Monday, March 12, 2018

Unseen Trek: Danger Zone (Story Outline, FIRST DRAFT)

Still from "The Corbomite Maneuver" (1966)
Written by Jerry Sohl
Story Outline, FIRST DRAFT, March 1966
Report and Analysis by David Eversole

Enroute to the Earth colony on Omicron II, the Enterprise receives a distress signal from another Earth vessel, the Albion. Captain Kirk orders Communications Officer Alden to contact the smaller probe ship. Contact is briefly established, but lost before the nature of the emergency can be determined. Kirk orders the Enterprise to set course for the Albion.

This angers Commodore Andrew Blaine, a stiff, older, by-the-book officer, who is onboard as an observer. He insists that Kirk first contact Earth Base, apprise them of the situation, and await orders. Kirk tells him they have no time to waste; the Albion needs their help. Blaine backs down, but when the Enterprise reaches the area the Albion was last heard from, he insists that Kirk eject a recorder capsule, which will report their actions if they are destroyed. Kirk chafes at the delay, but complies before moving into the area of space the Albion was exploring.

Soon after entering the “danger zone” alarms go off. Something dead ahead. The Albion, all hope. But it is a warning buoy, shaped like a dish antenna with nodules and sensing devices studded about it. As the Enterprise approaches, this “barrier” glows hideously green and emits deadly neutron radiation. Kirk retreats, and calls for a conference with his staff. A young gung-ho officer wants to destroy it, but Kirk reminds him that their mission is to peaceably contact alien life, though he admits he may not have a choice. They must get past it to search for the Albion. Spock advises Kirk that destroying this barrier will surely alert whoever built it and the Enterprise will have to answer to them. Blaine is adamant that Kirk not destroy the buoy, threatening to relieve him of command.

After several unanswered requests to communicate, Kirk orders the buoy destroyed. Commodore Blaine registers his dissent, making sure it is recorded on the recorder capsule. The Enterprise proceeds forward on its search for the Albion.

ALARM BELLS clang. An unknown force rocks the Enterprise and a sleek ship, one mile long, one quarter mile high, blocks her path. Then sensor probes sweep the Enterprise and the attack ceases. Casualty reports come into the bridge. Three crewmen hurt, one dead. Kirk orders Alden to attempt to contact the ship. Soon, they are answered by Balok, who identifies himself as the liaison officer of the Fesarius, the flagship of the First Federation. He informs them that since they have committed an act of war by destroying the warning buoy, they must die. He gives them one hour to prepare themselves.

Kirk assembles his staff. Blaine insists that they go down fighting, but Spock opines that resistance is in vain, and suggests Balok may be open to reason. Kirk reestablishes contact with Liaison Officer Balok:
I am Captain James T. Kirk, commander of the U. S. S. Enterprise, he says. We have heard your ultimatum which would condemn us to oblivion for what you say is an act of war, yet what you are about to do is worse than that.  Without a trial, without listening to what we have to say or why we are here, you would destroy us. That is not the act of a people who respect other life in the galaxy. That is barbarism.1
Balok replies that his commander is not moved, but he is curious as to what Kirk proposes they do. Kirk insists that he and his crew have the right to face their accusers, to present their case in person. Balok then agrees to come aboard the Enterprise.

A small sleek craft moves from the Fesarius and docks with the Enterprise. Three aliens emerge. They are tall, eagle-like beings, with talons, beaks, and wings folded between their arms and bodies. Balok bears beautiful blue plumage; the other two are less attractive.

In the conference room, Kirk presents his case. He only destroyed the buoy because it hindered his search for his fellows, his friends. Balok tells Kirk that the Albion is gone, destroyed. Blaine interrupts, calls Balok and his people murderers, and insists he does not condone this meeting. Balok notes that Blaine seems to be in the minority. Looking around, Balok notices that there are female officers onboard the Enterprise. He muses that women do not serve aboard First Federation vessels. This changes things, he says. He must return to the Fesarius to confer with his commander. He promises to inform Kirk as soon as possible. He stands to leave. Blaine blocks his path, but Balok sweeps past him, followed by his two aides.

Once Balok’s tiny ship detaches, Kirk very coldly informs Blaine that as Captain, he alone speaks for the Enterprise. Chastened, Blaine asks for forgiveness, which Kirk grants. They head to the bridge to await Balok’s reply. It is not long in coming. Balok’s commander was moved when informed of Kirk’s impassioned plea, and the death sentence is commuted. Balok, aboard his tiny vessel, will lead the Enterprise to Carpi, a First Federation penal planet, where Kirk and crew will be interred. The Enterprise will be towed into deep space and destroyed.

Balok informs Kirk that he will be in constant contact with the Fesarius – any attempts to escape or attack his small ship, and the Fesarius will return and destroy them. All are glum as they are lead across space to be imprisoned.

And then Balok’s small ship suddenly disappears. Is it a trick to get the Fesarius to destroy the Enterprise?

Alden picks up a weak signal sent from Balok to the Fesarius.  His ship malfunctioned and leapt into warp, then dropped out of warp three parsecs away. He is injured and his life support is failing...

Kirk orders the Enterprise to move toward Balok’s ship, one hour away. Blaine is furious. Surely Kirk is not going to help their captors! Kirk is, indeed, and will not be swayed. In fact, he orders maximum speed.

Balok’s ship is towed to dock with the Enterprise. Balok is carried to sickbay, where Doctor Piper begins a medical evaluation. Alarm bells clang, and Kirk rushes to the bridge.  The Fesarius hangs ominously in space before them. See, Blaine says, they’re here to destroy us.

The elevator doors open and Balok, followed by Dr. Piper, enters the bridge, healthy, unharmed. It was a ruse, he explains. Balok is actually the commander of the Fesarius, and was never in danger or injured. He simply had to be sure Kirk’s intentions were as peaceful as he claimed. Balok apologizes for the loss of the Albion, which was destroyed by the buoy before contact could be established.

Balok is very glad that he met Kirk, and invites all of the Enterprise crew, even Blaine, to be his guests on the Fesarius.  Blaine is regretful of his conflict with Kirk and informs him that he will personally erase everything on the recorder capsule — that is, if it is okay with the captain.

JERRY SOHL (Gerald Allen Sohl, Sr., 1913-2002): American Science Fiction writer, best known for his novels The Haploids and Costigan's Needle. For television, he first ghost-wrote episodes of The Twilight Zone for Charles Beaumont (when the latter was suffering from Alzheimer's), nine episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, then later wrote for The Outer Limits and The Invaders. For Star Trek he wrote "The Corbomite Maneuver," provided the story for "This Side of Paradise" (under his pseudonym Nathan Butler), and co-wrote the story for "Whom Gods Destroy." Sohl also served on The Committee of science fiction writers hired by Desilu to evaluate the original pilot of Star Trek and make improvements.

Editor's Note: When Jerry Sohl submitted a revised version of this outline in late March/early April of 1966, it had a new title — "The Corbomite Maneuver."


