Monday, October 5, 2009

Progress Report: 10'2 thru 10'5

Friday:    5 hours on episode schedule. Two key sets of figures don't match

Sat: I do nothing.

Sun: 4 hours on episode schedule and leafing thru source books. I'm trying to figure out my number problem.

Today: 3.5 hours of same, plus hour of googling to turn up phone numbers for old Star Trek hands; I figure maybe they'll know the answer; no phone numbers turn up. Around about 11:30 pm I hit on a possible answer to my mystery.

The big question was how many days it took to shoot a Star Trek episode. (My novel is about people making a science fiction series back in the 1960s, and books about Star Trek provide my chief guide for guessing how a network prime time drama was put together back then.) The books about Star Trek all say episodes took 6 days' shooting apiece; Shatner's Star Trek Memories says that in the third season the figure dropped to 5. But sit down with calendars for the years in question and the 6-day figure doesn't add up.

Because of the books, and because of the fine Trek site Memory Alpha, we have hard-and-fast dates for when each season's shooting started and decent enough information for when the shooting ended (sometimes dates, sometimes phrases like "mid-February"). Count up the number of weekdays in a given season, subtract holidays, and you come up with far more days than you'll get by multiplying six by the season's number of episodes.

My guess.  Star Trek took seven days to shoot an episode for the first season and most of the second season. Then it switched to six days per ep for the second season's last batch of episodes. The switch happened right when the show was waiting to find out if NBC was going to yank it at mid-season. NBC kept the show, but (I speculate) from that point Trek was on thin ice and trying to keep its costs down so that Desilu wouldn't lose too much if the series didn't make it to syndication. 

Run the numbers that way and it's possible to go thru the calendars and map out a series of shooting dates that doesn't conflict with the fairly scattered information we have on when specific episodes were done. That's for the first and second seasons, anyway. I have to go thru the third season tomorrow.

A journey.  I discovered my numbers problem on Friday and should have just shlepped home and started looking thru my books. But instead I tried to fix the problem by allowing for more days off. No good and a long, tedious process that involved a lot of counting forwards and backwards along rows of dates.

Over the weekend I started on my source books. Grace Lee Whitney's The Longest Trek helped a lot. She was on the show such a short while that her memoir notes exactly when her episodes were shot, from date to date. She says that during the first few months of season one the show had to overlap the shooting of 4 eps: that is, one ep would be finished in the morning, the next started would start shooting that afternoon. Go by her dates and the overlapped eps were all shot in 6.5 days apiece, with the episodes just before them taking 8 days apiece. So it looks like the aim was 7 days. Take a 7-day shoot as standard, and the calendar for season one adds up.

Nothing else turned up until I stumbled across p. 357 of Inside Star Trek, where associate producer Robert Justman recalls the show's brush with death during the second season. In doing so, he quotes himself telling an exec that the series would have 16 episodes filmed as of Oct. 5. Count each of those 16 eps at 7 days apiece, and the remaining 10 eps at 6 days apiece, and season two adds up.

Now season three. 

update,  I should note that Grace Lee Whitney cites Justman as her source for the shooting dates in The Longest Trek. So I owe my grand sorting out entirely to Justman-derived data. 

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