Fact-Checking Inside Star Trek: The Real Story

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Harvey, Jun 7, 2013.

  1. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk Cartoon Premium Member

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    People will still cite them in poorly researched articles on the internet pretending to be journalism.
     
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  2. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Ensign Newbie

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    True. But they'll usually get debunked or ignored.
    The fun of people being able to check this stuff online is that when someone posts bogus information, if anyone is paying attention, they'll pop up to say "Au Contraire"...
     
  3. David cgc

    David cgc Admiral Premium Member

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    "Usually"? There's this thread, the blog-posts it links to, and that's it. While they don't come up as often as they did when they were new, the fact remains that no one debunking the Cushman books has the messaging power to choke them out as-is, at least not yet, and they remain the state-of-the-art in TOS scholarship. Probably moreso even than the Fifty-Year Mission books, which are all first-peson recollections, so readers probably take them more towards the "gossipy" than "authoritative" sides of the equation. People aren't going to fact-check "These Are The Voyages." It is the fact-check, because it ostensibly went straight to the source.

    While I hate telling other people to do stuff as a side gig almost as much as I hate being told to do stuff as a side gig, I think the Patreon idea could have legs. It's intended more for ongoing production rather than one single big work, but it'd be possible to set up to support a blog, maybe some sort of companion podcast or YouTube channel, with the understanding that the work would also be going towards an eventual on-the-shelf hardcopy book.
     
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  4. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Ensign Newbie

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    I agree that it would be best to have a hard copy book published to really get into the details (and to present an option for all the various Trek sites to do new interviews to discuss the actual record).

    But there's no real way or in my opinion need to stamp out every single blogger on the internet who cites bad information.

    I don't think Cushman's books are considered state of the art, and my hope is that there will be a possibility at future Trek conventions to point this out in public, in front of assembled fans.
     
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Of course there isn't, but that's exactly why it's important to publicize the good information. You can't outshout the competition if you don't make yourself heard at all.
     
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  6. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    Actual fact-checking and research is time-consuming detective work. @Harvey and I are doing due diligence on several Trek episodes now for a prospective project and it's sloooooow going even with the Roddenberry papers to refer to as one primary source. And such a recource CAN be confusing if you don't understand the paperwork and the process by which it was generated, or if you just skim it. I have had to make some spreadsheets to keep track of all the data points in order to make sense of everything and try to figure out what actually happened (or is as close as possible).

    Complicating matters, the primary sources often contradict the later memoirs and recollections of the participants (Ellison's "runes" story for one, Gerrold's glib brush-off of the Heinlein incident for another) and many fans don't like their myths debunked, which makes it something of an uphill battle getting the truth out there.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2018
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  7. plynch

    plynch Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I'd contribute. And as to the above, yeah Cushman's books are "the" scholarly making-of TOS books, to anyone named not-us. As I said, I know it was cited in the Trek dissertation I read. Whitfield was too. In a field with lots of research, other professors would spring up and debunk poorly done work. That would get known and it wouldn't get cited. We don't have a community of Trek professors to discredit this rogue writer gettin g believed and cited. Well, I guess we do, here. But to get the word out to anyone in any corner of academe who is wont to cite the dude? Tall order.

    for Patreon, it would fit the model o f supporting ongoing blog posts. Oneperk to supporters c an be early access. Probably kickstarter would be more suited to the production of one work. You (plural) would have my support either way.
     
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  8. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Do you have a link to that dissertation citing Cushman? I have a vague memory of seeing that, but am hazy on the details.

    Regarding the possibility of me writing a book at some point — I've surely thought about it. But as much as I'd like to get something out there to supersede Cushman's nonsense, I'm not interested in writing something that's half-assed. I could probably write the definitive production history of "The Alternative Factor" at this point, but of the series as a whole? I'm not there yet.

    Not many that I've seen. I don't think he's managed to get into many libraries — which makes sense, given that the books are self-published.

    I suspect his main distribution channel is still Amazon, where his books remain highly rated (4.5 out of 5 stars). In part this is due to some gaming of the system (Cushman set up an account called "Editorial Reviews" and used it to give all of his books five stars; Gerald Gurian and others who worked on the books also left five star reviews on Amazon), but in part the books just have a lot of organic, five-star reviews.

