john d.f. black

10

“The Women” was an episode logline featured in the original “Star Trek Is…” document and became one of the three story outlines that Gene Roddenberry wrote for NBC to choose from when planning the original series pilot. (The other two were “The Cage” and “Landru’s Paradise,” later to be made as “The Return of the Archons.)

When it came time for a second pilot, NBC asked Roddenberry to present them with three screenplays by three different writers to choose from. Sam Peeples wrote "Where No Man Has Gone Before” while Roddenberry tackled “The Omega Glory” and Stephen Kandel handled “The Women,” which would soon feature a lovable pimp and con-man named Harcourt Fenton Mudd. Kandel had no experience with science fiction, really, but he did understand how to write for television and used Mudd’s bigger-than-life personality to distract the executives from noticing that the story he was developing involved pill-popping prostitutes.

Kandel wrote two drafts of “Mudd’s Women” during the pilot selection phase but had to hand it off to Roddenberry’s team as he was about to produce a series of his own, Iron Horse. TV writer Jack Guss received an envelope from Roddenberry with a request for an overhaul and, without knowing it had been the Great Bird’s concept from the beginning, sent a note back to the office pointing out the story’s weaknesses from top to bottom, most specifically the lack of real conflict.

Guss wasn’t invited back to Star Trek.

While Robert Justman turned in a laundry list of production issues that needed to be tackled based on Kandel’s drafts, Roddenberry handed the rewrite assignment to John D.F. Black, who’d just taken over as the show’s script coordinator. Black and Justman hashed out things while Roddenberry worked on the script for “The Corbomite Manuever” and when he finally got to read “Mudd’s Women,” he wrote a memo to Black that started out “A good script, excellent dialogue and characterizations; enjoyed reading it,” before pointing out a number of ways to improve the screenplay, all dictated while enjoying a late-night cocktail.

Black did another pass, incorporating those suggestions, Justman offered a few more notes (including one that should have been included: Ben Childress actually finds that he loves Eve no matter what she looks like) and then Roddenberry did a Roddenberry and completely rewrote it. Unlike many of his peers, Stephen Kandel understood how Roddenberry worked and in an interview stated “Oh, Gene rewrote. He loved to meddle. No script was ever finished.”

While “The Corbomite Maneuver” would see more substantial changes from first draft to shooting script, Roddenberry felt that his and Black’s contributions merited a full credit, which read “Story by Gene Roddenberry; Teleplay by Stephen Kandel, John D.F. Black and Gene Roddenberry.”

Casting Harry Mudd was easy; Roger C. Carmel had been a guest star on a number of TV shows (including multiple appearances on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and I Spy) and he was the first and only person that Joe D'Agosta called. “He was the right person for that role and, when you look at his contribution, maybe the only person for that role,” the casting director would later say.

The three women were a bit more difficult: a group of 20 appeared but D'Agosta narrowed it down to Karen Steele as Eve; Susan Denberg as Magda and Maggie Thrett as Ruth. Steele had appeared prominently in 1955’s Marty and the acclaimed western Rode Lonesome along with a number of b-pictures.

Denberg came from Poland to Las Vegas, joining a chorus line there before being discovered and taking on a number of TV and film roles. She actually appeared in the August 1966 issue of Playboy, released just prior to the broadcast of "Mudd’s Women.” James Doohan recalled that any of the sequences in which the male cast members were required to ogle the women were not a challenge in the slightest, Denberg in particular. “I looked at her and thought, ‘Wooooeeee.’”

Maggie Thrett had made her feature film debut the same year with Dimenson 5, a science fiction film that featured former Enterprise captain Jeffrey Hunter. Harlan Ellison, who was working on his script for “The City On The Edge Of Forever” at the Trek offices during shooting, kept calling her “Maggie Treat.” When corrected on her name by a woman that worked on the show, Ellison responded that to her, she was a threat. To him, the tall brunette was a treat.

This was the first episode in which viewers would get to see William Ware Theiss’s theories of women’s clothing in action. He believed that it wasn’t how much an article of clothing revealed that mattered; it was the idea that it could slip the tiniest bit and fall to the floor. Roddenberry would (not surprisingly) attend many of the fittings for these costumes and make suggestions that would end up making things even skimpier.

The wardrobe made explicit the sexual nature of the script and while westerns had frequently featured men offering women to lonesome settlers and ranchers with very little attention from the censors, Theiss’s costumes weren’t like those featured on Gunsmoke. This caused some consternation with John D.F. Black and Justman, but thanks to Jerry Finnerman’s soft-focus technique for shooting women (which debuted here) and some discreet editing, the episode made it with very little in the way of interference.

Speaking of editing, this would be director Harvey Hart’s only episode, his technique of cutting in the camera and using elaborate setups made it hard for the editing team to put together the final product. Throw in the fact that he racked up a lot of overtime with his shooting techniques and you have a person who wasn’t a good fit for the budget-minded production.

I’m not a huge fan of “Mudd’s Women” — mostly because I object to Harry Mudd’s way of making a living and how women are treated as chattel — but for an episode early in the series, it does a number of things very well. All of the performances are razor-sharp and even with the occasional continuity gaffes and odd moments (why didn’t Ben Childress have goggles if he was a settler on a dustblown, distant world?), it looks and feels like a more mature vision than its production date would suggest.

In Inside Star Trek, Robert Justman recalls when he found the first draft screenplay for “The City On The Edge Of Forever” waiting to be read. He recalls:

“I’m smiling and I go to my office to give it a quick read. I stop smiling. Harlan’s script is brilliantly written, but completely unusable. At first glance, I can tell it’s going to be hugely expensive, and at the same time, his Enterprise characters are speaking incorrectly and, more importantly, behaving incorrectly.”

