Has Fred Freiberger been misblamed for Season 3 over the years?

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Lance, Dec 9, 2013.

  1. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Who knows? I'm on the fence about whether Assignment: Earth would've made a good series; the idea had potential, but the actual episode didn't necessarily sell it too well. I've read the script for the original, non-Trek-related '66 pilot, and it was pretty awful. I get the impression it was meant more as a sitcom, sort of like My Favorite Martian but with more spy-vs.-spy, but it wasn't at all funny. The proposal Art Wallace and Roddenberry did for the Trek-spinoff series sounded a lot more interesting. It stressed that the crises would come from human flaws and foibles rather than aliens and fanciful phenomena (which was largely to contrast it with the competition, The Invaders). That could've made it a nice, smart drama, and one with diverse story possibilities, or it could've proved limiting.

    There was also The Questor Tapes, which was basically a rehash of the A:E premise (cool, intelligent being uses alien tech to shepherd Earth away from self-destruction), but I think it would've been a stronger series, since Robert Foxworth and Mike Farrell had a great chemistry, a lot like Kirk and Spock. I never felt Robert Lansing and Teri Garr had the same kind of rapport. (Of course, if A:E had gone to series, there could've been a cast change -- either a new sidekick or a recast Roberta, without explanation in either case, which was common back then.) Although a Questor series would've been stronger if the movie hadn't already resolved his quest, if there'd been some ongoing mystery about his origins and nature.

    Then there's Genesis II/Planet Earth. That had potential, and was designed to be a "Hundred Worlds" series like Trek, visiting a different exotic culture every week, just on post-apocalyptic Earth instead of space. Actually this idea was executed elsewhere, in the Logan's Run series and Ark II on Saturday mornings, with limited success. So G2/PE might not have lasted much longer than those. G2 definitely wasn't viable in that form; Alex Cord wasn't an appealing enough lead, the PAX culture was too sterile and unsympathetic, and the look was rather unappealing. The retooled, mostly recast Planet Earth version worked much better, though, and could've spawned a viable series -- although it would've been marred in retrospect by some rather ugly Native American stereotyping where Ted Cassidy's character was concerned.

    The other Roddenberry pilot that got produced in his lifetime was the supernatural-themed Spectre, which I've never seen, so I can't speculate on how it would've worked as a series. But in David Gerrold's The World of Star Trek, it was mentioned that he was working on an idea called The Tribunes, involving near-future police officers using advanced technology and methods. I've always wondered what that might have been like.

    Then there was Battleground: Earth, the pilot that was posthumously made into Earth: Final Conflict. I gather the aliens were more unambiguously villainous in the original, meaning it would've been more like V (which was why it was changed).
     
  2. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    Agreed.
     
  3. Botany Bay

    Botany Bay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Seconded.

    The only ones in season 3 I have to force myself to sit through are "And The Children...", "Let that be..." and "Plato's Stepchildren".

    For Season 2 I struggle with "I, Mudd", "Omega Glory", and "A Private Little War".

    In season 1, it's "Mudd's Women", "The Alternative Factor", and "Operation : Annihilate!".

    So Season 3 (in my opinion) has no more horrible episodes that the others. I think what drags it down is that the mediocre episodes number far more - there was just way too much time spent aboard the ship, talking, and the ship was just far too empty - we needed to be meeting new characters in that third season, but for budgetary reasons it seemed like the 430-man Enterprise was run by our seven main characters and half a dozen redshirts.

    To give you an idea of how frustrating it must have been trying to make Star Trek's scripts come alive on a budget of ~$200,000 per episode, this is a quote from the late, great Bob Justman I found in the new TOS book by Cushman (2013) :

    "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."

    :lol:

    The man was a genius. And consider he made that comment in 1967, before a couple of rounds of further budget cuts and a couple of contactually binding salary increases for the leads. Freiberger really was up against it.
     
  4. LMFAOschwarz

    LMFAOschwarz Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Funny you should mention that. I was thinking the tone of the narrator reminded me of a training video from the human resources department! :lol:
     
  5. LMFAOschwarz

    LMFAOschwarz Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Took me a while to get to this video. Actually it's quite good! I love how well it mimics the type of directing and camera work you'd see on 1999. The moving camera in the Eagle cockpit was actually a nice touch. There's also very little ambiguity of story considering without dialogue, it's essentially a silent movie.

    My favorite little touch has to be the floppy antenna on the moon buggy. :lol:

    All that, and even a light-hearted joke ending that actually made me chucle!
     
  6. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    I remember forcing myself to sit through SPECTRE and finding it hard to believe that with such a great couple of principalcast members, it could be so flat and almost unwatchable.

    I think QUESTOR shot its wad for a different reason than having already resolved Questor's nature (his incompleteness actually does work to make the characters complementary if it went to series); the series wouldn't have had John Vernon's character, which is what gave the thing its genuine complexity and depth (I've always thought that character was nearly entirely Coon's.)

    Having bought QUESTOR on DVD recently, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Vernon character is just as good as I remembered (I pretty much remembered the dialog at the end verbatim, even though it had been decades.)

    I suppose that they could have had a similar character in the series, but I can't imagine him having the ethical weight. I absolutely see Vernon's perspective about man, and I always tear up when he takes the homing device (have watched the last 10 minutes about 5 times already since buying it.)
     
  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    True, it is strange that the movie cuts off much of what would've been interesting to see in a series. But it does make it more satisfying as a movie than a lot of TV pilots, because it has more closure.
     
  8. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Well, let's not forget that it wasn't always the case that pilots were aired. Had the show been picked up it's possible the pilot would have never aired, especially if it contradicted the series to follow.
     
