Gene, thought was fair, but later realized Morris was just doing his job. Brewis was told to bring the subject up again at the appropriate time, after series renewal, but before the start of the second season's filming. Brewis did just that.
--David Alexander, Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry (1994), p.274
This particular account — which is not reproduced by any other source — seems rather improbable. Morris Chapnick was only an assistant, and was not in a position to overrule Gene Roddenberry or reject an actor's salary demands. That a formal meeting to discuss contract terms would be held without the presence of Ed Perlstein or someone else from business affairs strikes me as equally unbelievable.

Moreover, by the time Leonard Nimoy signed his contract to play Spock in "Where No Man Has Gone Before," it was clear that the Vulcan science officer was no longer intended to be a "minor supporting character" on the series, and this was reflected by the actor's contract terms, which were significantly improved compared to the contract he had signed to do the first pilot. Next to Shatner, no one in the cast was paid more money than Leonard Nimoy (at the beginning of season one, he earned $400 more per episode than DeForest Kelley and James Doohan, $500 more per episode than Grace Lee Whitney, and $650 more per episode than George Takei). Only Shatner and Nimoy were guaranteed to be in every episode (their co-stars had deals for 7 out of 13 episodes, or worse, at the start of the series).2 And only Shatner and Nimoy were guaranteed to be in the opening credits every week, in first and second position, respectively.3
Still from "The Devil in the Dark" (first aired March 9, 1967)
Alexander goes on to describe the studio's initial offer to Nimoy for Star Trek's second season, and the aggressive counter-offer that was then made by Nimoy's agent, Alex Brewis:
On March 17, 1967, Alex Brewis requested and received a meeting with Ed Perlstein at Desilu Business Affairs. Before the meeting, Perlstein had informed Nimoy's agent that it was Desilu's intention to bring Nimoy's fee up an additional $250 a week over and above the $500 a week advance in salary that was in his contract. Plus, Perlstein informed Brewis, the studio would provide Leonard with an additional $100 per program to handle secretarial costs for his fan mail. At that point, Leonard was making $1,250 per program for the 1966/1967 season for up to seven days work per show. His contract called for a $500 increase for the 1967/1968 broadcast seasons to $1,750 per program, and then $250 escalations per year thereafter for up to seven days work. The original contract had Nimoy earning $1,750 per show for the second season. The studio's offer would jack that up to $2,000, plus the secretarial allowance.
Nimoy's agent had a counter proposal: Leonard would get $4,500 per show for six days work, not seven; Leonard would get all of his original salary for reruns spread over five program repeats (the same level as Shatner); and there was more. Leonard wanted to direct a minimum of one out of each thirteen programs—the first at minimum and the rest at the top pay scale of the show; if any of the shows were released theatrically, Nimoy wanted to be paid five times his applicable program compensation or $25,000, whichever was greater. On personal appearances he wanted first-class transportation and accommodations for both him and his wife. He wanted a permanent dressing room large enough to serve as both his room and his office; he wanted a telephone installed at studio expense (he would pay for long distance calls); he would accept the $100 per show secretarial allowance and expected the studio to continue to supply him with stationary and photos with which to answer his fan mail; if he was to be away from Los Angeles overnight in connection with the production of the program, personal appearances, or any other program requirements, he wanted his per diem to be the same as the highest per diem paid to any actor on the show. And there were a few other minor requests.
--David Alexander, Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry (1994), p.275-276 
Herbert F. Solow — Star Trek's executive in charge of production, as well as the vice president in charge of programming for Desilu — describes a somewhat different scenario in Inside Star Trek. To Solow's best recollection, there were no meetings with Alex Brewis about Nimoy's compensation during Star Trek's first season. Rather, the issue came to a head during the filming hiatus between seasons one and two, when it came time to pick up Nimoy's contract option for the show's second season. And, the way Solow tells it, Brewis' demands were much more outrageous than the ones reported by David Alexander:
Leonard's agent, Alex Brewis, was a likable, energetic man, highly experienced in overcoming the daily obstacles of getting acting jobs for his clients, but not accustomed to confronting studios with demands to renegotiate a series star's contract. As Leonard recalls, Alex held a series of meetings with him, his most important client, and discussed the proper approach to convince the studio to bring his client up to "star level." Their main discussion focused on Leonard's salary. Signed contract be damned; the decision was to demand $3,000 per episode and settle for $2,500, thus doubling his contractual salary, but still giving him only fifty percent of what Shatner was originally being paid.
The studio would have been amenable to the $2,500 request. But that wasn't to be. As Alex approached my office, he overheard a phone conversation I was having with Marty Landau's agent. The deal with Landau, one of the Mission: Impossible stars, was no deal. The studio had no options on his services per his choice and ours, so every year I renegotiated a new deal directly with Landau and then, afterwards, phoned his agent to run through the figures. Brewis thought he heard me confirming a combined per-episode salary for Landau and his wife, Mission star Barbara Bain, of $11,000. He had heard incorrectly. (In a million years, I wouldn't pay that much!). He became incensed. "If they're worth $11,000, then my client, Leonard Nimoy, is worth at least $9,000."
So Alex Brewis made his demands—and a threat: "$9,000 per episode, star billing, star perks, a larger percentage of merchandising money and greater script input, or else Mr. Nimoy would not report for shooting." (Years later, Leonard laughed, remembering that when he heard how Brewis had "improved" his demands from $2,500 to $9,000, he "almost had a heart attack.")
--Herbert F. Solow, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (1996), p.317
Key details about Nimoy's demands that were introduced by Herb Solow in Inside Star Trek — including the demands for a raise to $9,000 an episode, greater script input, and a larger percentage of merchandising revenue —  have been repeated in most of the accounts of the dispute that have followed. These include, for example, the following:
When Spock emerged as the series' breakout character, Roddenberry and Desilu executives feared that Nimoy would demand more money—as indeed he did following Season One. Reluctant to establish precedents that might work against them in future negotiations, Desilu took a hard line in a series of petty disputes with the actor. For instance, Nimoy requested pens and pencils to reply to his copious fan mail. Even though Desilu provided Nimoy a $100 allowance toward the salary of a secretary, supplied Star Trek letterhead and publicity photos, and paid postage costs, the studio refused to give Nimoy any pens or pencils. Nimoy was also rebuffed when he attempted to install a telephone in his office (even at his own expense). At that point, the show's entire cast and crew were sharing a single soundstage telephone. And Nimoy had to resort to theatrics—asking his secretary to feign heatstroke—to get a window air conditioner installed in his office, even with temperatures climbing toward 100 degrees. Although Roddenberry wasn't directly involved in all these conflicts, Nimoy nevertheless blamed the Great Bird for refusing to intervene on his behalf.

