What if it Went Longer

Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by dougiezerts, Jul 15, 2014.

  1. dougiezerts

    dougiezerts Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    Star Trek only lasted 3 seasons, if I recall it right. And the final season was made only because of a strong write-in campaign from fans!
    What if the show lasted longer? Would the subsequent seasons be as good, or would the show have gone into a decline? I'm surious to hear your view on this subject.
    Personally, I would have liked to have seen it go longer.
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That's a myth. There's no proof that NBC ever intended to cancel the show in the first place -- at most it was "on the bubble" and the decision to renew it wasn't a sure thing -- and the number of letters received, while certainly quite large, was a fraction of the size Roddenberry later claimed.


    Well, if we assume that the events of 1968 happened unchanged -- Roddenberry stepping back from active showrunning, Fontana and Coon and Lucas leaving, Freiberger coming in as producer -- then a fourth season probably wouldn't have been any better than the third. Maybe getting a miraculous fourth-season renewal would've convinced Roddenberry to get more actively involved again, in which case the characterizations and dialogue would probably have gotten stronger; but it's just as possible that he would've still moved on to something new and left it entirely in Freiberger's hands. In which case we might've gotten something like the second season of Space: 1999, even more of a lowbrow, fanciful mess than season 3. And it would've certainly had an even lower budget than season 3, so the cast might've been smaller and the stories smaller as well. Hmm, with Martin Landau leaving Mission: Impossible at that time, Nimoy might have bailed from Star Trek even if it had been renewed, since he was eager for something new. And a season of ST without Spock is hard to contemplate, although it's interesting to imagine what character Freiberger might've introduced in his place. (Maybe 1999's Maya would've been created a few years earlier and played by a different actress?)

    An alternative scenario would be if Roddenberry had stuck around after season 2 -- say, if NBC had given the show the good time slot it was promised instead of the Friday night death slot. Then we would've probably had a stronger season 3, and while it's unlikely that would've improved the ratings enough to save the show for a season 4, it's possible that continuing critical acclaim might've convinced NBC to keep it around for another year, although still probably with fewer episodes and a smaller cast. But Nimoy would've probably stuck around if he'd still felt that Spock was being written in an interesting way.


    Of course, we did get two more seasons of Star Trek eventually, in 1973-74 on Saturday mornings.
     
  3. Push The Button

    Push The Button Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Despite all of the problems that the third season had, there were still glimpses of creative things that they were willing to try, like shooting "up" through the tabletop in The Mark of Gideon, or between stair treads in For The World is Hollow.., Spock's monologue in The Cloudminders, shooting in slow-motion in The Empath...small things, I agree, but imagine if they had more money to work with per episode instead of less.

    If only, if only.
     
  4. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Well, a season and a half of animated episodes, which didn't even equal the number of a single season order of a primetime series.
     
  5. erastus25

    erastus25 Commodore Commodore

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    Yes, the direction in the third season is quite good, at times. It's one of the few (only?) elements that you can argue is better than previous seasons.
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Actually there's an interesting progression there... The first season (not counting pilots) was 28 episodes, the second was 26, the third was 24, and the two animated seasons combined were 22. If there had been a fourth live-action season, it might've had 22 episodes or fewer, due to the continuing budget cuts.

    But creatively, TAS is a more direct continuation of TOS than most people recognize. Roddenberry was given total creative control by the network -- making TAS the only Trek production he's ever had absolute creative freedom with, despite his later renunciation of it. D.C. Fontana was its story editor, and nearly half its episodes were written by veterans of TOS (more than half if you include the ones written by director Marc Daniels and Walter Koenig). And despite popular misconceptions, it was written for adults and specifically marketed as the first Saturday-morning animated series aimed at an adult audience. Allowing for the shorter length and the reduction in sex and violence for the time slot, it was effectively a resumption of the original show, or as close as an animated series four years later could possibly get.
     
  7. ToddPence

    ToddPence Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    That's what she said.
     
  8. BillJ

    BillJ Admiral Admiral

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    If it had went longer, it may not have been as fondly remembered. There was already quite a bit of plot duplication in those eighty episodes.
     
  9. Nebusj

    Nebusj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Not to pick on Christopher, of course, but I have to wonder, given how many other bits of Roddenberry Lore have been disproved …

    Have we got solid evidence that NBC had penciled in Star Trek to a better timeslot for the third season before moving it to the Death Slot?
     
  10. Lance

    Lance Commodore Commodore

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    That last sentence is a good point and one not often discussed about television: that as time goes on the demands on the budget increase but the budget itself doesn't (indeed it isn't uncommon for it to be slashed, as it is a fact that most of the money allocated to a show is usually in it's early years when it's got a lot of excessive "start up costs"). This is a very natural process of television production, and one imagines it's also a large part of why some TV show's are perceived to have hit 'season rot' at some later point in their live.

    The actor's salaries are also usually less in the early seasons, and it's well documented how Shatner and Nimoy negotiated their way into better deals each passing year of TOS. So there's every chance that a fourth season, with increasing actor costs and a decreasing budget, would have simply followed the trend set in the third season. I barely wont mentioning it, but it's even entirely possible that some of the supporting cast would have to be shed to get things back on an even keel (show's are certainly not adverse to taking these measures). Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley were more or less the only 'esssentials', so it's possible Freiberger or whoever else succeeded him would look at the supporting cast and say "Sorry Nichelle/Walter/Jimmy/George, but your services are no longer requested". The Enterprise could be staffed by day-players if necessary for a fraction the cost.

