50 years ago, one of science fiction's greatest series was in development. The original Star Trek series was born out of desperation as much as inspiration, and a recent book called These Are The Voyages reveals tons of insane behind-the-scenes details. You think you know Star Trek? Here are tons of details you probably didn't know.
These Are The Voyages is a passion project which author Mark Cushman started working on in the 1980s, with the cooperation of Gene Roddenberry and other creators of the show. And Cushman and co-author Susan Osborn have done an astounding job of pulling together tons and tons of previously unknown info, as well as a startling "warts and all" approach to the creation of the series. There are volumes of These Are The Voyages covering the first and second seasons of the show, and we read the first volume.
The main thing that comes across in reading this book is just how much conflict there was going on during the making of the original Trek — and not just between Gene Roddenberry, NBC and Desilu, but also among the show's producers. You get the impression that Roddenberry and original showrunner John D.F. Black (who provides a foreword) were constantly at each other's throats. Roddenberry would solicit scripts from science fiction legends like Richard Matheson and Harlan Ellison, and then rewrite them completely — and sometimes it would be pretty obvious that Roddenberry had been drinking heavily before taking a scalpel to the work of these famous writers. Meanwhile, Roddenberry was constantly trying to include more explicit sexuality in Trek, and this was a constant battle.
But at the same time, it's clear that a lot of the early episodes were lacking in drama and pacing until either the studio or Roddenberry decided to punch them up. A lot of the early script drafts seem to have been missing elements that add a lot more urgency or interest to the story — for example "The Enemy Within" didn't have the crewmembers stranded on the frozen planet, an addition that Matheson hated.
The other thing that comes across in reading this book is that a lot of the people who worked on Star Trek were doing really experimental, somewhat avant garde work for television of the time. Everything from the lighting (which was more cinematic and less "flat" than other TV shows at the time) to the editing and direction (which used some camera setups that made it harder for the networks to do cuts, and sometimes used filmic artistic techniques to cut from shot to shot, like the bloody handprint in "Enemy Within) was more like a movie setup, and less like the TV factory model.
Small wonder that the show was constantly going over budget, and the filming was often running an hour or more late and taking up extra days. And some episodes were requiring four or five months of post-production.
These Are The Voyages goes through, episode by episode, and shows you the whole process from first draft to filming — and you get to see just how much this show was being made by the skin of everyone's teeth, and how incredible it is that the show actually survived out of its first year.
We already told you some facts you never knew about TOS , but here's another huge helping of surprising facts.
Gene Roddenberry was a speechwriter for the LAPD. You might have known Roddenberry was a beat cop before he got into television (by submitting stories to Dragnet), but did you know he wrote highly philosophical, lofty speeches for L.A. Chief of Police William H. Parker? Parker was in the process of "modernizing" the LAPD at the time, giving it more paramilitary organization and equipment, which arguably led to some of the police department's most controversial moments in later years — and Roddenberry was the one who helped sell this to the public. "It was only when he forgot he was a philosopher and began to think he was God that he got into trouble," Roddenberry later said of his old boss. "I have gotten into trouble the same way."
You should love Lucy. When Desilu was deciding to make Star Trek, studio owner Lucille Ball was unclear on the concept — she thought it was going to be a show about USO performers who would go and visit troops who were stationed in foreign countries. You know, stars going on a trek. She was often heard referring to it as "that South Seas show." Once the pilot was ordered, Herb Solow finally told Ball the truth about the show she was making — and she was speechless. But when the Desilu board of directors tried to pull the plug on Trek before filming, Ball was the one who decided to keep it alive — because she was convinced the show would make money, in the end. Later, rumor has it when they were filming "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and the camera tracks were getting gummed up with the weird dust they were using for the planet's surface, Lucille Ball personally went out with a broom, in front of the stunned crew, and swept the tracks clean herself.
"If it were not for Lucy, there would be no Star Trek today," one exec is quoted in the book as saying.
Commander Koenig could have been Spock. Martin Landau, who later starred in Space: 1999, was offered the role of the Vulcan science officer on the Enterprise. But he turned the role down, because "I felt the emotional range of the character was too limiting." Also offered the role of Spock: DeForest Kelley, whom the studio had already vetoed for the role of the ship's doctor. (Kelley turned down Spock, and eventually the studio relented on letting him be the doctor, after the first two pilots were filmed.)
Roddenberry wanted the Enterprise to fly upside down. Of course, there's no "up" and "down" in space, but the Enterprise is usually shown with its saucer section and nacelles upwards. But the model they originally made was top-heavy, so it swung upside down on its cord so the saucer and nacelles were down. Roddenberry liked it better that way, leading to tons of arguments. Roddenberry had told the designers the Enterprise should have "no flames, no fins, no rockets." So they studied Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers to see what not to do.
