Review by C.J. Bunce
TV historian and Star Trek expert Marc Cushman has returned with his next volume in the history of the creators of Star Trek, the 1960s television series, the hardcover book These Are the Voyages: Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek in the 1970s, Volume 1 (1970-75). At a massive 763 pages, Cushman uses his trademark style of sifting through every available source to collect details about Hollywood, executives, writers, actors, and everyone in between to provide a history of television via the extensive use of contemporary, primary source materials. The book includes dozens of black and white photographs, screen shots, marketing images, and behind the scenes photographs.
Fans of Star Trek: The Animated Series and the tie-in novels that began with author James Blish should take note: Much of the book is about Star Trek: The Animated Series, the marketing of Star Trek by Roddenberry’s company Lincoln Enterprises, and several studio tie-ins during the 1970s, including the Gold Key comics, and Blish’s famous run of novels–all which kept Trek fans engaged for a decade without a live-action presence. The rest is devoted to Roddenberry’s personal projects before and after The Animated Series.
Many themes are brought to light as Cushman tracks Roddenberry’s career and efforts to revive Star Trek after the 1960s series cancellation. Roddenberry’s in-your-face nature with studio executives didn’t help him any, yet his persistence kept him in the business. William Shatner was able to rely on his past success as an actor to easily move ahead with his career and lay the groundwork to become the icon he is known as today. Leonard Nimoy benefited the most directly from Star Trek–he became a sex symbol, and moved from a music career to becoming co-star of the original Mission: Impossible. He also didn’t miss a beat continuing his acting with major stage productions. The rest of the cast was type-cast, having more difficulty finding work, especially Walter Koenig, who was even denied a voice-acting role on The Animated Series. But The Animated Series would prove several things: Every member of the cast was ready to jump at the chance of returning to Star Trek despite their other projects. Nimoy was at first hesitant, but when seeing the rest of the cast join up he seemed to not want to be left behind. This included the writers for the original series–everyone asked to provide a script for The Animated Series wanted to return to the unique science fiction material–and did.
The treatment of The Animated Series gets every bit the same treatment Cushman provided for the episodes of the live-action series as found in his three-volume series documenting Star Trek in the 1960s (more on that below). Production details, script revisions, story treatments, budgets, salaries, and more are here–everything fans of The Animated Series will be interested in. The benefits of an animated show were never lost on the creators–freeing up writers to take the characters to strange new worlds too expensive to be found in a live-action series. Plus they were able to incorporate new alien characters like Lt. Arex and Lt. M’Ress, whose make-up and prosthetics would have been cost-prohibitive in 1966.
These Are the Voyages: Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek in the 1970s, Volume 1 (1970-75) also reintroduces another recurring theme Star Trek never has gotten away from: returning to past ideas when the creativity for the ongoing project seemed to dry up. This was seen in Cushman’s earlier books, in the script ideas for the original series, some mined even from episodes of Lost in Space, and The Animated Series would merge many ideas from the live-action show. Later the films and every series after would look back to unproduced scripts and popular concepts and episodes of the past in a similar way when new story ideas were needed–the 2009 film uses one scene directly taken from the “Yesteryear” episode.
Cushman used interviews from past publications for deceased individuals, and he includes new interviews as well. He even tracked down the actor who played young Spock in the episode “Yesteryear,” Billy Simpson. Writer D.C. Fontana was also a major contributor to the book. Accounts of Roddenberry’s career include contributions to several other series that will appeal to fans of 1970s television history.
Even more fascinating is a chapter recounting actor Mike Farrell′s casting and work on The Questor Tapes, a pilot turned film created and written by Roddenberry, who left the series over more of his trademark difficulties with the studio and network, and the series was then scrapped. Farrell had already signed on for the series, and had the studio taken the series forward it would have prevented Farrell from taking on a more significant role, as B.J. Honeycutt in M*A*S*H. Farrell was interviewed for this book.
And Cushman has coverage of the first Star Trek conventions, including the well-known New York Star Trek Lives! convention that reignited Roddenberry’s drive to continue the series.
Just out from Jacobs Brown Press, These Are the Voyages: Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek in the 1970s, Volume 1 (1970-75) is available now here at Amazon. No release date has been released yet for Volume 2, which will cover Star Trek: Phase II and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. And in case you missed them, take a look at Cushman’s other works reviewed earlier here at borg: These Are the Voyages Season One, These Are the Voyages Season Two, These Are the Voyages Season Three, and Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space Volume One.