The situation reached crisis proportions in the interim between Seasons One and Two. A gaping disparity in compensation existed between the show's two leads during its first season: Shatner received a salary of $5,000 per week as well as 20 percent profit participation. He was also guaranteed a $500 per week raise every season the series was renewed. Nimoy was paid $1,250 per week with no profit participation. (Most of Star Trek's other cast members were paid around $600 per show and were not guaranteed work in every episode.) As expected, Nimoy wanted to renegotiate before production began on Season Two. However, Roddenberry balked when Nimoy's agent, Alex Brewis, demanded $9,000 per week, star billing, profit participation, and a percentage of the show's merchandising, among other items.
--Mark Clark, Star Trek FAQ (2012), p.130-131
The arguments between producer and actor are never limited to merely money. Nimoy also felt he, not only Roddenberry or Coon, should have a say when it came to his character.

Roddenberry was livid over Nimoy’s “demand” regarding the creative property of Mr. Spock. Desilu was more concerned with an increase to the budget. 
Nimoy was making $1,125 per episode [$7,900 in 2013], a respectable paycheck by 1967 standards but nowhere near a number considered to be “star level.” He wanted his agent to renegotiate for $3,000 per episode, all the while happy to settle for $2,500 -- just over twice what he was currently making. Brewis, more certain of Nimoy’s value to the series, demanded $9,000. It was a staggering jump.
--Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn, These Are The Voyages — TOS: Season Two (eBook Edition, March 2014)
What, then, really happened? Did Brewis demand $9,000 an episode, as reported by Herb Solow and others, or did he demand only half that, as reported by David Alexander? Did Nimoy want a telephone installed at the studio's expense, as reported by Alexander, or did he offer to pay for the installation himself, as reported by Mark Clark? Did Nimoy demand profit participation, as reported by Clark? Did Nimoy demand greater script input, as reported by Solow, Clark, Cushman, and Osborn?

