G & T Show STLV 2015 Coverage – Marc Cushman Interview
Terry, Nick, and Marc are on autopilot – the convention is taking its cut!
The third These Are the Voyages books is the heaviest of the three and it is out. Marc is excited to report that his books will probably sell out at his table. It’s just going like hotcakes. Currently, the books are only available in the United States.
Welcome to our new listeners – if this is the first of our interviews you’re reading or listening to, Marc is the author of three nonfiction works about the creation, running, and filming of Star Trek: The Original Series. He spent the past three decades researching the books, and the final six or so years writing them. He interviewed Gene Roddenberry and as many people as he could find who had had anything to do with TOS. It is an extraordinary effort, a labor of love. It’s a Saturn award winner, and it is quite the piece of history.
One thing he lists is the Nielsen ratings for every single episode (It was generally a 28 – 30 percent audience share, and was generally their top-rated show. Even when they were moved to the 10 PM time slot, they still did well). The original thought and the party line was that the ratings were low, but the numbers don’t lie. Instead, they were not interested in the breaking of the rules that came from the storytelling, about sexism, racism, etc. Star Trek was a show that showed a lot of skin, too (keep in mind that, at the time, there was a controversy about whether Barbara Eden could show her navel in her I Dream of Jeannie costume).
Marc is currently working on a book about Irwin Allen, whose work helped to get Star Trek on the air, as he paved the way for science fiction on television at that time. Go back and look at the earlier shows and the pilots for the Irwin Allen shows, and you’ll see that they tended to be better shows. But network pressure required changes. Allen complied, but Roddenberry did not, and so, in part, that’s why TOS was cancelled.
Interestingly enough, Irwin Allen kept a lot of clippings about Star Trek and he would hear from cast members who wanted their shows to be more like Trek! Gene and Irwin did meet, and Gene admired Irwin, as he pioneered the idea of showing a science fiction ‘movie’ every week. A lot of this was a function of the time slot (Allen’s shows tended to be more family-friendly, as they were often on at about 7 PM).
Marc is working on Book Four of These Are the Voyages. It will be out next year, as he found that there was a ton of information on the 1970s, including about syndication and Star Trek: The Animated Series. Paramount held back Roddenberry’s newer pilots if they were too close to Star Trek.
Getting later into the 1970s, once Archie Bunker flushed a toilet in the pilot episode of All in the Family, things opened up and what you could show on television was a lot freer. Terry and Nick both recall being a part of the generation where this was happening. There was an impact to being around during these changes. Consider Let That Be Your Last Battlefield. It may seem a bit over the top, but the message has to be delivered. It was a brilliant anti-racist statement.
Consider Fred Frieberger and Arthur Singer. They are unsung heroes and they rewrote many of the scripts and did a yeoman’s job. Marc makes it clear that Frieberger made some poor judgment calls, just as anyone does, but he was definitely not a ‘show-killer’. Marc feels they deserve a lot of credit, particularly for scripts like Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.
Marc says that most people loved Bill Shatner. The kids from Miri loved him. The more lead characters had some issues with him because Shatner had clout and sometimes ended up with fewer lines. But these story changes were not his doing. The idea was to improve the storylines and not to take work away from the actors. His instincts were, according to Marc, often excellent.
Marc has also been a part of Star Trek Continues, in particular on the Mirror, Mirror sequel. He wrote the fifth episode! Nick and Terry love STC as it shows the fallout from what has happened. There are no clean slates, and what has happened in the past affects the future, such as in the episode, The White Iris. Nick suggests that Marc would make a terrific Sarek.
Marc reserved judgment on Star Trek Beyond. He has mixed feelings on the JJ Abrams universe. The films are entertaining, but he feels it doesn’t hold a candle to STC and TOS. It seems more cartoonish and like superhero films. The newer film series is a bit too unrealistic and like fantasy for his taste.
After the fourth volume on TOS, he will be releasing a book on Star Trek: The Next Generation, although he assures that there won’t be seven volumes about it. He believes it will be a two or three book set. He has said he would not do the series unless he could get access to the memos. And he has the memoranda from the first season!
Nick is particularly impressed when Marc weighs in on an episode, such as The Way to Eden. He will write a fairly short introduction, his insights are thoughtful, and won’t hold back on what he thinks.
We cannot say enough good things about this series. And we thank Marc Cushman, who is not just a great interview, but a dear friend of the show.
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She's also a published author (Untrustworthy, published by Riverdale Avenue Books; QSF Discovery 2 Anthology, published by Mischief Corner Books; and The Longest Night Watch Anthology 1 & 2, published by Writers Colony Press), and a prolific fan fiction writer. You can find her adding her fanfiction to our forums, or live tweeting our show.
We understand that she can be bribed with pie.