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Star Trek - Original Series The one that started it all...

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Old February 15 2014, 11:49 PM   #16
Harvey
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Re: "Spectre of the Gun" set "West of Mars"?

I'd say that the "planet of the hats" syndrome which set in during late season two ("Bread and Circuses," "Patterns of Force," "The Omega Glory," and "A Piece of the Action") was the beginning of a serious decline which the budget cuts of season three only exacerbated, so I'm glad that "Spectre of the Gun" took an alternate approach.
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Old February 15 2014, 11:50 PM   #17
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Re: "Spectre of the Gun" set "West of Mars"?

CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
Christopher wrote: View Post
Mr. Adventure wrote: View Post
The thing is every episode of Lost in Space at that point was just as minimalist, that one just happened to be a Western. The same technique was used in the next episode to represent Hades and a couple of episodes later a mad scientist's lab.
I don't think I'd say "minimalist" in LiS's case, since that implies some deliberate aesthetic consideration. It's Irwin Allen. The word is "cheap."
There was no deliberate aesthetic consideration in the case of "Spectre" either. It was budgetary. From Memory Alpha:

The original script specified filming the episode on location in an outdoor Western town. However, due to budget restrictions, filming was confined to the regular studio stages. To avoid having to build a complete Western town set, the concept of an incomplete town, put together from "bits and pieces" out of Kirk's mind, was developed, thus allowing the episode to be filmed within budget. (The Star Trek Compendium)
I don't mind the artistic explanation for Kirk's partial memories of the Western setting. I kinda like it.

I don't get the reason being a budgetary concern. Standing Western sets (on stage or on location) must have been everywhere in the 60s. Even first season TOS filmed on the street set in Mayberry USA. I'd think getting on any standing Western stage must have been quite easy and cost effective, even over creating something original for ST.

But I'm not in '60s TV production, so I'm just supposing.
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Old February 15 2014, 11:57 PM   #18
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Re: "Spectre of the Gun" set "West of Mars"?

@Harvey: Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention the Roman episode: cheesy also. I've no problem conceding the point that "Spectre" avoided that sort of Cheez Whiz.

I'm not sure how I see "The Omega Glory" fitting into the same mold though. Its script (or a version of it) dates back to the time of the second pilot.
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Old February 16 2014, 12:11 AM   #19
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Re: "Spectre of the Gun" set "West of Mars"?

It's definitely less "Planet of the _____" than the other three episodes, I'll grant you that.

But it's still a thinly justified parallel Earth story.

That isn't really a complete thought, but, there you go.

EDIT: I suppose the other three episodes lead with the parallel (hey, look, it's a Planet of gangsters/Romans/Nazis), while "The Omega Glory" makes this revelation the story's twist. Still...I can't stand the episode!
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Old February 16 2014, 12:30 AM   #20
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Re: "Spectre of the Gun" set "West of Mars"?

^ I think "Omega" comes off as a cousin of "Miri".
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Old February 16 2014, 12:47 AM   #21
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Re: "Spectre of the Gun" set "West of Mars"?

CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
There was no deliberate aesthetic consideration in the case of "Spectre" either. It was budgetary.
As I've already said several times, it was both. Yes, it has been stipulated that the initial impetus for the decision was budgetary. That cannot possibly be disputed. But that is not the point. The point is that they took that limitation and turned it into something positive. They embraced the artificiality and turned it into out-and-out surrealism. Instead of faking a blue sky, they lit it a vivid and unearthly red. Instead of disguising the soundstage walls, they deliberately cast shadows on them to make the visuals even stranger and more atmospheric. They used their limitations as part of the creative process.

This same thing is discussed in that article on ST's minimalism that I linked to above: the fact that the basic impetus for the show's minimalist style was budgetary, but they nonetheless embraced minimalism as an aesthetic and took it well beyond a simple matter of absence. The mistake in your argument is the assumption that a decision has to be either creative or practical, that one precludes the other. In reality, it's usually a mix of both. Dealing with practical limitations is an important part of the creative process, especially in film and television.
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Old February 16 2014, 01:38 AM   #22
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Re: "Spectre of the Gun" set "West of Mars"?

Christopher wrote: View Post
The mistake in your argument is the assumption that a decision has to be either creative or practical, that one precludes the other.
I don't really see this as my argument, as much as it appeared to be yours. I thought that you meant that Irwin Allen couldn't have been being a minimalist, because you were arguing that in reality his overriding motive was to skimp on expenses. The post of mine that you're quoting here was intended simply to refute that allegation, since Star Trek's aesthetic choice in "Spectre" was driven by the need to save money. What I meant by my post is that Star Trek's team did not elect to make the aesthetic choice on its own merits, which is what I thought you had just said about Irwin Allen.

If your argument is that Irwin Allen wasn't minimalistic, then that can't be because he was being "cheap", at least as long as minimalism and cheapness aren't really mutually exclusive. Level of virtuosity notwithstanding, since LiS appears as minimalist as Batman, I can't really see how the allegation that Allen was just being cheap matters anyway. It certainly doesn't matter, if one doesn't preclude the other.

Christopher wrote: View Post
Mr. Adventure wrote: View Post
The thing is every episode of Lost in Space at that point was just as minimalist, that one just happened to be a Western. The same technique was used in the next episode to represent Hades and a couple of episodes later a mad scientist's lab.
I don't think I'd say "minimalist" in LiS's case, since that implies some deliberate aesthetic consideration. It's Irwin Allen. The word is "cheap."
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Old February 16 2014, 02:53 AM   #23
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Re: "Spectre of the Gun" set "West of Mars"?