Even with the numerous problems in the script, he couldn’t help but admire Ellison’s ambitions. Justman fired off a memo to John D.F. Black:

Without a doubt, this is the best and most beautifully written screenplay we have gotten to date, and possibly we’ll ever get this season. If you tell this to Harlan, I’ll kill you.

9

When Theodore Sturgeon turned in his treatment for “Shore Leave,” it was unworkable, resembling a seriously disjointed short story more than a workable outline for television. It took seven days to reach Robert Justman’s desk and his written response to John D.F. Black was: “What are we going to do about this story? Having just finished a memo on Harlan Ellison’s story, I am in no condition to go through this one yet.“

Thankfully, someone had a quiet word with Sturgeon and something that more closely resembled a proper screen outline arrived from the then-novice TV writer’s typewriter the next day.

When asked about his experience working with Harlan Ellison on Star Trek, Executive Story Consultant John D.F. Black had this to say:

“Dear little Harlan. I like him. Even when we were going through all of that. He always wanted to be on the set. Always. First he wanted an office on the lot. So we got him one — a little bitty office at the end of the hall and he had it all to himself. Then he installed his portable record player so he could listen to his jazz records as he was writing — or as he was supposedly writing.

“Harlan would be in there with this rock and roll playing very loud, with the casting people trying to have readings and saying ‘Turn it down, Harlan’ I couldn’t hear people in my office on the telephone and I’d tell him to ‘Turn it down!’ At one point, I guess the second or third day that he was there, I walked down the hall, because the Stones were playing — loud. I knocked on the door and there wasn’t any answer. I opened the door and Harlan wasn’t there!”

10

Written by prolific horror and science fiction author Richard Matheson, “The Enemy Within” is the first of several ‘evil duplicate’ stories in Star Trek and stands up as an early example of the series as a genre in its own right.

This episode was Matheson’s second major screenplay that featured a screaming Shatner; the first was The Twilight Zone’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” which is widely considered to be among the very best of that series. Matheson was invited by Roddenberry and the team at Desilu to attend a studio screening of “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” where he watched the pilot with several other writers that would make an impact on the series, including “The Man Trap” scribe George Clayton Johnson and Paul Schneider, who’d write “Balance of Terror” and “The Squire of Gothos.”

In an interview, Matheson recounted, “I had just looked at Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and immediately saw the potential of using that transporter device for separating the two sides of a person’s character. Having an accident with that offered a good way to study the alternative personality. And it was part of my original concept that he needed that negative element in his personality in order to be a good captain. I think, probably, we’re all mixtures of good and bad. If any one of us was all good, we’d be boring. And leaders have to have that drive and that ambition.”

However, when the story outline arrived, Roddenberry had mixed feelings. He saw that it would be a great episode for Shatner, but that an attempted rape might be too much for NBC’s censors. Matheson saw it as anything but exploitative and trivial, insisting that the balance between brutality and intelligence was a key part of Kirk’s personality. In fact, setting aside the “evil” Kirk’s attack on Yeoman Rand, Matheson’s outline shows him as an outright brute, drunk and reckless.

Another thing missing from Matheson’s original outline was the stranded away team. While Roddenberry and associate producers John D.F. Black and Robert Justman all loved the core concept, they thought that it was a bit too lean for their show. Matheson wasn’t happy about their comments, feeling that the ship-side story was more than enough for an episode of TV, but when his first draft was delivered, it featured Sulu and the landing party stranded on Alfa 177.

“I was a little disappointed that Roddenberry built in a necessity to have a ‘B-story’ about the members of his crew stuck on the planet,” Matheson later said. “I can see why he did it, because ‘B-stories’ seemed to be a very regular occurrence in television in those days, and maybe still are.”

Roddenberry sent Matheson a list of changes he wanted made to the script, foremost being that Dr. McCoy had replaced Dr. Piper since the pilot. He included a copy of the revised writer’s bible for the show and told Matheson “You will find a cynical “H.L. Mencken” quality which will be most helpful in your script which does use the Doctor considerably.”

In addition, Roddenberry wrote that they should be careful when portraying the “Evil” Kirk as a brute, mentioning that if he’s more cunning, there’s a greater danger attached to him. He also mentioned that the removal of his base impulses should have an effect on the “Good” Kirk as well, leaving him unable to make the gut decisions that’d gotten him where he was.

This change, along with Roddenberry and team’s insistence that Spock and McCoy’s personalities should be a key part of the proceedings, was exactly what the screenplay needed to become as effective as it is. When combined with a slate of good performances, “The Enemy Within” stands out as an episode of Star Trek that improves with multiple viewings.

An Aside
Even with her fantastic performance, Grace Lee Whitney walked away very unhappy with the episode, especially the last scene in which Spock says “The imposter had some very interesting qualities, wouldn’t you say, Yeoman?”

In her autobiography, The Longest Trek: My Tour Of The Galaxy, she wrote:

“I can’t imagine any more cruel and insensitive comment a man (or Vulcan) could make to a woman who has just been through a sexual assault! But then, some men really do think that women want to be raped. So the writer of the script (ostensibly Richard Matheson - although the line could have been added by Gene Roddenberry or an assistant scribe) gives us a leering Mr. Spock who suggests that Yeoman Rand enjoyed being raped and found the evil Kirk attractive!”

Whitney also recounts that she’d had difficulty getting into the moment when shooting the scene in which Rand confronts Kirk after the attack. It had been several days and bringing out so much emotion was proving difficult. To help her, Shatner slapped the young woman across the face and the cameras began rolling.

A Second Aside
Director Leo Penn saw an opportunity to play up a dramatic moment with Spock’s line “There’s only one conclusion—we have an imposter aboard.” Originally the penultimate scene in Act One, Penn moved it to immediately before the act break to give the line its proper “oomph.”