Monday, January 12, 2015

A Perfect End to the Tilt-a-Whirl Tale of TV’s STAR TREK

            These Are the Voyages:  TOS Season Three is finally in release!  This monumental book series by Marc Cushman illuminates the background and creation of the world-bestriding colossus that is Star Trek.

            The reason these books take so long to produce is the miles-deep research involved.  Over a span of years (and in some instances, decades), Cushman was able to interview the principal creators, and also achieved access to tons of studio paperwork, story proposals, casting lists, budget memos, and other original documents.

            He puts this together with contemporary press coverage and retrospective quotations from cast and crew, and, hey presto! the answer to every TREK or pop culture fan’s dream!

            We have in-depth descriptions of each episode’s genesis, development, and production; narratives of crew and cast changes; and for me the most interesting of all, the part telling the day-to-day stuff.  We learn how much time was spent on this stage or that; the changes in a character’s name or which directors were sure-footed or floundering; and about a gazillion other details that make you feel like a tribble on the wall.

            As I noted in my reviews of the first two books in this series, another mind-blower is the inclusion (and explanation) of the TV ratings for Star Trek’s NBC run.  Contrary to the popular narrative that Trek flopped in the ratings, we are shown that nearly every week, the show either won or took second place in one or both of its half-hour segments.  My own conclusion is that show creator Gene Roddenberry was too much of an irritant to NBC, Desilu, and Paramount executives.  (Read these books for plenty of ammunition for this opinion.) 

            As I wrote in 2013 to Marc about this topic:  “GR’s behavior once again proves that, while some idols have feet of clay, others replace clay with something more nasty.  This kind of behavior – me-first; willing to cross ethical and legal boundaries to benefit yourself; fire good, loyal, devoted employees to install others you like better – makes me sad.”

            Also, Star Trek was (of course) an expensive show to produce, nearly bankrupting Desilu before the production company was sold to Paramount.  So, the factors of expense plus “that darn Roddenberry” and his rebellious attitude were a couple of the major factors that doomed the series.

            As I pronounced when I encountered the first book, “TOS One,” this is going to be the primary research document for future researchers.  The only thing to be wished for is an index of names.  But, so loaded is every page, any index would be about as long as the book! 

            Now,  I consider myself an original Trekker.  I watched the show on NBC and in syndication; I taped episode audio from TV speakers on my “cassette-corder”;  I’ve had TREK nonfiction published in several volumes of the “Best of TREK” book series;  I have about a hundred books and magazines concerning the whole TREK thing.

            Still, I can about open any of these books at random, point a finger on any page, and find something I didn’t know.

            You cannot be knowledgeable about TV production in the 1960s, and about the peculiarly American phenomenon known as Star Trek, unless you have read these books.

            TRUTH IN REVIEWING:  I am an editor for this book series.


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