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

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Old August 8 2014, 09:19 PM   #1
Botany Bay
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Vegas 2014 TOS news roundup

Hi guys, first in a series of rambling posts with news from Star Trek Las Vegas, from which I have just returned. Will try to get down every piece of info about TOS that I can before I forget it all!

Harlan Ellison stirred things up with the first of his three appearances splitting opinion on Day 1. He was in full flight over the three days, not afraid to tell rambling fans to "F---ing hurry up and ask the question!!", or, when realising his autograph line took up half the dealers' room, threw his pen down and said "F-- it! I'm not doing it!", and when the line didn't disperse quick enough, he walked along telling people to "F---k off!". I really don't know if it's all an act, but a lot of people swore off his panels after day 1 (fair enough if you have young kids), but those who put up with the grumpiness were rewarded with his no nonsense thoughts on so many topics. He is no fan of Joan Collins, who for years apparently explained she played "Hitler's girlfriend", in City which Ellison didn't appreciate one bit. He spoke of Trek's writing staff as loaded with "hacks" well versed in the Hollywood system, but lacking any real talent.

Touching on fan productions, social media and the internet, according to Ellison, as a society we have "plenty of availability but little excellence", and had some blunt advice for writers - you know if you've got it early on, don't waste your time if you have early negative feedback. This guy is no optimist that's for sure A line I will never forget : "At this point, I must say that the whole experiment that is the human race is not one I am sure is worth pursuing". Ouch.

He struck up a very close relationship with Grace Lee Whitney during and after TOS. Durning Ellison's second panel, which he shared with Grace, she revealed they could have easily gotten married, and Harlan was very protective of her, and a "crazy uncle" to her kids. During her personal battles post-trek, the 100% drink and drug free Ellison would grab a lit joint from Grace's mouth and snap it in half. There was a strong bond between these two, so Ellison obviously isn't all bad! He also has had a lifelong friendship with Walter Koenig, who he did his third and final panel with, and (unfortunately?) overshadowed Walter, who didn't say an awful lot, sadly.

More as time allows
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"Sometimes I get the feeling the only way we could achieve a STAR TREK segment on budget would be to have 60 minutes of Mr. Spock playing kazoo solo as Captain Kirk holds him in his arms while standing in a telephone booth."
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Old August 8 2014, 10:03 PM   #2
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Re: Vegas 2014 TOS news roundup

I honestly never looked much into the man's history, but he seems as if he may be somewhat of a schizo and probably a bit too full of himself. But then again, aren't we all?

Love the 'Hitler's girlfriend' stuff.
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Old August 9 2014, 12:56 AM   #3
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Re: Vegas 2014 TOS news roundup

Keep the 'rambling posts' coming, Botany Bay. Very enjoyable reading - even hearing of Ellison's rather well known asshole-ish behaviour.
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Old August 11 2014, 09:13 PM   #4
Botany Bay
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Re: Vegas 2014 TOS news roundup

Thanks bbailey861

Walter Koenig was asked about his favourite and least favourite episodes. They are City and And The Children.. respectively. City "even if Harlan wasn't sitting next to me - it was Star Trek at its finest", and Children "Star Trek at its worst - it was done simply to put someone into the show who had a bit of a celebrity profile at the time, and it was terrible".

I ran into Mike Okuda, who is a terrific guy. I asked him whether he saw TOS being remastered again, and he gave me a long technical expanation that was way over my head to be honest. But the bottom line seems to be that the powers that be are happy with the image quality of TOS, and further effects work isn't likely at this point. Nice guy.

(Off topic, but if you are hoping for a DS9 remastered project, unfortunately everyone who was asked was sticking to the company line - it will depend on sales of the TNG Blu Rays. Not very positive unfortunately).

There was a feeling around the convention that because TOS seems to come up in the very well made and generally very well received fan films - that maybe the next series could be returning to the TOS era. Any return to TV for Trek is not going to happen till the last drop is squeezed out of the JJ films according to Brannon Braga in his panel, and also Rod Roddenberry who was doing the rounds of the bars (another really great guy).

Braga by the way was incredibly candid in his talk. He said that ENT should have basically been a bridge to TOS, with Manny Coto running things from day 1, and the 4th season should have been the 1st. He revealed Berman didn't want to do ENT, feeling Trek needed a break, but was pressured into it. He said ENT was the worst kind of show to work on because it was neither a flop nor a success, and being "in the middle" opens you up to loads of creative interference from the network. He regrets the Enterprise finale, admitting it was a poor idea, and the only time in 4 years that nice guy Scott Bakula ever got angry with him.

