Starship, the proposed 1970s Series

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by Doctor Jeffrey, Aug 23, 2019.

  1. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    What Roddenberry promised in terms of affordability and what he actually delivered were two different things. Those planet shows reusing existing sets and backlot locations turned out to be some of he show’s most expensive.

    As a producer, Roddenberry had a season of episodic TV under his belt, and a handful of failed pilots. That was the extent of his production experience, and it shows in some of the mistakes he made on Trek. A more seasoned producer wouldn’t have sent as many problematic stories to teleplay as he did without fixing their structural problems first. A lot of the eventual problems with “City,” for example, could have been fixed if Roddenberry had addressed them at the outline stage. Stories like “The Alternative Factor” or “Portrait in Black and White” could have been seriously retooled or junked before more time and money was spent on them.
     
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  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Yeah, but I'm talking specifically about what he pitched. Maurice said "'strange new worlds' was the show Roddenberry promised them, and it's not the show he could deliver weekly because he underestimated the costs involved. He should have pitched them a show that was like a planet story every other week or something." That implies that Roddenberry somehow failed to consider budget limitations and promised something too extravagant, which is simply untrue. The original 1964 pitch document is all about how to economize, how to reuse assets to keep the show affordable. And that included periodic shipboard episodes, so it's not like he was unaware of the need for those.

    In short, the problem was not with what he pitched. The pitch made sense from a budgetary standpoint (if not from a scientific one). As you say, the problem was with the execution. In addition to the issues you raised, it's odd that they didn't follow through on his proposal to do 3-4 episodes on a given planet. That would've been great, not only for saving money, but it would've been more plausible for an exploration vessel to spend more than just one week exploring a new planet.

    Also, I've mentioned before that I'm surprised TOS didn't try to write episodes around stock footage from movies, as was done by other shows like The Time Tunnel or The Twilight Zone (with Forbidden Planet ship footage and the like), or later series like The Incredible Hulk and MacGyver. Granted, Paramount didn't have that many color sci-fi movies in its vaults, but there were some that might've provided some usable FX footage --When Worlds Collide, Conquest of Space, Robinson Crusoe on Mars, Crack in the World. And they could always have used historical-epic footage Time Tunnel-style in parallel-Earth episodes.
     
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  3. Doctor Jeffrey

    Doctor Jeffrey Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    The first time I read about a connection between NBC and the RCA color TVS was written by Herb Solo, the Desilu/Paramount executive in charge and one of the show runners. He wrote that STAR TREK was the second highest rated NBC show among color TV owners and he said that he felt that that particular demographic was a much more important reason for Trek to be renewed for a third season than the fan letter writing campaign. He also acknowledged that this was an unpopular point of view, but he was in the meetings with NBC and heard what they had to say. It also gives credence to why the third season was on 10 pm Eastern Time on Fridays. Back then color TVs were expensive and people who could afford them tended to have dinner parties and cocktail parties on Friday nights. In 1968 there was a shift in color TV quality, and people who had the new sets loved to show them off while hosting a party. A show that had a lot of strong color use, such as TOS, showed off the strengths of the new color TV technology. Anyway, I read about the color TV demographic and its importance in a book co-written by Solo, and he was at the decision making meetings with NBC. Take it as you will.

    Solo also wrote that Desilu/Paramount wanted to do more shows using Enterprise sets, and more bottle, or near bottle, episodes, and that NBC wanted more shows on new worlds with new aliens.

    I did mention the production problem/solution at least once, but I'll mention it again. The need for new sets each week was making TOS much more expensive that most other series. "Court Marshall" was written because Roddenberry specifically asked for an episode that only needed one set. Although, I think they built 2: the courtroom and the bar. One of those might have been a recycle. Perhaps somebody here knows. Anyway, "Babel" used a lot of alien make-ups and a fair amount of recycled and rebuilt costumes, but no new sets. It satisfied the need for new color treats without needing new sets. "The Immunity Syndrome" was vibrant and startling for color TV owners at the time, but the vibrancy of the space amoeba was created by using the color negatives of a mineral oil/food coloring based alien created on an animation stand (and done very well). The lack of visible stars was to make the matting process much less expensive. A hospital ship series could also deal with large aliens that are outside the ship. No new sets or make-ups, but focus on cleverly created post production effects that could be done economically, like the space amoeba or the concrete & windsock & stage lighting Planet Destroyer (although I doubt a hospital ship would try to cure a Planet Destroyer. . . . RUN AWAY!!!!)

