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Fred Freiberger (19 February 19152 March 2003; age 88), also credited as Charles Woodgrove, was the producer of the third season of Star Trek: The Original Series (1968-69). He was offered the producer's job for the first season but instead opted to take a vacation he had already planned. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 65)

The third season was seen, in general, as less satisfying by some fans, certain actors, [1] production staff, writers, [2] and even at least one future writer. [3](X) Although Freiberger was the executive producer, replacing Gene Roddenberry who had de facto been sidelined, most written accounts of the season absolve him and deny any drop in quality was a result of his leadership.

Rather, a number of factors led to the less enthusiastic reception. These included budget cuts (down to US$178,000 per episode, from US$185,000 in season two and US$196,000 in season one) – combined with an increase in the principal casts' salaries; the departure en masse of most of the original writing staff and general malaise/decreasing interest of some of the remaining production staff after the hiring of executive story editor Arthur Singer, who seemed to demonstrate a lack of knowledge or caring about Star Trek; [4] the absence of Roddenberry; and the perceived neglect of the series by NBC (such as shifting time-slots as well as story meddling, and the reduced budget). (See also: season three background information.) Additionally, it contained some of the most dismally-received TOS episodes, including "Spock's Brain" (Up Till Now: The Autobiography) and "The Way to Eden". [5]

Yet both Nichelle Nichols in Beyond Uhura (p. 189) and William Shatner in Star Trek Memories (pp. 264–72) deflected blame from Freiberger for any perceived deficiencies in the quality of the third season, instead ascribing it to negligence and mishandling by NBC, aggravated by the (budget) restrictions imposed by Star Trek's new owner Paramount Television, who were likewise looking for ways to cancel the production as soon as practically possible. Nichols wrote:

" saw fewer outdoor location shots, for example. Top writers, top guest stars, top anything you needed was harder to come by. Thus, Star Trek's demise became a self-fulfilling prophecy. And I can assure you, that is exactly as it was meant to be....In the third season [the] new producer Fred Freiberger did everything he could to shore up the show. I know that some fans hold him responsible for the show's decline, but that is not fair. Star Trek was in a disintegrating orbit before Fred came aboard. That we were able to do even what we did is a miracle and a credit to him. One day Fred and I had an exchange, and he snapped at me. Even then, though, I knew he wasn't angry with me but with his unenviable situation. He was a producer who had nothing to produce with." (Beyond Uhura, p. 189)

In Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, Herbert F. Solow and Bob Justman defended Freiberger as well. They instead blamed Roddenberry for "abandoning" the series:

  • "[Gene] Roddenberry moved away from the Star Trek office building and into a small single room at the other end of the lot, turning his back on the series although he continued to draw his Executive Producer salary." (p. 395)
  • "It wasn't too difficult to understand Freddie's pain. Not only was he thrown into a nest of feuding actors at a recalcitrant studio; but when the show's captain, Roddenberry himself, deserted ship and turned over his command, Freiberger was suddenly alone at the top." (p. 396)
  • "To this day, Freiberger continues to fend off the negative comments advanced by Roddenberry, Nimoy, and other series regulars relative to Fred's creative guidance of Star Trek's final year." (p.398)
  • They even quote Freiberger as stating it was one of the most unpleasant experiences of his life: "My ordeal in a German prison camp only lasted two years. My travail with Star Trek has spanned twenty-five years and still counting." (p. 395)

Furthermore, Fred Freiberger himself had claimed, "When I went on Star Trek, Roddenberry, who had thought the show was dead after the second season, had given out seventeen story assignments... for whatever reason. I honored those assignments... I may have cut off a couple of them because they didn't work out, so let's say there were 15 out of 22 that were not mine." [6] As to underscore his stance, Justman let Freiberger speak in his own words in the follow-up documentary of the book he wrote, Inside Star Trek - The Real Story, in one of the few interviews he has ever given on his Star Trek work.

Career outside Star Trek

Hailing from the Bronx, New York City, Fred Freiberger worked in advertising when World War II broke out. Joining the 8th USAAF as a navigator with the rank of 2nd lieutenant, flying bomber missions, his "Uncle Sammy" B-17 bomber plane was shot down on 17 August 1943 over Europe, during the infamous Schweinfurt–Regensburg mission. Freiberger was interred for twenty-two months as a German prisoner of war in two different POW camps. Being of Jewish descent, this had been potentially hazardous for Freiberger, but he was at first shielded from prying Nazi eyes to an extent, as German POW camps for captured Allied air force personnel, the so called "Stalag Luft" camps (number III in his case, the first camp in which he was interned), were traditionally administered and manned by their Luftwaffe counterparts. Stalag Luft III incidentally, was the site where the famous March 1944 "Great Escape" took place, though Freiberger had not been an active participant in the event – no US service men had partaken in the escape, the assertions in the eponymous 1963 theatrical film to the contrary notwithstanding. He served out the war as POW in Stalag XVII A under a harsher regime. ([7]; Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, p. 395)

