The Making of Star Trek by Stephen E. Whitfield
Posted by Tracy Poff on July 3, 2015
In August, 1966, Stephen E. Whitfield, then in the employ of an advertising agency, was tasked with working to generate publicity for Star Trek toys. In consequence of his close contact with the Trek cast and crew, he became intimately familiar with the workings of the production, and pitched to Gene Roddenberry a book detailing the making of the show. With Roddenberry’s approval, Whitfield began work on what was to be a thorough history of Star Trek, from its conception through the production of its first season: The Making of Star Trek.
Whitfield’s book was the first of its kind: a real behind-the-scenes look at the creation of a television show, including not only Whitfield’s observations, but also interviews with Roddenberry and the actors, and original artifacts from the show’s production, such as the ‘series format’ Roddenberry wrote to sell the show to the studio, and a variety of memos.
The aforementioned series format is perhaps the single feature of greatest historical interest, as it describes Roddenberry’s initial vision for the show. In part:
THE FORMAT is “Wagon Train to the Stars”–built around characters who travel to other worlds and meet the jeopardy and adventure which become our stories.
THE TIME could be 1995 or even 2995–close enough to our times for our continuing cast to be people like us, but far enough into the future for galaxy travel to be fully established.
THE FAMILIAR LOCALE is their vessel–the U.S.S. Enterprise, a naval cruiser-size spaceship. (In the initial draft of the format, the ship was the U.S.S. Yorktown.) The vessel (a permanent set) includes bridge, control rooms, crew quarters and facilities, science labs and technical departments, plus passenger and cargo accommodations. These compartments contain the wide range of personalities, some becoming Guest Star roles for stories aboard ship or on the worlds we visit.
THE LEAD ROLE is Captain Robert T. April, mid-thirties, an unusually strong and colorful personality, the commander of the cruiser.
OTHER CAST REGULARS are a variety of excitingly different types: “Number One”, a glacierlike, efficient female who serves as ship’s Executive Officer; José “Joe” Tyler, the brilliant but sometimes immature Navigator; Mr. Spock, with a red-hued satanic look and surprisingly gentle manners; Philip “Bones” Boyce, M. D., ship’s doctor and worldly cynic; and uncomfortably lovely J. M. Colt, the Captain’s Yeoman.
The book features a great many more original documents from the show’s production that will be similarly interesting to the devoted fan. It’s well worth reading for those.
Of rather less interest (to me, at the least) are the minutiae of the show’s production. In 1968, I suppose the work of making a television show was relatively unfamiliar to the average person. Today, I think this information has permeated the collective public consciousness, and at any rate the internet will offer (up-to-date!) details to anyone interested. Happily, these duller bits are in the minority.
The Making of Star Trek is an absolute treasure for the fan interested in Trek‘s history. I understand that many of these details have been republished, since, but Whitfield’s book is the only source written even as the show was produced, and published contemporarily. It’s well worth the time invested to read it.
Note on this review: I had believed that I’d reviewed this book months ago, when I finished reading it, but I cannot turn up that review, and I have since lost my notes on the book, so this is less thorough a review than I would wish. My apologies.