Michael Forest (Apollo) is looking terrific and you can't help but be struck at his height - I am guessing he must be 6'5" or thereabouts. He was a delight to talk to - very gracious and genuinely appreciative of the fans interest in this one acting job he did 50 years ago! He said he had been pulled over on the streets of Rome - "Hey, you're Apollo!". His height apparently caused a few issues with Shatner who didn't want to be photographed in the same frame as Forest during the entire episode. Forest had a great time doing the fan film "Pilgrim of Eternity", but ultimately was dissatisfied with the final outcome, and, sadly, will not be doing any more fan films. When away from acting, his other great passion is flying - he is a qualified pilot. It was an absolute pleasure to meet this thoughtful, impressive man, who gave us a great performance in TOS.

More when I can...
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"Sometimes I get the feeling the only way we could achieve a STAR TREK segment on budget would be to have 60 minutes of Mr. Spock playing kazoo solo as Captain Kirk holds him in his arms while standing in a telephone booth."
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Old August 12 2014, 01:52 PM   #5
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Re: Vegas 2014 TOS news roundup

These are great to read, especially for those of us who were unable to attend.

Braga's comments, and I agree with them, are unfortunately too late. I think Ent should have continued with a season 5, 6, and 7 - all in the vein of season 4 - and with Coto in charge. I believe that the ratings would have improved enough to make the show some money while offering more quality shows for syndication, and perhaps more importantly, to the fans at least, it would have given the 7 year run 4 very strong years episode-wise which would have appeased many of the critics. The problem is that UPN dropped the ball right when the show was getting its legs.

I'd love to meet Michael Forest as well. "Who Mourns for Adonais" is easily in my top 10% of TOS episodes, due in strong part to Forest's remarkable performance of Apollo. I can't even guess how many times I've seen it but each and every time I still feel Apollo's despair as he fades away. That is mastering a role. Not surprised to hear that Shatner didn't want to be in the same frame as Forest, either.

Thanks again for the recap, Botany Bay. Looking forward to another.... no pressure .
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Old August 12 2014, 03:23 PM   #6
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Re: Vegas 2014 TOS news roundup

Fun guys, I had almost had a heart attack when I saw George Takei getting out of a cab right next to me in New York.

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Old August 13 2014, 09:06 PM   #7
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Re: Vegas 2014 TOS news roundup

Especially looking like that! Oh...myyy...

Back to Vegas, and non-fiction authors Marc Cushman and Susan Osborn were there selling the first two volumes of "These are the Voyages". I asked what surprises may be in store for fans in Volume 3, and he said that Roddenberry was far more involved in Season 3 than is generally accepted. The bulk of the scripts were approved by him, and if Season 3 was a triumph or disaster, GR should take more ownership of it. Interesting theory, and one we have discussed here quite a few times. I wanted to talk about some of the contentious points from the first two volumes, but he was in "sales mode", preferring to target those who hadn't bought it yet, rather than discuss it with people who already have it like me, which is fair enough. Susan Osborn was very pleasant during our brief chat.

Lawrence Montaigne (Decius/Stonn) is looking great, and is still enthusiastic about is roles in two of the greatest Treks. When I asked him how he felt having two of the very best Treks in his resume, he explained that both were by accident. He actually auditioned for the Commander role in Balance of Terror, but lost out to Mark Lenard. He wasn't all that happy, but decided to take the second prize of Decius because he was good friends with Lenard and wanted to work with him. His appearance as Stonn was even more interesting. Montaigne was actually signed by Desilu to play Spock's replacement if Nimoy had gone ahead with his threat to quit after Season 1. When Nimoy returned, the Stonn role was again, a "second prize". Montaigne was a pleasure to talk to, but as I left, I couldn't help but think of how different things could have been for him. I guess, as an actor, your career comes down to these big moments. Terrific guy.

Speaking of terrific guys, you can't get a more friendly or approachable actor than Sean Kenney (Captain Pike/Mr. DePaul). If you see him, you will not believe he was in TOS 50 years ago - he looks incredible. He is a huge fan of Roddenberry, who personally cast him as Captain Pike because of his resemblance to Jeff Hunter, and his ability to emote using only his eyes. Kenney recall hours and hours of tedium, sitting around in the chair under heavy makeup, and many frustrations as the makeup fell apart under the studio lights, but he never complained - it was his big break, being only in his early 20's at the time. During all the time sitting still in the chair, he found that people would often forget he was there, and he would pick up all kinds of gossip. As a reward for his enthusiasm and good spirits during The Menagerie, Roddenberry promised to create Kenney a recurring role, and hence Lt. DePaul joined as navigator. Kenney said Roddenberry also had one eye on potentially having to replace George Takei, who was not happy with his role at the time. Interesting. Unfortunately Roddenberry had a change of mind on DePaul, wanting to bring in a Russian character, and DePaul exited in favour of Walter Koenig and Chekov. GR helped Kenney find plenty of other work after the Chekov decision, and Kenney and GR remained close friends. I wish I could have chatted longer with Kenney - one of my highlights of the con for sure.
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"Sometimes I get the feeling the only way we could achieve a STAR TREK segment on budget would be to have 60 minutes of Mr. Spock playing kazoo solo as Captain Kirk holds him in his arms while standing in a telephone booth."
Bob Justman, 1967.
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Old August 14 2014, 04:10 PM   #8
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Re: Vegas 2014 TOS news roundup

