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Win! A Copy of David Gerrold’s World of Star Trek!

As you may have picked up, we are big fans of Star Trek here at the m0vie blog, and we are big fans of David Gerrold as well. Mr. Gerrold has recent released a number of his classic novels in eBook format, including The World of Star Trek. Originally published in 1973 and updated in 1984, the book offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the franchise and is an invaluable glimpse behind the curtain. A full list of Mr. Gerrold’s eBooks are available via his official site, or by clicking the image below.

We have an excerpt from the classic below and Mr. Gerrold has kindly volunteered to host a give away here. For your chance to win a copy – and four of David Gerrold’s eBooks of your choosing – simply leave a comment below. Simply leave a comment on the article stating you would like to be entered in the draw and we’ll pick a name from a hat. Enjoy!

World of Star Trek_giveaway


THE WORLD

OF

STAR TREK®

REVISED EDITION

Written by

David Gerrold

 

PART FOUR

STAR TREK

THE UNFULFILLED POTENTIAL

Science fiction demands, above everything else, believability.

Without it, the writer is only telling a fantasy. With believability comes immediacy, and an increased concern for the fate of the story’s characters. But science fiction extracts a high price for believability.

The format requires visual production values—usually these are expensive. The format requires a high level of technology—and familiarity with same. The format requires characters that can understand and move through their environment easily—and that demands a high level of competency from the writer.

In a sense, the writer has to be a god. He has to create a whole world and all of its peoples. He has to know all of its physical laws and all of its geography. He has to play all the roles, answer all the questions, confront all the crises, and in the end be responsible for the solutions to all the problems he has created for himself.

And if he doesn’t do a good job of it—then the reader or viewer is going to feel unsatisfied and cheated.

This is especially true in television. Gene L. Coon, line producer for Star Trek, and the only man other than Roddenberry who could make the show work on a regular basis, has said, “All of your production problems can be solved best in the typewriter. They can be solved a lot cheaper and faster than they can on the set.”

Corollary to this is the fact that television’s best producers often start out as writers. Both Gene Coon and Gene Roddenberry began their television careers as writers. In a sense, Star Trek owes its success to the fact that it has good Genes.

Star Trek’s first season was generally regarded as its best. About this, Gene Roddenberry says, “When I do a concept for a show, if four or five or six stories don’t come to me pretty fast, I know that somewhere I’m in trou­ble on that concept and I put it aside and start looking at it again.

“One of the interesting things about Star Trek, talking about stories, is that I came up with—in the final premise—about twenty-two story ideas, and we recently made a count and I believe fifteen of them were actually used in the series. I did not take screen credit for all of those stories because it was just stated in a paragraph, and the development came from someone else. During the first two years many of the scripts you saw came out of those stories.

“I think one of the mistakes of many I made on the show was that I proba­bly should have continued that system. In between every year, I should have sat down in the show’s hiatus and come up with twenty or more stories, of which maybe ten or twelve would have set the stage for the next season. It would have saved us a great deal of time because it means instead of a writer coming and you talk a story with him and he goes home and thinks and in three or four days you talk it some more and maybe waste two or three weeks getting a story ready, he could have come in and said, ‘Yes, I dig this one. There’s some changes I see and so on, but wow, thematically, I think it’s great,’ and I say, ‘Go on, we’re off to work.’ ”

The very nature of television production puts incredible pressure on the people involved. On Star Trek a director had to shoot ten minutes of usable film per working day. He had only six days in which to make a one hour episode. (Actually fifty-six minutes after commercials and credits are sub­tracted; today that total is down to forty-eight. More commercials, longer credits, a news update, and previews of the next episode have eaten up the time.)

Budgets are limited too—far more than the layman would think. On Star Trek, a significant part of each budget went for special effects—sets and actors were expensive too. There aren’t many stores in Hollywood that sell authentic Rigelian furniture, it all has to be built. And every actor has to be costumed. On any other show, say a Western or a private eye series, much of this kind of background detail could be drawn from stock, or if necessary, purchased. But with Star Trek, it all had to be designed and built.

As Gene Roddenberry says, “We were creating a whole new world every week. But, with the limited budget we had to work with, we could only afford to show a very small part of that world.” Everything shown in every episode had to be built. If it was part of the Enterprise, then it could be used again in future episodes, and so every dollar spent for in-ship improvements was an investment in the overall look of the show.

As a result, the Enterprise gradually became more and more detailed. For instance, the engine room as portrayed by the end of the second season was quite a bit more complex and detailed than it had been the first time it was shown. In “Mirror, Mirror,” for example, a small set on stilts was built. It was called the “Emergency Manual Monitor.” It had a window in its rear wall through which the original engine room set could be seen. The effect was as if the actors were in an additional control room overlooking the main floor. It was a particularly well thought out set device and the result was quite convincing. It opened up the engine room by increasing its apparent depth.

