Did GR error in his casting concept?

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by CrazyMatt, Mar 19, 2017.

  1. CrazyMatt

    CrazyMatt Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Recently, a thread discussed the casting for Star Trek during its production run of '66-'69. I made the point that the series' characters were unusually well cast, from Shatner on down.

    As you all know, some of those cast members expressed deep disappointment when their characters were not developed as they had hoped they would be, and felt deep resentment when Shatner (sometimes with the assistance of Nimoy and Kelley) worked behind the scenes to reassign the lines of these actors, and make them less important to the plot.

    All of this makes me wonder: Did GR error in repeatedly using the same characters at helmsman, navigator (from season 2 onward), and communications? After all, if he intended to focus on the three leads, wouldn't building up those behind them tend to take away from their spotlight?

    As an example, George Takei appeared in 52 episodes. If he had been the helmsman in 25 of them instead, with other characters played by other actors subbing for him, might we have avoided the us vs. them mentality of the three leads vs. the second tier?

    I know this is apocryphal to many of you, but if GR intended to focus on the lead three characters--Kirk, Spock and McCoy, wouldn't it make sense to keep the other characters from becoming prominent?
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    The premise here is incorrect. Roddenberry originally intended TOS to be more of an anthology show. Shatner and Nimoy were the only regulars in season 1, but the rest of the ensemble was meant to be get a lot of focus, as is evident in early episodes like "The Corbomite Maneuver" and "The Man Trap." Indeed, Yeoman Rand was originally meant to be about equal in importance to McCoy; look at the early first-season end credits and DeForest Kelley and Grace Lee Whitney are credited together on the same title card. So it was meant to be Kirk first in importance, then Spock, then McCoy and Rand, then Sulu, Scott, and Uhura -- but with the goal being to spread the attention around to cover the whole ensemble. (Keep in mind that "This Side of Paradise" was originally meant to be a Sulu love story, which is why the love interest has the "exotic" name Leila Kalomi.)

    But then female audiences went gaga over Spock. He became the breakout character, with Leonard Nimoy getting more fan mail than the rest of the cast combined. So the network pushed for a heavier emphasis on Spock. He was now the de facto star of the show. But Roddenberry and Shatner both intended Kirk to be the star of the show and fought to keep it that way. Eventually, Roddenberry's friend Isaac Asimov (always a smart guy) suggested that if Spock was going to be the breakout star anyway, the best way to keep Kirk central was to emphasize his friendship with Spock, to make them an inseparable team. So that was how Kirk managed to stay at the heart of the show. And McCoy also managed to stay front and center because he was also closely connected to Spock through their rivalry. And that's how the show ended up being focused on those three characters at its core. But because it was now so focused on Spock and the two men closest to him, the rest of the ensemble got marginalized more than was originally intended.

    It's not uncommon for a show to start with an ensemble approach and then focus on a breakout character while the rest of the ensemble gets marginalized, often to the point of near-invisibility. There was Dr. Smith, Will, and the Robot on Lost in Space; Fonzie on Happy Days; J.J. on Good Times; Urkel on Family Matters; etc. Not to mention comic strip characters like Popeye (introduced 10 years into the run of a strip about Olive Oyl and her boyfriend Ham Gravy), Nancy (originally a supporting character in Fritzi Ritz), Snuffy Smith (supporting in Barney Google, who continued to be nominally included in the strip's title long after he'd all but vanished), Dagwood (originally just one suitor in the strip about flapper Blondie Boopadoop's life as a swinging single girl), etc. It's surprising how common this was in comic strips.
     
  3. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    Why was it a problem? Unless the us-versus-them mentality really affected the show, I'm not sure why it would be an issue to Roddenberry or anyone else. The "second tier" were never expected to be in every episode in the first place, so obviously the production could live without them.
     
  4. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Shatner and Nimoy were the only regulars guaranteed to be in every episode (and guaranteed to work the most days per episode), but they weren't the only regulars when the show premiered.

    George Takei, DeForest Kelley, and Grace Lee Whitney were also contracted as regulars (for 7 out of 13 shows).

    James Doohan had an agreement to appear as a recurring character (5 out of 13) at the beginning, but was not a regular. Roddenberry actually tried to drop Doohan from the show, but Doohan's agent managed to fight for him and keep him on, at least on a recurring basis.

    Nichelle Nichols was strictly a day player during season one; she wasn't guaranteed work week to week.

