Putting the Shatner "ego issue" from TOS to rest

Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by Gary7, Jan 1, 2013.

  1. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Hi, guys. This is my first post here and I'm enjoying all your contributions. Lots of good info.

    I just have one thing to chip in and it concerns the story about Shatner visiting Harlan's house and counting lines in the script. Maybe this is well known, but I don't think it's been mentioned yet.

    In 1966, agents of "leading man" actors were concerned about Jonathan Harris literally stealing LOST IN SPACE out from under Guy Williams. Harris poured on the personality and Williams became a supporting actor, a Mr Sulu at best, on his own show. It shook people.

    So these agents, including Shatner's, got contract clauses that required their leading man to have at least as many lines as the next biggest part in any script.

    Shatner had to check each script himself because 1) there was no Wm. Shatner Inc. with loads of assistants waiting for something to do, and 2) if you don't enforce your rights in a contract, you can lose those rights through a legal precept called laches.

    Laches, in contract law, means that if you don't enforce a right soon enough to avoid inconveniencing your opponent (who might come to rely on your slackness), then you lose the right in question.

    Shatner may have been vain, self-centered, and inconsiderate, but he wasn't stupid. With "Mr Spock for President" bumper stickers showing up, he didn't want to become the next Guy Williams, which on ST would mean a Sulu-sized role. Shatner had to count lines, and Harlan Ellison was entirely ignorant of the reasons.
     
  2. Ssosmcin

    Ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    ZAP! About time you joined the party. Welcome!

    Martin Landau had tat same clause written into his Space:1999 contract in the first year. So one episode had "Koenig narration" throughout to get his lines up to the contractual number.

    In the second year, Barbara Bain had it written into Catherine Schell's contract that she never appear as "Catherine Schell" - only as Maya or a totally different actress if she were to play a human female. Nobody could be prettier than Barbara Bain (no comment).
     
  3. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I can understand protecting the size of your role (although it greatly reduces the series' storytelling latitude), but protecting your status as the best-looking is a little bit sad. And forcing clauses into someone else's contract really smells.

    I actually joined yesterday btw, but they put you on hold for a day and make you take an oath attesting that you aren't a robot or a salesman.
     
  4. Ssosmcin

    Ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    How about a robot salesman?

    Bain was, apparently, insecure as all hell (she was over 40 at that point - and still is, ha). When a new female regular was announced, she insisted on being in on the casting sessions, I hear. They also had to ask her to "move her face around" when she acted. That first season whe was quite the block of wood.

    Getting way off topic here, sorry.
     
  5. TREK_GOD_1

    TREK_GOD_1 Commodore Commodore

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    Welcome to the boards, ZapBrannigan!

    That was sad--particularly since 1970s Bain had aged considerably since her Mission: Impossible days, and was not eye candy for Space: 1999 viewers. Schell was the breakout star of the show, and instead of focusing on something which could not be controlled (Schell's beauty), Bain should have upped her legitimate acting talents to stand out in the drama department.
     
  6. mos6507

    mos6507 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I had a personal anecdote at a "signing" at a car show around this time where Shatner looked at the line, freaked, and decided to just quickly shake people's hands and not sign. When I got to him, I had one line of interaction I wanted to have with him. I wanted to say I was looking forward to seeing him in Trek V. I opened my mouth and he stomped on it with a robotic line of asking me my name and saying "nice to meet you" and shaking me with his clammy hand. He just looked through me and didn't acknowledge that I was a real person. My experience of brief interactions with the other Trek stars at conventions was much more genuine.

    I respect Shatner's abilities and his accomplishments in film and TV, but he is an obnoxious personality. He has been able to embrace that negative image and make it into schtick in his elderly years, but back in the day it was kind of a dirty little secret only known to those who came into contact with him while he otherwise tried to keep up his reputation as a larger than life action hero and role-model. Shatner didn't even do conventions, by a rule, in the 80s, and when he did the "Get a Life" skit on SNL it was kind of inaccurate considering how few he was dong. Now he does them all the time and is much more self-deprecating. He really has lightened up.
     
