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Crazy Facts About the Making of "Star Trek"

I've been reading both volumes of The Fifty-Year Mission (one of my top books of the year). Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman have compiled interviews with everyone involved in the franchise, from the first failed pilot to Star Trek Beyond. It's filled with interesting facts, trivia, and stories, some of which I just had to share.


The Shatner-Nimoy feud was real

It makes sense. William Shatner rightly thought Kirk was the captain of the ship and the star of the show. But Spock was the breakout character, and Leonard Nimoy received far more fan mail. The two actors began competing for screen time, storylines, and the best dialogue. The rivalry affected morale in all departments.

Finally, Gene Roddenberry wrote a long, blistering memo to both parties. His best jab to Shatner: "I want you to realize fully where your fight for absolute screen dominance is taking you. [...] We’re heading for an arrogant, loud, half-assed Queeg character who is so blatantly insecure upon that screen that he can’t afford to let anyone else have an idea, give an order, or solve a problem."

To Nimoy: "For a man who makes no secret of his own sensitivity, you show a strange lack of understanding of it in your fellow actors. And an appalling lack of gratitude for the good fortune which has swept you almost overnight into a prominence."

To both he said, "You've pretty well divided up the market on selfishness and egocentricity."


Not everyone loved The Trouble with Tribbles

Two of the original series' producers didn't like the comedic of tone of the classic episode, and said so at the time. Robert Justman, who worked on both TOS and TNG, thought the characters were parodying themselves, and the whole concept was implausible. Fred Freiberger told the episode's writer, David Gerrold, "I didn't like it. Star Trek is not a comedy."


Water Koenig's favorite Trek experience was Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Chekov gets his own storyline in the second Trek film, and a chance to play both hero and villain. He called it "a delight from start to finish [...] and not being on the Enterprise having to be judged by our leading man, not having scenes being reblocked by our leading man, which I found very oppressive." So it looks likes Shatner returned to his old ways even after Roddenberry's devastating memo.


Speaking of which, the two main characters in Wrath of Khan are unique

...in that they never meet throughout the film. One of the reasons that Ricardo Montalban and William Shatner chew so much scenery is because they have to; they never physically get their hands on each other. As producer Ralph Winter points out, "It was all on viewscreens. It was all ship-to-ship and there was never any face-to-face encounter. You can't do that today."


Eddie Murphy was almost in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Co-writer Steve Meerson said Murphy would play "a college professor who taught English [...] who's a little bit wacky and believes in extra-terrestrials." In the early version of the script, there were two other modern-day characters, Catherine Hicks as a newswoman and an yet-uncast marine biologist. Eventually all three were combined into the marine biologist, played by Hicks. Producer Harve Bennett said Paramount probably wouldn't have let Murphy, star of their successful Beverly Hills Cop movies, join the studio's other big film franchise, as a matter of economics.


The movie Aliens inspired two characters on The Next Generation

While developing The Next Generation, producer Robert Justman and Roddenberry's executive assistant Susan Sackett watched science fiction movies for ideas. They were particularly taken with Aliens, which had just come out. They liked Lance Henriksen's android character, Bishop, who remains a good guy throughout the story (unlike in the first film). Why not include an android character on the Enterprise? They also admired the tough, strong Aliens character of Vasquez, played by Jenette Goldstein. In fact, they planned to name the new security chief after her—Macha Hernandez. It was eventually changed to Tasha Yar.


Gene Roddenberry was a visionary producer, but not a very good writer

This became especially apparent during the early seasons of TNG. Roddenberry would rewrite everyone, even seasoned veterans. Scripts he helped hone, whose final versions he claimed to love, still got one last Roddenberry treatment. As longtime Trek writer Dorothy Fontana put it, "No matter how good a script appeared to be, it would be rewritten by Gene Roddenberry." And then the staff writers would try to find a balance between the good version and Roddenberry's version. This led to a revolving door of exasperated writers in the first three seasons. Some who stayed, like Tracy Tormé, found their episodes changed so drastically that they opted to use a pseudonym in the credits.


The first names for TNG were Star Trek: A New Beginning and Star Trek: The New Adventure

Just doesn't have the same ring.

Jason ginsburg

Jason Ginsburg

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