    I don't KNOW if any of this thinking went into consideration for a hospital ship show. I know what Solo wrote in his book and I know what Roddenberry said at Ohio State in the mid-80s, but the pieces come together in a logical way. Although, just because something is logical does not mean that it happened. However, the hospital ship series would have solved the color TV demographic need that Solo discussed and it would have done so more economically than building new sets each, or most, weeks. The other problems that people mentioned above (a show with mediocre general ratings and the difficulty of getting quality scripts) still apply and were likely the reasons why the hospital series did not get beyond discussion.
     
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  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I'm just not convinced that the hospital-ship idea was ever discussed in the first place. It fails the smell test on multiple levels.
     
  5. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    One of TNG's most popular episodes is the one in an alternate timeline where Starfleet is intentionally military and the Enterprise is intentionally a warship.
     
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  6. Shawnster

    Shawnster Commodore Commodore

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    Starship is bringing up some very vivid memories for me I remember seeing all kinds of art with the word "Starship" on it in that digital looking typeface. Blue outline white font.

    Googling Starship 1970s Roddenberry is only bringing up Star Trek, though
     
  7. MAGolding

    MAGolding Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I think that it is possible that various indexes to magazine and fanzines might sometimes include the contents of each issue.

    for example: Here is link to a page about the February, 1968 issue of Analog Science Fiction Science Fact: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?56790

    This page doesn't post the text of the stories and articles in the issue, but it does post a table of contents. The table of contents does list an article by G. Harry Stine: "To Make a Star Trek" on pp. 70-86. So that tells you that a particular issue of Analog, the February, 1968, issue, has an article about Star Trek. Then you can try looking for the February 1968 issue of Analog in a large library, or online, or create a post somewhere asking for science fiction fans who have copies of that issue to see if the article mentions the subject you are interested in.

    Because I was a little familiar with looking up things like this, and I remember a little bit about that article by G. Harry Stine. I google G. Harry Stine, and got his wikipedia article here:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G._Harry_Stine

    And then I quickly scrolled down to the bottom, the section called External Links, and clicked on the link to G. Harry Stine's section in the Internet Speculative Fiction Database here:

    http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?892

    And then I quickly scrolled down to Essay Series, Science Fact Analog, and found the article listed and clicked on it to get to the page with the table of contents:

    http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?56790

    It took me a lot less time to find it than to write about how I found it and possibly less time than it took to read about the search.

    I think that the Internet Speculative Fiction Database should be a good place to search for articles about Star Trek published in various science fiction magazines between 1966 and 1969, or between 1964 and 1972, or whatever date range seems best to search.

    And there may be similar methods to search for articles about Star Trek in TV Guide and other television magazines. I know that there used to be printed indexes to articles in many magazines in a specific time period. And there might be similar methods to search for articles about Star Trek in entertainment industry magazines like Variety.

    As I remember, within the last year or two there was mention in one of the forums here of a list of all the early Star Trek fanzines from the 1960s. So that discussion seems like a good place to start looking for the articles you remember if they were in fanzines.
     
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  8. Doctor Jeffrey

    Doctor Jeffrey Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Yes, most of the ones in existence now online are the Star Trek versions with the ringship being an earlier Enterprise. Those versions have a much larger scale than the STARSHIP version, and the Trek versions include a shuttle hanger on one side (the transporter sphere on the other side). The STARSHIP series only intended a transporter.

