"Spectre of the Gun" set "West of Mars"?

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Maurice, Feb 15, 2014.

  1. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    As I've already said several times, it was both. Yes, it has been stipulated that the initial impetus for the decision was budgetary. That cannot possibly be disputed. But that is not the point. The point is that they took that limitation and turned it into something positive. They embraced the artificiality and turned it into out-and-out surrealism. Instead of faking a blue sky, they lit it a vivid and unearthly red. Instead of disguising the soundstage walls, they deliberately cast shadows on them to make the visuals even stranger and more atmospheric. They used their limitations as part of the creative process.

    This same thing is discussed in that article on ST's minimalism that I linked to above: the fact that the basic impetus for the show's minimalist style was budgetary, but they nonetheless embraced minimalism as an aesthetic and took it well beyond a simple matter of absence. The mistake in your argument is the assumption that a decision has to be either creative or practical, that one precludes the other. In reality, it's usually a mix of both. Dealing with practical limitations is an important part of the creative process, especially in film and television.
     
  2. Crisp Crinkle

    Crisp Crinkle Admiral Admiral

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    I don't really see this as my argument, as much as it appeared to be yours. I thought that you meant that Irwin Allen couldn't have been being a minimalist, because you were arguing that in reality his overriding motive was to skimp on expenses. The post of mine that you're quoting here was intended simply to refute that allegation, since Star Trek's aesthetic choice in "Spectre" was driven by the need to save money. What I meant by my post is that Star Trek's team did not elect to make the aesthetic choice on its own merits, which is what I thought you had just said about Irwin Allen.

    If your argument is that Irwin Allen wasn't minimalistic, then that can't be because he was being "cheap", at least as long as minimalism and cheapness aren't really mutually exclusive. Level of virtuosity notwithstanding, since LiS appears as minimalist as Batman, I can't really see how the allegation that Allen was just being cheap matters anyway. It certainly doesn't matter, if one doesn't preclude the other.

     
  3. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    The surreal minimalism of "Spectre Of The Gun" works IMO because the Melkot was drawing from Kirk's mind. And it makes sense that Kirk's recollection of the Old West would most likely be fragmentary and incomplete, much like dreams are incomplete yet in dreaming we accept them without question.
     
  4. Botany Bay

    Botany Bay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I think "Bread and Circuses" was another very creative piece of work in terms of working within the (extreme) budget constraints faced from late Season 2 onwards (taken to a new level in Season 3 when mandated cast pay rises took another piece out of the set decorations pie).

    In "Circuses" they wanted to do a Roman epic, but faced with the reality that there would be no Colloseum, but a rock quarry in Hollywood and a few interior sets, they emphasised that IV-892's Gladiator contests were designed for TV viewers, and as such, all they needed to film was the Desilu sets themselves. Very clever stuff, and like "Spectre", a decent episode was produced, against the odds.
     
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    My favorite use of minimalism in TOS is the set design in "The Empath." It's just a few set pieces in the middle of an empty black stage, but it's magnificently stark and surreal and eerie.
     
  6. GSchnitzer

    GSchnitzer Co-Executive Producer Moderator

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    Here's from the Final Draft script of "The Last Gunfight" by Lee Cronin, dated May 9, 1968:


    Scene 20 EXT. DESERT

    The men are standing in the same position as before the optical.

    Scene 21 OPTICAL

    AS THE MEN LOOK ACROSS THE BARREN LANDSCAPE, SUDDENLY A STYLIZED SALOON EXTERIOR POPS IN. THE STARTLED MEN LOOK AROUND AND THE FALSE FRONT OF A NEWSPAPER OFFICE WITH ITS CUSTOMARY BULLETIN BOARD IN FRONT POPS INTO VIEW.



    So, by the final draft, at least, the script was calling for a more surreal western town. If it had been done as a cost-saving measure, that decision was made while the script was still undergoing revision.
     
  7. Crisp Crinkle

    Crisp Crinkle Admiral Admiral

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    ^ But, it would have been quite eyebrow-raising, if the characters hadn't commented on the incomplete structures, yes? I mean, that alone means that there had to be lines of dialog added to address it, after the decision was made to do it that way, right?
     
  8. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    When I was younger and first saw this I didn't care for it. Now I think it's quite effectively eerie.
     
