Fact checking These Are The Voyages....

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Warped9, Jan 12, 2014.

  1. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    Regrettably the previous thread discussing this book was closed because things were getting out of hand. However, I think there was still much to discuss regarding the book's content.

    Up front I'll say that I bought the original hardback edition because I was dying of curiosity. I also wanted to read the revised edition of Volume One so I purchased the Kindle version of it. I will say that I enjoyed both reads although I still prefer a hardcopy version in hand rather than reading an ebook off a screen.

    The revised edition does read more cleanly than the original and no glaring spelling typos leaped out to my attention. That isn't to say there aren't any, but I didn't notice any the way I did in the original edition.

    The revised edition is said to have about sixty pages or so of additional materiel. It must be sprinkled throughout because I'm hard pressed to identify what was different from the first edition. Maybe someone else has been able to spot the additional materiel more easily. If so then I hope they would share what they noted with the rest of us here.

    Now more to the point I'm hoping we can discuss some more specific things (besides the added materiel), particularly in terms of certain assertions made by the author and whether they are indeed true or not. I'm aware of a few things, but certainly not all, and I'm hoping that a collective contribution by many of us can spot and discuss assertions made by the author and either refute or verify them.

    I will add that we needn't restrict ourselves solely to the text of the book because in interviews of the author, both in print in on video, he has been known to make assertions that might or might not be included in the book. In one video interview I saw he says that Star Trek introduced the miniskirt. In context of the interview he makes it sound as if the series introduced the miniskirt as a fashion. In fairness perhaps he didn't mean it that way, but such a statement is, strictly speaking, false. The miniskirt as a fashion was introduced before Star Trek was even pitched as a series and the miniskirt's development actually began in the mid to late 1950s.

    Another assertion made by Cushman (and widely held for decades) is that Star Trek was the most expensive series to produce at the time. This one I challenge because not long ago I read a book detailing the development and production of the original Mission: Impossible---in production at the same time as Star Trek---and I distinctly recall per episode budgets and budget overruns that were distinctly more than Star Trek's. If true then such an assertion is factually incorrect, and that's just one show. It would be interesting to know the budgets of other prime time series of the time such as Lost In Space, Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, The Time Tunnel, Land Of The Giants and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

    In the book Cushman states that NBC had no previous experience with science fiction. I'm striking out on this one. I know Harvey, in the previous thread, stated that wasn't strictly true but I can't find any references online to previous science fiction oriented shows on NBC prior to Star Trek. That doesn't mean there weren't any, but I haven't found evidence of it myself. Maybe Harvey or someone else can set the record straight one way or the other.

    It would also be nice if we can cite examples of factual errors in the first edition that were (hopefully) corrected for the revised edition as well as examples where the errors were not corrected.

    Of course, the biggest assertion of the book, and purportedly true of the second and third volumes as well, is one that Cushman repeats in interviews: that Star Trek was actually not the ratings failure NBC claimed during the series' original run and this assertion has been widely accepted for more than four decades. Cushman asserts, by citing archival documents of the actual Nielsen ratings reports from the time, that Star Trek actually won its timeslot or came in a close second. He asserts that this was true throughout its three year run including the Friday evening timeslot of the third season. He alludes that NBC, beginning after the first season's run, had other motives for wanting the show gone and fabricated the story of low ratings as an excuse. This assertion sets out to debunk a widely accepted belief that Star Trek was initially a ratings failure. Of all assertions made in the book this is the one that needs to be examined the most closely. It must be said that while today a show's ratings are not closely guarded secrets back in the 1960s ratings were something not shared by the networks, and so it isn't impossible for the ratings to be misrepresented simply because no one else but the networks had access to that information.


    On a final note I'm asking fellow posters to focus our discussions on the content in text of the book and to sidestep the contentious issue regarding photographs used in the book. I don't think there is really anything else to be said regarding that issue until (or if) new information comes to light.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2014
  2. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Sure. I wrote about this in my blog post discussing the second edition.

    First, this is what Cushman says in the book: "In 20 years of broadcasting, the network [NBC] never aired anything even remotely resembling science fiction."

