Who were the main characters?

Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by Lee-Sensei, Feb 25, 2013.

  1. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    The characters were marginalized, but they were not semiregulars. They were billed and contracted as regulars, and they still appeared at least briefly in every single episode, even if it was just to deliver a couple of lines -- with the exception of LotG's Stefan Arngrim, who was absent from five episodes, and Heather Young, who missed seven, mostly due to maternity leave. But since they were regulars, that means they got credited and paid even for the episodes they weren't in, and got paid just as much regardless of how many lines they had -- which is what distinguishes them from semiregulars or day players, who are credited/paid only for the episodes they do appear in. Acting is a business, so the distinction between job categories is a matter of contract and salary. A regular is someone who gets paid regularly, not who has a consistent amount of screen time.

    There were plenty of DS9 episodes where Sisko was not a significant character, but in every case, the writers made sure to give Sisko at least one brief scene with dialogue even if it had nothing to do with the main story. Same with the other billed regulars, other than Jake. Most of the time, even if the episode only focused on a couple of the cast, the other adult regulars would still make brief appearances just long enough to justify their contractual requirements. That's what distinguished the actual regulars from recurring characters like Rom or Garak, who were hired on more of an episode-by-episode basis and didn't get gratuitously written into stories that weren't about them.

    The same went for TOS. In season 1, Kelley wasn't a regular, so McCoy was absent completely from two episodes. But after that, he was a regular, so he had to be written into every episode even if it was just to hang out on the bridge and say something snarky. But the other characters were not regulars, so there was no incentive to give them token scenes. They were used when the story called for them, and otherwise were just not there.

    Okay, if an actor appears in every or virtually episode despite not having main-title billing, like Lee Meriwether and Whit Bissell in TTT, then one could argue they were effectively regulars, even if they weren't contracted that way. But how is that relevant to Nichols, Doohan, Takei, and Koenig, who did not appear in virtually every episode? Nichols and Doohan were in only 80-ish percent of the episodes, the others in considerably fewer. They were semiregulars at best.
     
  2. TREK_GOD_1

    TREK_GOD_1 Commodore Commodore

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    Excellent point. There was not such a hardline definition of series "regular" at the time that an actor not listed in the main title was instantly bumped down to a "semi regular" or anything less, particularly if one considers his contributions to the series as a functioning character.

    One could even argue Lew Parker's That Girl character Lew Marie (who appeared in 65 of all 136 episodes) was a "regular," as his character was not simply recurring, but a functioning part of the developing plot of the series despite never being listed in the main credits.
     
  3. A beaker full of death

    A beaker full of death Vice Admiral Admiral

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    This is such an amorphous question. Often the episodes aren't about the regular cast at all (nor could they be -- you can't destroy the lives of your regulars every week, and the dramatic hero of a self-contained episode must have his life changed). They served merely as our entre into another world, and they provided certain plot elements.
    On the other hand, the series had leading characters as a whole.
     
  4. DalekJim

    DalekJim Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Unlike the others, TOS is not an ensemble show. It's the Kirk, Spock and McCoy show with prominent, memorable recurring character Scotty and a bunch of extras.

    Sadly, these bunch of extras are the most insanely entitled in TV history and Takei in particular has made a career out of attacking Shatner and causing drama for profit.

    Which is unfair. Shatner was the main character, the star and the fact audiences loved his performance and were drawn in by it is the reason we're all here. He should be given more attention than Takei, Nichols etc.

    Since leaving Trek, Shatner has given award winning performances elsewhere, starred in a successful TV series and pioneered the undervalued music genre of spoken word. Due to the mumblings of old extras, Shatner is now undervalued. Which is a shame as the guy is a treasure and a genuine hero of mine.
     
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That's not what the word "extras" means. Extras are background players who have no scripted dialogue. Extras are the people sitting at the side consoles and never saying anything, or the security guards standing by the bridge doors, or the yeoman who hands Kirk a clipboard to sign and doesn't say anything, or the crowd of citizens walking past in the background on an alien planet. Takei, Nichols, and Koenig were contracted semi-regular actors.


    Actually Nimoy hugely eclipsed Shatner and the others in popularity, getting more fan mail than the rest of the cast combined. Roddenberry and Shatner both had to struggle to keep Kirk central to the show when the audience and the network were pushing for Spock to be the center of attention.


    He's hardly the only one. Nimoy starred on Mission: Impossible for two seasons, hosted In Search Of... for several years, and later went on to a successful directing career. Walter Koenig did extraordinary work on Babylon 5. George Takei has done lots of character acting and voice work as well as performing on stage. And so on.

    And you're not only underrating the others, you're underrating Shatner as well. He's had more than one successful TV series since ST, including T.J. Hooker and Boston Legal.
     
  6. DalekJim

    DalekJim Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Wrong. Extras can have dialogue, happens all the time. Especially common in Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies and Russell T. Davies Doctor Who.

    Or the guy sitting at the helm, only chiming in with "Aye sir!" occasionally.

    Well documented, but Shatner's charisma as the lead is a huge reason people got so involved with the show. Both actors were equally perfect and important.

    Agreed, he's terrific as Bester. Because unlike his role as Chekov, he has a proper part.

    Well, TJ Hooker was a commercial success to be sure but I was trying to justify his integrity as an actor. Hardly his best work.
     
  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Occasionally, yes. But it's far, far more wrong to refer to Takei, Nichols, and Koenig as extras.


    That's your personal opinion, but the historical record shows that Spock was immensely more popular with viewers at the time. It was only through Roddenberry's effort to keep Kirk front and center that he and Spock ended up seeming equally important to the show. If the network had had its way, if Roddenberry and Shatner hadn't fought so hard against the tide of Spock mania, then Spock would've eclipsed Kirk in the same way that the Fonz eclipsed Richie as the star of Happy Days.
     