  9. GSchnitzer

    GSchnitzer Co-Executive Producer Moderator

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    Well, it might have been eyebrow raising. But maybe not. My point was that when this Final Draft was scripted, it contained this script direction language, but it didn't actually contain that "incomplete structures" dialogue. In Scene 22 of the Final Draft script, there's the following dialogue:

    KIRK
    Spock? Evaluation

    SPOCK
    I'm quite at a loss, Captain.
    Obviously, this is the American
    frontier, circa 1880.

    Chekov draws his gun.

    CHEKOV
    And these, Captain?

    Of course, we know that the actual filmed dialogue from the episode is:


    SPOCK
    Obviously this represents the
    Melkotians' concept of an American
    frontier town, circa 1880.

    MCCOY
    It's just bits and pieces. It's
    incomplete.

    SPOCK: Perhaps the Melkotians have
    insufficient data about this era.

    KIRK: Or perhaps this is all they
    require to complete the pattern
    of our death.


    I don't know if these late dialogue changes were from some last minute Change Pages, or if they were instead from some even more last minute on-set changes. (Someone with better script resources than I have might be able to answer that question.)

    But yes, the dialogue seems to have been added to clarify the incompleteness of the sets. But my point is, that it was initially contemplated in the script as having been unnecessary to include this clarifying expository dialogue.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2014
  10. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    "The Empath" was filmed after Lost in Space was canceled. Good episode, stand-out music score.

    The blacked-out-sound-stage look was a trick Lost in Space had used many times. It became almost a go-to solution whenever they could get away with something even cheaper than the "West of Mars" kind of deal. Sometimes the black sets of LIS were ethereal and wonderful ("The Derelict", "The Magic Mirror") and sometimes they just looked incomplete ("Kidnapped in Space"). Weak staging just means we have to focus that much more on the actors and story.

    "The Empath" not only used the same affordable staging as an LIS episode, it used the actual freezing tubes from the Jupiter 2, probably rented from whatever prop house bought them from Fox. Yet it still comes off as good Star Trek, because everything else was strong.

    [​IMG]
     
  11. Mr. Adventure

    Mr. Adventure Admiral Admiral

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    ^ That's funny, inspired by this thread I watched The Empath and was noticing how "Lost in Space" it looked as I checked out the West of Mars episode the other night. The name tags for the specimens reminded me of the similar labels in the bar from that episode (and ultimately probably like the Batman TV show). The constant teleport blink in/out and sound effect reminded me of LiS as well.
     
  12. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Is the the only description? Because "stylized" could mean almost anything other than looking normal. I certainly don't get "surreal" from that (a word almost everyone uses to mean something "bizarre" rather than what surrealism actually means).
     
  13. Green Shirt

    Green Shirt Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Trek borrowing from LIS?

    Oh, the pain! :devil:
     
  14. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    Shhh, don't tell D.C. Fontana. :lol:

    Apparently she had quite a burr in her shorts regarding LIS.
     
  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    And the third season of Batman, which was also from 20th Century Fox and had art director Jack Martin Smith and set decorator Walter M. Scott in common with LiS.


    Well, "stylized" clearly means that it looks different from reality. And "surreal" literally means "beyond the real." Naturally there's plenty of room for interpretation between the script and the screen, but the script was clearly indicating an unreal quality to the environment.
     
  16. GSchnitzer

    GSchnitzer Co-Executive Producer Moderator

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    Also, while I understand that "stylized" might be open to interpretation, I think that a stage direction that indicates that the Newspaper Office is just a "false front" is less open to interpretation.



     
  17. plynch

    plynch Commodore Commodore

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    Though in S3 they got away from the hats-planet conceit. (Great phrase, by the way.) Granted, there was decline in other ways. Less location, more bottles, worse writing and, arguably, acting. I'm on record preferring much of S3 to the comedy and rut of S2.

    I think a difference between LIS and Spectre is simple execution, too. Looking at the screencaps from an aesthetic standpoint its Trek by a mile. And I know people are LIS music fans here, but the unique Spectre score is great.
     
  18. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    I can't lay claim to the phrase, but it's a good one. Although, reading that, my definition of the term might be a bit narrow.

    And I'd go so far as to agree that season three was wise to abandon the concept...but it had a host of other problems that weigh most of it down for me.
     
  19. Ryan Thomas Riddle

    Ryan Thomas Riddle Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Wonder what her view was. Any idea?
     
  20. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    Her opinion of LIS was...less than complimentary.