1 "Danger Zone" Outline by Jerry Sohl, March 1966 (approximate, no date), Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 3, Folder 6


The Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection (1964-1969)

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Most Interesting Article In The World

Still from "The Corbomite Maneuver" (1966)
If you follow William Shatner on Twitter, you may have seen this tweet last month:
Tweet by @WilliamShatner (screenshot taken October 8, 2017)
In the age of social media and pop culture-related clickbait, this story has been shared and retold many times; Mr. Shatner's tweet is only the most recent example. Lauren Davis offered this variation of the tale for io9 in 2012:
It sounds like a bit from the Dos Equis commercials, but in this case, it appears to be true. Jonathan Goldsmith, who plays the beer company's Most Interesting Man in the World, appeared in the second episode of the original Star Trek series, "The Corbomite Maneuver." He only appears on screen for a moment, but he also doesn't get a death scene.1
“The Corbomite Maneuver” was the third episode of Star Trek to be filmed and the tenth to air, not the show's “second episode.” However, is it possible that the rest of the account is true? Today, Jonathan Goldsmith is a famous pitchman (better known as The Most Interesting Man in the World), but in 1966, he was a working actor, mostly appearing on episodic television. Perhaps he once had a small part on Star Trek?

Not if Jonathan Goldsmith has anything to say about it.

During a 2013 Reddit AMA, Goldsmith offered a cheeky denial that he had ever appeared on the series:
Jonathan Goldsmith: Let me set the record straight... I have never appeared on Star Trek, if I remember correctly that is, which is always dubious.2
In a later interview with the Television Academy, Mr. Goldsmith dismissed the story again, this time with less ambiguity:
David M. Gutiérrez: It's fitting you're being sent to Mars, considering you're credited as being a "Redshirt" in the original Star Trek. 
Jonathan Goldsmith: No, I wasn't. I've never done that show. I can't convince the fans of that. They keep sending me pictures of a guy in a red shirt, but it ain't me.3
Since the actor himself has twice issued a denial, it begs the question — how did the rumor get started in the first place?

The answer to that question begins not on the web, where the story has become a popular meme, but in the pages of the 1995 edition of The Star Trek Concordance (this information is not present in previous editions of the book). In that book, the following names are included as part of the cast list for "The Corbomite Maneuver":
Crewmen: Bruce Mars, John Gabriel, Jonathan Lippe, Stewart Moss, George Bochmane4
There are two things of note about these five names. First, Lippe was the surname of Jonathan Goldsmith's stepfather, and the name Goldsmith used professionally until 1975.Second, none of the actors listed actually appear in "The Corbomite Maneuver." Bruce Mars and Stewart Moss appeared in other episodes, while John Gabriel and Jonathan Lippe/Goldsmith didn't appear on Star Trek at all. "Bochmane" is probably a misspelling of George Backman, who had a brief acting career in the late 1960s, but never appeared on Star Trek.

Where did Bjo Trimble, author of The Star Trek Concordance, come to believe that these five men appeared in "The Corbomite Maneuver?" The following portion of the author's note (emphasis added) pointed me in the right direction:
For this new edition, I used video- and audiotapes, shooting and editing scripts, the UCLA Special Collections Library collections, private files and notes, interviews, letters from fans, books, help from people inside Paramount Studios, and computer bulletin board edit, expand, add to, and rewrite the original handful of notes into this book. 
-Bjo Trimble, The Star Trek Concordance (1995), p.vii
When I sent him the following in a batch of documents to Dave T., one of the minds behind the terrific Star Trek History website, he realized the importance of the following memo almost immediately — it has all five of the names listed as crewmen in The Star Trek Concordance, including one Jonathan Lippe.
"The Corbomite Maneuver" casting schedule (May 1966)6
It turns out that Bruce Mars, John Gabriel, Joanthan Lippe, Stuart Moss, and George Backman (here, spelled "George Bochman") all auditioned for the role (Lieutenant Dave Bailey) that eventually went to the second actor on the above list — Anthony Call. Bjo Trimble must have seen this document and assumed that all of the actors listed actually appeared in "The Corbomite Maneuver."

As often happens with inaccurate information, these erroneous cast listings later ended up in other publications. When Michael and Denise Okuda updated The Star Trek Encyclopedia with a second edition in 1997, for example, they included the following in their cast list for "The Corbomite Maneuver":
Bruce Mars, John Gabriel, Jonathan Lippe, Stewart Moss, George Bochman, Crewmen. 
- Michael and Denise Okuda, The Star Trek Encyclopedia: A Reference Guide to the Future (Updated and Expanded Edition, 1997), p.88
The book's acknowledgments confirm that this information, which is not present in the first edition of The Star Trek Encyclopedia, most likely came from Trimble:
We would like to thank Bjo Trimble for permission to use some of her cast list research from the original Star Trek series that was incorporated into our cast appendix.
- Michael and Denise Okuda, The Star Trek Encyclopedia: A Reference Guide to the Future (Updated and Expanded Edition, 1997), p.v
Eventually, the claim that Jonathan Goldsmith appeared on Star Trek would make its way to IMDb (as early as 2010, though this listing has since been removed), as well as many other online sources. It was in one of those online sources that this myth would take on a new dimension.
Popular meme about the Jonathan Goldsmith Star Trek rumor (circa 2012)
That source? An October 8, 2012 blog post by Joey deVilla, which identified a specific extra from "The Corbomite Maneuver" as Jonathan Goldsmith. Previous sources, like the Concordance and the Encyclopedia, claimed that Goldsmith played an unnamed crewman in the episode, but did not identify him with an actor on screen. Mr. deVilla, however, claimed that the extra in question was a red-shirted Enterprise crewman who only briefly appears (and I do mean briefly — the man in question, who has no lines and receives no screen credit, is on screen for less than five seconds).

Mr. deVilla's claim quickly caught on. Not only did it form the basis of a popular meme (pictured above), but it was subsequently reported — without much scrutiny, and often without attribution — by these other online news outlets:
  • October 13, 2012: I Don't Always Play a Red Shirt on Star Trek. But When I Do, I Survive The Whole Episode (Neatorama)
  • October 14, 2012: The Most Interesting Man in the World played a red shirt on Star Trek—and survived (io9)
  • October 14, 2012: I Don’t Always Play a Red Shirt on Star Trek… (Patheos)
  • September 17, 2013: Image Of The Day: The Most Interesting Star Trek Redshirt In The World (SyFyWire)
  • March 9, 2014: Did You Know ‘The Most Interesting Man In the World’ Was On ‘Star Trek’? (KEKB-FM)
  • March 2, 2016: 31 Actors And Celebrities You Didn’t Know Appeared In ‘Star Trek’ (UPROXX)
  • June 23, 2016: Dos Equis' 'Most Interesting Man In The World' Has a Most Interesting Link to 'Star Trek' (Mic)
  • June 23, 2016: Dos Equis' 'Most Interesting Man In The World' Has a Most Interesting Link to 'Star Trek' (Yahoo Music)
  • June 24, 2016: 'Most Interesting Man' Worked as an Extra on 'Star Trek' (Project Casting)
Unfortunately, I don't have access to the documentation necessary to identify this extra. Star Trek's daily production reports identified most speaking parts and stunt performers, but they never provided the names of any background performers. Only the total number of extras who appeared on any given day, their pay rates, and their hours worked would be listed.
Daily Production Report for "The Corbomite Maneuver" (June 2, 1966)7
Thus, the daily production reports for "The Corbomite Maneuver" do not help to clear up this rumor. The relevant section above, marked "ATMOSPHERE, WELFARE WORKERS, AND SIDELINE MUSICIANS," does not identify any of the background performers who worked on June 2, 1966, when the shot identified by Mr. deVilla was taken.

However, even though archival documentation cannot be used to debunk this rumor, there are other reasons — beyond the actor's firm denial — that make it highly unlikely Mr. Goldsmith appeared on Star Trek in a background role.