Archival sources indicate that David Alexander's account is the most accurate, and that many of the demands that have been attributed to Nimoy and Brewis were either never made or have been greatly exaggerated. On March 20, 1967, Ed Perlstein fired off a memo to Herb Solow detailing a meeting he had held with Alex Brewis the previous Friday, March 17, 1967. He began by describing the current terms of Nimoy's deal, as well as the studio's offer above and beyond what was stipulated by Nimoy's contract for a second season of Star Trek:
On Friday, March 17th, I met with Alex Brewis and Leonard Nimoy’s business manager at Alex’s request to discuss the Leonard Nimoy situation for the 1967/1968 broadcast season. Prior to this meeting I had informed Alex of Desilu’s intention to bring Leonard’s fee up an additional $250 plus providing Leonard with an additional $100 per program to handle secretarial costs for his own fan mail. As you know, Leonard made $1,250 per program for the 1966/1967 season for up to seven days work and days averaged out. His normal increase for 1967/1968 is a $500 increase to $1,750 per program ($250 escalations per year thereafter) for up to seven days work and averaging out. I proposed the further increase to a total of $2,000 for up to seven days work with NO averaging out with the other terms of the contract to remain the same except that the third year price would be $2,250 per program, the fourth year would be $2,750 per program and the fifth year would be $3,250 per program.4
Cushman and Osborn report $1,125 as Nimoy's per episode salary in 1967, but this number is neither representative of Nimoy's salary during the 1966-67 season ($1,250 per episode) nor what Nimoy's contract indicated he would be paid during the 1967-68 season ($1,750 per episode). Despite an offer to increase Nimoy's per episode salary to $2,000 per episode during Star Trek's second season (plus an additional $100 per episode allowance to pay a secretary to handle Nimoy's fan mail), Brewis rejected Desilu's proposal, and instead made a series of demands which Ed Perlstein called "outrageous" in his memo to Herb Solow:
  • Leonard would receive $4,500 per show for the 1967/1968 season for up to six days work and no averaging out. Thereafter $500 per year increases.
  • Leonard’s current residual pattern provides for scale plus 10%. He now wants 100% of original salary for reruns spread over five reruns.
  • Leonard wants to direct a minimum of one out of each 13 programs.  The first directorial assignment would be at minimum and the second and subsequent assignments at the top of the show.
  • On theatrical release of episodes, by present contract we pay 100% of Leonard’s applicable compensation (not scale) and he is now asking for five times his applicable program compensation or $25,000, whichever is greater.
  • On personal appearances Leonard wants first-class transportation and first-class accommodations for himself and his wife.
  • Leonard wants a permanent dressing room large enough to serve as both his dressing room and office with space for his personal secretary (to be paid by him personally) and a telephone installed at our cost except he would reimburse us for long distance calls.
  • Leonard is willing to accept our generous gift of $100 per program for his own personal secretary for fan mail but he wants us to furnish him with all supplies, photos, etc. for fan mail. We have been furnishing this in the past and I see no reason not to continue it.
  • In the event Leonard is required over night for any duration of time to be away from the Los Angeles area in connection with the production of the program, personal appearances and what-have-you, he wants his per diem to be the same as the highest per diem paid to any actor on the show.
  • Leonard wants the unlimited rights to do voice over commercials, whether in his voice or otherwise.
  • He wants a list of the sponsors so that he can determine whether or not any guest appearances that he does on other shows will be competitive to our sponsors.
  • On any future record deals, such as the Dot album, Leonard wants the right to be able to negotiate directly with the record company and not through us. I told Alex that Desilu owns the character and the voice of Mr. Spock and that all deals will have to go through Desilu. As regards Leonard Nimoy personally in his own personal voice without the publicity of his role in the STAR TREK series, he could negotiate as freely as he wishes on any record deal except that there cannot be any prohibition against his doing a record under our deal with any record company.5
As outrageous as Nimoy's demands may have been perceived in 1967, they pale in comparison to many of the demands attributed to the actor in the years since:
  • Neither Brewis, nor Nimoy, ever demanded $9,000 an episode for the 1967-68 broadcast season — the actual number was half that ($4,500 an episode, with $500 escalations each season thereafter).
  • Profit participation was never a subject of discussion. In addition, William Shatner had 5% profit participation in Star Trek, not the 20% figure quoted by Mark Clark.6
  • Nimoy never demanded "greater script input." Story memos from Nimoy were rare during the run of the series. I have seen little evidence that they increased in seasons two and three compared to the first season.
  • Nimoy did not offer to install a telephone in his dressing room at his own cost; he demanded that Desilu cover this expense.
  • Although billing became a minor issue in this dispute, Nimoy did not demand "star billing." Indeed, Nimoy's billing did not change once it was revised to read "Also Starring Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock" beginning with "The Naked Time" in the first season.
  • Nimoy did not demand "a greater percentage of merchandising money" or a "percentage of the show's merchandising."
Ten days after his initial memo on the subject, Ed Perlstein wrote to Herb Solow again, detailing a number of concessions made by the studio to Nimoy and Brewis:
Further to my memo to you of March 20th and following my conversation with you Wednesday, March 28, as well as conversations with Gene Roddenberry and Bernie Weitzman, I spoke to Alex Brewis yesterday and advised him that in addition to our having waived the average-out clause and agreeing to furnish a telephone for Leonard in his dressing room subject to Leonard’s payment of out-of-town charges and several other minor concessions, we would adjust Leonard’s salary to $2,500 per program for the 1967/1968 broadcast season. 
When I gave Alex these further concessions I told him that this was as far as we were going and there is no renegotiation in that we have extended ourselves much beyond our previously agreed to contractual terms and if Leonard didn’t accept these terms we felt free to continue under our contract terms for the second year.7
Perlstein's offer confirms Herb Solow's claim in Inside Star Trek that "The studio would have been amenable to the $2,500 request." Brewis rejected the studio's counter-offer, which gave Nimoy a $750 raise per episode and gave into his request for a private telephone line. According to Perlstein's memo, Brewis told him, "Everything that you offered is no good!" and proceeded to make additional demands of the studio, which are reproduced below:
  • With regard to directing, Leonard insists that he was promised he would direct in the second year and he wants to direct, and insists upon directing, at least one, and preferably two or three, STAR TREK episodes during this year.
  • Leonard wants $3,750 per show for a maximum of six days work for the 1967/1968 season; $4,500 per show for up to six days work for the 1968/1969 season; $5,000 per show for up to six days work for the 1969/1970 season; and $5,500 for the 1970/1971 season for up to six days work per show.
  • On reruns Leonard wants 35% for the first rerun, 25% for the second rerun, 20% for the third rerun, 10% for the fourth rerun and for each rerun thereafter without stopping at the end of the fifth rerun.
  • Leonard wants specific language in the contract that the billing he is currently receiving cannot be changed without his approval.
  • Leonard wants the contract to specifically indicate in writing that the dressing room will consist of two rooms with a bathroom, a telephone in the permanent dressing room and a telephone in the dressing room on the set.
  • With regard to off-camera voice commercials, Leonard wants unlimited rights subject only to conflicts of sponsorship.
  • In connection with guest appearances in addition to or as part of the three out of each 13 permitted in each cycle and if STAR TREK finishes before the other one-hour Desilu shows, Leonard wants to be a Guest Star, at the top of the show, on the shows that are still shooting.8
Of these demands, Perlstein told Solow that, "usually I am a very peaceful and serene man but I must tell you that I told Alex off at each request and not only do I think that Leonard is sick but I think we can include Alex and Leonard’s business manager in this observation as well."(Had Nimoy actually received the demanded 10% payment for all reruns, after the third rerun, in perpetuity, he would have made a small fortune when Star Trek began playing endlessly in syndication shortly after the series completed its first run on NBC). The afternoon after writing this memo, Nimoy called Perlstein directly, without his agent or business manager acting as an intermediary, which only escalated matters. Perlstein recounted this phone call in a memo sent to Herb Solow (with Gene Roddenberry and Bernie Weitzman on carbon copy) the next day:
Yesterday afternoon I received a telephone call from Leonard Nimoy directly in which he indicated that since we weren’t interested in further negotiations and that we intended to exercise his option pursuant to our contract, he was officially advising me that he would not report for work when required notwithstanding the consequences that we may bring against him. Leonard was very arrogant in indicating that being an actor was not the only employment or source of income available to him in his life span. I told him that if we sought the recourse of SAG in suspending him permanently for willful disregard of his contract, he would never be able to work again as an actor. Leonard again indicated that he would take that chance.
I told Leonard that if he had any thoughts or other avenues in the theatrical industry, Desilu will exert all pressure to other producers of the entertainment industry to make known to all in the entertainment industry what he has done and what he contemplates doing.
Leonard seemed to indicate that he was still willing to negotiate and I told him that Desilu was not renegotiating but had reconsidered previous increase requests and had come to a final conclusion of the $2,500 per program fee for Leonard plus $500 escalations for each year thereafter for the balance of the original five-year term. 
A second purpose for Leonard’s call to me was to find out whether or not under the circumstances we thought it was advisable for him to go to the NAB Convention in Chicago tomorrow, I told him we were exercising his option and expected him to perform and, therefore, we would want him to appear at the Convention. I will check with Bernie Weitzman on this to see if he does, in fact, want Leonard there. I think it would be a grave mistake, and giving in to Leonard, if we did not want him to go to Chicago. Leonard is willing to go to the Convention if we want him to and I think he should go.
Will each of you [Herb Solow, Bernie Weitzman, and Gene Roddenberry] please advise your thoughts as to this matter and, if necessary, let’s arrange a meeting. My personal opinion is that we should exercise the option per the contract and not budge one inch from our last offer of $2,500 per program.10
Solow, Weitzman, and Roddenberry apparently agreed with Perlstein's assessment of the situation, and later that same day, Perlstein sent Shirley Stahnke a memo asking her to pick up Nimoy's option pursuant to the terms of his original 1965 contract:
During the past several days in my conversations with Alex Brewis and Leonard Nimoy I have advised that we commence shooting on Thursday, April 27, and will require Leonard a day or two in advance for purposes of makeup, wardrobe, etc.
Please prepare for signature an immediate confirmation of the requirement for Leonard Nimoy to be available for shooting on April 27 and prior thereto with respect to wardrobe and makeup for the STAR TREK series. The terms and provisions with respect to his employment for the second contract year (1967/1968 production and broadcast season) will be as per the contract, which is $1,750 per program.11
On carbon copy, in addition to various production personnel and executives, was Alex Brewis, which meant that Nimoy would have gotten the message almost immediately — Desilu was through negotiating. The next day, Gene Roddenberry sent Gene Coon a somewhat pessimistic memo which broached the possibility of replacing Nimoy with another actor:
Sorry to greet you back with this news, but our contract negotiations with Leonard Nimoy and his representatives seem stalemated. There is a possibility that we might have to start our second year of STAR TREK or even continue the show without Leonard Nimoy as "Mister Spock". Naturally, we hope we can avoid this, but despite our efforts to offer Nimoy a contract well above the original contract, an offer which I believe was eminently fair, his agents have placed totally impossible demands upon the Studio and upon Norway Corporation. They include such things as the absolute right to direct three episodes of STAR TREK during the coming year, Guest Star demands on other shows, a right [to] exclusively negotiate for himself records and merchandising on the Spock character, plus money demands that we could not meet this year and scaled up demands over future years that we could not meet then either.
We have a contract with Nimoy, once signed by both sides in good faith at the beginning of STAR TREK. Since we find it impossible to bargain with him, since they refuse to accept our best offers, or even discuss them reasonably, we've [had] no option but to inform Nimoy and his agents that he is picked up on the original contract and ordered to report for work per our schedule. He counters that he will refuse to report -- at which time we have no choice but to suspend him and take legal action.
Accordingly, I've been working with Joe D'Agosta on re-creating the part and creating a new Vulcan Science Officer, who can go to work on our first show.
Frankly, Nimoy and his representatives are very near trying to blackjack us into submission, by holding "Mister Spock" as hostage. In their enthusiasm over a first-year success, over considerable mail volume and public adulation, they are kidding themselves into believing a very successful and much-wanted actor named Nimoy joined us and did it all. And that our posture should be totally that of humble gratitude. I won't play that game, nor will Desilu.
I'm sorry about this. Naturally, I hope sweet reason will prevail. But if it does not, we must be prepared to continued [sic] STAR TREK with the same excitement and quality it has always had.12
In their new book, The Fifty-Year Mission, authors Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross state that "Roddenberry and Desilu were united in the notion of recasting Spock" at this point, but the evidence contradicts this claim.13 In spite of moving forward with plans to replace Nimoy in case negotiations failed, Roddenberry's letter quoted above makes it clear that the executive producer hoped Nimoy would return for Star Trek's second season. Moreover, when details of Star Trek's second season were announced in the March 29, 1967 issue of Weekly Variety, Leonard Nimoy was listed as returning alongside William Shatner. In contrast, the same article announced Mission: Impossible would have a new star with Peter Graves, replacing Steven Hill in the show's sophomore season.14 Finally, in spite of the contentious negotiation, Desilu did elect to send Nimoy to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Convention, which was held in Chicago that year, from April 2-5, 1967.15 On April 7, 1967, Back Stage confirmed Nimoy's presence at the convention, stating, "A real nice guy [at the NAB convention] was Leonard Nimoy of 'Star Trek.'—No, he did not have his big ears on!" The story also reported that Nimoy was attending Desilu's Suite at the expense of the studio.16

