As with all TV shows, it takes a veritable army to produce a series. And as with any army, there are always new people joining the production, especially at the start of a season. This time, we’ll discuss three lesser known but vital members of Star Trek‘s crew.
With Bob Justman now officially installed as Associate Producer, Star Trek needed an Assistant Director. Thankfully, Gregg Peters had been the unofficial AD for “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, and he happily joined the crew as the series started up. Born on August 2nd, 1925, Peters served in the Air Force as soon as he was eligible, and was discharged at the end of World War II. Following that, he enrolled at UCLA and graduated in 1950 with as B.A. in Business Administration with a Theater Arts minor. And after breaking into television by working on various shows on NBC, Peters took his first AD job, on the film Gypsy for Warner Bros. Like so many others, Peters had worked on The Outer Limits before catching on at Desilu. Suffice to say, Star Trek had a top-notch Assistant Director, and an instantly recognizable one, too: with his bald head, Gregg Peters became quickly known on set as “Mr. Clean”, after the cleaning mascot.
While Matt Jefferies and Wah Chang were still working on Star Trek (the latter was constructing the now-familiar tricorders and hand phasers while the former was involved with the construction of the show’s permanent sets on Desilu Stages 9 and 10), there was still a need for a Property Master to not only help build and acquire the more mundane objects used on the show, but to make sure that the props are not lost, stolen, or broken during the making of an episode. This is one of the hardest jobs in film and television, and it requires a talented, tenacious, and smart person. And with the possible exception of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (who had two such individuals, “Toolmaster” Jef Maynard and “Prop Diva” Beez McKeever, over its long run), Star Trek had the best luck anyone ever has with their Property Master.
Irving Feinberg was part of Desilu’s existing staff, having worked on The Untouchables in addition to other shows in an uncredited fashion. But none of those shows were anything like Star Trek. It didn’t matter in the end, though, because Feinberg’s props fit in with the others perfectly, so much that the cast and crew started calling the props “Feinbergers” in his honor. And as to his role as protector of the various props, Feinberg was even more notorious. As soon as the director yelled, “Cut!” he would snatch up the props without fail. So protective was he that Feinberg was known for slapping the hands of the cast, writer David Gerrold, and even a young girl visiting the set. But given Star Trek‘s great fame (and great budget problems), this behavior was completely and utterly justified.
To handle the special effects, another highly experienced and capable man was hired: Jim Rugg. Born on January 29th, 1919 in Lidgerwood, North Dakota, Rugg and his family moved to Los Angeles when he was five, and attended UCLA and Pepperdine while becoming a ham radio operator in the late ’30s. With the advent of World War II, Rugg joined the Army and became a radio operator. Following the war, he moved into television and began a long career designing special effects for shows like Perry Mason and feature films such as Mary Poppins. On Star Trek, Rugg’s role was, to quote William Shatner in his memoir Star Trek Memories, very straightforward: “If it blinked, beeped, moved, lit up or even exploded, it was rigged by Jim Rugg.”
Or, at least, that job description was straightforward. The reality was far more complicated.
One of Rugg’s first tasks was to rig the newly relocated bridge set, which included separate wiring for each and every panel. Even today, this is a rather large task, but in 1966? This was a massive undertaking-and that’s just for one part of two rather decent-sized sets! The hard work did pay off, though, as this setup allowed for some pretty elaborate pyrotechnics. And if there’s anything that Jim Rugg was good at, it was at making things go boom. And boy did they go boom (which we’ll discuss eventually). If NBC wanted excitement, Jim Rugg was certainly going to be a big part of it.
Next time, we’re going to discuss the crisis that nearly got Star Trek cancelled before it even began.