herb solow

Gene continually tended to ‘his’ women: regulars, guest stars, and extras. Obsessively involved with their costumes, their hairstyles, their makeup - and even their footwear - he created a look best described as 'available sexuality.’ Their costumes were as scant as possible, designed for the maximum display of breasts and legs. Yes, actresses were chosen for their acting talent, but voluptuous lips and seductive eyes were very important to him. And in most instances, the characters they portrayed were emotionally subordinate to the men of Star Trek.

Women were, essentially, sex objects always ready for action. And they were the antithesis of the actresses starring in the other dramatic television series of that era: Barbra Bain (Mission: Impossible), Amanda Blake (Gunsmoke), Barbara Anderson (Ironsides), Stephanie Powers (The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.), and of course Barbara Stanwyck (Big Valley), all playing characters of substantial independence and distinction.

Everyone had a role in Gene’s future world. And for Gene, a woman’s role was primarily as a decorative tool in a man’s workshop.


Herb Solow, in Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, 1996 (p. 226). Solow was the Executive in Charge of Production at Desilu for the first two seasons of TOS. 

I love many of the TOS women characters, and think some of them were quite strong, but I appreciated Solow’s comparison to other shows of the time, that had recurring women characters in more prominent, independent roles. It shows such a thing was possible to create and sell, even in the 60s, that the era wasn’t the only thing that contributed to TOS’s representation of women.

anonymous asked:

I'm curious. Why didn't you mention Lucille Ball in your 50th anniversary post?

Hi, curious. I’m Kevin.

I’ve seen this story about how Lucy saved Star Trek kind of grow over the last couple of years, and I get it. She’s a feminist icon that is incredibly important to the history of television. Connecting her to Star Trek through the studio that she owned seems natural, right?

Unfortunately, the facts (as far as I can tell) seem to be that Gene Roddenberry spent the seventies exaggerating how much involvement she had with the series as well as how much time he spent with her. Desilu Executive in Charge of Production Herb Solow stated outright that the two didn’t even know each other on a personal basis and that Roddenberry was, for lack of a better word, lying. After all, Lucy surrounded herself with executives (like Solow) whose jobs were to handle the day-to-day business of the studio, providing a buffer between her and individual producers. 

(This aspect of the Desilu-Roddenberry relationship is discussed in the 2014 reference book Star Trek and American Television, which goes into some detail about the financial, technical and creative aspects of the franchise. It’s the sort of book I quite like, but I don’t recommend to most people.)

Additionally, Inside Star Trek co-author Robert Justman later wrote:  “Lucy really did not understand the show; it was very foreign to her and she was watching this thing being done. We’d talk once or twice a week and she never looked away when we were over budget. She was there with the money. No interference whatsoever, in fact as I said in the book, when I gave her the first and second pilot scripts, I don’t think she even read them.”

Again: I get it. Lucy’s great. Star Trek’s great. They should be great together, right? Unfortunately, a lot of people (including some authors that should know better) have tended to stick to the legend instead of the available facts.

“The City On The Edge Of Forever” won major writing awards for both the aired and Harlan Ellison’s original version of its screenplay. The broadcasted script for “City” earned a 1968 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (it was running against four other episodes of Star Trek) while Ellison took home the Writers Guild of America Award for “Best Written Dramatic Episode” for his version.

At the WGA awards, Gene Roddenberry, Gene Coon, Robert Justman, Herb Solow and others involved in the show’s production were on hand to show support for his work despite the problems they’d experienced. Ellison, of course, used his time at the podium to berate the audience about executives rewriting his work.


Gene Roddenberry’s original story outline and first draft script for “The Omega Glory” were written two years before the episode saw production. It was one of the three candidates for Star Trek’s second pilot, alongside “Mudd’s Women” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” Herb Solow was frank about this early attempt to get the show on the air, writing in Inside Star Trek that “Gene Roddenberry’s script wasn’t very good. It was unnecessary to point it out to him; he was the first to recognize it.”

It went through six drafts (including one by Les and Tina Pine that D.C. Fontana referred to as “a catastrophe beyond any we have ever had before”) and a polish before it was put in front of the cameras.

(I think it’s pretty awful in the script department but director Vincent McEveety and his cast did the best they could. There’s some nicely-done action while Jerry Finnerman’s cinematography creates some memorable shots and Shatner hams it up just enough.)

Herb Solow poses next to Leonard Nimoy at a holiday party for Star Trek’s cast and crew.

As the Executive in Charge of Production for Desilu during the first and second seasons of Star Trek, Herb Solow was responsible for the development, sales and production of the series along with Mission Impossible and Mannix. After pitching the show to CBS (who rejected it for the sake of Lost In Space,) Solow successfully sold the series to NBC. However, nobody had bothered to tell the studio’s owner, Lucille Ball, what the show was about.

In an interview, Solow revealed that it she thought Star Trek was going to be a show about USO performers trekking across the globe, entertaining America’s troops and sailors. When Solow corrected her in a board meeting, everyone realized that she’d green-lit the purchase and production of the show without ever having read any of the pitch documents — she just trusted her team that much!

Thankfully, Solow was able to handle the debacle and Star Trek continued production.

Nichols felt the character of Uhura had been underappreciated [in Season 1]. In an article for the July 15, 1967 issue of TV Guide, entitled, ‘Let Me Off at the Next Planet,’ she complained, 'My problem is being a black woman on top of being a woman.“ Elsewhere in the article, she said, 'The producers admit being very foolish and very lax in the way they’ve used me – or not used me.’

In her book, Beyond Uhura, Nichols told how she was denied respect. Case in point: she recalled discovering that someone in the Desilu mailroom had stopped the delivery of the bulk of her mail. Two workers from the department confided to the actress that most of her mail was being held back and told her, 'Yours is the only fan mail that matches Shatner and Nimoy’s.’

'Days later I saw for myself the boxes and bags of mail from all over the country, from adults and children, all colours, all races,’ wrote Nichols for her memoir. 'To say I was stunned does not even begin to convey how I felt. It was 'just’ fan mail, but to those who had ensured that I worked without a contract, who seemed at every turn to remind me that I was dispensable, this was the ultimate humiliation.’ (127-2).


From These are the Voyages - TOS Season 2 by Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn.

Cushman also cites an interview Nichols did where she argued NBC was partly responsible for her not having more to do, since they were afraid southern network affiliates would drop the show. Cushman then somewhat calls Nichols’ observations into question, saying, “It could be argued that Nichols was stereotyping NBC the same way she felt NBC was stereotyping her.”

He cites Herb Solow and Bob Justman’s book Inside Star Trek, in which Solow wrote that no one at NBC cared about Nichols’ race and stated: “NBC executives…were unanimous in their desire to feature and protect all minorities, including women.”

I don’t have any way of knowing what really happened in every back room at Desilu and NBC, but I’m inclined to believe that Nichols, as the only woman of colour involved, was more likely to notice and appreciate the meaning of microaggressions and other racial tension. Also worth noting Nichols has a reputation (link fixed!) as someone who does not take airing dirty laundry lightly.

I definitely wish Solow hadn’t been given the last word on this.