‘These Are the Voyages: TOS - Season Three’ - Book Review

In 2007, Marc Cushman, screenwriter, television and film producer and director, and author, set out - with the help of a mountain of research material provided by Gene Roddenberry and Robert H. Justman - to write the definitive story of the making of Star Trek: The Original Series.  What originally started as a single volume quickly swelled into a series of books, one devoted to each season the show aired.  The third and final book in this series chronicles a lame-duck season of television, one that saw the loss of a desirous time slot, dwindling budgets, struggles over script writing, and a pinnacle of frustration between the showrunners and network executives ultimately overseeing production.

In his effort to tell the true story of the show’s making, from among all the folklore available, Cushman accomplishes a larger tale of the frequent chasm between the creative and financial efforts of the people in its control.  While much of TOS seems antiquated to the modern TV viewer, the circumstances that overtook its chances for success have seen little change in today’s business of making television.   Volume 3 is a good roadmap for anyone wishing to understand what goes on behind the curtain of production.

In laying out this roadmap, Cushman details almost every minute of the daily production and politics of the final season of Star Trek.  I admit that I have not yet read all of the chapters devoted to the individual episodes, which are so comprehensive they offer a day-to-day recounting of what time filming stopped, how many hours of overtime were incurred, and strict accounting of the budget overages and shortages.  Instead, I perused their pages as I watched selected Season 3 episodes and found them to be a fascinating companion to my viewing.

This exhaustive level of detail might become truly Tolkien to the reader not looking to compose a doctoral thesis in the development of science fiction television, but Cushman’s layout of these chapters lend themselves well to the casual reader.  Each chapter contains a scene-by-scene summary (well sprinkled with Cushman’s critical opinion), breakdowns of the pre- and post-production work, and line-by-line breakdowns of script changes.  I found browsing through these chapters while watching the Enterprise wind its way through its final season enlightening and addictive.

In many cases, subjecting yourself to the breadth and depth of the detail surrounding your chosen fandom can serve to lessen adoration.  The volumes of These Are the Voyages certainly has that potential, especially once the plot turns to the creative difficulties of this last season and the mire of network politics running underneath it.  It is also an excellent primer for the realities that come with the desire to make something worthy of note. 

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