Fact-Checking Inside Star Trek: The Real Story

Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by Harvey, Jun 7, 2013.

  1. erastus25

    erastus25 Commodore Commodore

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    That's a pretty massive difference in story though. 200k letters and a complete overload of NBC's ability to process vs. 16k and a minor nuisance. I do agree with the interp that Roddenberry was at least in contact with Trimble.
     
  2. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    It's not from The World of Star Trek. Quoting Bjo Trimble, Gerrold writes:

    "Other shows had been renewed because of letter writing campaigns in the past, and in those cases, it had taken a great deal fewer letters, so when we heard that more than one million people had written in, we felt pretty good." (P.166)

    I'll keep digging.
     
  3. erastus25

    erastus25 Commodore Commodore

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    If it helps, I just found this:
    http://www.tvobscurities.com/articles/save_our_show_campaigns_prior_to_star_trek/

    It's a list of shows from the 1950s that were "saved" by letter writing campaigns. It's heavily sourced back to newspapers and, in some cases, has quotes from network execs admitting that the letters helped.

    At the very least we know that any source that claims Star Trek was the "first of its kind" to be "saved" by a letter writing campaign is definitely wrong. Whether or not Cushman is the first to make that claim...
     
  4. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    I recall reading of previous letter campaigns, but no specofics were given. It's easy to see how "the largest" and "most well known example" could be later interpreted as "the first successful" campaign.
     
  5. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Oh, TV Obscurities is great! If I write a fact check on this point, that post would be my first source.

    I think you're giving Cushman entirely too much credit here. No scholar worth her salt would make that jump.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2015
  6. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    ^^ I'm not talking specifically about Cushman. I'm talking about the accepted notion among fans. Your own work has been about debunking long held myths that are still held by some fans and still repeated in print and in the media.

    - TOS had the "first inter-racial kiss." Wrong (but it's the most well known)
    - NBC didn't like the character of Number One and the idea of a female second in command. Wrong
    - NBC wasn't crazy about mixed racial casting. Wrong
    - TOS was an ensemble show. Wrong
    - TOS was produced on a nothing budget. Wrong (although it wasn't really sufficient particularly when Paramount cut the budget back)
    - TOS was camp. Wrong (although there are a couple of exceptins)

    I'm sure there are others I'm missing at the moment.
     
  7. Noname Given

    Noname Given Vice Admiral Admiral

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    You left out:

    TOS was the only show to get a second Pilot episode (or it was 'extremely rare) - when in fact both 'Lost In Space' and 'Gilligan's Island' effectively got second pilot requests before finally making it to the air. (And at around the same time that GR, H. Solo and Dersilu were first pitching 'Star Trek' to NBC.
     
  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That's not correct. Rather, both those shows had their pilots recut and reworked into different versions after their respective series were bought. In the case of Gilligan's Island, what ended up as the premiere episode was a hodgepodge of scenes from the original pilot, reshot scenes with the replacement actors for the Professor and the girls, and the bulk of what was supposed to be the second episode. A few months after that, the majority of the abandoned pilot was cut into the Christmas episode as a flashback. In the case of Lost in Space, the pilot footage was spread out among episodes 1, 3, 4, and 5 of the series, interspersed with new material featuring Dr. Smith and the Robot.

    So it's true that in both cases, the premiere episode was different from the pilot episode (while incorporating portions of it). But neither of those was a second pilot, meaning a demo episode made to sell an unsold show. In both cases, the network bought the show and then ordered the pilot retooled. That's a different case from Star Trek, where a second, entirely new pilot was ordered before the series was bought.
     
  9. Noname Given

    Noname Given Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Well, to be honest had Jeffery Hunter stayed the Captain, the same situation (using scenes from the first pilot) would most likely have occurred with Star Trek too. That's why 'The Menagerie' was done - they wanted to get some use out of the 600K or so spent on the original pilot. The fact remains, MANY a show got a 'second chance' at a pickup after the Network passed on a first pilot and gave notes to the executive producer/creator. GR's whole point of the story has always been basically, "The Network gave us a second shot because 'Star Trek' was 'special'..." which is all honesty is not entirely true. If I'm not mistaken the Network passed because of:

    1) Issues with casting (which is NOT uncommon for ANY new show pilot)

    2) Given the cost of the actual first pilot (and the extra footage because GR's and Solo's backup plan if the network completely passed would have been to release the first pilot to theatres in a limited run); the Network execs still had to be convinced Desilu could produce episodes week to week on a very strict budget - and they wanted to see what an actual episode for TV would look like - which in not what they got from the first pilot.
     
  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That's not the point. The point is that in the cases of Gilligan's Island and Lost in Space, the pilots were only retooled after the series had been acquired by the network -- as, indeed, many pilots are, though usually not to such an extreme degree. So each series required only one pilot in order to sell it. The modified first episodes were premieres, not pilots. We tend to use the two words interchangeably, to call any first episode a "pilot," but strictly speaking, a premiere is only a pilot if it's made before the series is picked up. So neither Gilligan's Island's "Two on a Raft" nor Lost in Space's "The Reluctant Stowaway" constituted a second pilot. They are not analogous to "Where No Man Has Gone Before," an actual second pilot that was ordered before the series was picked up. Neither show needed a "second chance." They were sold on the first try, but they needed revision before they were ready for broadcast.