Nimoy may have been all smiles at the NAB Convention, but after returning home, he sent Ed Perlstein (with Roddenberry, Weitzman, and Solow on carbon copy) a letter that reiterated his serious intentions to walk away from Star Trek if Desilu didn't return to the negotiating table. This letter said, in part:
I am in receipt of your option pick-up letter and feel I must inform you, that under the terms and conditions stated in the contract and as subsequently amended in your verbal offer, I do not feel I can perform the services you call for.
I believe my reasons for this position were clearly stated in our telephone conversation on Thursday March 30.
I believe I have made my ideas quite clear, but my representatives will be happy to discuss any further ideas Desilu may have towards a happier resolution of this situation.
Since the studio has chosen to take a “freeze” attitude, I am prepared to deal with whatever “consequences” may arise from my action, if in fact there should be any.17
Herb Solow describes what happened next in Inside Star Trek:
So the empty threats and the mind games began. I met with Alex Brewis and explained the NBC-Desilu money problems—and made threats. "If your client doesn't report to work under his current contract, the studio will consider him to be in breach of contract, terminate him, sue him, and find some other actor to wear the pointed ears. Remember, it's not important who plays the role; any good actor can do that. It's the pointed ears that count; they're the star."
The studio position was reported to Leonard. He was upset at my reference to "any good actor" being able to play the Spock role. But he had his job to do. And I had mine. 
--Herbert F. Solow, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (1996), p.324
Although there's no archival evidence detailing this meeting between Herb Solow and Alex Brewis, there is other evidence confirming the substance of Solow's memory. On March 30, 1967, casting director Joe D'Agosta had sent a memo to Gene Roddenberry (with Herb Solow on carbon copy) listing over three dozen casting suggestions for a new Vulcan character to replace Leonard Nimoy's Mr. Spock.18 According to Herb Solow in Inside Star Trek, this memo "was a ploy, a bit of psychological warfare designed to induce Leonard to capitulate."19 If the memo did make it's way to Nimoy, it certainly would have reinforced that the studio thought any good actor could play the Spock role.