    Does anybody still have the STARSHIP blueprints sold in the mid-70s? I used to have a set. Any that I've found online have such poor resolution that I can't read the measurement. I would love to know what the length and width of the 2 cylinders are.

    What are your most vivid memories of STARSHIP?
     
  9. Doctor Jeffrey

    Doctor Jeffrey Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Thanks, MAGolding, for all your work. You wrote, "So that discussion seems like a good place to start looking for the articles you remember if they were in fanzines." However, since the articles I read in the late 60s and early 70s were not fanzines, that would not be a place to look. Nor would it help in tracking down what Roddenberry said at Ohio State in the 80s since that was live and not printed. This thread is really about STARSHIP. Somebody mentioned it nice to keep alive the memory of STARSHIP and I said that I also liked the idea of the hospital ship series. Then, somebody else said that there was never any mention of the hospital series except in recent years. I stated that Roddenberry discussed it live at Ohio State and that I remember mention of it in some mainstream magazines in the late 60s and early 70s, and that some high school classmates talked about it and Dr. M'Benga in the mid-70s. I don't have much interest in the hospital ship series other than thinking it might have been a good show. I think STARSHIP would have been a good series if they had really kept to the idea of using lessons learned from Star Trek to create something in a new direction. That's why I started the STARSHIP thread here. However, MAGolding, you might be the right person to start a thread on the hospital ship series. I would be happy to contribute what I can from what Roddenberry said at Ohio State in the 80s. Thanks for your work and your links, although the fanzine links would not help in finding the articles that I remember.
     
  10. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    This is what I meant and I thought was perfectly clear. He sold the show to the network based on this "strange new worlds" gimmick but they ended up being too expensive to deliver every week. I could be pedantic and write a paragraph on the mechanics of why, but in short Roddenberry thought his parallel worlds concept was a money saver when any experienced producer would have known that wasn't so. His failing was he didn't give himself any wiggle room in the base pitch. He promised the network planet stories and by gum that's what the network had every right to expect. That's the show they bought.

    With all due respect, I think you're conflating a lot of things here to make a narrative that's not supported by any real evidence. For instance, the Color TV thing is a wholly separate issue from the 10pm Friday timeslot (which we think we may be onto the actual reason for), etc. I have no idea where this "cocktail party" thing comes from.

    I still don't think there was ever really a hospital ship spin-off discussed in any real way beyond whatever GR may have said to Hartman. The existing record and Roddenberry's track record don't really support it.

    And like you I'd rather discuss what is known about Starship than continue wading in this myth soup. :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2019
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  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    As I already said twice, that's not true; the prospectus specifically mentioned that there would be shipboard bottle shows and that the reason for the large ship and crew was to allow generating a wide range of stories from shipboard characters. He never promised 100% planet stories.
     
  12. Doctor Jeffrey

    Doctor Jeffrey Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    That's a good point, Christopher. Part of his original idea for STAR TREK was that the ship would be large enough to carry many of the future guest stars with it (I should say, "with her", since she is a ship). One of the lessons learned was that eventually in a series you come down to using primarily the regular characters. So, if you are mostly going to use 6 or 7 regulars, make that the size of the crew for a series like STARSHIP. Thanks, Christopher, and thanks for the reference to the TREK prospectus.
     
  13. The Old Mixer

    The Old Mixer Mih ssim, mih ssim, nam, daed si Xim. Moderator

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    I don't know what he was like behind the scenes, but I quite liked Lansing in that role, which proves to me that he could have carried an Assignment: Earth series. I liked his 12OCH replacement, Paul Burke, as well, but Lansing's glowering presence gave the role a little extra something.
     
  14. Doctor Jeffrey

    Doctor Jeffrey Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    I agree with you on all counts, Mixer. Paul Burke was a good, reliable, enjoyable actor who had a deservedly good career. Lansing was cool and aloof, but I also found him to be likable and fascinating to watch. I think Lansing and the squad of specialty cats are my main reasons for watching that episode over again. Christopher has convinced me that the episode was not quite as pessimistic as I used to think, and I agree with him that a constructive benevolence would have permeated had it gone to series.
     