  7. mos6507

    mos6507 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Yes, there were select episodes where secondary characters took center stage, but they were few and far between. Even characters that were written out of the show and are now considered on the very periphery of Trek once featured prominently (like Yeoman Rand). Different writers had different takes on the material. It went off in different directions and at times it did feel more ensemble than others.

    As far as fan sentiment goes, I would consider Trek III and Trek IV to be very much ensemble writing for the crew, and how most people would prefer Star Trek to be written. Subsequent Trek shows tried to be more ensemble (which was hard, TNGs cast was too big). And it's in the mid 80s that the anti-Shatner stuff started to hit fever pitch. So it made sense to me.
     
  8. mos6507

    mos6507 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Film is different. You work long hours. There is a sort of trench-like war-bonding that tends to take place on a set. If it doesn't happen, it's kind of weird. And when you keep coming back to work with actors over decades, you'd think some sort of familial bond would develop. But there is a famous clip on Youtube where Shatner even forgets Walter Koenig's name! Even if there's no law that says you're supposed to love your coworkers, I think you're entitled to express how you feel about them.
     
  9. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Thanks for the welcome, guys.

    Still OT: I wonder if Bain had a say in Maya's make-up design. I remember one day, circa 1976, the show was on and my grandmother said of Schell, "That poor girl. What have they done to her face?"
     
  10. Ssosmcin

    Ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Actually, Schell had more to do with it than anyone else. She figured, since she had to be in makeup, she wanted it more elaborate. Those pods on her eyebrows? Those were supposed to be along her face, but it wound up looking like acne. So they went with the brows, the widow's peak and the sideburns. I thought she looked stunning as Maya. She was the high point of that season, really. A hell of an actress and a class act too.
     
  11. mos6507

    mos6507 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    There's not a single Star Trek spinoff held in the same high regard as TOS. Does that mean none of those spinoffs should have been produced?

    He only came up with that idea at the very tail end of the TNG-era shows, when it seemed like any and all Trek concepts would get the green-light as a spinoff.

    Also remember that they tried to get TOS back on the small screen twice and failed right? So a lot of people still wanted to see weekly stories with the classic actors in the classic time-period, and Sulu by that point was the last actor still in good enough physical shape to pull off an action show, who had been given his own ship in Trek VI.

    There was nothing at all delusional about it.

    Some people in this thread just want to take sides on this in order to be bullies, IMHO. It's not really that controversial, folks. Shatner was an ass and should have treated his coworkers better, and the other actors had a right to self-promote. Actors are at the mercy of the few opportunities they get, and typecast actors should at least feel justified in plugging their own spinoffs, since they don't get a chance to do much else.
     
  12. Ssosmcin

    Ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Still, look at who Shatner had most of his scenes with. Those were the people he saw most often and those guys (Nimoy in particular) were who he bonded with the most. The lower level actors had a lot of their scenes together and had the common bond of being "under the title" as it were. Even on a film set, do you become buddies with EVERYONE? I've done work at my utility company after Hurrican Sandy swept through New York and was working 16 hour days for a month (no weekends off) in a substation woth a bunch of people. In that time, we became very close, but there were some people I just didn't connect with.

    People connect with who they connect with. And sure, you're entitled to say what you feel about them, but after all this time, it's tiresome.
     
  13. elliott_baty

    elliott_baty Ensign Red Shirt

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    New guy here feeling the need to contribute.
    I met Doohan at a convention back in 83 and someone asked him the same question and he seemed to get quite angry that he had been called on it. The rest of his time that night was spent with short angry answers.
    Very awkward time for all.
     
  14. Ssosmcin

    Ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Now there's a guy who had anger issues. At what point do you say "jeez, get over it?" I get it, Shatner was a insensitive jerk, but let it go already. Shatner and Takei haven't worked together on a film in 22 years. Fine, Doohan was still in the midst of it back in 83 (between TWOK and TSFS) and there was probably all sorts of fresh hell going on. So that's understandable. But the rest of the guys still alive and kicking? Take your meds and get on with your lives.
     