In 1966, Jonathan Goldsmith appeared on at least five different TV programs in eight different roles (and received screen credit). These were speaking roles, and Goldsmith was in the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). Extras received considerably less than SAG actors (both upfront and on the back end; extras did not receive any residuals if a show was rebroadcast, while SAG actors would receive payments for the first few reruns). Moreover, until 1990, background performers were represented by their own guild (SEG, the Screen Extras Guild) and crossover by SAG actors into background work was rare.

The reverse, however, was more common. On Star Trek, for example, Eddie Paskey was a background actor who appeared in 58 episodes, but he ended up with lines in five of those and screen credit in two. Jonathan Goldsmith himself says he received his first speaking role — on The Doctors, a soap opera — when the producers gave him a line of dialogue while he was working as an extra.By 1966, however, there's no evidence that Goldsmith was pursuing work as an extra, and no evidence that he appeared on Star Trek.

From reading Jonathan Goldsmith's memoir, however, it turns out that he's not without a few Star Trek connections. When he first moved to Hollywood (after acting in New York), Goldsmith stayed with a young actor named Walter Koenig ("His role on Star Trek and his success were much deserved and truly could not have happened to a nicer guy," says Goldsmith).Marc Daniels directed him in a 1966 television episode — not Star Trek, but Gunsmoke. And he shared the screen with both William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy — with the former on three episodes of T.J. Hooker and the latter on an episode of Mission: Impossible.

There's no evidence, however, that he ever appeared on an episode of Star Trek.


1 Lauren Davis, "The Most Interesting Man in the World played a red shirt on Star Trek—and survived," io9, October 14, 2012

2 Jonathan Goldsmith, "I don't always post to Reddit, but when I do, I do it from Central Vietnam's former DMZ. I am Jonathan Goldsmith, I play the Most Interesting Man in the World. Ask Me Anything," Reddit, August 1, 2013.

3 David M. Gutiérrez, "A Most Interesting Interview with a Most Interesting Man," Emmys, June 17, 2016

4 Bjo Trimble, The Star Trek Concordance: The A-To-Z Guide to the Classic Original Television Series and Films (1995), p.14

5 Jonathan Goldsmith, Stay Interesting: I Don't Always Tell Stories About My Life, but When I Do They're True and Amazing (2017), p.50

6 Casting Schedule for "The Corbomite Maneuver," Joe Sargent, May 1966, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 3, Folder 9

7 Daily Production Report for "The Corbomite Maneuver," June 2, 1966, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 3, Folder 9

8 Jonathan Goldsmith, Stay Interesting: I Don't Always Tell Stories About My Life, but When I Do They're True and Amazing (2017), p.50

9 Jonathan Goldsmith, Stay Interesting: I Don't Always Tell Stories About My Life, but When I Do They're True and Amazing (2017), p.121-125


The Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection (1964-1969)

The Star Trek Concordance (Bjo Trimble, 1995)

The Star Trek Encyclopedia: A Reference Guide to the Future (Michael and Denise Okuda, 1997)

Monday, August 28, 2017

"The Alternative Factor" — What The Hell Happened? (Part 2)

Still from "The Alternative Factor" (1967)
Part One of this piece, first published in December of 2016, can be read here. Please note that all passages from the revised edition of These Are The Voyages - TOS: Season One (2013), by Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn, have been italicized. All other sources are cited in the endnotes of this post.

Part Two begins in the second week of November, 1966. John Drew Barrymore had just been cast in the role of Lazarus. With a production start date rapidly approaching, a staff rewrite attempted to turn Don Ingalls' work into a script that was ready to go before the cameras.
John Drew Barrymore, now signed to play Lazarus, had more going for him than his legendary family name -- he had achieved stardom in his own right. This Barrymore had shared the lead on the big screen with Steve McQueen in 1958's Never Love a Stranger, and with Julie London in 1959's Night of the Quarter Moon. He then traveled to Italy to top the bill in numerous films there, such as 1960’s I’ll See You in Hell and, as Ulysses, opposite Steve Reeves' Hercules, in 1961's The Trojan Wars. Between films in the early and mid-Sixties, Barrymore was always given choice television guest star roles, in series such as Gunsmoke, Rawhide, The Wild, Wild West, and now, tentatively, Star Trek.
No credit for Steve McQueen (1958)
These Are The Voyages significantly exaggerates the star power John Barrymore, Jr. brought to Star Trek when he was cast in "The Alternative Factor." To begin with, John Drew Barrymore and Steve McQueen did not share the lead in Never Love a Stranger (1958). Made early in McQueen’s career, the film arrived before Wanted: Dead or Alive (1958-61) and The Magnificent Seven (1960) turned the actor into a star. Not only was McQueen fourth-billed, but his name did not even appear on the film’s theatrical poster in the United States. (When the film was eventually released in Italy, McQueen was billed above the title, an indication of just how high his star had risen in a short time). None of these details should come as a surprise to Mr. Cushman, who for several years has claimed to be preparing a biography of Steve McQueen.

Cushman and Osborn also overlook the fact that Never Love a Stranger and Night of the Quarter Moon were harshly dismissed by major film critics. Writing about Never Love a Stranger for The New York Times, Richard W. Nason said, "The consistency of good style that lent dignity to Harold Robbins' sadly missing from the film version."1 Mae Tinee complained in The Chicago Daily Tribune that, "[the] film has as much sparkle as a wet match...Many of the characters, including the star, also behave as if they were very, very stupid."2  Variety's review was also harsh, describing the movie as, "so ineptly and unprofessionally done, especially in its handling of such volatile subjects as race and religion, that it has nothing else to recommend it except a vague topicality."3
No credit for Steve McQueen here, either (1958)
The notices for Night of the Quarter Moon (1959) weren't much better. Variety declared that the picture was "fairly well premised but burdened with a trite story."4 Howard Thompson of The New York Times called it a "misguided film."5 Mae Tinee of The Chicago Tribune dismissed it as "one of the most inept films I’ve ever encountered."6 The film was a box office failure that reportedly lost MGM $146,000.7