  8. DalekJim

    DalekJim Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Well, they're extras the vast majority of the time. Occasionally they'll get some mild focus in ship-centric episodes like The Naked Time or Mirror, Mirror but that's because there's no significant guest stars around. If there are, they're given nothing to do really.

    Being considered extras is only wrong if people look down on extras. It's a perfectly valid job role that TV and film would be much worse off without. Not everybody has to be, or has the talent to be, a star. As George Takei's performance in his Voyager appearance proved.

    Yet these people feel entitled to fame, think they deserve to be in the public eye and demand the attention that they feel is being robbed of them in favour of Shatner. That's just... wrong. It'd be like the guy who played Uncle Owen in Star Wars complaining that Mark Hamill hogged the lime-light. No, he's just the bloody main character. That's how fiction works.
     
  9. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Billy Blackburn, who often sat at the navigation or helm station, was an extra. He never had any lines. (Most extras on TOS never had any lines because then they would have been owed more money). The guy saying "Aye, sir" was either a semi-regular (Takei, Koenig) or a day player -- not an extra.

    Walter Koenig would agree with you. But, self-deprecating as he is, he wouldn't call the role of Chekov that of an "extra." He'd call it what it was: a mostly expository role in which he was paid as a day player, and later as a semi-regular.

    Being considered extras is wrong when the person is not an extra. Takei, Koenig, and Nichols were not extras.

    In practice, Nichols was a semi-regular, but contractually she was never more than a day player. (Indeed, she was paid so little that she had a "no quote" deal.)
     
  10. TREK_GOD_1

    TREK_GOD_1 Commodore Commodore

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    Shatner certainly had his share of fans, but Nimoy's Spock was so popular, he was the first character to be produced as a model kit during the series' production years--with the subtitle "Star Trek's Most Popular Character" on the box. That says much about perceptions at the time TOS was a first run series.
     
  11. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Yeah, but who was mentioned in the Nena song? ;)
     
  12. CoveTom

    CoveTom Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Uhm... no.

    An "extra" is a specific type of performer, also called "background actors." These actors, by union rules, can have no dialogue what-so-ever. They, therefore, receive a lesser rate of pay than speaking actors and no on-screen credit. Someone who has even a single line of dialogue is, by definition, not an extra. Extras are the only performs who can, under certain limited circumstances, be non-union. That's why those who get "walk on" roles -- like Prince (now King) Abdullah of Jordan on Voyager -- never have a line of dialogue.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extra_(actor)
     
  13. DalekJim

    DalekJim Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Uh, Wikipedia? Really?

    The term "extra" isn't even an official term used in the industry. I assure you that people like "You mess with Spidey, you mess with New York!" guy are seen as and referred to as extras within the business.
     
  14. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Can you cite any sources to back up what you're saying? If Wikipedia's so bad, what sources do you have that are better?
     
  15. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Completely and utter bunk - until it got merged into SAG, they even had their own union called the Screen Extras Guild. Although the term 'background player' is now standard.

    As for the fact that you think that 'extras' cover a range of roles - Albert (2008) notes that the difference between an extra and day player is the day player gets a line and is therefore bumped to a higher rate. Above that is the 'under-5' who is someone who gets five lines or less. Hollywood Unknowns: A History of Extras, Bit Players, and Stand-Ins by Slide (2012) indicates the same categories.

    More specifically if we look at the trade literature of the time such as Billboard, they use the same distinctions when discussing pay and condition changes.

    That Sulu and others were extras in the sense you use the word is nonsense.
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2013
  16. DalekJim

    DalekJim Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    There really isn't much of an official distinction going on between extras and those with one line, it all depends on the person's individual contract and will vary from production company to production company. On a film set, the guy in the corner who says "Aye sir!" would be considered an extra by the entire crew.

    I'm not gonna passionately get in to an argument that Sulu is in fact NOT an extra but actually a "bit part" or whatever. The point is that he was in no way a main character and got less material than the one shot guest stars of the week would get. I'll change my argument to being that he was little more than an extra if we can get remotely back on topic.
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2013
  17. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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    OK it is clear at this stage you are a bullshitter, you've got to stop talking about things it is increasingly clear you know nothing about like you are some sort of authority. There is a very clear distinction between the two (especially within a US context) and it has nothing to do with 'individual contracts' :guffaw:
     
  18. DalekJim

    DalekJim Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Wow, how rude and obnoxious can somebody even get?

    I am from Britain, have a university education in film and have been on film sets. Sometimes a director will just... give an extra a line right then and there. It amazes me how aggressive people can get regarding topics they have zero knowledge about. You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion.

    It has everything to do with their contract with the studio!? That's how the industry like.... works?
     
  19. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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    So why don't you see to know about national agreements in regards to the different categories of actor who might be on a set?

    As for having a film degree - big deal, you have a undergraduate degree it means you know not very much about a range of subjects, it doesn't make you an expert in any sense. If we wanted to play that game, I'd just turn to my right and ask the wife - who actually *is* an expert in this area.


    Wow... go away and do some reading about how contracts work in the TV industry for background and day players (especially in the US which is what we are discussing), then come back and you'll be able to construct this fantasy a little more convincingly.

    I'm not cruel however, I'll give you some terms to search for "Walk-on 1, walk-on 2" which are specific to the UK industry.
     
  20. DalekJim

    DalekJim Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Pretty odd how you justify this to yourself. You've walked in to an otherwise polite and calm discussion, spouted nonsense about a topic you obviously know nothing about and combined it with a level of rudeness that makes me unwilling to engage with you in conversation.