I have both volumes and despite of the ongoing issues others have with the material, I have found them to be good reads. I am also looking forward to the third volume.

I'll bet Montaigne also wonders 'what would have happened if...'. It's hard to argue a scenario like that, but one can only guess that - especially in the replacement of Spock role - his life would have changed considerably.

If I am not mistaken, Sean Kenney wrote of his experiences on the set as well. I'll have to look that up.

Thanks, Botany Bay.
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Old August 15 2014, 09:21 AM   #9
Botany Bay
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Re: Vegas 2014 TOS news roundup

My pleasure. I agree with you about Michael Forest in Adonais. I just rewatched it, and it was a really high quality performance.

Speaking of top quality actors, the legendary British actor David Warner was introduced by a video tribute from Patrick Stewart, who said he was in awe of Warner during his early days at the Royal Shakespeare Company, and he played a minor role to Warner's lead, considering it an honour to share the stage with him. Warner enjoyed Trek V, and had no problems with Shatner as director, but you get the feeling he was a bit bemused by his small role. He was staggered to get a call to do Trek VI, bewildered that they'd bring his character back, but soon he realised it was Nick Meyer who wanted him, the pair having worked together on the classic film Time After Time years before. For the Klingon leader, they were aiming for a combination of Lincoln and Gorbachev. Warner was very modest about his acting, saying he basically just played variations of himself in each performance. His most famous Trek role (in TNG's Chain of Command as the Cardassian tormentor) came about when the actor they had in mind for the torturer became unavailable at the last minute, and Stewart talked the producers into hiring Warner. By then, the tables had turned between Warner and Stewart in the fame stakes, but Stewart did not forget his hero, and together they made one of TNG's finest shows. Next time you watch it, look at Warner's eyes - he said that every word he uttered in the show was him reading off sheets of cardboard because of the last minute casting. You would never notice it - what an actor.

Another Trek actor thrown in at the deep end was stuntman Bobby Clark (the Gorn Captain). Bobby is a real character and a great guy, and I had the pleasure of meeting him out at Vasquez rocks where he talked at length about filming Arena. I videoed a lot of his talk and will do a separate post when I get time to transcribe it, but briefly it was his good friend director Joe Pevney who got him the role. Pevney asked him to report to costumer Bill Theiss for his wardrobe, assuming he'd be doubling an actor, and Theiss rushed him through to a small room saying he'd find his costume in there. When all he saw was a wetsuit and the Gorn monster head, he thought "what the hell have I got myself into here?!". Bobby also appeared in Archons, Mirror Mirror and The Apple, all at the request of his good friend Pevney, who he said was a brilliant director, and highly respected by the Desilu powers that be because he could get the job done fast. I will have more on Bobby and filming Arena when I get time.
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"Sometimes I get the feeling the only way we could achieve a STAR TREK segment on budget would be to have 60 minutes of Mr. Spock playing kazoo solo as Captain Kirk holds him in his arms while standing in a telephone booth."
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Old August 15 2014, 09:42 PM   #10
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Re: Vegas 2014 TOS news roundup

This is all great stuff, thank you Botany Bay!

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Old August 17 2014, 12:38 AM   #11
Botany Bay
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Re: Vegas 2014 TOS news roundup

No worries, Capt!

Bruce Hyde only appeared twice as Kevin Riley, but boy did he make the most of his appearances. His autograph lines were long, and rightly so after his memorable efforts in TOS. His casting was basically down to the fact he was on the books already at Desilu as an actor, and then again when they needed someone to play "Daiken" in Conscience of the King, they just crossed that name out and changed it to Riley.

Despite the positive reaction to his appearances (and the fact the Sulu character may have been on thin ice - see posts above), Hyde recalls no plans to bring him back after Conscience. Instead he went off to do a musical in San Francisco, but dropped out of it midway through its run so he could basically become a hippie. He ended up returning to university, obtaining a PHD and rising all the way to Professor, a position he holds to this day. He says that for years his students would come up to him, saying "you're Kevin Riley!!", which he got a kick out of, but sadly it doesn't happen so often these days. He has had a recent health scare, but seems to be on the recovery trail, and was in great form during his short (too short), Q & A. I think its pretty cool that someone who has had such a great career as an academic is still happy to take time out and come and meet Trek fans 50 years on.