In regards to Barrymore's subsequent career in Italy, Cushman and Osborn make a number of errors in their brief summary of this period. John Drew Barrymore did not have top-billing in 1961's The Trojan Wars (released outside of Italy as The Trojan Horse); he was second-billed to Steve Reeves, who played Aeneas, not Hercules. Barrymore was billed second in I'll See You In Hell (1960), too — Hungarian actress Eva Bartok had first billing. In fact, of the thirteen films Barrymore made while he was in Italy, he received top-billing in only three: A Game of Crime (1964), Arms of the Avenger (1963), and Natika (1963).
Barrymore second-billed for The Cossacks (1960)
These Are The Voyages presents Barrymore's roles in Italy as the next step in the career of an actor who had already achieved stardom. Other accounts are far less generous. In Myrna Oliver's obituary for the actor in The Los Angeles Times, for example, she presented a much dimmer view of Barrymore's Italian career:
Hoping to improve his image, in 1958 he changed his name to John Drew Barrymore, substituting one family name, Drew, for the other of Blythe. 
He employed the new billing in the films "High School Confidential!" and "Never Love a Stranger," but the new name did not seem to help. So he went to Italy for six years and played leading roles in a dozen low-budget, equally low-quality films.8
By 1964, even Barrymore himself did not reflect positively on his Italian film career:
Five years ago he left for Rome's dolce vita. His billing became John Drew Barrymore, possibly an escape from his father's overwhelming shadow. John, now home town, 32, is back in his perhaps to stay. What has he been doing in Italy? 
"Sixteen or seventeen pictures," he reported. Any of them good? He shook his head sorrowfully. "They started out that way," he said. "But unfortunately the Italian directors don't know how to cut. Well, Fellini knows what he is doing; he envisions the film while he is shooting it. Perhaps one other. But the rest don't know how to put a picture together."9
    Earlier in their chapter about "The Alternative Factor," Cushman and Osborn state that, "Roddenberry knew who the right actor was. He suggested John Drew Barrymore for the role...Where John Drew went, free publicity followed." While it’s certainly true that Barrymore often found his name in the press, the kind of coverage the actor often received was probably not what Roddenberry wanted to be associated with Star Trek. Consider the following stories about Barrymore that were printed in both national newspapers and the Hollywood trade papers:
    • In 1953, "Barrymore pleaded guilty to failure to appear on three old traffic citations-having no driver's license, changing lanes in traffic unsafely and having no registration for his automobile."10 The young actor was only 20 years old at the time of the incident.
    • In 1954, Actors' Equity considered charges against Barrymore for "conduct unbecoming an Actors' Equity member," citing him for "insubordination and the use of obscene language."11 As a result of never appearing before the union to answer these charges, Barrymore was ultimately "suspended from Actors' Equity for a year" in 1957.12
    • In 1958, Barrymore spent three weekends in jail, "after pleading guilty to charges of disturbing the peace and being drunk in a public place."13 Police found the actor loudly arguing with his then-wife, Cara Williams, after several local residents "complained of hearing a woman screaming."14 When officers arrived on the scene and attempted to restrain Barrymore, the actor "struggled violently and abused the Beverly Hills air with unseemly language," according to police reports.15
    • Later that same year, Cara Williams filed for a decree of separation, custody of their 4-year-old son, and alimony. Her suit alleged that Barrymore, now 26, had inflicted "grievous mental cruelty" upon her.16
    • In 1959, Barrymore "was released on $1500 bail...after being booked on suspicion of felony hit-and-run and drunk driving."17 The actor, according to police reports, had “smashed his new white sports car into the rear of [another vehicle]."18
    • In 1960, Barrymore received a year-long suspension from Actor's Equity for the second time in five years, and was "slapped...with a $5,000 fine for his walkout...on a co-starring stint in the touring production of 'Look Homeward, Angel.'"19 Barrymore had blamed illness for breaking his contract with the production, but Actors' Equity was unconvinced, since Barrymore began working on a motion picture in Europe only shortly thereafter.
    • Later that same year, Barrymore spent eight days in an Italian jail after being found, "guilty by Rome court of resisting and insulting the police" (he had been sentenced to eight months in prison, but this sentence was suspended).20
    • According to The Los Angeles Times, "In 1962, after being involved in a series of street brawls in Rome, [Barrymore] told [the] Associated Press: 'I'm not a nice, clean-cut American kid at all. I'm just a human being. Those things just happen.'"21
    • That same year, Weekly Variety reported that Barrymore had been picked up by police "on drunk charges."22
    • Finally, on October 15, 1966 — only a few weeks before agreeing to appear in "The Alternative Factor" — Barrymore and twelve other people were arrested during a narcotics raid. Barrymore was released on $3,300 bail.23
    Janet MacLachlan in a still from "The Alternative Factor" (1967)
    Getting back to Star Trek...
    For the part of Lt. Charlene Masters, Joe D’Agosta and Gerd Oswald liked the idea of hiring an up-and-coming black actress -- Janet MacLachlan. 
    There's nothing in the files at UCLA indicating who selected MacLachlan for the part; Cushman and Osborn's statement here appears to be purely speculative. Moreover, a memo from Gene Roddenberry to Joe D'Agosta (the show’s casting director) dated November 3, 1966 — just prior to when casting was done for "The Alternative Factor" — suggests that Oswald probably was not the one who chose MacLachlan:
    Particularly I want more of your suggestions and help on supporting roles. I do not believe in leaving these selections up to directors and this has been happening quite a bit lately, and we almost invariably get hurt by the director's choice. If I had my way about it, I would have almost a positive rule that we never use a supporting actor suggested by a director.24
    Regardless of who picked MacLachlan to appear as Lt. Charlene Masters, the 33 year-old actress was hired to play the part, for which she received $750.25 To read more about the significance of MacLachlan being cast in the part, which was not specified by ethnicity in the script, this blog post by Robert J. Sawyer is worth reading. 1966, MacLachlan was mostly known for her work on the stage. She had yet to achieve any standout recognition on television, so there was no real name value in hiring her, only color value.
    For roughly two years (from 1964-66), MacLachlan was a contract player for Universal TV, appearing on such programs as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Chrysler Theatre, Run For Your Life, and The Fugitive.26 From 1961-1964, she had appeared on and off-Broadway alongside "such acclaimed and established actors as James Earl Jones, Louis Gossett, Jr., Maya Angelou and Roscoe Lee Browne."27 Although she was not a "name" when she was cast in "The Alternative Factor," it strikes me as rather insulting to dismiss her as having "only color value" in the way that Cushman and Osborn do here.
    But the attitudes within the Star Trek buildings and stages were not representative of all of America in 1966, and the domino effect which took most of the good out of "The Alternative Factor," began first with Coon’s decision to trim back some of the romance, now intensified with the casting of Janet MacLachlan to play opposite John Drew Barrymore. It was still one year before the release of the controversial Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, in which black Sidney Poitier and white Katherine Houghton fight for their right to be married - and win. As NBC became aware of the casting, the network programmers expressed misgivings. Even with the success of I Spy and its equal-status casting of Robert Culp and Bill Cosby, and the love story in “The Alternative Factor” now pushed into the background, many were nonetheless wondering how the affiliates in the South might react to this interracial pairing. With only a few days left before the start of production, Gene Coon began receiving off-the-record phone calls suggesting that either Janet MacLachlan be replaced with a white actress or that the script be changed to remove the remaining scenes depicting sexual or romantic interest between Lazarus #1 and Charlene Masters. The simplest solution would have been to pay MacLachlan a “kill fee” with the promise of future work. Coon, however, zigged when he should have zagged. 
    The paragraph above is not supported by the evidence I have found to date. Consider the following:
    • No archival documentation is cited or referenced in These Are The Voyages in which any "network programmers" express misgivings — or opinions of any kind — about the casting of Janet MacLachlan in "The Alternative Factor." In my own research, I have been unable to find any primary sources that support this claim.
    • Moreover, it is unclear who Cushman or Osborn mean to identify when they refer to "network programmers." This title is used sparingly in These Are The Voyages, and never in reference to a specific person. For the sake of argument, I have assumed it could be anyone at NBC with input regarding Star Trek's place on the network’s schedule.
    • Between Don Ingalls' November 7, 1966 second draft and the staff re-write completed between November 14-18, 1966, no intermediate draft was written. These Are The Voyages claims that Gene Coon completed a revised final draft teleplay on November 14, 1966, but the files at UCLA do not support this. Some page revisions were completed on that date, but many contained only minor changes, and there is no record of a revised final draft on November 14, 1966.
    • Additionally, the page revisions at UCLA confirm that neither Gene Coon nor anyone else on staff produced a version of the script in which the love story between Masters and Lazarus was "pushed into the background." Every version written by Ingalls had the Masters/Lazarus romance; all of the pages rewritten by the staff removed it entirely (see part one of this piece for memos from Gene Roddenberry and Stan Robertson on this issue).
    • I have been unable to locate any evidence documenting phone calls from NBC to Gene Coon (or anyone else on the Star Trek staff) urging the replacement of Janet MacLachlan with a white actress or the elimination of the Lazarus-Masters love story following MacLachlan being cast. Cushman and Osborn do not cite a single source in support of this claim.
    • Indeed, it is unclear what "off-the-record phone calls" is supposed to mean in this context. While a journalist may receive phone calls from sources that are on or off the record, in the context of a television production, phone calls are by their very nature off-the-record.
    • Finally, despite publicly blaming NBC for a multitude of sins for years after Star Trek was cancelled, Gene Roddenberry did not once describe what Cushman and Osborn allege about NBC in the quoted passage.
    Still from "The Alternative Factor" (1967)
    With Coon’s November 14th Revised Final Draft, the last traces of the love story were removed. Lazarus #1 had lost all his charismatic traits and, because of this, was now intolerably annoying.
    Again, no revised final draft for "The Alternative Factor" was completed on November 14, 1966; only 48 individual page revisions were completed on that date. Some of these were newly typed, but many were taken from Don Ingalls' November 7, 1966 draft, with scenes crossed out and dialogue revisions (both major and minor) made by hand. Gene Coon may have completed these pages, or it may have been someone else on the Star Trek staff — the archival record does not indicate the author of the revisions.