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Not in this case, because The Questor Tapes was a "backdoor" pilot, designed to work as both a standalone TV movie and a pilot for an ongoing series. That way, if the series didn't go forward, the expense of the pilot would not be wasted, because it could still be aired and syndicated as a movie, which it was. So it was always going to be aired. This is how all of Roddenberry's '70s pilots were done. Other notable '70s series like The Six Million Dollar Man and The Incredible Hulk also began as TV movies (2-3 movies, in fact) before debuting as weekly series.

    Indeed, TQT was picked up as a series before the pilot aired, but it aired anyway. It fell through because Roddenberry had a falling out with Universal and NBC about the direction for the series. They wanted to drop Mike Farrell's character, and -- yes -- to disregard the ending of the movie. Roddenberry refused, so the deal fell through. They may have been right about the latter, but Roddenberry was right about the former: the show needed the Questor-Jerry relationship.
     
  10. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    B.J. Hunnicutt was really good for M*A*S*H. I think TV got the better bargain, as it was.
     
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Yeah, but Roddenberry was entitled to fight for the good of his show, not some other show that would benefit from his loss. The Questor-Jerry relationship was the heart of the movie. It had the potential to be as compelling a pairing as Kirk and Spock. I can't believe NBC (or Universal?) wanted to get rid of it.
     
  12. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    You know, I'm not saying that the behind-the-scenes info that we have on The Questor Tapes is false (I mean, how would I know, right?), but we already know that Roddenberry's version of events with respect to, how do I put it, some of the other shows he's worked on are at least somewhat dodgy. Given that we're talking about something that arguably would have sabotaged the premise of the show, I'd like to understand more fully what the sources are for the narrative. Because it sure sounds incredible.
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Actually this information doesn't come from Roddenberry, for the most part. There's a great article with interviews with all the major decision-makers which unfortunately went offline five years ago, but thank goodness for the Internet Archive:

    https://web.archive.org/web/20081121211450/http://www.retrovisionmag.com/questor_tapes.htm

    So that's confirmation from multiple people, including the very person whose idea it was to drop Jerry and change the ending.

    I think Rhodes was shortsighted there. You could say that Kirk, Spock, and McCoy make one perfect person among them, complementing one another's weaknesses, but that doesn't mean it was impossible to put them in jeopardy or conflict.
     
  14. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Wow, thanks! Just to clone The Fugitive, huh? Well, The Incredible Hulk was that, and I guess, in the Hulk, Frank Price got a successful Fugitive clone.
     
  15. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    True that. I didn't recall they'd aired the pilot after deciding to pick up the series. One wonders if they'd have ultimately changed Questor's background since they'd "spoiled" it in the TV movie.
     
  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    As I said, they would've disregarded the movie's ending. Whether that meant just having Questor still not know his origins or having those origins change, though, is unclear.

    Although we have a precedent, or maybe a postcedent: TNG's Data (who was, of course, based on Questor) was originally going to have been built by advanced aliens who'd used him as a sort of "ark" for the memories of the human colonists on the world where he was found, but the series quickly disregarded that origin in favor of the whole Noonien Soong angle, and the stored-memories angle was ignored except in "Silicon Avatar" where it was retconned as just storing the colonists' journals and such. So maybe Questor's origins would also have been changed in the series, if they'd gone ahead with the revised plan.

    It's worth noting that The Six Million Dollar Man's pilot movie was contradicted in a number of ways by the sequel movies and weekly series, rendering it out of continuity. In the pilot, Oliver Spencer (Darren McGavin) is the head of the bionics project instead of Oscar Goldman (which is strange, since it was Goldman in the original novel the film was based on), and Steve is a civilian astronaut instead of the Air Force colonel he was in the series. Also, Barbara Anderson's character, a nurse whom Steve falls in love with while he's rehabilitating, is replaced by a different character and actress in a second-season episode that reflects back on the events of Steve's origins. So while the same basic story was still assumed to have occurred, a number of the details, including the identities of two of the key figures, were changed.
     
  17. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    I"m pretty sure there's a STARLOG interview with Richard Colla (and one in some unauthorized Trek book too) that covers GALACTICA and QUESTOR, including some mention of Nimoy for Questor and how THAT fell through (GR!!!) ... I don't know if it is part of the online STARLOG archive or not, but maybe that would shed a bit of light (the GR version on INSIDE STAR TREK is all about him wanting the robot to sleep with Dana Wynter and the network not letting him, which sounds like all the GR stories to me.)
     
  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I found a scan of a Colla interview by Edward Gross in Starlog #137 (an issue I still have, by the way) that has two paragraphs about Questor:

    http://www.byyourcommand.net/cylongallery/displayimage.php?album=1306&pid=24940#top_display_media

    He basically just says he chose directing Questor over doing The Six Million Dollar Man because he thought the former had more of a message, that quality is no guarantee of popularity, that it was revisiting Spock/Kirk themes of intellect vs. emotion, and that he liked doing it and was sorry it didn't get picked up. Nothing about Nimoy or the network/studio politics.

    I can't find any other Colla interviews in Starlog.
     
  19. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    Hmm. Then I'm guessing it might in I AM SPOCK. I know that in one of these interviews Colla talks about GR's THE GOD THING, and provides a more complete view of that story than I've heard anywhere else.
    ...

    I just checked around and according to trekweb, Ed Gross' STAR TREK THE LOST YEARS has the Colla interview about THE GOD THING.
     
  20. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk The Real Me Premium Member

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    I recall seeing Spectre when it was first broadcast and liking it a lot. Of course I haven't seen it since.