Upon repatriation, Freiberger was put on the USAAF reserve list and briefly studied at Pace University's Institute of Film, before making his way to Hollywood on his Air Force back pay. Originally, he intended to find employment as a publicist, but found himself in a contemporary industry strike, leaving him without both employment and funds. It was then that he started to write for the motion picture industry, making his first sale in 1946 to Comet Productions, the production company of legendary silent film-era actress Mary Pickford, which consisted of additional dialogue for her company's comedy film Susie Steps Out. He continued to sell stories for such 1950s relatively light-fare productions as the television series The Clock, Fireside Theatre, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Ford Television Theatre, Men of Annapolis, and Tombstone Territory, as well as films such as Egypt by Three, War Paint (both 1953), The Big Chase, Garden of Evil, The Black Pirates (all three 1954), The Big Bluff (1955), Massacre, The Weapon (both 1956), Beginning of the End (1957), and the 1958 film Blood Arrow.

The 1958 film Crash Landing has been Freiberger's last recorded motion picture credit and afterward he has exclusively worked for television. As writer and/or producer he served on a plethora of subsequent television series including Iron Horse (created by James Goldstone and Stephen Kandel), The Six Million Dollar Man (also produced by Harve Bennett), The Fugitive, The Wild Wild West ("The Night of the Dancing Death", directed by Harvey Hart, featuring Peter Mark Richman, Arthur Batanides, and Byron Morrow), Bonanza, Have Gun – Will Travel (which included Gene Roddenberry as one of the head writers), Wanted: Dead or Alive (including "The Pariah", featuring Bill Quinn, "The Matchmaker", featuring Clegg Hoyt, "The Conquerors", featuring Paul Carr, "Call Your Shot" and "Ransom for a Nun", both directed by Don McDougall, the first featuring William Schallert), Rawhide (including "Incident of the 100 Amulets", featuring Whit Bissell, "Incident of the 13th Man", featuring Paul Fix, "Incident of the Shambling Man", featuring Gene Nelson, "Incident at Dangerfield Dip", featuring Phillip Pine and Bert Remsen, and "Incident of Fear in the Streets", featuring Corey Allen and Whit Bissell), The Big Valley ("The Long Ride", featuring John Harmon), Ben Casey ("I'll Get on My Ice Floe and Wave Goodbye", featuring Garry Walberg and the series on which then Set Designer Walter M. Jefferies was working when he was pulled from it to work on Star Trek), Starsky and Hutch (starring David Soul, including "Terror on the Docks", featuring Garry Walberg, "Kill Huggy Bear", featuring Hamilton Camp, and "Moonshine", directed by Reza Badiyi), and The Dukes of Hazzard.

In 1976-77 he served as producer on the second, and as it turned out the last, season of the cult science fiction series Space: 1999, which starred Martin Landau and Nick Tate. Freiberger fired most of the supporting regular cast from the first season, including Clifton Jones. In a repetition of what had happened to him during his tenure on TOS, its fan base, cast and production staff too, attributed Freiberger for the perceived quality decline and the ultimate cancellation of the series. Freiberger's intent was to make the somewhat cerebral British production more appealing to American audiences (unintentionally repeating what had happened to the first Star Trek pilot "The Cage") by emphasizing action and drama, even going as far as changing the signage that had hitherto appeared in the episodes to American English spellings. (SPACE 1999 Season 2 DVD special features) Additionally, he wrote three episodes for the season, revitalizing his pseudonym "Charles Woodgrove", he had used in the 1960s for the western series Rawhide. Landau in particular was critical of Freiberger's approach in an interview he gave to author Robert E. Wood for his 2010 reference book Destination: Moonbase Alpha (New York, USA: Telos Publishing. p. 112), "I'm not going out on a limb for this show because I'm not in accord with what you're (Freiberger) doing as a result... I don't think I even want to do the promos – I don't want to push the show any more as I have in the past. It's not my idea of what the show should be." Given the dubious sobriquet "The Series Killer", as reconfirmed by author Kevin J. Donnelly in his 2013 book Music in Science Fiction Television: Tuned to the Future (New York, USA: Routledge. p. 112), TOS and Space: 1999 were not the only canceled television series over which Freiberger had presided; The Six Million Dollar Man and the cartoon series Josie and the Pussycats both ceased production as well after Freiberger took over the oversight of their last seasons.

The unrelenting "Series Killer" reputation, despite the testimonials of former Star Trek staffers to the contrary, increasingly embittered Freiberger in later life, particularly where The Original Series was concerned. He was especially hurt by the persistent attribution of the first interracial kiss between Nyota Uhura and James T. Kirk in "Plato's Stepchildren", as Roddenberry's doing, even though the latter was no longer actively involved with the season in general, and with this specific episode in particular. His growing frustration, has given rise to his bitter, by Justman above-quoted "prison camp" metaphor. (Great Birds of the Galaxy: Gene Roddenberry and the Creators of Trek, p. 70)

Of his motion pictures, the 1953 cult film classic The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, which included visual effects from the legendary animator Ray Harryhausen, was the one Fred Freiberger was best known for as its writer-producer.

Star Trek interviews

See also

External links