Nowadays, we are spoilt when it comes to behind the scenes footage of our favorite film or TV show. Many photographs and ‘behind the scenes’ documentaries are produced at the time of filming so they can be included on the special edition and blu-ray releases. In fact, the blu-ray version of Star Trek (2009) boasted 3 hours of extra features so fans could see how the film was put together.
But back in the 1960’s, that was unheard off, especially for a show like Star Trek. Therefore any ‘behind the scenes’ or ‘making off shots’ from the original series are quite special.
It’s thanks to people like Tom Redlaw that we have a window into how Star Trek was made and truly appreciate the skill & effort it took to create the Star Trek universe on a relatively low budget.
Having been a fan since the very first run of Star Trek in 1966, Tom started buying 35mm film clips of the show which were available at conventions and through Lincoln Enterprises, a mail order company run by Gene Roddenberry and Majel Barret. They showed everything from the general day-to-day work by the production staff, outtakes and how the special effects were composed.
Converting the original 35mm cells on his computer, Tom has taken the time to clean them up and upload them for all fans of Star Trek and TV history to enjoy. In the process he has built an impressive collection of over 2000 images that would otherwise be lost.
Tom explains -
‘’I watched the first broadcast show in 1966 on regular television. I was pretty young but well aware of what was happening in the plot, etc. I had been watching some of the Irwin Allen stuff before that (Lost in Space, Time Tunnel, etc) and even at the age of 8 was pretty aware this was special. I pretty much stayed with the program through the whole three year run and was deeply involved in the various Save Star Trek fanclub campaigns at the end of the second season and the again during the third. I do not work in the entertainment industry; I am an executive with businesses that make products for scientists and was a scientist myself originally. So I have been in the business side of technology and science for most of my career. So I am a science geek who sells stuff to other science geeks. Nothing quite as cool as tricorders or phasers…..yet!’’
Where did you get your first 35mm clip from and when did it turn into a collection?
‘’In the early 1970s the first Star Trek conventions happened in New York. Those, plus the original Lincoln Enterprises catalogs (you received them when you wrote to Gene Rodenberry or NBC executives) were what started me buying these. Recall, there were no VCRs, DVDs, internet. So being able to project these little slides was as close to on demand Trek images as you could get in those days. And, it was a glorious exercise trying to find your favorites. By 1975 I think I had around 2000 of these things, I guess that was the collection and really what I stopped at for 30 years. Then, one day I bought a slide and negative scanner to restore some of my own 35mm photography and just to test it out I put a scratched and red faded film clip of the Doomsday Machine into it, and I was astounded at the result. A little bit of photoshop work later and I was hooked.’’
What were those early Lincoln/Star Trek conventions like compared to now?
‘’I have not been to a fan event since the Las Vegas Hilton Star Trek experience gift shop, and have not been to a convention since the 1970s. These conventions were really a fringe thing in the early days. You talked with Harlan Ellison, Gene Roddenberry, and so on. The starts (Shatner. Nimoy) were special and not as accessible but the other folks were just there, easy to interact with. And in those days sci fi geeks were not in the mainstream…in particular the folks working the dealer rooms were not dissimilar to comic book guy in the Simpsons. Experts in their trade but not always socially adept.’’
Do you have any rare clips in your collection?
‘’Almost all of my clips are positives, hence prints made from a negative. So there were probably multiple copies. Time and number of prints probably makes them all somewhat rare. All of the folks who still are interested in these like the shots that are not similar to or part of the broadcast episodes. But by definition multiples did exist for almost all of this stuff at one time. I have a few negatives, presumably they are one of a kind film bits, and one in particular of the Enterprise on the soundstage, but I think the real rareness comes from the fact that many people probably disposed of these clips through the years, and that I openly share them. This is a hobby for me, I donate the time, spend money now to accumulate additions to the collection, and scan and share them all on flickr to give back to the community. I have communicated with some folks who collect these and keep the images to themselves. I consider this to be ludicrous. First, let’s face it, we are all getting older, why not share? And then, it violates some basic feelings I have for fellow fans.’’
What’s your favorite one?
The Spock arrested LA Times clip. ( Seen here – http://www.flickr.com/photos/birdofthegalaxy/4352032287 ) It is so cool to me that the events of the times and the filming of the show can be so tied together (Benjamin Spock’s trial and the filming of Spock’s Brain). I researched a bit of this to ensure I had the date’s right – the legal decision on the Boston Five trial and so on. And the fact that the folks filming Trek set up the gag, showing awareness of the times and the coincidence of the name Spock. I love the “constructionist” element of this, how these things and Star Trek are a product if its time.
What’s the process in converting the image from the 35mm cell?
I clean the clips with a negative cleaning solvent to remove prints, dust, chalk, etc. I mount them in traditional 35mm cardboard holders, scan them into a consumer Nikon scanner, and then spend around two hours messing with a number of Photoshop functions, which vary depending on the degradation of the clip and the generation of the printing of the positive.
Is the original series your favorite?
‘’It is, but probably just because I grew up with it. I have respect for TNG, liked the occasional Voyager and DS9. I have never watched a single episode of Enterprise, but should some day. I have seen all the movies and even thought that J.J. Abrams’ re-imagined timeline was OK.’’
Having been a Star trek fan since the very beginning, what are your thoughts on how it’s changed and where its going?
‘’I think one of the great things about science fiction is that, as Harlan Ellison says, it is really speculative fiction and extends current events into a future scenario to allow us to examine the implications of something taken to an extreme. As long as Trek or any other sci-fi does that, I am feeling good about it, particularly if good entertainment also results. I am not 100% sure what the social commentary was in the new Star Trek film, but I can recall a number of DS5 and TNG episodes that were as impactful in their time as “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” or “A Private Little War” were in TOS. “Chain of Command” is my favorite TNG episode (two parts actually). Very powerful. I was a big fan of District 9, the film from a couple of years ago. I felt sorry for the prawns, and thought the whole story was totally possible given how we react to things today.’’
Thanks to Tom for taking the time to answer the questions. If you want to see more amazing photos from Tom’s collection, head over to his Flickr Photostream http://www.flickr.com/photos/birdofthegalaxy/