Additionally, the same day Ed Perlstein received Nimoy's letter dated April 6, Perlstein sent a letter to Chet Migden — at that time, the assistant national executive secretary for the Screen Actors Guild, who would later become the organization's chief negotiator  — starkly indicating Desilu's position in the matter of Leonard Nimoy and Star Trek. In the letter, Perlstein told Migden, in part:
As per my telephone conversation with you today, I am herewith forwarding to you a copy of Leonard Nimoy’s letter to me of April 6th which was sent by Certified Mail with a return receipt requested and which was delivered to me this afternoon. 
I would appreciate it very much if you would call upon Leonard Nimoy and discuss his intended breach and tell him the facts of life.  I would appreciate it if you would get back to me with the results of your conversation with him by the end of this week so that we can determine whether to commence legal action immediately.20
According to Inside Star Trek, the player that finally ended the negotiations stalemate between Desilu and Nimoy was NBC:
The final skirmish came a week later. NBC, the original campaigner against the Spock character and the pointed ears, hearing through Leonard's agent that he might walk off the show, was also furious. "What are we hearing, Herb? You're thinking of replacing Nimoy? Are you out of your mind? Our management would go ballistic. Research tells us he's the most popular part of the whole damn show!" 
The war was lost. Nimoy got more money: $2,500 per show plus $100 for expenses, better billing, a more lucrative merchandising deal, and more script input. 
--Herbert F. Solow, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (1996), p.324
Other sources have repeated the substance of Solow's account of NBC's intervention and studio's ultimate concessions to Leonard Nimoy. Marc Cushman and Susan Osborn's These Are The Voyages, for example, mostly paraphrases Solow when describing the outcome of the contract dispute:
The network had been monitoring the influx of fan mail and understood the importance of Nimoy to Star Trek . Solow was told to keep Spock on the Enterprise. There would be no further discussion. 
Nimoy won the battle by getting the raise he originally had in mind, not the outrageous one his agent had asked for. He would now be paid $2,500 per episode, with a raise of $500 per episode for each year to follow, plus payment of residuals increased through the fifth repeat. In addition, Nimoy would receive $100 per episode for expenses. He also received a more lucrative merchandising deal. To Roddenberry’s chagrin, there was one last concession -- Nimoy was guaranteed a right to give input on the scripts.
--Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn, These Are The Voyages — TOS: Season Two (eBook Edition, March 2014)
Mark Clark's Star Trek FAQ presents roughly the same account, although it claims that Nimoy also received "limited profit participation" in the series as a result of the negotiation:
However, NBC was adamant that Nimoy be retained. Eventually, the two sides agreed on a new salary of $2,500 per week with better billing, more story input, and limited profit participation. The rest of the cast received smaller pay increases. 
--Mark Clark, Star Trek FAQ (2012), p.131-132
When reviewing archival sources, however, it becomes clear that Solow's memory of the concessions made to Nimoy were a lot worse than the terms the actor actually received in 1967, and his memory of NBC's involvement may also be exagerated compared to what actually occured.