Pigeons and wasps attacked both pilots. The filming of the "The Cage" was interrupted by pigeons nesting in the rafters of the studio. The pigeons had a particular aversion to the voice of Jeffrey Hunter (Captain Pike) and would coo loudly whenever Hunter spoke. They tried to shoo the pigeons out, but they just flew into the hot lights and other equipment. Finally, they had to be lured out with breadcrumbs. In "Where No Man Has Gone Before," a wasps nest was disturbed by the filming, and the wasps kept flying down and stinging William Shatner on the eyelid and elsewhere — so he actually has a huge puffy sting on his eye during some scenes of that episode.
Gene Roddenberry was told to choose between Spock and Number One. He would only get to keep one of the two controversial main characters from "The Cage" for the ongoing series — and he was already having an affair with Majel Barrett, who played Number One. But Roddenberry still chose Spock over Number One, because he thought the character had more potential, and he gave Spock Number One's lack of emotion. Roddenberry later cast Barrett as Nurse Christine Chapel, and hoped that putting a blonde wig on her would make the studio not recognize her. (Nobody was fooled.) Barrett hated the role of Chapel, who was "Namdy Pamdy." (sic.)
Roddenberry believed there was no chest hair in the future. And that's why Shatner had to be shaved by a studio barber when he was appearing topless (or mostly naked, as in "What Are Little Girls Made Of?"). Roddenberry believed in his ideal future, men would have "little or no body hair." Shatner really did not want to be topless in the episode "Charley X," because he hadn't been working out and was self-conscious about his torso... but he was overruled.
Yeoman Rand had some deleted scenes. Including one where Kirk goes back to his quarters and finds she's laying out his clothes for him on his bed — this was cut because it was maybe a little too intimate for the Captain and his Yeoman. There were constant fights with the studio over how much of a relationship Kirk and Rand should seem to have — and the Captain's attempted rape of Rand in "Enemy Within" was a huge point of contention. Also, Yeoman Rand's famous beehive was made of two different wigs stuck together, and it kept coming off during the "attempted rape" scene because Shatner was a little too energetic. He also left her with bruises for weeks.
Dorothy Fontana had to fight for respect as one of the show's writers. She started out as a secretary, but was writing for the series remarkably early — and her input seems to have been crucial in the first season. She was the first person who ever heard Roddenberry's pitch for Trek, in fact. But the network exec, Stan Robinson, thought it was okay to call her up and lecture her about her script, as if she was still just the secretary. So she went to Roddenberry and said that she thought maybe it wasn't appropriate for Robinson to give her notes over the phone when he didn't do that to any of the other writers. Roddenberry called Robinson and bitched him out, saying "You don't mess with my writers." Later, Fontana received loads of fan mail addressed to "Mr. Fontana," because she wrote under the pen name D.C. Fontana.
Leonard Nimoy improvised the Vulcan nerve pinch. You probably already knew that Nimoy came up with the "Live Long and Prosper" hand symbol by borrowing from a thing his Rabbi had done at the synagogue. But Nimoy also invented the famous neck pinch — he had a moment in "Enemy Within" when he was supposed to clobber the feral Captain Kirk. And Nimoy didn't like the idea of Spock using violence unnecessarily. So he pitched the notion of the nerve pinch, and Shatner agreed to try it out. And because Shatner was so good at stage-fainting, the director liked it. The production team didn't even know about it until they saw the dailies the next day.
One episode's plot twist came about due to legal problems. Robert Bloch's script for "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" didn't just borrow heavily from H.P. Lovecraft — it also contained startling similarities to three stories he had sold to the magazine Fantastic Adventures in the 1940s and 1950s. Plus an episode of the TV show Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. The whole concept of a mad scientist stealing the secrets of android creation from some extinct aliens was problematic for legal reasons. So the production team decided to add the twist that Roger Korby himself was also an android — to make the story different enough so they wouldn't get sued.
Everybody hated the name of the Klingons. But there was no time to change it, and Gene Roddenberry was out sick from a rare disease he'd gotten from working with gemstones. Writer/producer Gene Coon wrote "Errand of Mercy" in a hurry, and others, like D.C. Fontana, protested the idea of aliens who sound like they're "clinging" was just silly. Fontana asked Coon, "Where do they come from? What's the name of their planet?" Coon responded: "Kling."
Gene Roddenberry got half the royalties for the Star Trek theme. Because of a contract clause that said if he wrote lyrics for a tune (even if they weren't used) he would get a split of royalties. So even though Roddenberry's incredibly silly and somewhat unsingable lyrics for the Trek theme were never heard on screen, he got a 50/50 split with composer Alexander Courage — something Courage was pretty upset by.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, as far as fascinating secrets from Star Trek's early years goes. For hundreds of pages' more information, you should check out These Are The Voyages Volumes 1 and 2.