    There are some true believers out there, but I've seen more than a few people online who have been dissuaded from getting the books or viewed their claims with more skepticism after reading my blog.

    I wish there were more voices out there debunking this stuff, though.

    As @Maurice mentioned, we're currently hard at work on a new project that should be of interest to everyone here. Being as thorough and meticulous as we'd like means it's a slow process, though.
     
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  9. ssosmcin

    ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    On every forum and Facebook post I see praising Cushman's books, I drop a link to your blog. Every time. I hope it drives more traffic and educates more people. I'm sure by now Cushman himself must know about the Fact Check...
     
  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I try to do the same whenever I see Cushman's books mentioned.
     
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  11. mb22

    mb22 Captain Captain

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  12. johnnybear

    johnnybear Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Hope he's not related to Ralph Cashman, because we all know what happened to him!!! :eek:
    JB
     
  13. plynch

    plynch Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I type Cashman a lot by mistake though it's really Cushman. I confuse it with his nom de porn. Good news about it not ending up in university libraries.

    I don't go anywhere else internet-wise where this stuff is discussed or I would try to debunk.
     
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  14. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    I hate to dredge up the conversation about when Star Trek was supposed to take place back when it was being made in the sixties, but I just stumbled across a Gene Coon penned rejection letter (bold text added for emphasis) sent on October 7, 1966 that might present an interesting data point:

    "The time Star Trek is projected to, from 2-500 years in the future. This presents certain problems when we try to relate Star Trek concepts with current research. The most advanced and startling present-day concepts and research projects would be regarded by the personnel of the Enterprise as somewhat quaint and old fashioned."
     
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  15. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Ensign Newbie

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    As a mild update here, I wanted to let people know I have done a bit more research regarding "The Alternative Factor". I called the 1st Assistant Director who worked on that episode, Michael Glick. He's now a retired producer living in Los Angeles, but in the 1960s, he was a working 1st AD in television. He and Gregg Peters alternated episodes through Trek's first season (a normal practice in TV that we still use today). Glick then left the show and worked on "Hawaii Five-O" before transitioning to be a Production Manager and then a producer of feature films. Michael was very generous with his time with me and provided multiple insights into the Trek production during its first season, and specifically into the production of "The Alternative Factor."

    Regarding Trek in general, Michael told me the following:

    1. There was a bit of rivalry between the leads on Trek, as there is on many productions. Both actors felt they were in the lead position and there were delays due to this.

    2. Glick and Peters were the "Mutt and Jeff" of the first season, in that Glick is of average height and build while Peters was 6'4" with a shaved head and extremely imposing. (Tiger Shapiro, the 2nd AD, was 20 years older than them - a long-time assistant director who settled into that level of work rather than moving up to 1st AD) Charlie Washburn was not on the AD team at that time - Glick says he remembers him coming around at some point.

    3. He remembers Nichelle Nichols was problematic when they had to shoot her coverage and the set would slow down as she could not remember her lines. They had to make cue cards for her at times.

    4. Gerd Oswald and James Goldstone (a tall, redheaded director) were both indecisive as directors, which meant that the days would go longer than they should have. Glick remembers that Goldstone and Finnerman had gone to school together.

    5. Glick remembers Michael O'Herlihy being an extremely fast, decisive director - nasty at times, but very fast. Glick remembered another O'Herlihy story about how the man blasted through an 8 page scene with a big cast - literally by lining up the cast in a row and going down the procession to get all their dialogue. O'Herlihy was indeed known for wrapping early.

    6. Glick remembers Roddenberry and Justman would come to set, but not all the time as they were busy prepping the next episodes to come up. Roddenberry would sometimes rewrite dialogue on the set. Herb Solow never came to the set and Glick was surprised when he heard me say his name. Solow was a studio executive who dealt with the producers from the office.

    7. NBC Broadcast Standards would send them memos about what they could and could not film in the episodes. Sometimes this meant the director would shoot things two ways. Sometimes Justman would come down and handle it, but usually it was up to Glick or Peters to tell the director that they had to conform to Broadcast Standards.

    8. Glick doesn't remember any instructions about reining in the cast's ad-libs, or about Shatner's father dying. The latter situation happened on one of Peters' episodes while Glick was prepping.

