Stunt double madness

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Dale Sams, Mar 26, 2013.

  1. Dale Sams

    Dale Sams Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Have we ever determined why they used stunt doubles in some of the simplest scenes, (Most of the Court Martial fight, and Space Seed), but didn't for something like Kirk's wall jump in Journey to Babel?
     
  2. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    Then you have "A Taste of Armageddon" where Shatner does the entire fight scene himself in a uncut take. Maybe he was particular about who he'd work stunts with. Actor Garth Pillsbury (Chekov's turncoat henchman in "Mirror, Mirror") claims Shatner wouldn't let him do the face punch stepping off the turbolift, preferring one of the regular stuntmen.
     
  3. GSchnitzer

    GSchnitzer Co-Executive Producer Moderator

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    Also, although "Court Martial" and "Space Seed" only have the simplest of stunt scenes in the final cuts of the episodes, it could well be that there were other far more complicated (and dangerous) stunt scenes that were planned and shot that simply ended up on the cuting room floor.
     
  4. DalekJim

    DalekJim Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    It's pretty ridiculous in Space Seed, they don't even try to hide it or anything. Shatner just... regenerates in to somebody else.
     
  5. Karl Shoottheglass

    Karl Shoottheglass Commodore Commodore

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    The BABEL fight with Kirk's turn-your-back-and-get-stabbed tactic was filmed in medium shots, making it harder to fake. But the long shots used in SPACE SEED and COURT MARTIAL didn't help to disguise the doubles. Would soft focus have done the trick? I realize only female actors and Warren Beatty tend to receive it.
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    There are a number of reasons that determine whether a given stunt will use a double or not. As mentioned above, the visibility of the actor's face is one factor. Another is whether the stunt is fairly basic or something more involved that's potentially dangerous for the actor. Or maybe the actor may be trained in some stunts or fight moves but not in others. Or it could be that one director is more reluctant to let actors do their own stunts than another.


    We can see that now, because we have big-screen TVs and HD-quality home video. Audiences in the 1960s were watching on smaller sets, often in black and white, often with much less image clarity, often through fuzz and distortion due to poor signal reception or mis-adjusted knobs. (There were so many things that had to be synchronized or tuned just right to get a good picture, and they all depended on manual adjustment. You often had to work to get a decent picture, and sometimes "decent" was the best you could hope for.) So the substitution of the stuntman for the actor wouldn't have been nearly as obvious at the time -- which was why they were okay with doing it that way.
     
  7. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    Another factor in obvious stuntmen situations is the set lighting. Everything's evenly lit with few heavy shadows. Compare with something like Enterprise, where the stage has more contrast in lighting, and a substitution's easier to fake.
     
  8. feek61

    feek61 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Trust me; this is exactly correct. As one who has watched TOS from the beginning. I never noticed the difference simply because you couldn't tell back then with the primitive equipment.
     
  9. Dale Sams

    Dale Sams Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Alluded to also: I've done plays before where the director (or some higher up) will bring in some tech guy even though the play has the simplest of stunts or fights. My reaction is usually, "Really? Didn't we all play 'army' as kids? We can't figure this out ourselves? Well...allright."

    Will Arnett: "C'MON!"
     
  10. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    Yeah, but on film it looks really fake when you throw your arms up in the air screaming "Ahhh!" when you "die". Lots of examples in old 20s and 30s cowboy and war movies, before stunts were recognized as an art form.
     
  11. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    Yep. The fight scenes in Space Seed and Court Martial never looked bad to me on a 19-inch CRT. Then I got my 32-inch flat screen and it was pretty obvious.

    Nimoy's double stands out a bit in Mirror Mirror, in the Sickbay fight.
     
  12. DalekJim

    DalekJim Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I disagree that it was particularly normal for the time. I watch a lot of 60s television, mainly action shows in fact such as The Avengers, The Saint etc. I can think of no examples of a more obvious stunt double than in Space Seed.
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Huh? How long has it been since you've seen TOS? The lighting is full of shadows. The show's director of photography, Jerry Finnerman, was trained by some of the great black-and-white cinematographers of the noir era, and he used a lot of the same techniques, painting with light and shadow in a way few of his contemporaries even knew how to do anymore. He always shot male actors with heavy crosslighting, putting one side of their faces in shadow to bring out the texture (while always frontlighting women and usually using soft focus or diffusion filters). And there was that very noirish trick he used a couple of times where Kirk's eyes were dramatically highlighted in a narrow strip of light with the rest of his face in relative shadow.

