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These Are The Voyages, TOS, Season One (These Are The Voyages series Book 1) (English Edition) eBook Kindle
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History is hard to pin down, especially when it can be viewed from so many perspectives. With that in mind, Marc Cushman has done the most remarkable history of “Star Trek TOS” that I’ve read in my long association and love affair with iconic Trek. Marc has talked to those who were really there in the trenches during the three seasons that Trek graced prime time NBC television. He has read thousands of documents and reconstructed how this show began, its initial growing pains, and the harshness of its last gasps for life. Riddled with quotes from Bobby Justman’s infamous memos and crackling with notes from actors, writers, directors, ADs (assistant directors, the heart of the set) and countless other production folk, Marc’s trilogy of “These are the Voyages” books read like high drama. We are brought right into studio and sound stages as the show is conceived, reconceived, cast, recast, and finally bursts into the world’s consciousness.
I was lucky enough to have written for Star Trek, and even luckier to have had a thirty year television writing and producing career jump-started by breaking into Trek with “The Tholian Web”. I went through the process of “spec-ing” a script, selling the idea and then writing the script through a final draft. I was amazed that Marc seemed to have been in the script editor’s room as that script was pounded into the episode that was finally shot. I know from first-hand experience that he has captured the whole process as no other Trek historian has been able to do. That doesn’t mean that other books haven’t brilliantly elucidated some aspect of Trek, whether as actors, writers, producers and below the line talent, but it does mean that Marc has given us a PH.D. quality analysis of the whole enchilada.
Sometimes this set of books show us things we might not want to know, such as realizing that Harlan Ellison’s original wonderful script, “City of the Edge of Forever,” did NOT make it to the screen. That much loved show was dismantled piece by piece as the producers tried to fit the story into a budget that could not handle Harlan’s concept. Even with a WGA award winning sci-fi writer, the exigencies of money and production won out, and yet we still got one of the best Star Trek episodes ever aired. We learn, step by step, how that script morphed, and sometimes that learning is painful.
On the other hand, Marc displays much grace and veracity in showing that the much maligned writing and producing staff members of the third season were not the failures they have often been rumored to be. I knew Fred Freiberger and Arthur Singer. I worked with them throughout my career, and I found them to be both knowledgeable and creative writers. They were bound by network demands, budget chains and Paramount disinterest in ways that former producers and writers were not, or at least not to the same extent. I watched the wonderful director Ralph Senensky get fired from “The Tholian Web” for taking the time he had to have and doing the job they were paying him to do, when shows from the first two seasons went over in days and dollars and did not lose their directors.
One of the major difficulties for any writer is accepting criticism. We all take it personally, even if the comments are usually offered with the best intentions. After working in Hollywood for years, I taught screenwriting at UCLA and UCR. If Marc’s books had been available when I was teaching, I would have required all three books as reading for my classes because of the wealth of script critiques held in the memos and letters sent between production, studio and writers. If you are thinking of buying a “how-to” book on scripting or production, buy these books. You will find a treasury of information between the book covers.
Finally, in summation, Marc Cushman has reported the problems of the third season with a wise eye and deft pen. He’s commented on Trek in perhaps the most riveting account of a show we thought we already knew and taught us there was so much more for us to learn and love. Thanks for all those hours, Marc Cushman. This is the ultimate Trek Bible.
These Are the Voyages is a tightly written book that covers a lot of aspects of Trek while keeping your interest. It’s obvious from the book’s endnotes that author Marc Cushman spent a lot of time researching the book. He’s combed through numerous autobiographies, biographies, interviews, magazine articles, and more in order to get a deep and wide look at the people who made Trek into what it was. In addition, Cushman worked with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and had access to a number of behind the scenes documents relating to Trek. There’s a lot of information documented in this book and Cushman does a terrific job of being thorough and holding the reader’s attention.
The book starts with a look at the show’s development in 1964, including its two pilots (getting two pilots authorized was something unheard of back then). Then it goes into an analysis of each episode, beginning with a summary and critique of each one. From there, the writer examines the script-writing process and the hassles (and there were plenty) of pre-production ranging from NBC’s oversight to adapting the scripts to fit the show’s limited budget. Production notes supply a look at the headaches (both expected and unexpected) that came up during each episode. Post-production notes show how thing such as adding music and optical effects sometimes proved as challenging as regular production. Each chapter ends with a breakdown of ratings and often includes a couple pieces of fan mail. Cushman even gets into things like which episodes were repeated during the season and which weren’t (and most importantly, why they were not chosen to re-air). Some might call this minutia but it gives Star Trek fans access to information they may never have had before.
As Cushman highlights the production of each episode, he also provides details on the show’s development through its first season. Like any new series, Star Trek was a work in progress and concepts that fans would eventually consider familiar such as the Federation of Planets or the Vulcan Mind Meld weren’t even considered yet. Star Trek was created by Gene Roddenberry but many people played a part in developing the show into a wonderful (if not always cohesive) universe.
As good as the drama onscreen could be, Cushman’s accounts of behind the scenes drama proves interesting as well. Cushman examines Mr. Spock’s growing popularity and the benefits and problems it created for the show. While Captain Kirk was meant to be the series lead, it was becoming clear over the course of the first season that the ship’s Vulcan first officer was becoming increasingly popular. He also looks at the long hours endured by cast and crew, getting so bad that one of the show’s biggest contributors suffered a nervous collapse.
The book contains lots of excellent pictures of cast and crew ranging from series regulars to guest stars. These pictures include photos from cast members’ earlier roles which gives you a better idea of why they were in demand in Hollywood. There are candid shots as well which show the ways the cast and crew tried to add some fun to what were some very long shooting days.
Some people might not want that level of detail. What’s great about this book is that it’s organized so you can skip over stuff you might not be interested in. Don’t really care how a script was developed or why a director wasn’t invited back? It’s easy to navigate the book and go to the sections you’re interested in.
In the end, These Are the Voyages makes a strong case for why Star Trek was so revolutionary for the time. The show was a true labor of love by many of the people involved. People put in long hours, drove themselves to the point of exhaustion to figure out how to make the series work, and created a television series whose impact is still felt today. If you’ve heard the hyperbole about Star Trek and doubted it, pick up this book. You’ll get a true appreciation for the work involved and more importantly, the results.
I’ve only read the season one book but I intend on getting the rest. There is a book written about each season of Star Trek. Trek’s first season was known for a remarkable number of excellent episodes. It will be interesting to see how the writer explores Trek’s gradual decline, the fans efforts to save the series from cancellation, and Gene Roddenberry’s virtual abandonment of the series in season three. I’ve read a lot of books about Star Trek (and there have been some really good ones) but this is by far the best and the most comprehensive. It’s 658 pages of nostalgia and insider information that any classic Trek fan should find fascinating.