If Star Trek had been telling only shipboard stories, quite a detailed space­ship could have been constructed and shown. But unfortunately, the network wanted lots of “planet” stories. Hence, most of Star Trek’s expenses were not for reusable items. The Enterprise had already been built. The phasers, tricorders, and communicators had already been designed. The costumes were established. Aside from the occasional piece of detail work required by a specific script, most of the money had to be spent for development of items that could not be used again—and there was never enough time or money to do the job as thoroughly as it should have been done.

The average script allowed for the construction of three sets and some corridors, very little more. It allowed no more than five or six speaking parts—and rarely were more than three of them major parts. (The limitation of how much story you could tell in forty-eight minutes was a factor here too.) If there was any particularly difficult special effects or costume work—such as an alien Gorn, or a crew of Romulans—all the other budgets had to be cut accordingly. (Fortunately, things like corridors, jungles, and cave walls can easily be redressed to look like an additional set.) The show rarely used more than twenty extras to suggest a crowd—or even a whole population.

While this restriction was a seriously limiting one—it was not a fatal one. There were many successful episodes that managed to work within these restrictions. In some cases, these restrictions even worked to strengthen a particular show—by forcing the writer to concentrate on the immediate story and not waste time on extraneous material.

Examples:

“The Doomsday Machine” (by Norman Spinrad): A retelling of Ahab and the whale. The only guest star was William Windom, and most of the action took place aboard the Enterprise or on a ship identical to her.

“Amok Time” (by Theodore Sturgeon): Once every seven years, Spock has to swim upstream to spawn. This script involved an arena on the planet Vulcan, four additional speaking parts, and a handful of extras.

“Journey to Babel” (by Dorothy Fontana): The Enterprise is ferrying a group of interstellar ambassadors, including Spock’s parents. Although this story takes place entirely aboard the starship, there were a considerable num­ber of aliens portrayed, requiring a good deal of costume and makeup work.

The typical Star Trek script was never really a fully fleshed drama, per se. There are few television series that are. Rather, it was a story told in visual shorthand. Only the basic fragments are presented, details are merely suggested, and the viewer is left to fill in the gaps for himself.

Most television dramas depend on this kind of shorthand for their success. It has been called “the willing suspension of disbelief,” but there is more to it than that.


We are currently in the middle of reviews of the third season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and the first season of Star Trek: Voyager. In December, we’ll be reviewing the second season of the classic Star Trek, which saw Mr. Gerrold’s first contributions to the franchise – including the iconic Trouble with Tribbles and a heavy re-write of I, Mudd.

Remember, to be in with a chance of winning the five eBooks from Mr. Gerrold, just leave a comment below. In the meantime, check out his official website, gerrold.com.

18 Responses

  1. Please do enter me. A big fan of this book in particular, and Mr Gerrold’s work, generally.

  2. This is an interesting primer about the making of a television show. It covers much of the business side of the process.

  3. Can you put my name in the… whatever you’re drawing from?

  4. count me in for the draw, plz!

  5. Could you enter me for the draw?

  6. I am a big fan of Mr. Gerrold’s work. I have loved it ever since I watched The Trouble With Tribbles.

    Please put my name in the hat.

  7. hi, pleas consider this a entry.

  8. I would like to enter the darw.

  9. I’ve been a fan of Mr. Gerrold’s for years now, and would love a chnce to win the books. Please pick me!

  10. I’ve read Dave’s since I was tiny. I remember catching The Trouble With Tribbles on the local affiliate and falling in love. Can you put my name down?

  11. Big Star Trek fan, but I’ve always wanted to read some of his work outside of it. Thanks for the chance!

  12. Count me in!

  13. This is as interesting as the book the late Gene Roddenbery wrote “The Making of Star Trek” so many moons ago.
    Been a fan of “Star Trek” since the first season. At 65, don’t think there’s too many older fans than me of the series and David Gerrold. Would be pleased to win.

  14. Thank you for the excerpt – Mr. Gerrold has always had an engaging approach to narrative, in pieces like this as well as in his fictional work. I’d be pleased as punch if you would enter me in the drawing!

  15. Please enter me! I totally want to read this book.

  16. Please add my name to the give-away hat. I have the ’73 version, be nice to have the newer one too.

  17. As is true of everyone else posting here, I, too, would like to be entered in the drawing, and with luck, a chance to win!

  18. Please enter me in the contest. Wonderful excerpt.

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