    Cushman and Osborn argue that Lazarus went from being charismatic in the Don Ingalls version of the script, to "intolerably annoying" in the staff rewrite. In truth, the staff rewrite retained much of Lazarus' dialogue from Ingalls' second draft teleplay. Although the revised version eliminated a few pages that constituted a half-baked romance between Lazarus and Lt. Masters that was present in Ingalls’ second draft, the substance of Lazarus' character was largely the same in both versions.
    The character of Charlene Masters, no longer a chemist but instead a member of engineering, became pointless. She was left with so little to do that one has to wonder why she is even in the story, representing the engineering section in place of Scotty. 
    Masters was never described as a "chemist" in any version of the script. Instead, she was identified as a "chemoscientist," an odd description, but one that appears in every draft of the script. In Ingalls' first draft teleplay, she had worked in the ship's "energizing lab," but Bob Justman recommended changing her workplace to engineering, a change Ingalls made in his second draft.28 In addition, Gene Roddenberry disliked presenting another female scientist on the show, suggesting in his comments about Ingalls' revised story outline that he’d prefer to do something different with the character:
    We have had lady scientists on this show galore. Let's have her in some other job. about a lady navigator or engineer?29
    Thus, Masters' workplace became engineering. Ingalls made this change in his November 7, 1966 second draft — it did not happen in the staff rewrite, as suggested by Cushman and Osborn.30

    As for why Lt. Charlene Masters was is in the final script rather than Scotty, it's possible James Doohan was simply unavailable. During the first season of Star Trek, Doohan was not a regular, and his deal was on "a non-exclusive basis subject to his availability."31 At the time, he was still booking gigs on other programs, including a recurring role on Peyton Place.32 It's also possible that by the time the Masters-Lazarus romance was being written out of the show, MacLachlan had already been booked for the role. To be fair, I can only speculate on the matter; the archival record does not have any clear-cut answers.
    With filming due to start in two days, the new script was sent to the director and the regular cast members. John Drew Barrymore was not scheduled to work that first day of filming. For the moment, he was unaware of the drastic story changes. 
    According to a memo written by Joe D'Agosta during the filming of this episode, the account above is not true. In that memo, D'Agosta states that, "Mr. Barrymore received script changes on November 14."33 What D'Agosta recorded at the time seems only logical. Why would the production withhold script revisions from a principal guest star scheduled to begin filming in just a few days?

    I must also dispute the claim presented in These Are The Voyages that the staff rewrite of "The Alternative Factor" contained "drastic story changes." The Star Trek staff doesn't appear to have viewed the changes as considerable. Don Ingalls received a solo "written by" credit for the episode, and there's no record of the producers challenging that credit through arbitration with the Writers Guild of America (the same cannot be said for "A Private Little War," Don Ingalls' other Star Trek effort — that episode did go through WGA arbitration, which split credit between Ingalls and Roddenberry, leaving Ingalls to use a pseudonym on the finished product).

    Stay tuned for the next part of this piece, which will take a closer look at the seven turbulent days spent filming "The Alternative Factor" in late November of 1966.

    (To Be Continued in Part 3)

    Certain images courtesy of Trek Core.


    1 Richard W. Nason, "Local Theatres Offer Story of Rackets," The New York Times, November 22, 1958

    2 Mae Tinee, "Tho the Novel Sizzles, Film Just Sputters Out,"  Chicago Daily Tribune, October 24, 1958, p.B7

    3 Daily Variety, June 27, 1958, p. 3

    4 Weekly Variety, February 11, 1959, p.6

    5 Howard Thompson, "Racial Love Story," The New York Times, March 5, 1959

    6  Mae Tinee, "Inept Movie Tells Sexy, Sordid Tale," Chicago Daily Tribune, June 15, 1959, p.39

    7 The Eddie Mannix Film Ledger, Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study

    8 Myrna Oliver, "John Drew Barrymore, 72; Troubled Heir to the Throne of the Royal Family of Acting," Los Angeles Times, December 1, 2004

    9 Bob Thomas, "New Barrymore—With Profile," The Lincoln Star, November 1, 1964, Page 59 (this profile was syndicated in dozens of newspapers; Bob Thomas, who died in 2014, had a long career covering Hollywood for The Associated Press)

    10 "Young Barrymore Pays Traffic Fine," Los Angeles Times, May 14, 1953, p.A1

    11 "Equity Mulls Charges Against Barrymore, Jr.," Daily Variety, August 11, 1954, p.2

    12 "Barrymore Given Suspension by Equity," Weekly Variety, May 29, 1957, p.68

    13 "Barrymore Jr. Turns Shy on Jail Week End," Los Angeles Times, January 5, 1958, p.2

    14 "Barrymore Jailed In Row With His Spouse," Los Angeles Times, January 1, 1958, p.6

    15 "Barrymore Jailed In Row With His Spouse," Los Angeles Times, January 1, 1958, p.6

    16 "Barrymores Again Strike Marital Storm," Los Angeles Times, September 27, 1958, p.B1

    17 "John Barrymore Jr. Held in Hit-Run Case," Los Angeles Times, March 8, 1959, p.32

    18 "John Barrymore Jr. Held in Hit-Run Case," Los Angeles Times, March 8, 1959, p.32

    19 "Equity Suspends, Fines Barrymore," Weekly Variety, July 13, 1960, p.57

    20 "Barrymore Convicted," The New York Times, October 16, 1960, p.83

    21 Myrna Oliver, "John Drew Barrymore, 72; Troubled Heir to the Throne of the Royal Family of Acting," Los Angeles Times, December 1, 2004

    22 Weekly Variety, January 10, 1962, p.54

    23 "Dope Raiders Seize Actor Barrymore," Chicago Tribune, October 17, 1966, p.3

    24 Memo from Gene Roddenberry to Joe D'Agosta, November 3, 1966, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 35, Folder 5

    25 Cast Sheet for "The Alternative Factor," November 15, 1966, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 10, Folder 3

    26 Daily Variety, December 14, 1965, p.6

    27 Steve Ryfle, "Janet MacLachlan dies at 77; prominent African-American actress in film, TV since 1960s," Bright Lights Film Journal, October 18, 2010

    28 Memo from Bob Justman to Gene Coon, October 19, 1966, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 10, Folder 4

    29 Memo from Gene Roddenberry, undated (approximately September 14, 1966), Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 10, Folder 2

    30 "The Alternative Factor," Second Draft Teleplay by Don Ingalls, November 7, 1966, From a Private Collection, Also Found in the Donald G. Ingalls Collection of Scripts, Box 4, Folder 16

    31 Memo from Joe D'Agosta to Gene Roddenberry, May 19, 1966, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 35, Folder 6

    32 Stephen Bowie, "Who Are Those Guys #3," The Classic TV History Blog: Dispatches From the Vast Wasteland, May 13, 2011

    33 Memo from Joe D'Agosta to Herb Solow, November 18, 1966, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 10, Folder 4

    Monday, March 13, 2017

    Did D.C. Fontana Get Her First Professional Script Assignment on Star Trek?