When Ed Perlstein contacted Chet Migden at the Screen Actors Guild, he asked for a response from Nimoy by the end of the week. Apparently, he got one; that Friday, Perlstein sent Shirley Stahnke a memo detailing the final revisions to Nimoy's original contract and asked her to send them to Leonard Nimoy for his signature:
All of the terms and conditions contained in the agreement dated June 2, 1965 will apply except as follows:
  • The initial program compensation for up to seven days work per program will be $2,500 for the second contract year (1967/1968 broadcast season); $3,000 for the third contract year (1968/1969 broadcast season); $3,500 for the fourth contract year (1969/1970 broadcast season) and $4,000 for the fifth contract year (1970/1971 broadcast season).
  • The residual payments with respect to programming for the second and subsequent contract years (commencing with the 1967/1968 broadcast season) shall be minimum for foreign; 100% of applicable initial program payment for theatrical release; and for network and/or syndicated reruns 50% of initial applicable program payment applied as follows:
                                             1st Rerun - 20%
                                             2nd Rerun - 15%
                                             3rd Rerun - 7%
                                             4th Rerun - 4% 
                                             5th Rerun - 4%
         There are no rerun payments due after the fifth rerun.
  • Desilu agrees to pay Leonard Nimoy $100 per program towards the expense of his personal secretary handling fan mail. This agreement to pay the $100 per program shall only be applicable with respect to the 1967/1968 broadcast season.
  • In the event Leonard Nimoy is required over night or for any duration of time to be away from the Los Angeles area in connection with the production of the program series, personal appearances on behalf of sponsors or network, the per diem to be paid to Leonard Nimoy shall be the same as the highest per diem paid to any actor on the STAR TREK series.
  • It is specifically agree that the billing afforded to Leonard Nimoy in connection with the 1966/1967 broadcast season shall not be altered without first securing Leonard Nimoy’s approval with respect to all programs produced in subsequent years in which Leonard Nimoy appears.
  • Leonard Nimoy shall have the right to do off-camera voice commercials subject to sponsor, time and network restriction and also subject to not receiving any mention of his name, either orally or on screen, in connection with said commercials nor in any way utilizing the voice of the character portrayed in the STAR TREK series. Leonard Nimoy will, none-the-less advise Desilu of any such off-camera voice commercials that he does. Except as permitted here under, Leonard Nimoy will not do any commercials without having first secured Desilu’s approval.21
This memo makes it clear that several concessions first described in Inside Star Trek, as well as other sources, were never actually granted. Nimoy did not receive profit participation — this would not happen until later, during the movies.22 Nimoy did not receive better billing (his billing remained the same in seasons two and three as it had been during most of season one, although it was put in writing that his billing would not be altered without his approval, possibly a consequence of the billing mistakes that had occurred on his credit during the first few episodes of season one). Nimoy did not receive a better merchandising deal. And, Nimoy did not receive greater story input, script approval, or anything else regarding the right to approve or comment on any scripts or story outlines in progress. It wouldn't make sense for Desilu to have granted any of these concessions to Nimoy — since neither he, nor his representatives, ever demanded any of them.