    And the harsh reality of a Dollars and Cents world can be a bitter pill for a fandom to swallow, so I suspect there would be people in an uproar over a further perceived 'decline' in the series' fortunes. I'd hate to be that showrunner when the letters of complaint started rushing in. ;)
     
  11. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Nimoy was under contract, so I doubt he would have walked. Not that actors didn't break contracts from time to time -- Barbara Bain walked after three seasons of Mission: Impossible in 1969 -- but I think Nimoy was smart enough that he would have stuck it out rather than break his contract and risk his future career.
     
  12. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Yep. There's an issue of Broadcasting that prints an early schedule for the 1968-69 season, with Star Trek penciled in on Mondays.

    (At least, I think it is Broadcasting; it's too late and I'm too tired to check right now).
     
  13. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Is it my imagination, or were there fewer and fewer crewmen in the background in the third season, walking corridors and manning background stations, compare to earlier seasons?
     
  14. Green Shirt

    Green Shirt Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    No, it wasn't your imagination. That was just one of the ways to keep costs down.
     
  15. Zaku

    Zaku Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Star Trek fourth season: Ghost Ship Enterprise.
     
  16. Otto Harkaman

    Otto Harkaman Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    I just got finished listening to two audio books, "Inside Star Trek, the Real Story" and Shatner's "Star Trek Memories"

    To add something new to the discussion I would bring up that at the end of Memories, Shatner talks about the system of analysis NBC was using to make programming decisions. They were still making decisions based on large audiences not target audiences, which Star Trek wasn't able to show. But points out Shatner when they went to target audience analysis it was discovered that Star Trek had been one of the top watched color programs and had one of the top audiences of smart and affluent people. The analysts later said to the NBC execs quotes Shatner, "you killed the golden goose." So perhaps if they had implemented this earlier they would have realized Star Trek was worth continuing at a good time slot and perhaps a budget increase.
     
  17. Ssosmcin

    Ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    That was another thing which has been debunked: that NBC didn't use demographics until after Star Trek was cancelled. They apparently knew the size of their audience and by the time the third season was halfway through it's airing, it wasn't really there. At 10 on Fridays, the audience that would make it a huge hit in syndication wasn't watching TV - and if they were, it wasn't Star Trek.

    Nobody should ever use "Star Trek Memories" as a real source of reference. Majel commented that she was surprised it was listed under "non-fiction."
     
  18. TREK_GOD_1

    TREK_GOD_1 Commodore Commodore

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    Yeah, but that demographics info did not start (or end) with Star Trek Memories, much like the truckload of TOS (usually Roddenberry-fueled) myths that still find their way into TOS discussions.

    In the 1970s, many a TOS fan thought a 4th season would fall below the quality of season 3, since they were aware enough (of production troubles) to not expect anything else. That's why fans looked forward to TAS as the only chance to return to that world, however, in Lou Scheimer's book, Creating the Filmation Generation, Scheimer describes the experience with ST fan concerns at conventions:

    I believe Filmation lived up to its promise, which is why some see TAS as a 4th season of TOS.
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2014
  19. Otto Harkaman

    Otto Harkaman Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Oh so this was another Roddenberry ploy?

    I haven't read any of his biographies yet but it seems like he liked to portray himself as a Don Quixote tilting at corporate windmills.
     
  20. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Actually my understanding is that actors get raises every season, which is one of the factors that make shows more expensive over time and lead to cuts in other areas. This is why so many long-running shows let cast members go and bring in new ones. By season 10 of Smallville, for instance, they only had four regulars, only one of whom (Tom Welling) had been a regular from the beginning. Law and Order also periodically replaced its leads, and the CSI shows have rotated out a lot of their cast members over the years; the flagship show is now on its third lead actor. And the Power Rangers franchise has survived for 20 years by bringing in an entirely new cast of (non-union) actors every single season (or at least every second season).


    Again, the animated series is worth considering as a genuine continuation of Star Trek, because what we're talking about did essentially happen there. Originally, Filmation didn't even intend to bring back Nichols, Takei, and Koenig, presumably intending to have their characters doubled by Barrett and Doohan or perhaps by less expensive voice actors (similarly to how Jane Webb played both Ginger and Mary Ann on The New Adventures of Gilligan). Nimoy convinced them that excluding both minority cast members would be a really bad move, so they paid the extra money to hire Nichols and Takei (which proved invaluable since they both played so many guest characters), but they still didn't have the money to bring back Koenig.

    As for Freiberger, it might be worth looking at how he handled Space: 1999 when he took it over. In the first season, S99 had an ensemble not dissimilar to Star Trek's: a core triumvirate including a commander, science officer, and doctor (John Koenig, Victor Bergman, Helena Russell), a group of four supporting players including one black actor and one Asian actor (Alan Carter, Paul Morrow, Sandra Benes, David Kano), plus a secondary medical officer in an occasionally recurring role (Bob Mathias). Although S99 arguably did a better job fleshing out this supporting ensemble than Trek did with its ensemble, giving them nice character moments here and there and occasionally showing a developing romance between Paul and Sandra. But for season 2, Freiberger felt that the supporting cast was rather bland and he intended to replace all of them, but he was convinced to keep Alan and Sandra due to their popularity with the fans. But Bergman was replaced with the sexier Maya, Paul and David were dumped, Alan was overshadowed by the new "security chief" Tony Verdeschi (who did all sorts of things that had nothing to do with security), and Sandra was reduced to more of a bit player and replaced in a number of episodes by one of two other minority actresses (and even had her name inexplicably changed to "Sahn" in the latter half-season). Bob Mathias showed up in the first part of the season but was then replaced by another black male doctor who was in turn replaced by yet another black male doctor, treated interchangeably.



    Oh, hadn't realized that.


    So a Freiberger-run fourth season might have focused more tightly on Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Scotty, and probably Chekov since he was popular with the girls, but Sulu and Uhura might have made only occasional appearances or been substituted with other minor players, possibly of the same gender and ethnicity.
     

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