    Still from "Charlie X" (1966)
    Herb Solow and Bob Justman's Inside Star Trek : The Real Story (1996) is one of my favorite books about television production, but when rereading it recently, a couple of paragraphs about Dorothy C. Fontana's writing career before Star Trek raised my proverbial fact-checking antenna:
    Prior to her job as secretary to Roddenberry, Dorothy C. Fontana worked as a secretary for writer-producer Sam Peeples on the series Frontier Circus. Before that, she had sold a spec story entitled "A Bounty for Billy" to Peeples for the Tall Man series. But Dorothy’s goal was to work as a professional filmwriter [sic], and as yet she had never actually been hired to write a script.
    Justman was impressed by the intelligence and orderly thought processes she revealed in her story analyses. He convinced Roddenberry to give her a trial assignment to write the script of "Charlie X." Roddenberry had written the story, then "junked" it, feeling the story didn’t contain enough "action" and, therefore, wouldn’t be acceptable to the network. But Fontana’s script contained another kind of action, dramatic action that came from well-drawn characters.
    --Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (1996), p.132-133
    The first thing I did to verify the claims about Fontana's writing career from this passage was check the Internet Movie Database. IMDb relies on user-submitted information, so anything found on it should be thoroughly cross-checked, but it’s a good place to start.
    D.C. Fontana's early writing credits on IMDb (accessed March 12, 2017)
    D.C. Fontana’s IMDb page gives her two "story by" credits, one "teleplay by" credit, and three “written by” credits on a total of six television episodes produced before early 1966, when NBC placed Star Trek on its schedule.The same page gives Fontana "written by" credit on three more episodes produced during the 1966-67 broadcast season in addition to her work on Star Trek. Many of these credits would seem to directly contradict Solow and Justman's claim that "Charlie X" marked the first time Fontana was hired to write a script. My next question, of course, is this: are Fontana's early credits as listed by IMDb accurate?

    To answer that question, I first turned to several interviews Fontana has given about her early writing career. Here's what she had to say about her writing career from 1960-63 in this interview from 2013:
    History here - most people ignore the fact that I was a writer before STAR TREK. Between 1960 and 1963, while working for Samuel A. Peeples, I sold two stories and two scripts (produced) to THE TALL MAN series, done a rewrite on a SHOTGUN SLADE script (produced) and sold a story of FRONTIER CIRCUS (produced). In 1963, Samuel A. Peeples left MGM (where he had written a movie script) to move on to other projects, and I decided to stay at the studio.2
    Before getting to the matter of Fontana’s credits, I should issue a small point of correction — Samuel A. Peeples (primarily known to Star Trek fans for writing the program’s second pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before") actually wrote two movie scripts when he was at MGM in 1962, not one. Boxoffice noted that Peeples had begun work on a movie called Company of Cowards (based on the novel by William Chamberlain) in April of 1962.3 It was eventually filmed and released as Advance to the Rear in 1964. In May of 1962, Boxoffice reported that Peeples was working on another screenplay for MGM called Recollection Creek, based on the novel by Fred Gipson.4 By November, Boxoffice reported that Peeples had "completed the first draft of the screenplay of MGM’s 'Recollection Creek' which Richard Lyons will produce early next summer."5 Lyons had planned to reunite actors Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea, recent stars of Ride the High Country (1962), for the movie, but it was never made.

    Only about half of Shotgun Slade has been released on home video. When I asked Fontana via email about the episode she rewrote, she told me that, "I did not get credit on the script."6 She did, however, receive credit on four episodes of The Tall Man and one episode of Frontier Circus. Since both of those programs have been released in full on home video, those credits can be easily verified.

    D.C. Fontana's four screen credits for The Tall Man (all 1960)
    When it comes to The Tall Man, IMDb and Fontana present the same account — that she sold two story outlines, which were then scripted by other writers, followed by two additional story outlines, which she scripted herself. The screen credits on The Tall Man match this account.
    D.C. Fontana's screen credit for Frontier Circus (1961)
    When it comes to Frontier Circus, on the other hand, Fontana and IMDb present different versions of what happened. According to IMDb, Fontana shared a teleplay credit with Lawrence Kimble on an episode called "Lippizan." Fontana, however, says she only wrote a story outline, not the teleplay. The screen credits settle the matter; Fontana wrote the story outline, while Lawrence Kimble wrote the teleplay. In this case, the listing on IMDb is incorrect.

    After The Tall Man, Shotgun Slade, and Frontier Circus, Fontana remained a full time secretary (in fact, she was introduced to Gene Roddenberry when she went to work as his secretary on The Lieutenant at MGM), but she also moonlighted as television writer. Once Fontana adopted the professional name of "D.C. Fontana" (her earlier stories and scripts were credited to Dorothy C. Fontana), she made additional script sales. In a 2013 interview, she recalled:
    From 1964 through the making of two STAR TREK pilots, plus two other pilots Roddenberry produced, to beginning of STAR TREK production in 1966, I wrote a script for BEN CASEY (produced), SLATTERY'S PEOPLE (bought but not produced as the series was cancelled) and THE ROAD WEST (produced).7
    Fontana’s script assignment for Slattery's People is not listed on IMDb, which does not include unproduced material, but it was mentioned in a 1965 article from The Los Angeles Times (her script for Ben Casey was also mentioned):
    She's been signed by Producer Irving Elman to script an episode of Slattery's People. Her story, titled "Question: Who Steals My Name?", involves a smear campaign against Slattery, who must decide if he will fight or ignore it. 
    This is not the first teleplay for Miss Fontana, who is secretary to Gene Roddenberry, Desilu writer-producer. Last season she wrote a play for Ben Casey.8
    In short, Fontana was hired to write a television script at least five times before Star Trek was even on the the NBC broadcast schedule (in addition to three other assignments in which she provided the story outline only). There’s simply no way that the account presented by Inside Star Trek : The Real Story could be true.

    "Charlie X" and Fontana's other Star Trek credits were not even her only writing assignments during the 1966-67 season. She also scripted an episode of The Road West (a Western that aired for one season on NBC) that year called "Never Chase a Rainbow." Contrary to the listing on IMDb, however, there's no evidence that Fontana wrote two episodes of The Wild Wild West under the pen name "Michael Edwards" that year.When I asked her if these credits were correct, Fontana flatly dismissed them, telling me:
    No - they are totally wrong. My pen name at the time was Michael Richards. I did not write THE WILD WILD WEST.9
    In light of all these facts, I am also skeptical that Justman was needed to convince Gene Roddenberry to hire Fontana to write the script for "Charlie X." By 1966, Fontana had been working for Roddenberry for over two years, and her desire to make a living as a professional writer instead of a secretary was not a mystery to the writer-producer. I find her version of what happened to be much more plausible:
    So when we came to production on STAR TREK's first season, Roddenberry assigned me to pick one of the stories in the bible and write the script. I chose "Charlie X," and that was the start of my science fiction writing. I was far from being a novice writer, and STAR TREK was not my first credit - far from it.10
    Whether or not Roddenberry needed convincing, it did not take him long to give Fontana the script assignment. By the week ending April 22, 1966, only a few weeks after Star Trek's first story assignments were handed out, Fontana had the job.11

    Author’s Note: In addition to the interview cited in this piece,, The Archive of American Television, and the Writers Guild Foundation also have valuable interviews with Dorothy C. Fontana about her life and extensive career in Hollywood. 