The big question is: did NBC actually intervene to keep Nimoy on the show? After reviewing the archival record, I find this unbelievable. In all the correspondence between the representatives of the actor and the studio in the UCLA files, the network is barely mentioned, and there's no correspondence indicating the network's intervention at any point. I think it is much more likely that, once SAG was involved, the potential career-ending consequences of legal action by the studio and suspension by the Guild became overwhelmingly clear to Nimoy, which forced him back to the negotiating table and allowed Desilu to dictate most of the final terms. Consider the various demands made by Alex Brewis on behalf of his client, and compare them to the terms that were finally granted by the studio on April 10, 1967:
  • Nimoy at first demanded $4,500 per show, and then made a counter-offer of $3,750 per show, with $500 escalations for each season thereafter in both cases. What Nimoy actually received was $2,500 per show in season two, with $500 escalations thereafter — the exact same terms that Desilu had already offered to Nimoy on March 29, 1967.
  • Nimoy first demanded 100% of his initial program rate spread out over the course of five reruns, and then made a more aggressive counter-offer for the same, plus 10% of his initial program rate for all subsequent reruns in perpetuity. What Desilu granted was an improvement over Nimoy's initial terms (SAG scale plus 10%), but was far removed from his demands — the actor received 50% of his initial program rate spread out over five reruns, with no residuals paid out for any subsequent reruns.
  • Nimoy demanded five times his initial program rate for any episode exhibited theatrically or $25,000, whichever figure was greater. On this point, the studio gave him nothing — his contract terms for theatrical exhibition of Star Trek remained unchanged from his original contract, dated June 2, 1965 (he would be paid his initial program rate).
  • Nimoy demanded that he direct at least one episode of season two, and preferably two to three episodes of the season. Instead, he was given no right to direct in his contract, and ultimately never directed an episode of the show.
  • Nimoy demanded a larger dressing room with specific amenities, including a private telephone. Although the studio had previously been open to installing a telephone for the actor, provided he paid long-distance charges, the final changes to his contract indicate he was given no phone or any other changes to his dressing room.
  • Nimoy demanded first-class accommodations and transportation for he and his wife for personal appearances related to the show, in addition to per diem as high as the per diem paid to any other actor on the show. Desilu acquiesced to his per diem demands, but his transportation and accommodation demands were denied.
  • Nimoy demanded that he be a guest star at the top of show rate on any other Desilu show still shooting once Star Trek wrapped production. This request was denied; ultimately, Nimoy made no guest appearances on other shows during the run of Star Trek (he appeared in a TV movie, Valley of Mystery, broadcast on September 29, 1967, but this was footage re-purposed from an abandoned pilot called Stranded that Nimoy had filmed in 1965).
  • Nimoy demanded the right to negotiate future record deals without Desilu acting as an intermediary, but no changes were made in this regard. Desilu informed the actor that he could independently negotiate all the record deals he wanted if they did not involve Star Trek or the Mr. Spock character, although Nimoy's next two albums would both feature Mr. Spock on the cover.
  • Nimoy demanded specific language in his contract stating that his billing could not be changed without his approval, which Desilu granted, although this was a very minor point, since Nimoy's billing was established by early in the first season and would not change throughout the rest of the series.
  • Nimoy wanted the unlimited right to negotiate "off-camera voice commercials...subject only to conflicts of sponsorship." Desilu granted Nimoy a much more restrictive deal in his new contract terms, allowing him the right to do off-camera voice commercials, but "subject to sponsor, time and network restriction and also subject to not receiving any mention of his name, either orally or on screen, in connection with said commercials nor in any way utilizing the voice of the character portrayed in the STAR TREK series."23 Moreover, the contract indicated that Nimoy would not do any commercials without first notifying Desilu.
Leonard Nimoy didn't get a raw deal from the studio — he improved his per episode compensation, received better residuals, gained a secretarial allowance to handle the significant fan mail he received, plus a few other, minor concessions — but it is clear that Nimoy was not in the driver's seat when it came to the final terms of his revised contract for the second season and beyond. It's also clear that many of the demands attributed to Nimoy and his agent, as well as many of the concessions made by Desilu, were recalled incorrectly by Herb Solow and Bob Justman in Inside Star Trek, and that subsequent sources have only exaggerated these claims, rather than clarified and corrected them. Hopefully, this piece will set the record straight.