    As I point out in my blog, the following five programs that aired on NBC demonstrate that this simply isn't true:

    Tom Corbett, Space Cadet (aired on NBC, 1951)
    Operation Neptune (aired on NBC, 1953)
    Atom Squad (aired on NBC, 1953 - 1954)
    Commander Cody (theatrical serial syndicated on NBC, 1955)
    Fireball XL5 (aired on NBC, 1963 - 1965)

    It's likely that NBC also broadcast a few motion pictures that were science fiction, but those five shows refute Cushman's claim well-enough, I think.

    --

    On the subject of the ratings, I intend to write a detailed post on my blog about them soon. To summarize a few things:

    (1) Cushman claims the ratings were a big secret; they weren't.
    (2) Cushman doesn't understand that Nielsen and Trendex were separate companies.
    (3) The book mostly ignores the difference between 12 city ratings and national ratings (Star Trek did worse nationally than in the 12 city figures, which just count urban markets).
    (4) He reports the show's victory in its timeslot and draws his conclusion; this information, of course, doesn't address how the series was doing against everything else on television (i.e. the numbers that matter most).
    (5) If NBC wanted to craft a narrative that the series had bad ratings in order to cancel it...why did they renew it for two more seasons (which cost them more to produce each year)?
     
  3. Cap'n Claus

    Cap'n Claus Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    With all of the shared sets, props and footage over at Fox, not to mention the increasingly small number of guest actors and large number of bottle shows, I can't imagine Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea or Lost in Space came close to what it cost to produce Star Trek. I believe in one of the Roddenberry biographies, there was a memo from NBC asking the Trek guys to compare the budgets between Trek and Voyage, since the ABC series cost less. After acquiring their budget sheets or something, Bob Justman found a number of reasons why the Irwin Allen shows were cheaper. There seems to be hints of creative accounting as well.

    I'd love to see a thorough research project on Voyage myself.
     
  4. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Also, here's what I wrote about the ratings in the other (closed) thread:

     
  5. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    I've read that memo at UCLA, but I've never copied it. Might be worth it. Or is the whole thing in the biography? (Presumably, the Alexander book, which quotes documents more extensively than Engel does).

    There's certainly plenty of archival material available for such a project. UCLA has all of the Irwin Allen papers from 1964-75:

    http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/tf1m3nb03k/
     
  6. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    See, the thing is if the show's ratings were truly disappointing then why renew the series (twice, after 1st and 2nd seasons) and continue losing money? Why not just be done with it?
     
  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    As for the budgets of other TV shows at the time, I wouldn't be surprised if Batman had a relatively high budget, what with all its big-name guest stars and elaborate stunt sequences, sets, and props.

    According to Solow & Justman's Inside Star Trek, for two reasons. One, the show was encouraging people to buy color televisions, the patent for which was owned by NBC's parent company RCA. So the loss to the network was made up for by the profit to the parent company. And two, the network executives liked the show and found it to be classy and intelligent and innovative, plus it was getting Emmy nominations. So they appreciated the prestige of having the show on their network.
     
  8. Indysolo

    Indysolo Commodore Commodore

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    I'm reading the Kindle version now. What jumped out at me was naming Wilbur Hatch "William". Also the discussion of the "Star Trek" theme in the "Where No Man Has Gone Before" chapter was oddly placed, as the theme was written for "The Cage" and not heard in "WNMHGB".

    Neil
     
  9. stcanada29

    stcanada29 Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Hi folks: I just wanted to say that I salute the effort to open discussion on this forum about the book series in a civil and analytical fashion that focuses on the accuracy of the historical information presented in the works. And I suspect that Marc Cushman and Gurian and all the members of the Jacobs Brown project team do/will welcome the constructive insights that are offered in the spirit of kindness. There is certainly a wealth of historical material in "These Are The Voyages" to trigger new discussion.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 13, 2014
  10. Indysolo

    Indysolo Commodore Commodore

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  11. stcanada29

    stcanada29 Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    As I am friends with some people on the Jacobs Brown project team; I did take the liberty of conveying a couple of the interesting Kindle format suggestions I saw in the other thread to the team - regarding right and left side text justification and also the lack of page numbers in the Kindle release.