    Special thanks to Maurice M. for introducing me to D.C Fontana, who graciously took the time to answer all of my pesky questions via email.

    Image from "Charlie X" courtesy of Trek Core.


    1 Telegram to Andre Richardson, February 27, 1966, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 27, Folder 17

    2 Interview with D.C. Fontana,, May 18, 2013

    3 "George Marshall to Direct 'Company of Cowards,'" Boxoffice, April 30, 1962, p.12

    4 "Three New Productions Added to MGM Slate," Boxoffice, May 14, 1962, p.16

    5 "Drafts ‘Creek’ Play," Boxoffice, November 12, 1962, p.W-4

    6 Author Interview with D.C. Fontana (via email), February 28, 2017

    7 Interview with D.C. Fontana,, May 18, 2013

    8 "Secretary Knows Her Business," Los Angeles Times, May 31, 1965, p.C15

    9 Author Interview with D.C. Fontana (via email), February 28, 2017

    10 Interview with D.C. Fontana,, May 18, 2013

    11 Writers Report, Week Ending April 22, 1966, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 35, Folder 15


    Monday, February 13, 2017

    A Little Monkee Business

    Not a member of The Monkees (Still from "Catspaw," 1967)
    This piece is in response to several claims made by Marc Cushman and Susan Osborn in These Are The Voyages — TOS: Season One about the overall popularity and fan mail response to Star Trek and The Monkees (1966-68). This material was originally part of a much longer fact check about the production history of “The Alternative Factor,” but since it is largely irrelevant to the making of that episode, I have elected to publish it separately.

    In both the original and the revised edition of These Are The Voyages — TOS: Season One, the authors write:
    Wednesday, November 16, 1966... The “pre-fab four,” as the press was calling them, had the No. 1 album in the nation and their TV show was on its way to winning an Emmy as Best Comedy. However, as popular as the pop music sitcom was, Star Trek’s ratings were higher. And out of 90 primetime TV series, the two that received the most fan mail by far were The Monkees and Star Trek, neck and neck.
    --Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn, These Are The Voyages — TOS: Season One (eBook Edition, December 2013)
    First things first — no one in the press was referring to The Monkees (either the band or the television series, only the latter of which I have italicized in this piece) as the “prefab four” in 1966. That was a nickname coined by Eric Idle for The Rutles (a Beatles parody group) in the 1970s; journalists did not begin applying it to The Monkees until the mid-1980s (the earliest example I have found is a July 27, 1986 article in The Washington Post).

    Cushman and Osborn correctly note that The Monkees had the number one album in the United States when “The Alternative Factor” began filming. In fact, their debut album was number one for thirteen consecutive weeks, until it was surpassed by the group’s second album, More of the Monkees, which held the number one spot for an additional seventeen weeks. It’s also true that The Monkees (the television series) was on its way to winning an Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series, which was presented on June 4, 1967. The Monkees also won that night for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy (award to director James Frawley for the episode titled "Royal Flush"); Star Trek had five nominations, but went away empty-handed.1

    Cushman and Osborn’s claim that The Monkees and Star Trek attracted the most fan mail out of all 90 primetime shows during the 1966-67 season, however, is impossible to substantiate. The three networks were competitors, and were not sharing fan mail figures with each other beyond what they leaked to the trade papers for publicity purposes. Moreover, according to a late 1967 column by Los Angeles Times entertainment critic Hal Humphrey, the three networks were not even measuring fan mail in the same way, making comparisons of their numbers into a pointless exercise:
    Do the TV networks get mail from viewers? Yes, but not as much as one might guess. ABC receives approximately 30,000 pieces of mail a year, CBS averages 20,000 and NBC counts phone calls and mail together for a grand total this year of 187,000. Kathryn Cole, manager of NBC's department of information, does not have a mail and phone call breakdown.
    If the CBS 20,000 mail count seems extraordinarily low, it may be due to the fact it counts only that mail addressed to the network, and not that addressed to the programs in care of CBS. At NBC and ABC that line is not so finely drawn.2
    What can be verified is that Star Trek and The Monkees appear to have attracted the most fan mail of NBC shows during the 1966-67 broadcast season, which is an important distinction. According to a draft of an NBC booklet prepared in May of 1967:
    Second only to The Monkees among NBC programs in the volume of fan mail it attracts, STAR TREK has been the recipient of nearly 27,000 letters of support and encouragement from one of the most loyal and articulate viewer followings currently attracted by any television series.3
    If the 27,000 letter figure is to be believed [see first note], The Monkees may not have been “neck and neck” with Star Trek in terms of fan mail received during the 1966-67 broadcast season, but well ahead of it. According to a February 1967 article in Weekly Variety, The Monkees had accrued 66,024 pieces of fan mail by the end of January 1967 alone — more than double what Star Trek had reportedly brought in three months later — and had been the network’s leading show in terms of fan mail since October of 1966.4 (For those interested in the difference between the size of a dedicated fan base willing to write fan letters and the size of a show’s overall viewing audience, the title of this article is a provocative one — “If Mail Were Ratings ‘Monkees' Would Shine”).

    Appearing to cast some doubt on these figures, however, is a May 6, 1967 letter from Gene Roddenberry to David Hedley (Director of Program Presentations for NBC), in which Roddenberry disputed the claim that Star Trek was still second to The Monkees in terms of fan mail: can forget STAR TREK being second in fan mail, it’s now first. According to ours and NBC’s counts on the West Coast we surpassed THE MONKEES LAST week.5
    The following month, this information (perhaps leaked by Roddenberry) made its way to Ted Green, a columnist for Back Stage, who wrote in the trade paper that, “Desilu's ‘Star Trek’ now is the Number One fan mail puller on NBC-TV, outdrawing ‘The Monkees.’”6

    Roddenberry appears to have been mistaken about the information he received from NBC regarding Star Trek's mail pull, however. On May 16, David Hedley replied to Roddenberry's letter from earlier that month and disputed the assertion that Star Trek had pulled ahead of The Monkees in fan mail:
    While STAR TREK's mail count in one of the recent weeks may have exceeded that of the Monkees, the respective totals of favorable letters for the season through April 30 are: Monkees - 172,853 and STAR TREK - 26,817. Because of the vastly different appeal of these programs, we think that the STAR TREK figure is probably more significant. However, in the interest of accuracy, we cannot bill it as our top mail puller.7
    Other archival evidence also suggests that Roddenberry was mistaken. In August of 1967, for example, the Los Angeles Times reported that The Monkees was still ahead of Star Trek in fan mail received:
    Except for The Monkees, the greatest mail puller among TV series the past season was NBC's Star Trek. According to executive producer Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek's weekly mail averages 4,000 pieces.8
    Additionally, it was not until October of 1967 that Roddenberry sent the following memo to the cast and crew of Star Trek:
    NBC informs us that STAR TREK has now passed THE MONKEES and is the Number One show in all the nation in Fan Mail received!
    Not only this, but every report is that STAR TREK’s fan response is by far the most devoted and enthusiastic by all measurements.
    Thank you for all you are doing to make this possible.9
    Further complicating the issue, two months after Roddenberry’s internal memo quoted above, the Los Angeles Times again reported that NBC’s mail leader was The Monkees, followed by Star Trek:
    For the past year and a half at NBC the biggest mail puller has been The Monkees. Star Trek is next, and so much of its mail is from scientists and clergymen that the NBC sales department has been able to use this fact in making its sale pitch to particular potential sponsors.10
    Regardless of if and when Star Trek overtook The Monkees in the number of fan letters received, none of these sources are indicative of how many letters either program received relative to the shows on the other two networks (ABC and CBS). Cushman and Osborn's claim that the two programs received the most fan letters out of all prime time programs during the 1966-67 season is simply unverifiable.