William Shatner was in his usual brilliant form during his Q and A. I am always amazed at his energy levels, I have no idea how he does it. You can see in these appearances why he became the star he is, he grabs the audience, and doesn't let go. He is also very, very funny. He is respectful to the fans, but just underneath, bubbling under the surface, you feel he could break out into "Get a life!" mode at any second.

He spoke about his friendship with Ricardo Montalban, who built up his enormous upper body strength to compensate for his legs, which he injured in some way. Shatner would often visit him socially, and had a hard time dealing with Ricardo's decline given what a vital, powerful guy he was.

Shatner himself, although on crutches from a horse riding accident ("Young horse. Old rider."), looked as slim and as well as I've seen him in quite a while.

He spoke about Star Trek V, saying it was Gene Roddenberry of all people who shot down his idea of meeting God. You'd think GR would have been happy to see this idea finally get onscreen after all the studio problems he had with his "God Thing" idea in the 70's, but Roddenberry was the first person to demand compromises, and Shatner said this was his mistake with V : he made one compromise, then another to the point where the film didn't much resemble his vision. He quickly moved on from talking about Trek V, which is a shame, I'd love to hear more about the troubled making of this film.

His opinion of the JJ films is pretty positive, describing Abrams' talent as being able to give Star Trek "a ride", and he is full of praise for Chris Pine as Kirk.

In typical Shatner style, he has about 5 documentaries, pilots and other projects on the go, but the one that really leapt out at me has nothing to do with TOS, but TNG of all things.

I have long suspected there is quite a tale to tell about the troubled birth of TNG, and have urged authors on here to write a book about it, but it looks like Shatner is finally going to explore this topic in a new documentary. He showed some clips from it, and he looks to have done his homework, interviewing dozens of actors and producers. The presentation looked really slick too, and I'm looking forward to hearing the uncensored version of TNG's birth. Hopefully now enough time has passed we can find out just why so many writers were fired, and friendships burned during those early years.

Well that's about it for now in terms of TOS. I still need to go through my pics and videos from the trip, and if that triggers anything else I will post it here of course.

Just a tip from a first time Vegas attendee : don't overdo the autographs and photo ops I like I did - you spend a lot of time in lines (which is nice in a way because you get to meet other fans, but unfortunately I missed a few panels I would have loved to have seen). The convention are is also massive, and it takes a lot of time to walk around the place - as time goes on you meet so many new friends and saying hi to everyone makes it a very long walk between venues! If I could do it again I would prepare a personal schedule of my must see panels - the official guides are great, but there is just so much going on, it can be a bit overwhelming on your first time.

In the next few weeks I will also post my pics from visiting many of the TOS filming locations (another life long dream I was able to realise on this trip) prior to heading out to Vegas, and something special for fans of the episode Arena.
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"Sometimes I get the feeling the only way we could achieve a STAR TREK segment on budget would be to have 60 minutes of Mr. Spock playing kazoo solo as Captain Kirk holds him in his arms while standing in a telephone booth."
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Old August 18 2014, 05:37 PM   #12
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Re: Vegas 2014 TOS news roundup

Your posts have been a joy to read, Botany Bay. It's easy to see that you had a great time - it shows in your writing. Looking forward to whatever you have to offer in the future.
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Old August 21 2014, 12:04 AM   #13
Botany Bay
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Re: Vegas 2014 TOS news roundup

Thanks. I am glad you enjoyed them

Just a quick bit of trivia I had never heard before courtesy of Trek author/guru/all round hilarious guy Larry Nemecek.

He said he was interviewing Bob Justman once (he has a lot of Justman stuff on file waiting for a book project - come on Larry, do it!) and they were talking about The Paradise Syndrome. Remember the shot of Kirk and co looking across the lake? We see the natives on the other shore cleaning their canoes, but none actually in the water.

This was because after hiring the canoes, nobody actually asked whether they were allowed to use them on the water. Of course, the area they filmed in was a reservoir, so they were not allowed to swim or use the boats.

The ever frugal Justman was furious, and demanded they appear on screen anyway, just sitting by the shore : "We paid for 'em and we're damn well gonna use 'em!"
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"Sometimes I get the feeling the only way we could achieve a STAR TREK segment on budget would be to have 60 minutes of Mr. Spock playing kazoo solo as Captain Kirk holds him in his arms while standing in a telephone booth."
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