Friday, June 4, 2010
IS THERE IN TRUTH NO BEAUTY? - July 1968 (Star Trek)
My return to STAR TREK early in their third season found more changes. Producer John Meredyth Lucas was gone, replaced by Fred Freiberger. Director of photography Jerry Finnerman was still there but on his final assignments; he was leaving the series to photograph a feature film. Paramount was still next door, even closer now because the old wall that had separated the two studios, Paramount and Desilu (originally RKO Radio Pictures), had been torn down. I sensed a tense atmosphere in the company almost at once.
There were no locations required to film this episode. In fact the entire show would be filmed in the Enterprise set on Stage 9 except for one four page scene in a herbarium set on swing stage 8. Casting also was relatively easy. For the role of Larry Marvick, the tortured soul in love with Miranda, I wanted David Frankham. David and I had worked together twice before -- first on the main stage of the Pasadena Playhouse on a production of Somerset Maugham’s THE CIRCLE and later on TWELVE O’CLOCK HIGH in the episode, THE TRAP. My request was greeted with approval. The role of Miranda was not quite that easy. I remember we checked out Jessica Walter, but she was not available. Other availabilities were checked with no success. Now STAR TREK had a standing rule that guest stars would not repeat unless they were coming back to play the same role. At this point I daringly suggested we bring back Diana Muldaur (who had guest starred the previous season in RETURN TO TOMORROW), and that we put her in a black wig. That suggestion was finally accepted.
Our first day of filming, Tuesday, July 16th, arrived and I faced a mutiny on the Enterprise that I had not faced before. Bill Shatner and Leonard Nimoy had very strong objections to a portion of the scene we were scheduled to do that day and were refusing to film. Since the objection was to dialogue involving a piece of jewelry that Gene Roddenberry had designed, he was summoned to the set. The morning was spent in a round table with the six characters involved in the scene plus Gene and me. But the battle was strictly between Bill and Leonard vs Gene. Bill and Leonard felt Gene was using the scene as a promotional commercial for a pin he had designed. Gene denied these accusations, but the boys were adamant in their refusal to be a part of something they considered so commercially oriented. The final result of the long morning’s combat was that Gene agreed to rewrite the scene. But that took it off the schedule for that first day’s filming. The balance of the day’s schedule was four short sequences in the Enterprise corridor that totaled a page and a half. I did not want my first day’s work to be limited to a page and a half, so I suggested we do a strong three page scene between Diana Muldaur and David Frankham. Which is what we did.
I will discuss these scenes later as we reach them in the progress of our story. For now let’s go to the Transporter Room and let that story begin. Please pay attention to the instructions being given to the members of the Enterprise on who should be allowed in the presence of the arriving Ambassador.
I would like to have filmed the following scene when Spock and Dr. Miranda Jones “escort” the Ambassador to his quarters in one dolly back two shot. But the corridor set was not long enough. I had to film it in two dolly individual medium shots of Spock and Miranda, which would be intercut. That way when we ran out of set, we moved back to the starting position and continued the scene in another setup. I know it took two runs (possibly three) to complete filming each of the two characters. And again note how the passageway was cleared of all ship personnel!
Here is the script for the following sequence when Spock “meets” the Ambassador. Pay attention to Scene 22.
And now the scene.
The script just called for a blue light emanating from the receptacle. Jerry Finnerman very wisely turned the blue to green. My very strong objection to what was done after I turned in my director’s cut was to the comic strip animation used to represent the ugliness of the Ambassador. I don’t know who was responsible; that kind of vulgarizing technique had never intruded into STAR TREK before, so I have my suspicions. Since the Ambassador is described as being so ugly that any human seeing him would be driven insane, it was more powerful to see the Ambassador only through the reactions of the people in contact with him. It is a perfect example of a scene that would benefit by leaving something to the imagination of the viewer, rather than treating the whole thing as if it were just another sequence in an episode of BATMAN! Plus which the true intent of the scene was negated. After Spock leaves and Miranda looks at the Ambassador without wearing her visor, the emphasis should not be on how ugly he is. The real question should be: Why can she look at the Ambassador without her visor?