  15. mos6507

    mos6507 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Most of the time actors spend on a set is not spent actually performing. It's sitting around waiting and waiting for the next setup. As such, you are likely to bond with anybody who is physically on the set, as long as you don't have a snobby attitude about who is or isn't worth talking to.
     
  16. mos6507

    mos6507 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Even in the 80s, there was a performance quality to showing up at a convention. You have a standard anecdotes to spool off and after a while, if the Shatner soap-opera is what gets a rise out of your audience, you keep playing to that again and again. Tales of a happy set can get boring. Conflict is the essence of drama, so it has to get amped up. It becomes the reason to see them, to hear the gossip. And you do that long enough it has a way of perpetuating a feud that may not have been that bad to begin with, and maybe they started to really buy into it.

    I remember going to a convention in the 80s where Takei had to answer a question about Shatner's wig. He said "only his hairdresser knows for sure". Then he went on to tell the story about how "lush" Shatner's hair looked in Trek IV and how it got tested by him diving into the water. People ate that up. So you can't bash these actors for dishing the dirt when it's what we, as fans, have been asking from them all these years.

    At this point, it's just faded off into performance-art. I seriously doubt there is any remaining bad-blood between the actors.
     
  17. YARN

    YARN Fleet Captain

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    Can you verify this? I mean it sounds interesting and I am not calling you out, but as one anonymous person on the internet to another, this is pretty thin as far as evidence goes.
     
  18. TREK_GOD_1

    TREK_GOD_1 Commodore Commodore

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    The key difference there is that the Norman Lear spinoffs were jumping on something hot in the moment--not for the purity of storytelling, but to expand the chance for profit--and it was apparent. If Gary Seven's jumping off episode actually turned into a series, one could make the same argument, but TOS had to die and be reborn...then go through the lean years and movie years before a return to weekly TV ever materialised.

    On the subject of whether or not TNG-ENT should have been produced? One thing is clear: Berman and his crew tore down ST to the point where a reboot was required. That never happened in ST before, so it says much about the TV episodes and 4 TNG movies' ultimate effect on the franchise.

    Takei's expectations/fantasies date back to (at least) the production of The Wrath of Khan, which another member referred to. The scripted idea of Sulu beoming captain of the Excelsior sent Takei on a voyage he has not returned from.

    To build some minor sub-plot (if you could even describe it as that) into "Captain Sulu the series" is a textbook example of Takei being delusional.


    It seems you are taking sides, since you call Shatner an "ass," but see the issues of Takei, et al, as merely promoting themselves, when it moved far beyond that. Promoting yourself does not include trashing your bread and butter at every chance as seen with Takei, Doohan, Koenig and Nichols for decades. Making a buck off of how many times you kick one of the unquestioned, central reasons ST became a pop culture phenomenon shows a gross lack of judgement on their part. It only handed Shatner gift-wrapped reasons to disregard their "contributions" once the movie era kicked in.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2013
  19. TREK_GOD_1

    TREK_GOD_1 Commodore Commodore

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    Well put. Everyone is not going to gel, and in 1960s TV production, the star system was very much in place, so they (Shatner and Nimoy) took the lion's share of screen time, thus worked together often enough to get to know each other.

    The "rest" allowed post-series fandom to inflate their heads to laughable degrees, as though ST's cast occupied the same level. If theirs was a case like that of Wayne Rogers (Trapper on the first 3 seasons of M*A*S*H*), who was supposed to be on equal footing with Alda's Hawkeye, but the scripts ended up favoring Alda, then we could understand the hostile, petty complaints of Takei, Koenig, Nichols and Doohan, but their characters were not then--or ever meant to be equals to Kirk, Spock or McCoy.

    ...and it shows that if they could not use trashy, tabloid stories, they would have little CAREER stories to share.
     
  20. Dale Sams

    Dale Sams Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    In the the interest of spreading around the pettiness...remember the stories around TNG's "Too Short A Season"? How it's very much Clayton Rohner's show, and the cast is just along for the ride?

    The cast didn't let that slide. Personally I think that's a feature and not a bug. It was kind of cool to see a guest featured so prominently.
     

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