  15. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Herbert F. Solow. He was the executive in charge of production. He was not a "showrunner," a term that was not used in the television business in the 1960s, and would not be used to describe Solow's role if he were still active today. Solow's creative contributions to Star Trek were largely limited to its development phase (e.g., the two pilots); beyond that, his contributions were administrative and financial.

    Solow claims in Inside Star Trek: The Real Story that Star Trek was the #1 show among color TV owners. I did a fair amount of research into this claim and can say with some certainty that his memory is wrong.

    http://startrekfactcheck.blogspot.com/2016/02/star-trek-and-color-television.html

    I don't think so. Bob Justman wrote in an early memo about "Court Martial" that "Sets, opticals and miniatures may be quite expensive in this show..." (May 5, 1966). As late as August 16, 1966, Justman was complaining in another memo to Gene Coon about there being too many sets and also that the descriptions, as written, were far too expensive for the series to execute. What we got on screen was slimmed down considerably from what was originally conceived by Don Mankiewicz.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2019
  16. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    The pitch document doesn't promise a new planet every single week, but it leans heavily into the "strange new world" concept. It opens with a fantasy math equation explaining how there are 2,800,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 different planets the Yorktown (at that point) could visit. And then the very next thing it describes is the parallel worlds concept. By the time Roddenberry gets to describing bottle shows (page 9 of 13 in the version I'm looking at) he says "now and then a story will take place exclusively aboard the Yorktown" (emphasis mine).

    It's plainly evident from the correspondence coming from Stan Robertson that NBC expected more "strange new worlds" than they were being delivered, and it's equally evident from the budget-conscious push-back coming from people at the studio, especially Bob Justman, that this just wasn't possible on Desilu's budget (and NBC's license fee).
     
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  17. Doctor Jeffrey

    Doctor Jeffrey Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    You are correct, Harvey, the term I meant to write was torchbearer, and he very much fits the description of torchbearer that is used today. I've had that role myself. You are right; the torchbearer is primarily for early development and getting the product sold to a production company (and there is a nice bonus if the series, movie or production is successful). After that, the torchbearer often becomes a showrunner in TV or a production manager in professional theatre. So, normally the torchbearer would have become the showrunner. In Solow's case he became the executive in charge, which, as you correctly said, was largely financial and administrative. Thanks for the alert of misspeaking.

    I also misspelled his name. I believe he is still alive. He'd probably be very embarrassed to learn how wrong he's been on a number of counts for a show he was instrumental in launching. But, I agree with you; research on the Internet is better than years of participation and creation. It's amazing how efficient the net is.

    Thanks for alerting me to the wrong word and the misspelling.
     
  18. Doctor Jeffrey

    Doctor Jeffrey Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Harvey and Christopher have been citing the original Trek prospectus and the economically difficulty of going to new worlds in most episodes. Does anybody have information on expectations of new worlds if STARSHIP had gone to series?

    Back in the mid 70s when I received my blueprints of the Starship, they came in two large sheets in a tube, and a typed page outlining the concept for the series. As I remember it, the stated mission of the ship was to investigate and address ecological disasters (to try to repair and fix) and ecological problems (to try to curtail before they became disasters). Does anybody have information on this and what the expectation was for traveling to new worlds? I got the impression that a big part of the mission for the ship and the crew was reconnaissance and creating plans for ecological solutions, but I don't remember if the ship had the resources for fixing large ecological problems. I also got the impression that the crew would also explore situations in space, rather than on planets, in the manner of "The Immunity Syndrome".

    Does anybody recall any statements about the use of new worlds for STARSHIP?
     
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  19. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    [​IMG]
    This is an image that I believe Lincoln Enterprises used to sell.

    Seems this is the basis of the image seen in ST:TMP's Rec Deck. It looks like they made a hi-con (high contrast) print of it then retouched that (replacing the background) for the translight seen in the set. Perhaps.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2019
  20. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    E-yup.