    Okay, the lighting in engineering in, say, "Space Seed" is more uniformly bright than it was in, say, "The Enemy Within," where it was very shadowy and mysterious. But that's about that specific episode and scene, not a function of the series as a whole. TOS's lighting was remarkably film-noir for a show made in the 1960s, let alone one set centuries in the future.
     
  14. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    Yes, I thought of Finnerman's work when writing it, but I was referring to Space Seed's engineering set in the post.

    And perhaps Gary Combs wasn't the best double for Shatner. Physically, Paul Baxley was probably a closer match for body and movement, with great effectiveness in "Mirror, Mirror".

    We had a 25" color tv when Star Trek aired in the 60s, and it was usually easy to spot the stunt Kirks. One of the most effective uses of Kirk doubles is in "The Enemy Within" when both Kirks are fighting in sickbay, though it's minimal stunt work, primarily movement blocking with actor Don Eitner.
     
  15. plynch

    plynch Commodore Commodore

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    I never noticed as a kid, when it mattered.

    I never noticed Nimoy had one at all until I read it.

    This is why I don't get blu-ray. The way everybody writes about better definition, it seems to actually make for a worse experience though I will grant you it is indeed a sharper two-dimensional image of actors pretending to be spacemen.
     
  16. Karl Shoottheglass

    Karl Shoottheglass Commodore Commodore

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    While I had to see TOS on many black and white UHF stations at first, the SPACE SEED stunt doubles were very noticeable as soon as it went to VHS in 1982, even if the TV screen was smaller.
     
  17. Ssosmcin

    Ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Mostly because his stunt double had wavy hair. WTF was that about?

    The worst example of stunt doubling for Shatner was in Operation Annihilate when everyone was subduing Spock on the bridge. In the tight shots, it's Shatner, but in the long shots, Shatner is the only guy doubled and none of these moves are difficult. This leads me to believe Shatner might have been busy in another scene while this was being shot. Or maybe he was off.

    You never saw The Fugitive, then. David Janssen's stunt doubles were always painfully obvious. Different hair, bone structure and Janssen couldn't run well (bad knee and drunk a lot), but his stunt guys ran like marathon runners. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea had painfully obvious stunt guys. What made it worse was that most of the stunt double were used as background crew, some with lines! So all of a sudden, David Hedison became some crewman named "Scott" (Scott McFadden) just in time to have a brawl!
     
  18. bbailey861

    bbailey861 Admiral Premium Member

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    I'll echo the thoughts here. As a kid, I never noticed that Kirk wasn't Kirk during many of the fight scenes. I don't think I noticed until years later when Dad upgraded to a hugely massive 26 inch screen in a gargantuan console. Good times.
     
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    It's worth keeping in mind that a given TV show probably only has access to a finite number of stunt performers who have to double multiple people. Sure, no doubt they do their best to hire stunt performers who are roughly the same type as their leads, but a given performer would probably be working on multiple TV shows and might not always be available for a given scene. The top priority is naturally the performer's ability to do the stunts safely, so sometimes physical resemblance has got to be a secondary concern.

    So it's just a case where the viewer has to be willing to suspend disbelief. Personally I think audiences today are too spoiled, demanding that everything be totally photorealistic and perfect. For thousands of years, all we had was theater, usually without any set decorations or anything but dialogue to set the scene, and where things like stunts and special effects were always quite clearly artificial. The audience had to use their own imaginations to bridge the gap between what they were shown and what it was supposed to represent. So if something didn't look like it was real, that wasn't a problem because they had the imagination to make it work. I think the problem with modern special effects and production values is that they've caused the viewers' own imaginations to atrophy.

    So the stuntman doesn't look like Shatner? So what? It's an illusion. An illusion that depends on the audience's willingness to participate, to engage their own imaginations and make it Kirk in their own minds.
     
  20. Ssosmcin

    Ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    To put a more positive spin on this, the Kirk vs Kirk fight in Whom Gods Destroy is outstanding because of how well Shatner and the stunt double match. They actually put the stunt man in a Kirk Wig (or styled his hair, whatever) and when you do see the other man's face briefly, it doesn't shatter the illusion. The match is about as perfect as we were ever going to get. It sure looked better than the Star Trek III Kirk double who jumped off the cliff onto Kruge. That guy was 40 pounds lighter and 20 years younger.

    ;)