    Moreover, Cushman and Osborn’s claim that Star Trek had higher ratings than The Monkees (the latter of which they identify as a “popular” show) during the 1966-67 season is not true. In point of fact, The Monkees was never a hit in the Nielsen ratings. The half-hour show was highly profitable, but this was not because of the size of its viewing audience — it was because the program was inexpensive to produce and its merchandising was very, very lucrative:
    American video's most profitable show of the current network season isn't on the Nielsen hit parade, or even near it. And it doesn't even cop it’s Monday night time period...
    But the "Monkees" is easily the biggest smash — merchandising, that is — since the Daniel Boone parlay emptied tot piggybanks. For the show’s mod foursome (three Britishers and a Yank [sic—see second note], assembled via audition and then audience-tested), its been virtually instant international fame. But the big winnah [sic] is Screen Gems as producer of the teleshow, owner of the combos name, and ringmaster of all Monkeeshines [sic]...
    The combo's NBC-TV series, moreover, is one of the vid semester's cheaper freshman entries, figured to hit around $45,000 or thereabouts a segment (the web pays around $75,000 a show), the result of well-pared costs all around — talent, production, script, etc...11
    That said, even though The Monkees was not a Nielsen ratings hit — it did not win its time slot or place in the top thirty during either season it was on the air — the program still outperformed Star Trek, at least during the 1966-67 broadcast season. According to Nielsen NTI figures published in Television Magazine, The Monkees finished 42nd for the 1966-67 season, with a 31.2 share, while Star Trek placed 52nd with a share of 28.2.12 Although I have been unable to locate year-ending Nielsen figures for the 1967-68 broadcast season, I have been able to locate a two-week NTI report from October of 1967, which was reprinted in Daily Variety. That report has The Monkees finishing 66th (with a 28.1 share) and Star Trek finishing 68th (with a 24.8 share) — a dismal showing for both programs, though with The Monkees still slightly ahead of Star Trek.13

    Image courtesy of Trek Core.

    First Note: When the brochure finally went to press, the figure had been adjusted to 28,000 letters (thanks to Dave T. for confirming this). A variety of books and online sources have cited the number in the brochure as being 29,000 letters, but I have been unable to corroborate this larger figure with any primary sources.

    Second Note: It should be pointed out that The Monkees' "mod foursome" was made up of three Yanks (Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz) and one Britisher (Davy Jones), not the other way around. Thanks to Neil B. for correctly noting this.


    1 "Emmy Winners," Daily Variety, June 5, 1967, p.14

    2 Hal Humphrey, "TV Networks Get Mail From Home," Los Angeles Times, December 7, 1967, p.D23

    3 Letter from David Hedley to Gene Roddenberry with attached draft of descriptive sheet for returning shows, May 1, 1967, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 30, Folder 5

    4 "If Mail Were Ratings 'Monkees' Would Shine," Weekly Variety, February 22, 1967, p.32

    5 Letter from Gene Roddenberry to David Hedley, May 6, 1967, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 30, Folder 5

    6 Ted Green, "Main Street," Back Stage, June 30, 1967, p.4

    7 Letter from David H. Hedley to Gene Roddenberry, May 16, 1967, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 30, Folder 5

    8 Hal Humphrey, "Star Trek's upward flight," Los Angeles Times, August 13, 1967, p.A39C

    9 Memo from Gene Roddenberry to All Concerned, October 17, 1967, Roddenberry 366 Vault (document 050/366)

    10 Hal Humphrey, "TV Networks Get Mail From Home," Los Angeles Times, December 7, 1967, p.D23

    11 "No Biz Like 'Monkees' Biz," Weekly Variety, January 25, 1967, p.27; 45

    12 Walter Spencer, "TV’s Vast Grey Belt," Television Magazine, August 1967, p.54

    13 "Nat'l Nielsen Boxscore," Daily Variety, October 25, 1967, p.24


    The Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection (1964-1969)

    These Are The Voyages: TOS, Season One (Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn, 2013)

    Monday, January 16, 2017

    Was Star Trek The First Show To Say "Pregnant" On Television?

    Still from "The Trouble with Tribbles" (1967)
    In "The Trouble with Tribbles," when asked about the furry creatures that have begun to infest the Enterprise, Dr. McCoy explains to Captain Kirk that, "The nearest thing I can figure out is they're born pregnant, which seems to be quite a time saver."

    This was the only time the word "pregnant" was uttered on the original Star Trek. McCoy had been scripted to say, "I just finished examining her. She's pregnant," at the end of "Who Mourns for Adonais?" — but the scene was cut during editing. And although "Friday's Child" was centered on a pregnant woman (played by Julie Newmar), neither the word "pregnant" nor the word "pregnancy" were said on air.

    Nearly fifty years after the episode was made, however, "Tribbles" writer David Gerrold is making a much more grandiose claim about it:
    This was the first time the word 'pregnant' was used on TV. Lucy couldn't use it when she got pregnant.
    - David Gerrold, Commentary track for "The Trouble with Tribbles," Star Trek: The Original Series - The Roddenberry Vault (2016), 32:35-32:40
    Gerrold's anecdote about I Love Lucy has been confirmed by multiple people involved with the famous sitcom. In his posthumous memoir, for example, producer Jess Oppenheimer wrote:
    The network [CBS] had already issued a firm edict that we could not use the word "pregnant" on the show. We could say she was expecting." She could be "with child." But never "pregnant." They were still deathly afraid that some segment of the public would find something offensive in our pregnancy shows.
    - Jess Oppenheimer with Gregg Oppenheimer, Laughs, Luck...and Lucy: How I Came to Create the Most Popular Sitcom of All Time (1999), p.198
    The episodes covering Lucy Ricardo's on-screen pregnancy were filmed and broadcast in 1952 (during I Love Lucy's second season), fifteen years before "The Trouble with Tribbles" first aired on NBC (on December 29, 1967). When it came to the emerging medium of television, much had changed, both creatively and technically, between 1952 and 1967. Is it really possible that the word "pregnant" went unused on TV until Star Trek?

    As it turns out, the answer is a definite no. Although I've hardly done comprehensive research in this area, the word "pregnant" shows up at least five years earlier on The Dick Van Dyke Show. In "Never Name a Duck," written by Carl Reiner (who also created the series), an eccentric character says of her cat, "She thinks she's pregnant." The episode first aired on September 26, 1962, and the relevant line can be viewed here.

    It's possible, of course, that "pregnant" appeared on television earlier. I certainly don't know enough about the subject to claim with any certainty that The Dick Van Dyke Show was the first show to say "pregnant" on television, but it certainly precedes the use of the word on Star Trek. If you know of earlier examples, I'd love to hear about them in the comments below.

    Image courtesy of Trek Core.


    The Robert H. Justman Collection of Star Trek Television Series Scripts (1966-1968)

    Laughs, Luck...and Lucy: How I Came to Create the Most Popular Sitcom of All Time (Jess Oppenheimer with Gregg Oppenheimer, 1999)