    As the show developed, things changed. Doohan was brought on as a regular at the end of season one. Kelley's deal was changed so that he was guaranteed to be in every episode beginning in season two. Grace Lee Whitney's option was not picked up, and she ended up being dropped from the show altogether. Takei stayed a regular until season three, when he stayed on, but only as a day player. And Nichelle Nichols was briefly made a regular (during the first 13 shows of season 2) before being dropped back to a day player.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2017
  5. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Since Nichols, Takei, and Koenig rarely got a chance to shine and were frequently absent, I'd say no. Throwing the supporting cast a bone every once and a while hardly took the spotlight off of Shatner and Nimoy (and, later, Kelley).
     
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  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I think we've had this semantic discussion before. I've always understood "regular" to mean someone billed in the main titles and contracted for every episode. If someone only appears intermittently, I thought the term for that was "semi-regular" or "recurring."

    Although I'm not sure how that would apply for something like The Time Tunnel, where only Robert Colbert and James Darren were listed as main-title "starring" roles, but Whit Bissell, Lee Meriwether, and John Zaremba were in every episode. I guess I'd have to call all five of them regulars, although two were billed higher than the others. Is there a difference between a "star" and a regular?
     
  7. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    A "series regular" is someone with a long-term contract who is guaranteed a certain number of shows per production cycle. Andreas Katsulas was a series regular on Babylon 5, for example, but he wasn't in every episode. (Semi-regular isn't a bad term to describe series regulars that weren't contracted for every episode.)

    A "recurring" player has a multiple episode guarantee, but no long-term contract.

    "Day players" come on a day-by-day basis. No long-term contract, No guarantee that they'll be in more than one show.

    Billing is negotiated; Shatner and Nimoy had it written into their contracts that their billing would be in the main titles and of a certain size and type (when Nimoy did not receive "co-starring" billing during the first few episodes, it was a major mistake, as his contract guaranteed such billing). The other regulars had billing arrangements that were not as good or even at the "producer's discretion."
     
  8. diankra

    diankra Commodore Commodore

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    On the original point, yes, it would have been nice to have had a wider team across episodes, so that while Kirk and Spock, and Scotty and McCoy if their department was relevant, were always around, there would be other regular helmsmen and comms officers across a season, creating the feeling of a big ship with different officers on different shifts.
    But from a production point of view, once you've got an actor who can be trusted to turn up on time, know their lines and not smash the expensive set, it's sensible to use them. A show like Trek is difficult enough without creating extra problems.
     
  9. Lance

    Lance Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Surely, Lieutenant Lesley was by far the most criminally underdeveloped character? That dude could've run the whole ship by himself. In fact, I'm convinced that he was doing exactly that in the background of every episode. ;)
     
  10. Spock's Barber

    Spock's Barber Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    The same goes for Bill Blackburn and Frank Vinci.
     
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  11. UnknownSample

    UnknownSample Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    "Did GR err", not "Did GR error".
     
  12. johnnybear

    johnnybear Commodore Commodore

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    What about Lieutenant Lumley or Lemli or whatever his name was?
    JB
     
  13. TREK_GOD_1

    TREK_GOD_1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Well observed.

    ....and about the "lets make Kirk and Spock a team" business, that was clearly introduced as early as the second pilot with the rapport between the two during their chess game, being challenged by Spock regarding the handling of Mitchell (even as distressing as the conversation was) yet accepting his insight, and to top it all off, the last act on the bridge. Shatner & Nimoy were not hanging out there in the wind--completely directionless--regarding how they were supposed to play off of each other.
     
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  14. The Old Mixer

    The Old Mixer The Mod You've Known for All These Years Moderator

    If only you hadn't killed off Paul Carr, they might have cut you some slack.
     
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  15. TREK_GOD_1

    TREK_GOD_1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Hey, I was just opening up a job opportunity for Sulu. He was never going to get bridge duty with Kelso around.
     
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  16. Lance

    Lance Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I seem to recall that one idea they wanted was to use the "Kirk and X" story format -- 'X' being a different supporting character every week, so it could be "Kirk and Spock" one week, "Kirk and Sulu" the next, "Kirk and Uhura" the week after that -- but that the popularity of the Spock character seen the network put pressure on them to make every show a "Kirk and Spock".
     
  17. UnknownSample

    UnknownSample Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Gene R knew Nimoy as Spock would be in there before he had the rest of Trek figured out, so he was never going to be very peripheral.
     
  18. Ryan Thomas Riddle

    Ryan Thomas Riddle Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Is this idea documented anywhere? @Harvey, have you seen this idea presented in any of your research?
     
  19. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    This is new to me. The series bible - even the earliest version (March 1966) - doesn't include anything like this, to my knowledge.
     
  20. Ryan Thomas Riddle

    Ryan Thomas Riddle Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Thanks! It's an interesting concept but nothing I've read on the show's production or the memos I've seen mention anything like it either.