    After all, a pilot is just a demo reel. Its purpose is to sell the show to the network, not necessarily to be broadcast itself. A number of older shows had pilots that were never aired at all. So it's not uncommon for a show to be bought and then reworked when it goes into production. Star Trek is a different case, because it had a second pilot requested before it was bought. (And it's worth noting that "Where No Man Has Gone Before" was re-edited before being aired as the third episode of the series, though only slightly -- given new titles and opening narration, trimmed of a couple of short scenes, that sort of thing.)


    Yes, but again, in the cases you cited, the cast changes weren't made until after the shows were bought -- in the same way that ST replaced Piper with McCoy and Alden with Uhura after the second pilot sold the show.
     
  11. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Did Carl Reiner have to shoot a second pilot when he recast what became The Dick Van Dyke Show, or did the heavily revised show go straight to series?
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I found The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book by Vince Waldron on Google Books, and it does say that there was both a pilot for Head of the Family (the original version with Carl Reiner as Rob Petrie) and a separate pilot for The Dick Van Dyke Show. But I suppose that's different because they were under two different titles, and because it wasn't a case where a single buyer gave the show a second chance and then bought it. Rather, it wasn't until after the Head pilot failed that Sheldon Leonard got involved and worked with Reiner to retool it and start over.
     
  13. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    I think that's splitting hairs just a little, but you're right that the circumstances were different than Star Trek. Getting a second pilot order was definitely unusual, so I'd be surprised if the circumstances were more than broadly similar the few times it happened before NBC decided to produce a second Star Trek pilot in 1965.

    Here's an obscure one I found looking for "second pilot" in the Variety archives. "I Remember Caviar" was a thirty minute sitcom pilot from 1959 starring Pat Crowley about a wealthy family forced into poverty. It was produced by Screen Gems for NBC, but was not picked up. However, NBC and Screen Gems decided to try again, shooting a second pilot called "All in the Family" (not to be confused with the Normal Lear show that would be produced a decade later), again with Pat Crowley in the lead. Again, Screen Gems produced for NBC. Unlike Star Trek, though, NBC must have passed on the series. Both pilots ended up showing as installments of Goodyear Theater on NBC, one in 1959 and one in 1960.
     
  14. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    The Encyclopedia of Television Pilots (1937-2012) lists some others:

    Lum and Abner: Two pilots were made attempting to adapt this popular radio show into a television series, first in 1949 (for CBS) and later in 1951 (for ABC). Neither went to series.

    The Boston Terrier: Blake Edwards wrote and produced two pilots for this series which aired as episodes of The Dick Powell Theatre on NBC. The first was a 60 minute pilot produced in 1962. The second pared down the concept into a new, 30 minute pilot produced in 1963. Both starred Robert Vaughn. Neither sold.

    There appear to be a few others, but I've maxed out the number of pages I can view on Google and Amazon, and even the eBook is beyond my price range at the moment. Outside of The Dick Van Dyke Show, I haven't found any shows before Star Trek that had a second pilot and went to series. Carl Reiner's show may have been the first, and Roddenberry's the second, but I haven't done enough research to be able to say so with much authority. It's possible there were others.
     
  15. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Later still, "All In the Family" shot its pilot three times, with different actors playing Meathead and "Little Goil" each time, but always the same script.
     
  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Doctor Who reshot its "pilot," but it wasn't an actual pilot in the sense of a demo for an unsold series. The series was developed in-house at the BBC, so it didn't have to be sold. The premiere episode was reshot simply because the executive who'd created the series, Sydney Newman, felt it had turned out badly (there were technical and performance issues) and decided to give the producer a second chance to get it right. BBC shows at the time were recorded as if live, performed straight through with only a few recording breaks permitted for each episode, so reshooting the pilot was kind of tantamount to just doing a new take of a scene after botching the first one.
     
  17. MantaBase

    MantaBase Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I think what Christopher says is correct. I am not sure which books you are talking about, but unless it is an autobiography the use of third person works better for the reader. It's less confusing.

    EDIT: Opps...think I just replied to a months old post. Sorry.
     
  18. Balok's Head

    Balok's Head Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Harvey, I just saw your blog and have found it incredibly interesting!
    Opportunities to come across info on the OS are few and far between for me now so finding out new things at this point is simply amazing.

    I particularly loved the entry on the shooting of 'I, Mudd' and was amazed to learn that much of this information is available to the public!

    However my current location makes studying these materials impossible.. (New Zealand..) I would love to see some shooting schedule information on 'The Corbomite Maneuver' as it was the first series production. Is this possible? I'm also interested in 'The Devil in the Dark', specifically what scenes were shot before and after Shanter left for Florida for the burial of his father.

    Just a few ideas for future articles, maybe? :drool:

    Thanks for all your hard work so far!


    Scott.
     
  19. Shaka Zulu

    Shaka Zulu Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    As you say, and yet, there's this British musical...

    Just sayin'.
     
  20. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    I found one:

    The show lasted three seasons (two on ABC, one in syndication) before being cancelled. The original pilot doesn't appear to have ever been broadcast and isn't on DVD.
     

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