Images courtesy of Trek Core.


1 Daily Variety, May 31, 1967, p.9 ("Leonard Nimoy and Nichelle Nichols, regulars of "Star Trek," have resolved their salary demands with Desilu, re-signed for next term.")

2 First Year Production Pay Rates, May 31, 1966, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 35, Folder 1

3 Memo from Shirley Stahnke to Bernie Weitzman, June 6, 1966, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection,  Box 27, Folder 18

4 Memo from Ed Perlstein to Herb Solow, March 20, 1967, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 35, Folder 11

5 Memo from Ed Perlstein to Herb Solow, March 20, 1967, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 35, Folder 11

6 Letter from Gunther H. Schiff to Ed Perlstein, October 14, 1965, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 31, Folder 2 (""The only cost that can be deducted from Bill's 5% is the distribution fee of 50%")

7 Memo from Ed Perlstein to Herb Solow, March 30, 1967, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 35, Folder 11

8 Memo from Ed Perlstein to Herb Solow, March 30, 1967, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 35, Folder 11

9 Memo from Ed Perlstein to Herb Solow, March 30, 1967, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 35, Folder 11

10 Memo from Ed Perlstein to Herb Solow, March 31, 1967, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 35, Folder 11

11 Memo from Ed Perlstein to Shirley Stahn, March 31, 1967, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 35, Folder 11

12 Memo from Gene Roddenberry to Gene Coon, April 1, 1967, reprinted in Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (1996), p.319

13 Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross, The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years (2016), p.150

14 "Desilu's Budget Soars to Record $21-Mil for '67-'68," Weekly Variety, March 29, 1967, p.64

15 Claude Hill, "Radiomen Map Clean-Up Battle vs. Dirty Records," The Billboard, April 8, 1967, p.3

16 Ted Green, "Main Street," Back Stage, April 7, 1967, p. 2, 4

17 Letter from Leonard Nimoy to Ed Perlstein, April 6, 1967, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 35, Folder 11

18 Memo from Joe D'Agosta to Gene Roddenberry, March 30, 1967, reprinted in Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (1996), p.321-323

19 Herbert F. Solow, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (1996), p.320

20 Letter from Herb Solow to Chet Migden, April 10, 1967, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 35, Folder 11

21 Memo from Ed Perlstein to Shirley Stahnke, April 14, 1967, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 35, Folder 11

22 Letter from Henry Holmes to Paramount Pictures Corp, June 18, 1984, Nicholas Meyer Papers, Box 48 ("Notice of Objections by Profit Participants 'Star Trek II'")

23 Memo from Ed Perlstein to Shirley Stahnke, April 14, 1967, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 35, Folder 11


The Nicholas Meyer Papers (1945-2000)

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

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

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

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

These Are The Voyages — TOS: Season Two (Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn, March 2014)

The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years (Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman, 2016)


  1. Nimoy did do some game shows during "Star Trek"'s run. I remember him on "You Don't Say". With his Spock haircut. Shatner wanted to direct as well. According to the late Joan Winston, Shatner was to direct the 26th episode of season three. Since only 24 episodes were shot, Shatner's shot at directing "Trek" was put on hold for 20 more years.

    1. In addition to game shows, Nimoy made appearances to promote Star Trek on The Today Show, The Pat Boone Show, and several others during the run of the series.

      I'm still looking for a primary source that confirms the anecdote about Shatner being booked to direct a potential 26th episode of the third season - to date, though, I haven't found it. Given that he ended up directing several episodes of T.J. Hooker - his next network television series with a multi-season run - it certainly makes sense.

      Speaking of directing, Nimoy appears to have directed a 30 minute short film in mid-1966 called "Jack & Jill" starring Maria Hahva and Don Henley. Don't know much more about it (it's not listed on IMDb), but him directing it was announced in the May 3, 1966 issue of The Hollywood Reporter (page 7).