Over the years I have read quite a few books that have claimed to have had the “inside” story or have a “complete” account of Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS). Each time I read one of these books I would often find myself reading things that I already knew, whether it was about the episodes or about the cast and crew or even Gene Roddenberry himself. Last year I discovered These are the Voyages Season One written by Marc Cushman, this was a book that would change my whole outlook on The Original Series. As a Star Trek fan for over thirty years I thought I knew pretty much everything about TOS but this book would soon show me I hardly knew anything.
Before I talk about These are the Voyages Season Two let me give you some background information about how the series came to be, the format of the books and about Season One. Marc Cushman met Gene Roddenberry back in 1982 while working on a proposed TV documentary about Star Trek. Gene gave Marc access to thousands of production documents about the series and when the documentary did not happen; Gene suggested that Marc turn his research into a book. Over the years Marc would interview those who worked both on and off-screen about the series and then in 2007 he began to write the book. Some six years later Marc found he had a story totalling over 1, 700 pages and decided that it would be best to split the series into three parts.
Over the course of his research, Marc would discover that the drama behind creating Star Trek was almost as incredible as what we were watching on screen. Using the show files he would discover that at least 30% of the information that we knew about TOS on the internet was, in fact, false; including the myth that Star Trek did not perform well in the ratings, in fact during the first season, Star Trek was the top-rated show on the networks.
The first book was over 700 pages long however, I felt that the format Marc used for the book really does make it reader-friendly. I agree with other reviews that this is not the sort of book that you would pick up and read from cover to cover like a normal novel. I found that I would read a few episodes and then would come back a while later and continue. If you wanted to get the most out of the book then it would be beneficial and enjoyable to read an episode and then watch it straight after.
Each episode would be broken down into the following sections:
- The writer of the story including any unaccredited writers at the time and the episode’s director.
- The NBC press release from the time the episode aired.
- Summary of the episode.
- Sound bites from the episode.
- An assessment of the episode.
- The story behind the story.
- Production Diary
- Post Production
- Release & Reaction
- Memories from the episode.
As you can see Marc takes an exhaustive look at each episode. I found the behind the scenes story the most interesting part of each episode review. From the show files, Marc had access to all the memos that went between the writing team on Star Trek. Each script would have pages of notes, there would be extensive revisions, there was a conflict between the producers and story consultants about the scripts and of course the budget would have a major impact upon the final script that would be shot.
I found the production diary to be of particular interest as well since you would find out how each director worked on the set, their interactions with the main cast and guest stars. The pressure the directors were under to film the show within six days and something that stood out for me was how apart from a few episodes Star Trek never stayed within its production budget. This would have a profound effect on the studio and series as the show progressed.
During These are the Voyages Season One, we would read about how Gene created the series, how everyone at NBC loved “The Cage” but rejected it and how for the first time the networks commissioned a second pilot. We are introduced to the cast that would capture our imaginations over three seasons and how some would not be too popular with NBC. We would also discover how difficult it was to create the show and how protective Gene was over the series that led to him rewriting most of the early episodes. One of the most interesting stories concerns the back story to the classic episode “City on the Edge of Forever”. We would find out who actually wrote what for that episode, where the credit really belongs and the strained relations between Gene Roddenberry and Harlan Ellison.
These are the Voyages Season Two begins with the biggest revelation that I think many of us never knew. One of the main stars almost never returned for the second season! This is an incredible story and it was a very close thing until NBC stepped in and resolved the matter. We see the introduction of a certain young Russian character and how the popularity of Spock would affect the relationship of William Shatner to the rest of the cast as counting lines became the norm on set. We also discover that the relationship between Gene and NBC continued to disintegrate and the show continued to go over its budget which would lead to the end of Desilu studios. We also discover how a group of dedicated fans (with some help from surprising places) would save Star Trek in a letter campaign that took not only NBC by surprise but the industry itself.
These are the Voyages Season Two is a very informative book. From the very beginning I was discovering things that I never knew about the show, the writers, the cast and producers. In some ways the book has changed my perception of the show and many of those behind the scenes. Even before a scene was filmed for season two the show was in trouble and it just gets worse as the show progressed. Marc captures perfectly the tension that was happening on the set, how the passion of those behind and in front of the camera helped create some of the most enjoyable Star Trek episodes from the second season.
This second volume isn’t simply a reference book; it’s a dramatic story about a series that against the odds changed the way science fiction would be seen on TV. Marc writes the book in such a way that you feel you are there on the set, in the writing room and reliving the laughs, the tears and pressures of life on Star Trek.
This is one of the most comprehensive Star Trek books I have ever read, as a podcaster of a Star Trek related show, this book is going to be an invaluable source of information for me. I am eagerly waiting These are the Voyages Season Three which comes out towards the end of 2014 and finding out about the struggles the series had in its third and final season.