    According to Marc Cushman, he prefers it when books are justified on both left and right sides, but encountered problems with the appearance of the text when he tried to change the format in his software - some words within some sentences were so crunched together that it appeared there was no separation between them at all. In light of this, and the fact that it seemed like over half of the printed books in a random sampling of his personal library are only left side justified, he chose not to justify the right side for TATV. So that allowed each line to be more relaxed and have the proper spacing between words. Regarding page numbering in Kindle, the decision not to include them was made by Amazon - which owns and operates Kindle. The author would prefer to have them, and there are plans to bring the subject up as a point of discussion with the Amazon folks.

    I also noticed the lack of an image of the back cover on the Kindle edition, and asked about that. Apparently, that also was a decision made by Amazon - which the publisher has already requested that they reconsider.
     
  12. 1001001

    1001001 I Like the Beats and the Shouting Moderator

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    Sweet Georgia Brown, you guys started this topic again?

    The last one led to closure, infractions, and a patented T'Bonz Tirade.

    No posts so far violate any rules, but I guarantee you this will be watched very closely, with no friendly warnings. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if T'Bonz closes it completely once she finds it.

    In the meantime, behave yourselves.

    :techman:
     
  13. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Dunno about Voyage, but per episode Star Trek's first season budget ($190,635) was higher than Lost In Space's budget in its third season ($164,788).
     
  14. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    Regarding the series budget, or at least in regard to the first season.

    "The Cage" was budgeted for $452,000, but went on to cost $616,000 for an overrage of $164,000 (the equivalent of over $1.2 million today)

    The Mission: Impossible pilot episode was budgeted at $440,300 yet came in at $575,744 for an overage of $135,444 (the equivalent of nearly $1 million today)

    These were both expensive pilots and yet considering the kind of show they were trying to do with Star Trek the costs really aren't that much different from the Mission: Impossible pilot which was (in some respects) a much more conventional type of program. Of course, it has to be said that Desilu wasn't happy with either situation. The studio suits pressured Lucille Ball to drop one of the shows, and since Mission: Impossible was considered more accessible as a concept they urged her to drop Star Trek.

    Despite the overruns this would have been considered spent money because often series pilots were not even aired. But in both cases that wouldn't happen here. Most of "The Cage," which NBC had already paid for, would be seen in the two part episode "The Menagerie." Both NBC and Desilu would come out ahead on that because "The Cage" had already been paid for, and so NBC would get two new episodes for the price of one to film the new framing footage for "The Menagerie." Also "Mission: Impossible's" pilot would also see the light of day at the beginning of its first season.


    Of course, we know NBC commissioned a second pilot after rejecting "The Cage" and that pilot would sell Star Trek as a series. "Where No Man Has Gone Before" was budgeted at $216,000 and came in at $355,000 for an overage of $139,000 (equivalent of $1 million today). While this is an expensive overrage Desilu got a break because NBC was willing to accept WNMHGB as one of the initial 16 episodes it was ordering for Star Trek's premiere season.


    Regarding Star Trek's first season, the first 16 episodes (minus WNMHGB) were budgeted at $193,500 per episode. When NBC picked up the series for the remainder of the season the remaining episodes were budgeted at only $185,000 each. This was quite a blow to the show even as they strived to control costs with the previous alloted budget.

    And so of the 28 episodes filmed for the first season (excluding WNMHGB) 17 episodes came in over budget while the remaining 10 episodes came under. NBC paid $5,114.000 for those 28 episodes and the actual costs came in at $5,260,603. The season overrage was $146,603 (equivalent of $1,054,586 today). In mid season Star Trek's per episode budget had been slashed $8,500 (over $61,000 today). If the budget hadn't been cut the show would have had season overrun of only $36,103 (only $260,000 today), only a bit more than a quarter of what it was.