The surreal minimalism of "Spectre Of The Gun" works IMO because the Melkot was drawing from Kirk's mind. And it makes sense that Kirk's recollection of the Old West would most likely be fragmentary and incomplete, much like dreams are incomplete yet in dreaming we accept them without question.
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Old February 16 2014, 03:27 AM   #24
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Re: "Spectre of the Gun" set "West of Mars"?

I think "Bread and Circuses" was another very creative piece of work in terms of working within the (extreme) budget constraints faced from late Season 2 onwards (taken to a new level in Season 3 when mandated cast pay rises took another piece out of the set decorations pie).

In "Circuses" they wanted to do a Roman epic, but faced with the reality that there would be no Colloseum, but a rock quarry in Hollywood and a few interior sets, they emphasised that IV-892's Gladiator contests were designed for TV viewers, and as such, all they needed to film was the Desilu sets themselves. Very clever stuff, and like "Spectre", a decent episode was produced, against the odds.
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Old February 16 2014, 03:41 AM   #25
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Re: "Spectre of the Gun" set "West of Mars"?

My favorite use of minimalism in TOS is the set design in "The Empath." It's just a few set pieces in the middle of an empty black stage, but it's magnificently stark and surreal and eerie.
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Old February 16 2014, 03:45 AM   #26
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Re: "Spectre of the Gun" set "West of Mars"?

Here's from the Final Draft script of "The Last Gunfight" by Lee Cronin, dated May 9, 1968:


Scene 20 EXT. DESERT

The men are standing in the same position as before the optical.

Scene 21 OPTICAL

AS THE MEN LOOK ACROSS THE BARREN LANDSCAPE, SUDDENLY A STYLIZED SALOON EXTERIOR POPS IN. THE STARTLED MEN LOOK AROUND AND THE FALSE FRONT OF A NEWSPAPER OFFICE WITH ITS CUSTOMARY BULLETIN BOARD IN FRONT POPS INTO VIEW.



So, by the final draft, at least, the script was calling for a more surreal western town. If it had been done as a cost-saving measure, that decision was made while the script was still undergoing revision.
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Old February 16 2014, 03:54 AM   #27
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Re: "Spectre of the Gun" set "West of Mars"?

^ But, it would have been quite eyebrow-raising, if the characters hadn't commented on the incomplete structures, yes? I mean, that alone means that there had to be lines of dialog added to address it, after the decision was made to do it that way, right?
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Old February 16 2014, 04:39 AM   #28
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Re: "Spectre of the Gun" set "West of Mars"?

Christopher wrote: View Post
My favorite use of minimalism in TOS is the set design in "The Empath." It's just a few set pieces in the middle of an empty black stage, but it's magnificently stark and surreal and eerie.
When I was younger and first saw this I didn't care for it. Now I think it's quite effectively eerie.
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Old February 16 2014, 04:45 AM   #29
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Re: "Spectre of the Gun" set "West of Mars"?

CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
^ But, it would have been quite eyebrow-raising, if the characters hadn't commented on the incomplete structures, yes? I mean, that alone means that there had to be lines of dialog added to address it, after the decision was made to do it that way, right?
Well, it might have been eyebrow raising. But maybe not. My point was that when this Final Draft was scripted, it contained this script direction language, but it didn't actually contain that "incomplete structures" dialogue. In Scene 22 of the Final Draft script, there's the following dialogue:

KIRK
Spock? Evaluation

SPOCK
I'm quite at a loss, Captain.
Obviously, this is the American
frontier, circa 1880.

Chekov draws his gun.

CHEKOV
And these, Captain?

Of course, we know that the actual filmed dialogue from the episode is:


SPOCK
Obviously this represents the
Melkotians' concept of an American
frontier town, circa 1880.

MCCOY
It's just bits and pieces. It's
incomplete.

SPOCK: Perhaps the Melkotians have
insufficient data about this era.

KIRK: Or perhaps this is all they
require to complete the pattern
of our death.


I don't know if these late dialogue changes were from some last minute Change Pages, or if they were instead from some even more last minute on-set changes. (Someone with better script resources than I have might be able to answer that question.)

But yes, the dialogue seems to have been added to clarify the incompleteness of the sets. But my point is, that it was initially contemplated in the script as having been unnecessary to include this clarifying expository dialogue.
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Old February 16 2014, 08:18 AM   #30
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Re: "Spectre of the Gun" set "West of Mars"?

Warped9 wrote: View Post
Christopher wrote: View Post
My favorite use of minimalism in TOS is the set design in "The Empath." It's just a few set pieces in the middle of an empty black stage, but it's magnificently stark and surreal and eerie.
When I was younger and first saw this I didn't care for it. Now I think it's quite effectively eerie.

"The Empath" was filmed after Lost in Space was canceled. Good episode, stand-out music score.

The blacked-out-sound-stage look was a trick Lost in Space had used many times. It became almost a go-to solution whenever they could get away with something even cheaper than the "West of Mars" kind of deal. Sometimes the black sets of LIS were ethereal and wonderful ("The Derelict", "The Magic Mirror") and sometimes they just looked incomplete ("Kidnapped in Space"). Weak staging just means we have to focus that much more on the actors and story.

"The Empath" not only used the same affordable staging as an LIS episode, it used the actual freezing tubes from the Jupiter 2, probably rented from whatever prop house bought them from Fox. Yet it still comes off as good Star Trek, because everything else was strong.

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