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Robert Butler (16 November 19273 November 2023; age 95) was a film and television director who directed the Star Trek: The Original Series first pilot episode, "The Cage". Footage he directed was used in the first season episodes "The Menagerie, Part I" and "The Menagerie, Part II". Butler was uncredited for the former episode, but received sole director credit for the latter one.

Life and career[]

Butler was born in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California to Irish Catholic parents, an insurance adjuster father and a schoolteacher mother. [1] He graduated in English from UCLA and soon landed a job as an usher at CBS. Climbing the ranks of the television industry, he became an assistant director on live anthology shows and debuted as director in 1959.

He built a long career in television, directing episodes of over 90 television series, notably The Twilight Zone (including "The Encounter" starring George Takei), Hogan's Heroes (including the pilot, "The Informer" and "The Late Inspector General", both with Stewart Moss, and "Hold That Tiger", with Arlene Martel and Lars Hensen), The Fugitive (including "Man in a Chariot", with Gene Lyons, Peter Duryea, Edward Madden, and Chuck Courtney, "World's End", with Peter Brocco and Ed Peck, "Last Second of a Big Dream", with James B. Sikking, and "All the Scared Rabbits", with Liam Sullivan, Meg Wyllie, Garry Walberg, and Hal Lynch), Batman (including two episodes guest-starring Frank Gorshin as The Riddler), Mission: Impossible ("The Mind of Stefan Miklos", with Steve Ihnat, Jason Evers, Vic Perrin, and Eddie Smith), Gunsmoke (including "Praire Wolfer", with Lou Antonio and "The Sodbusters", with Morgan Woodward), Columbo ("Double Shock", with Julie Newmar and Len Felber and "Publish or Perish", with Mariette Hartley, John Chandler, Gregory Sierra, Maryesther Denver, and James B. Sikking), and Remington Steele.

Butler made something of a specialty of directing the pilots of hugely successful series. Not only did he shoot the first ever Star Trek episode but he also directed the pilots of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (starring Teri Hatcher, K Callan, and Tracy Scoggins, and featuring Clyde Kusatsu, Kenneth Tigar, and Persis Khambatta), Moonlighting (featuring Robert Ellenstein), Hill Street Blues (starring James B. Sikking and Barbara Bosson), as well as the aforementioned Batman, Hogan's Heroes, and Remington Steele.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Butler directed five feature films for Walt Disney Studios, four of them starring Kurt Russell. These include The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969, with William Schallert, Frank Welker, Ed Begley, Jr., Gail Bonney, Byron Morrow, Al Roberts, and Arthur Tovey), The Barefoot Executive (1971, with Tom Anfinsen, Morgan Farley, Hal Baylor, and Vince Howard), and Now You See Him, Now You Don't (1972, with William Windom, Al Roberts, and Arthur Tovey). He also directed the first ever US television miniseries, The Blue Knight (1973, with Victor Tayback, Mario Roccuzzo, and Jason Wingreen), which had been released as a theatrical film in Europe.

Butler helmed a large number of TV movies as well, including Death Takes a Holiday (1971, starring Monte Markham), James Dean (1976, starring Stephen McHattie, with Meg Foster and Robert Foxworth), Concrete Beat (1984, with Patricia McPherson), Out of Time (1988, with Barbara J. Tarbuck and Rick Avery), and The Brotherhood (1991, with Teri Hatcher).

During his career, Butler was nominated for seven Emmy Awards and won three. One for directing the pilot of Hill Street Blues and two for The Blue Knight, as best directing in drama and as director of the year (1973). He was also nominated for several Directors Guild of America (DGA) Awards and received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.

Butler retired in 2001, but directed the short film Where Do the Balloons Go? in 2009. He passed away on November 3, 2023 in Los Angeles, a few weeks shy of his 96th birthday. [2]

Star Trek work[]

Butler was chosen by Gene Roddenberry to work on the first pilot for Star Trek after he had directed some episodes of Roddenberry's previous series, The Lieutenant (starring Gary Lockwood). He also directed an episode of Have Gun – Will Travel which Roddenberry had written. However, Butler, not a fan of science fiction, was quite dissatisfied with Roddenberry's production decisions and the show itself, so he declined to direct more episodes (including "The Menagerie, Part I" and "The Menagerie, Part II"). He called the series "too square-jawed, heroic" for his taste, and opted for something more like The Twilight Zone. Butler wanted to add some dirt and rust to the sets (like they did later in Star Wars and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), but Roddenberry opted for the Enterprise to be perfectly clean and shiny. He also thought the title Star Trek to be pretentious and advised Roddenberry to change it, but he refused. [3] (Star Trek Monthly issue 6)

Star Trek credits[]

Further reading[]

External links[]

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