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Bill Heath (26 August 192324 April 2008; age 84) was the studio-appointed editorial department head of Desilu Productions who served as the post-production executive for the two pilot episodes and the entirety of the first season of Star Trek, and for which he was actually officially credited. During his tenure, he reported directly to Herbert F. Solow. [1]

William Shatner described Heath as "essentially a bean counter who was brought in by the studio to keep Star Trek's specialized optical artists functioning in a cost-efficient manner." He was responsible for the studio hiring the ill-equipped Howard Anderson Company for the series' visual effects. Only versed as an old-school motion picture producer however, merely experienced with classic productions such as cop, western, talk, and sitcom television shows, Heath had not a single clue what the effects production of a show as sophisticated Star Trek was in its day precisely entailed, and it was his persistent insistence on saving money that caused the Howard Anderson Company immense troubles, putting the entire first season behind track. In the process it also sent its effects producer Darrell Anderson – whom Heath denied effects proposal after effects proposal for budgetary reasons – into a fullblown nervous breakdown. For this, Heath was loathed by Gene Roddenberry who increasingly had issues with Heath's penny-pinching from the moment the latter took on his responsibilities on the first pilot, "The Cage". Roddenberry's for three years repeated threat "to kill Heath" became a running gag for Solow and co-producer Robert Justman. It was on Roddenberry's adament insistence, for whom Anderson's by Heath caused nervous breakdown became the straw that broke the camel's back, that Heath was eventually replaced by the far more effective Edward K. Milkis, which was wholeheartedly supported by Solow and Justman. In effect, Milkis already completely replaced Heath in person, the moment he was hired at the beginning of season one as "Assistant to the Producer" (Justman), before replacing him alltogether in title as well at the start of season two. (Star Trek Memories, pp. 148-151, 153, 174; Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, pp. 259-261)

From an organizational point of view, this was a pivotal moment in Star Trek production history as post-production oversight was transferred from the purview of the executive studio echelons closer to the operational level of the production proper in the guise of specialized hands-on producers of whom Milkis became the very first, when he received the official title "Associate Producer" at the start of season three. (Cinefantastique, Vol 27 #11, p. 88)

His less than stellar performance on Star Trek notwithstanding, it is ironic that Heath held the very rare distinction – together with his colleagues Solow, Douglas S. Cramer, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture's Lindsley Parsons, Jr. – of becoming one of only four Star Trek-affiliated studio executives actually ever receiving an official production credit, that of "Post Production Executive" in his case. Per Hollywood union regulations, studio executives are formally not entitled to official production credits, as they, as overhead, are not supposed to be involved with the actual creative aspects of productions, they being the purview of producers as highest actual operational managers of a production.

Career

Bill Heath was the son of Frank S. Heath, who worked in Hollywood as assistant director with Warner Bros. Studios.

During his decade-long tenure at Desilu, which started in 1959, Bill Heath became a full-fledged member of its executive staff (but not a Board member) and worked the same basic role concurrently on The Lucy Show and Mission: Impossible when he was assigned to Star Trek. When Lucille Ball sold her company to Gulf+Western in 1967, she left, taking her own Lucy show with her along with the majority of her loyal executive staff, Heath among them.

Heath belonged to the longer serving group of Desilu executives known as "The Old Guard" or "Lucites", a group fiercely loyal to, and protective of their employer Lucille Ball. And while Heath had not been a voting member of the Desilu Board, he was most certainly aware of the February 1966 Board meeting where it voted to cancel Star Trek out of fear of Ball's small ailing studio overstretching itself financially, not entirely unjustified incidentally. And even though Ball herself overturned her Board's decision (see: main article), it was Heath's loyalty to Ball by keeping a sharp eye out for her (financial) interests, that motivated him to exercise his tight reign, misguided though it may have been in this specific case, over the post-production budget which nearly ended Star Trek after all – and which he also exercised over Mission: Impossible, as experienced firsthand by Justman. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, 1997, pp. 92 & 110) However, it appeared that Heath retired entirely from the motion picture industry almost immediately after Ball had sold her company, as he has no further post-1968 industry credits to his name, receding into oblivion completely.

The only one known production Heath had worked on before he became employed at Desilu, was the Universal Studios adventurefilm Perils of the Jungle (1953), he served on as a producer. Beyond this, nothing else is known otherwise about Heath's life and career.

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