    9. Glick remembered in general terms working with Ralph Senensky on "This Side of Paradise" - mostly just about Jill Ireland getting sick and the schedule getting scrambled as a result. (I asked him if at some point he started wondering what was up in that his episodes kept having this problem...)

    10. At the time they made Star Trek as a TV series, there was just a 1st and 2nd AD on the show, with no additional help other than asking the extras and stand-ins to help call out the rolls and cuts and secure the doors to the set. Glick remembers spending time on his weekends filling out the actors' timesheets for each week in advance. Tiger Shapiro would do the callsheet and PR every day.


    Regarding TAF:

    1. Glick remembers they had to scramble to find scenes to shoot when they lost their guest star. He doesn't remember the specifics or even that it was John Drew Barrymore. Just that they realized they'd lost the guest actor and had to come up with something to shoot until they had one.

    2. Glick had worked with Robert Brown an unsold pilot called "Yellowbird" previous to Star Trek. (IMDB lists the wrong Robert Brown on this show - they have the British actor - later to play "M" in the Bond films - who would not have been in the states at that time...) Glick remembers Brown as having trouble remembering his lines, which slowed the work down. This trouble was present on "Yellowbird" as well, so it wasn't a matter of the scramble on Star Trek - although that could not have helped the situation. Between Brown's issues there and Oswald being indecisive, the hours went longer than normal for scenework that could have been done a lot faster. (I believe this is another reason why Solow was so angry at Barrymore for flaking on them - the plan had been to have a solid character actor create something for Lazarus. Instead, they were forced to settle for what they got in an emergency.)

    3. Glick agrees with my presentation and ordering of 11/17/66 and 11/18/66. He goes further to say that they were able to get over 8 pages in their scramble on the 17th because those were primarily stand-up or sit-down dialogue scenes with little action. Scenes like that would shoot very quickly, as opposed to the action work at Vasquez Rocks.

    4. Glick remembers they would frequently move between their two stages (which were next door to each other at Desilu) and that the move to the Negative Magnetic Corridor on the 18th was a typical one - they moved over to see if they could get anything done and realized they couldn't.

    5. Glick remembers the choice to stay onstage on Monday 11/21/66 - the call was made due to rain. It may not have rained very much that day, but once the call to stay onstage was made, there was no going back. The caterer served the crew a breakfast at the Desilu Commissary that morning, as soon as the gear was off the trucks.

    6. Regarding BG upgrades, Glick does not remember the specifics on this for TAF. He does remember stuntman Bobby Bass starting as an extra who would do stunt-ish falls on set, which got him upgrades and allowed him to join SAG and become a real stuntman. Glick remembers it being common that the BG who were friendly with the ADs and could do good business on camera (like falls) could get SAG contracts out of that.

    7. Glick remembers Tues 11/22/66 clearly, for unhappy reasons. This was the first day at Vasquez Rocks, where they fell way behind. This was because it was raining and cold out there, and generally miserable. The rain pushed them into close-ups at various points and obviously slowed everything down, for exactly the reasons we described in the article. Glick was suffering from the flu that day and found the entire experience unpleasant.

    8. An added reason why Glick may have been unhappy that day has become clear from the paperwork and Glick remembers part of it. If you look at the paperwork and the progression of the episodes, the next one, "Tomorrow is Yesterday" should have had Gregg Peters as its 1st AD. Peters did the prep on the episode for Michael O'Herlihy and his name is typed onto the shooting schedule. But then Peters' name is crossed off and Glick's name is written in. So Michael Glick was told to stay on the set and run the following episode for O'Herlihy as soon as he finished TAF, without any actual preparation. Glick thinks this was because the next ep after that, "Return of the Archons" was considered to be a bigger, more important and more demanding episode while "Tomorrow is Yesterday" was a simpler, faster ep. (This makes sense, in that the former was one of Roddenberry's original series ideas while the latter was a script from his secretary.) It may also have been that O'Herlihy asked for him. Either way, Glick was told during that week that he would be staying on the set for another 6 days after finishing TAF rather than getting the usual break of going back to the office. I'm thinking this didn't help as he started to feel sick on that Tuesday (and probably that Monday as well).

