These are the Voyages TOS: Season Three
Publisher: Jacobs Brown
Written by: Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn
Foreword by David Gerrold
These are the Voyages Season Three is a continuation of Marc Cushman’s extensive look at Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS). This is the third volume which chronicles the final season of the series and in my opinion is the most enjoyable of the three books.
Marc Cushman spent six years writing the three-part series after meeting Gene Roddenberry back in 1982 while working on a proposed TV documentary about Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry gave Marc Cushman access to thousands of production documents about the series and when the documentary did not happen; Gene Roddenberry suggested that Marc Cushman turn his research into a book. The documents given to Marc Cushman by Gene Roddenberry included story notes, discussions between the writers and NBC, budget discussions and detailed accounts of post and pre-production of each episode.
Over the course of his research, Marc Cushman would discover that the drama behind creating Star Trek was almost as incredible as what we were watching on screen and that most of what we thought we knew about TOS was in fact a myth. These are the Voyages strips away these myths and gives an extensive and honest account of what actually happened when Star Trek was being created, filmed, the myth around the ratings and the events that led to its cancellation. Each volume is over 700 pages long but the format that Marc Cushman uses for each episode allows you to process the information in a way that doesn’t feel like you are reading a textbook.
These are the Voyages Season Three picks up after the show’s renewal; after the writing campaign which saved the series from cancellation. While the series was saved there would be many changes starting with a time slot change to Fridays which was known as the “death slot” at 10 pm which in turn led to Gene Roddenberry walking away from the series while retaining the position of executive producer. The day-to-day running of the show would be given to Fred Freiberger who over the years would become known “as the man who ruined Star Trek, most of the team that worked on the first two seasons of TOS left the show over the course of the third season and the budget would be cut again which had a major impact upon the type of stories that would be told in the third year of the Enterprises five year mission.
For many fans of TOS, the third season was the most disappointing. There was a drop not only in the quality of scripts but also in the production values that had been seen in the first two seasons. During the course of the book, Marc Cushman gives us an account of what was really happening during that last year from those who were there including Gene Roddenberry and Fred Freiberger.
The third season was a roller coaster of a ride as we saw the cast and crew cope with all the changes, the drop in quality and the uncertainly of renewal. Like the first two volumes the amount of detail that we are given on each episode is exhaustive, not only do we see how the story develops for the season but like many good stories you feel you are there actually experiencing the events unfold.
The biggest surprise for me while reading the book was the role or perhaps lack of that Gene Roddenberry had during the third season. Fred Freiberger over the years has had a hard time since he has been blamed for the show’s demise (unfairly in my opinion) but he was only one factor, his lack of understanding of what made Star Trek contributed but as Marc Cushman shows Gene Roddenberry also contributed and I won’t ruin the role Jerry Lewis had in the show’s cancellation. Marc Cushman tells the story in a fair and balanced way which allows the reader to make up their own mind about whom if anyone is to blame for the shows premature ending.
While the story of the show’s cancellation is interesting we shouldn’t forget there are some good episodes during season three and like the previous two volumes I found it really insightful getting to know the stories behind the story. I enjoyed finding out about “The Enterprise Incident” which looked very different at the beginning compared to what we saw on the screen. I also found the accounts behind “The Tholian Web” and “Elann of Troyius” fascinating. We shouldn’t forget that season three had some not so good stories and Marc Cushman again shows us that episodes like “Spock’s Brain” wasn’t meant to be that bad but budget restraints and external pressures turned it into the story we have come to mock. It was these episodes that interested me the most, understanding why they turned out the way they did and the stories that could have been.
During the course of the book, Marc Cushman also fills in the gaps during mid-season breaks, the beginnings of Star Trek merchandise (look for the story about the IDIC pin) and another attempt at a letters campaign that unfortunately didn’t work the second time around. All these chapters add an extra layer to the third season of TOS and give us a comprehensive view of television production in the sixties.
While looking at particular episodes Marc Cushman also has quotes from those who have not only been in the episodes or part of the crew but those who have continued to support or have a part in Star Trek up to this day. This includes people such as Vic Mignogna from Star Trek Continues and Alec Peters from Star Trek: Axanar. The foreword from David Gerrold who had written “The Trouble with Tribbles” sets the scene perfectly for the story that unfolds.
These are the Voyages Season Three is a comprehensive look at the third season but is also a sad tale as it accounts the slow and painful demise of a series that was like nothing that had been seen at the time. Of course, we all know that “Turnabout Intruder” was not the last time we would see the crew of the Enterprise but never the less Marc has written a really enjoyable book.
These are the Voyages is one of the most comprehensive set of Star Trek books I have ever read, they are an invaluable source of information for anyone who loves TOS and all credit must be given to Marc Cushman who has laboured long and hard to bring us the story behind Star Trek: The Original Series.