Review by C.J. Bunce
Marc Cushman’s second volume of These Are the Voyages, his unprecedented treatise on Star Trek, the original series, is an improvement on his first volume, reviewed last year here at borg.com, which was a thorough history of the landmark series’ first season. But where Volume 1 was a good read–an assemblage of facts from multiple sources not easily obtainable otherwise and an accounting of television history from 1966–Volume 2 qualifies a great read. With more in-depth stories, anecdotes and interviews, from original sources as well as recent reminiscences from actors and production staff, Volume 2 provides a superb history of the production of Season Two and the world of American TV studios in 1967-68.
Highlights of Season Two recounted by Cushman include key changes to the show, such as the introduction of Walter Koenig as Pavel Chekov, which often led to the reduction in the roles of Sulu and Uhura. James Doohan’s Scotty was made third in command in Season Two, based on the writers’ efforts to keep Spock and Kirk together and expand the show to strange new worlds away from the Enterprise. The book includes modern accounts from the actors as they reflect back on their interpersonal relationships during production–everyone from George Takei to William Shatner seems surprised in retrospect by each other’s reported dismay during the series.
Volume 2 reveals Star Trek in its prime form—after a year of world-building in Season One, the first half of Season Two includes some of the best Star Trek episodes the series had to offer. Much of this was thanks to writer Gene L. Coon, whose selection of material lightened up the tone of the show, broadening appeal to viewers. Coon created the Klingons and the Prime Directive and the humorous relationship of Spock and McCoy. His influence can be seen in Season One’s “Space Seed” as well as Season Two’s classics “City on the Edge of Forever,” “Mirror, Mirror,” and “The Trouble With Tribbles.” Sadly his mid-season departure led to more campy elements seeping into the series toward the end of the season.
Many components spice up what could otherwise have been a bland, encyclopedic offering. The seemingly endless writing process during production that is recounted by Cushman is simply… fascinating. Robert Justman’s hilarious (but always spot-on) script notes alone make the book worth reading. The often eloquent and usually contentious back and forth battle on paper between Dorothy (D.C.) Fontana and Gene Coon and Robert Justman and Gene Roddenberry would make modern email battles seem lightweight.
The book is chock full of interviews with dozens of the guest stars, Nielsen rating statistics, press coverage, and fan club material. Although the general attitude of production staff is positive, we also get to see an almost universal raised eyebrow aimed at William Shatner for his abundance of ego, and Cushman includes pages of viewpoints based on the many one-on-one relationships of Shatner with guest stars and staffers. Cushman includes an early reference to Roddenberry seeing Shatner’s Captain James T. Kirk as the Captain Horatio Hornblower of the space age, a concept picked up on by Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan director Nicholas Meyer years later.
One intriguing story includes the introduction of 23-year-old David Gerrold, who authored the first unsolicited script bought by the production for the series. Gerrold’s first story featured a “generation ship” called Voyager, launched from Earth more than a century before. Sound familiar? Gerrold then wrote the most famous Star Trek episode of all, “The Trouble with Tribbles,” which an NBC executive called “one of the most visually exciting and provocative Star Trek’s ever put on film,” based just on reading the screenplay. And a big reason the episode was so good? Roddenberry didn’t meddle in the script preparation because he was out of town during the production of that episode.
For some later episode accounts, Cushman could be accused of trying too hard—pushing forward the best parts of the worst episodes, when maybe the episodes should just speak for themselves. But he also knows he is writing for fans more than any objective audience, so the moderate grandstanding from time to time is excusable. And who is to say there are any “bad” episodes anyway? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or the original series Star Trek fan.
Lacking again is attention to costume preparation and design and props—there is little to no discussion included with propmaker Wah Chang or costumer William Ware Theiss, when all other grounds are well covered via archived interviews, other than some minimal commentary by guest actresses commenting on their skimpy outfits (like costumes literally glued to their skin to stay attached during filming).
Volume Two includes some real gems, like the text of a letter from Leonard Nimoy to Gene Roddenberry from 1967, after a visit to Goddard Space Flight Center in Washington, DC, where Nimoy was mobbed by droves a scientists wanting autographs, including one astronaut named John Glenn. “This was the first real taste that I had of the NASA attitude towards STAR TREK… I do not overstate the fact when I tell you that the interest in the show is so intense, that it would almost seem they feel we are a dramatization of the future of their space program… They are, in fact, proud of the show as though it in some way represents them…,” Nimoy wrote.
And did you know the AMT model kit of the Enterprise–the one kids of all ages had in the 1960s and 1970s and is still available today–was used for filming almost as much as the large production-made models?
A digital edition would be welcome—provided all the original photographs could be included in their original color versions—a great loss for this book, especially considering the color slides were all available, but publishing cost factors are understandable. Another oddity—each photograph has a written credit, which becomes a great waste of space over the course of the book’s hefty 688 pages. Why not include an end page with all photo credits? Clearly there is a bit of a dance going on over copyright use of the photographs, as the work is not produced by CBS or Paramount. Significantly better edited than the first volume, typographical errors still again dot this volume. But these are minor issues. The value of this book to any fan of the original series of Star Trek is too great to pass up. And you will find you can read a 688-page book cover to cover in only a few sittings as this reader did.