    At the moment I'm challenged to compare this with Mission: Impossible's budgets because the reference I have is nowhere as detailed as what is outlined in These Are The Voyages. There are few examples given but the average M:I episode seems to have been budgeted at about $200,000 each. If true then right off this series was budgeted higher and thus projected to be more expensive than Star Trek. It's also cited that at least 22 of M:I's 28 first season episodes not only went over budget but also went over in days alloted for production. While Star Trek would struggle to stay on schedule with production and delivery dates to NBC meanwhile M:I would frequently go longer in production and often miss their delivery dates to CBS. From what I can gather the average overrage for the M:I episodes that went over budget is roughly $15,000 each. If that held true for the 22 episodes that went over budget then the season's overrage was $330,000 (today's equivalent: over $2.3 million).

    So by this one example it appears that Star Trek wasn't the most expensive show being done then. And addtionally it was less problematic and had half the cost overruns of its studio sister production Mission: Impossible.

    Another commonality between the two shows is that people were getting just as exasperated with M:I's producer Bruce Geller as they were getting with Gene Roddenberry albeit for different reasons.


    Another thing cited in These Are The Voyages is that Star Trek was a show comfortably within the Top 40. Meanwhile Mission: Impossible was supposedly coming in quite a bit behind (and definitely not in the Top 40) and yet there were no rumblings from CBS about possibly cancelling the show. Indeed all indications were they were very happy with the series.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2014
  15. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I have an easier time believing the latter than the former because by the time Star Trek aired NBC was the "All Color Network" so every show on it could sell color TVs. Maybe Star Trek's VERY colorful look was extra alluring?
     
  16. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    Isn't part of the issue here that the overhead charged by Desilu was much higher than other studios of the time?

    Maybe this info has been superseded over time, but I seem to remember reading more than once (TMOST, TWOST original edition?) that Desilu took a huge bite out of each ep's budget, practically to the degree that the CAA agency got a huge hunk of each series it successfully 'packaged' in the 80s, like THE COSBY SHOW.

    In a sense, TREK already had another big 'overhead' in place that almost no other show of the era had, in that there would be a (for the time) indecent number of opticals in every ep, and so of course that also takes a big bite from the total budget.

    This is just guesswork, but with the situation at Fox on the Allen shows, it is possible some of the costs of producing VFX weren't even charged to the shows, since the studio still had its own in-house FX dept., and the overhead for that wouldn't have been charged to the Allen shows, essentially saving them on having to pay for the creative/technical talent used.
    If Trek had been able to get by just using Howard Anderson, perhaps a similar savings could have been effected, since they were on the lot at Desilu, and later Paramount.
     
  17. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I also think Voyage did a lot more bottle type shows than Trek did. Many episodes took place almost entirely on the Seaview sets.
     
  18. M

    M Vice Admiral Admiral

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    With all the talk about Nielsen ratings and such, I'm asking myself if there is an extensive list of all ratings for all episodes of Star Trek. Does such a thing exist somewhere online? Are they reprinted in the Cushman book? Why do they never seem to appear in any form of list?
     
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Exactly. Star Trek was one of the most visually striking shows on the air at the time, with its exotic scenery and sets and visuals. Its special visual effects were groundbreaking stuff, using techniques that were new to television (for instance, using bluescreen mattes for spaceship shots rather than just hanging the models on wires like the Fox/Irwin Allen shows did). It was showing people things they'd never seen before. And that was a much more potent incentive for buying color TVs than just getting to see what color suit Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. was wearing. They actually conducted an audience survey asking what shows were motivating people to buy color sets in 1966, and ST was the leading answer, according to Solow and Justman. (I'd bet that Batman was a close second, though.)
     
  20. CrazyMatt

    CrazyMatt Captain Captain

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    Based on the books by Solow & Justman, Shatner, and now Cushman, I think the key factor in Star Trek's cancellation was the often caustic relationship between GR and NBC.

    While he was the head of Desilu (and later Paramount, albeit briefly) TV productions (official title: "Executive in Charge of Production"), Herb Solow was able to be a buffer between the 'combatants.' But when he left late in the second season, the buffer was lost.