    9. The wink-out lightning effect I mentioned in the article was accomplished by taking an arc light and reversing its polarity. This would create big sparks and flashes, as seen in the episode. To do this, the company had to bring in a separate generator just for the light in question, as this could have shorted out the main company generator. The spark effect was accompanied by a gas-powered Ritter fan. Trying to do this effect in rainy conditions was not fun at all on that Tuesday at Vasquez Rocks. I'll add from my experience that the sparking and the Ritter would also have been extremely LOUD.

    10. Wednesday 11/23/66 had obviously better weather and Glick was feeling better. Glick remembers they were able to do the rest of the running around by the Time Ship, but simply didn't have the time to do the big dialogue scene, which they knew would now be going back to stage that Friday.

    11. Glick remembers that the day after Thanksgiving was not a guaranteed holiday in 1966. These days, the studios give us both Thanksgiving and that Friday as paid holidays. In 1966, you just got Thanksgiving and maybe could take an unpaid day off on the Friday. Star Trek was NOT one of those shows - they would shoot every day they could, as cheaply as possible. The issues about cast and crew overages due to the holidays were based on the day players that all had to be paid on Thanksgiving. (The rule then, as now, was that if you were a day player who worked the day before and the day after a holiday, the company was required to pay you for the holiday too.) For TAF, this meant that Gerd Oswald, Robert Brown, the stunt guys and any additional effects/grips/etc crew at Vasquez Rocks and in the Corridor/Planet work at stage all had to be carried with holiday pay. Had the company been onstage on the 23rd, several of those day-players would not have been carried. Had the company been able to jam in the Negative Corridor on the 23rd and not owed the 5 page dialogue scene, nobody would have been carried.

    12. Glick and I discussed that there was likely another cost for the crew in the Art Dept to put up the "Negative Planet" set with the Time Ship on Stage 10, as those guys would have been in super early on the 25th to put the Time Ship in and set everything up, even if they'd started putting the set up on the 23rd as I believe they did when everything went wrong on the 22nd. This involved additional money to build the set but also more crew being carried over the holiday...

    My takeaway from the discussion with Glick is that our reading of the production documents is fairly well-confirmed. Cushman could have helped himself by taking the time to call Glick while he was doing his studies of the UCLA Archives.


    BTW - I also attempted to look up Billy Blackburn, as he would likely remember something about this episode as well - particularly as he was not in the bridge scenes as normal but instead in the Vasquez Rocks work in a red shirt. Alas, I was not able to locate him.
     
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  16. Phaser Two

    Phaser Two Commodore Premium Member

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    Utterly and completely awesome, Kevin. Thank you!!!
     
  17. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Does anyone on the TrekBBS know Blackburn? It would be great to talk to him in detail about his Trek experiences.
     
  18. ssosmcin

    ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I don’t know why I thought he passed away, but I think I’m really thinking of Ray Didsbury from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
     
  19. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    That was great, thanks a lot.
     
  20. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    It's hard to believe that it's been over a year since I posted in this thread. 2019 was a busy year for me! I got married! I went to Europe! I was promoted at work! And @Maurice and I have been putting in hundreds of hours of work into a project I hope we can announce soon!

    I don't have a new blog post just yet (although I do have one in the works that is nearly finished, so look for that soon), but (with plenty of help from @Maurice) I did just finish a somewhat breezy look at ten episodes of the original Star Trek that were never produced that will probably be of interest here.

    https://whatculture.com/tv/10-star-trek-the-original-series-episodes-that-were-almost-made

    As I said on Twitter, this isn't one of my heavily footnoted articles, but I tried to include as many quotes as possible from the outlines and memos I consulted when putting this together. Most sources claim "Shore Leave II" was a direct sequel to Ted Sturgeon's "Shore Leave," and I wanted to correct that. And as far as I know, no one has ever shared the story springboard for "Japan Triumphant" before — Cushman even says this material doesn't exist!

    There's definitely more to be said about some of these abandoned (or, if you're splitting hairs, heavily rewritten) stories and sometimes scripts — you could probably spend a whole article going through all the paperwork and revisions of Norman Spinrad's "He Walked Among Us" (hmm...), which had a much more contentious development process than any interview with Spinrad might suggest. And don't get me started about "Portrait in Black and White" and the, ugh, "Egron."