The portion of the dining scene that caused so much consternation that first day was rewritten by Gene Roddenberry. As you will see, the business with the IDIC pin that Spock wears was drastically trimmed so that all could dine (and act) at ease.
I don't think I have to state again my dismay at another superimposition of the receptacle. And this time it is so WRONG! Miranda is reading by her telepathic ability the thought of murder. She doesn’t know who is doing the thinking. There is no victim involved. As you will see in the next clip, she will ask if she was the intended victim.
As I stated earlier, METAMORPHOSIS was my favorite STAR TREK episode. I felt there was a poetic dimension beyond science fiction. I saw some of that same element in this script. And Jerry Finnerman certainly rose to the challenge in his photographing it, as you will see in the next clip, the scene we filmed that first day with Diana and David. And that scene was a good example of why I liked to have more than just the intended day’s schedule prepared. And why I liked to work with actors whom I could rely on to give performances like the ones you are about to see in scenes that they were not scheduled to do. Filming I found usually followed the lines of Murphy’s Law: If something can go wrong, it will.
Again another intrusion. And the superimposition of the Ambassador’s receptacle is WRONG! Miranda’s next line was, “Who do you want to kill, Larry? Is it me?” The Ambassador at this point does not figure in the equation.
The next day at dailies, following this scene, Bobby Justman was heard to remark, “I wonder how she’ll look in a red wig.”
Remember the fish-eye 9mm lens Jerry Finnerman introduced me to on METAMORPHOSIS. There we used it to give a greater expanse to a very small area. I wanted to use it again, but this time, as you will see -- differently. And if you're thinking as you see the various shots of the corridor -- that looks like a very long corridor -- that is the miracle of the wide angle lens. Those shots were filmed with either an 18mm or a 20mm lens. (Although the static shots where there is distortion, where the walls lean, those were filmed with the 9mm.)
This was my second experience dealing with a mind link. My previous episode, RETURN TO TOMORROW filmed during the second season, had three characters mind linking to inanimate persons.
Miranda objects to Spock’s mind linking with the Ambassador. And a scene reveals a major challenge Diana Muldaur faced in playing Miranda.
Gene Roddenberry, in his conception of the character of Spock, and Leonard Nimoy, in his total realization of that character, had boxed in an enormously versatile actor. Earlier in THIS SIDE OF PARADISE Spock was freed emotionally by the spores, and Leonard was able to use his talent way beyond the constraints of Spock’s character. The mind link was another route to this same freedom.
Here I had another opportunity to use the 9mm lens; and Leonard had an opportunity to really stretch.
Television didn’t often provide scenes that exploded emotionally. For the most part it always seemed controlled and careful. The excitement was generated by car chases and fights. But occasionally a script would provide that excitement by the conflict between the characters. I think you saw it earlier in the death of Larry Marvick. Now Kirk and Miranda go at it.
And the final scene where I used the 9mm lens for the mad man’s point of view!
Remember at the beginning of this posting when I urged you to pay attention to the cautions about who could be in the presence of the Ambassador?
Did you catch the gross error? The script and my director’s cut had Kirk say, “Peace”, and he exited. What idiot decided to have him hang around, without a visor, which wouldn’t have protected him anyway because he was human? I have run out of scorn!
I think friendships in show business are different than in any other profession. Because they are founded so much on emotions of the work, very close ones can evolve in very short periods of time. But the profession also separates people very quickly and for long periods of time. I have found that when reunions occur, the friendships pick up right where they left off. I had not seen David Frankham for 22 years when he recently came to visit. We had first met and worked together 50 years ago. And as I said, the bonds of friendship did not recognize the long period of separation. While he visited, we watched my posting of IS THERE IN TRUTH NO BEAUTY? on a big screen. The following pictures were taken of David viewing his performance.
The second picture to me is very surreal. Today’s David is looking at his performance on the screen. But Larry Marvik seems to be thinking, “Why is that old codger staring at me?” Much like the Jeff Daniels character in Woody Allen’s THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO, this character on the screen is aware of those watching him.
I have a joke I have told for years.
As I sat alone in my room, sad and lonely and without a friend, a voice came to me from out of the gloom and said, “Cheer up. Things could be worse.” So I cheered up -- and sure enough -- things got worse.
That little joke can serve as a preview for my next posting!