Billy Blackburn Talks Life on The Trek Set and Home Movies On New HD-DVDs | TrekMovie.com
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Billy Blackburn Talks Life on The Trek Set and Home Movies On New HD-DVDs August 9, 2007

by Anthony Pascale , Filed under: Interview,TOS Remastered , trackback

Billy Blackburn spent three years as a background player on Star Trek, playing Lt. Hadley (pictured right) along with a number of other characters. Blackburn appeared in 61 episodes of the series and while he was there he shot some 8mm and Super 8 home movies. Blackburn ended up with a little over an hour of behind the scenes footage which has kept in a box for forty years. Some clips were used in a BBC documentary a few years back and it was the YouTube version of those that got the Trek Remastered producers interested. It turns out that Ryan Adams who works on the Trek Remastered project is Billy Blackburn’s neighbor. After watching the clips on YouTube he went to over to Billy’s house and asked if they could take a look at the stash…and now they are on the new HD-DVDs. I had a chance to chat with Mr. Blackburn at Comic Con.

TrekMovie.com: How did you first get involved in Star Trek?

Billy Blackburn: I got on Star Trek through the assistant director Tiger Shapiro. We worked together on My Favorite Martian and I saved his job for him, so he called me. He told me to come down to this new series and I showed up and he said “sit there” and I said “OK” and I sat there and nobody said a word. Actually, I was told to not make so much noise when I was pressing the buttons so the sound guy can overlay the ‘meep meep’ effects.

TrekMovie.com: So did someone tell you what the buttons did?…like which one was warp, or impulse?

Billy Blackburn: Not really no. We just sat down and he always said “warp factor five” and we would look down and after a while you got into your own thing.

TrekMovie.com: Could you have imagined at the time that you would even be talking about this job 40 years later?

Billy Blackburn: No

TrekMovie.com: I know that since Trek you moved on to other things and really haven’t done much with Trek

Billy Blackburn: I have never even been to a Star Trek convention.

TrekMovie.com: After Trek you went on to work as a costumer right?

Billy Blackburn: Yes, in fact I worked with Shatner again on T.J. Hooker. I will never forget when I came on the set he came running up to me saying “Billy!” and I said I was going to be on his show and he wanted to know what kind of part I was playing. I told him I was his new costume supervisor and he just didn’t understand. He couldn’t get it through his head. But it was a delightful show to work on.

TrekMovie.com: When you were working as a background player, did you ever want to do more acting?

Billy Blackburn: Sure…I never got a good agent, but I was working all the time.

TrekMovie.com: Did you ever have a line that got cut out on Star Trek?

Billy Blackburn: Well I did some voice overs like “landing party one, two, three and four report to transporter room.” And I did the rabbit (“Shore Leave”). By the way an article stated that it was Jimmy Doohan, but it wasn’t Jimmy. There was one time when Kirk said “Lt. Hadley?” and I said something like “Sir, there is something up on the screen and I have never seen anything like it” If it was cut, I don’t remember.

TrekMovie.com: When people watch your footage they are going to wonder if this is how people really were, or is it just how they were when you pulled out your camera.

Billy Blackburn: It is how they were [laughs] That was a goosey company. The fun was constant.

TrekMovie.com: So did you ever capture any tense moments on the set? Maybe some tension between some of the actors?

Billy Blackburn: No…nope. BBC asked me the same thing. Let me get this straight. We never saw anything between Jimmy Doohan and Shatner. Or with George. Didn’t see anything. Didn’t know there was a tension there. None of that. Stand-ins and doubles are closer to stuff because we are closer to the stars all the time and we hear things…but no.

TrekMovie.com: Which producer from the show was on the set the most running things?

Billy Blackburn: Bob Justman. Rod Roddenberry just asked me if I got to know his father, but no he never came to the set…which is why he is not on the film. D.C. Fontana did come down.

TrekMovie.com: How did Bob Justman feel about you shooting?

Billy Blackburn: He is on camera. It was no problem

TrekMovie.com: So what actors did you capture? Do you have them all?

Billy Blackburn: No, I never got George [Takei] or Walter Koenig or Jimmy [Doohan]. I got Nichelle all over the place…doing wonderful things. I have Majel and Bill and Leonard. I have a wonderful thing Jay Robinson [Petri “Elaan of Troyius”] playing in the bed after he has been stabbed.

TrekMovie.com: Over the years have you watched these movies often? Did you have friends or family who wanted to see your old days with Shatner and Star Trek?

Billy Blackburn: Maybe three or four times. I was a professional skater and my friends were skaters. None of my friends were impressed with anything I did.

 

Twelve minutes of Billy Blackburn’s unique footage (with a narration by Billy) is on the Season One of Remastered Star Trek on HD-DVD coming out November 20th.  

Comments

1. Greg Stamper - August 9, 2007

I think this footage is an absolute treasure. Makes you wonder what else there may be stored in someones closet. This really helps to offset that $217.99 price tag for the first season DVD set – – but not enough for everyone??

Thanks to Trekmovie.com for bringing the existence of these films to the forefront.

2. Heywood Jablome - August 9, 2007

hmmm, only twenty minutes? You have to buy another set of dvds to get the other forty minutes?

First?

3. Gary - August 9, 2007

Great interview, it is great that they are using his videos!

He surely must make a cameo on Star Trek! Good god! He was on almost every episode in almost every job there was!!!!

4. jon1701 - August 9, 2007

Yeah, good interview.

The original doc was pretty good too. Although I must point out it was on ITV not the BBC. Its odd, as ITV never showed Star Trek (apart from the odd movie)

I think it was called “Star Trek – After they were famous”. As anthony suggests, I’m sure you can still view it on youtube.

5. Lao3D - August 9, 2007

What a fun interview! And refreshing to hear someone with something nice to say about the Shat! A truly arrogant SOB would never have remembered a background player’s name after 15 years…

6. CmdrR. - August 9, 2007

We’ve all read about the tensions on the set. It’s nice to see Blackburn’s footage to prove not every smile we see on camera was totally faked. There were good times. (I work in TV News. Yes, there’s a lot of tension, but there’s also counter-balance. Thank God for that.) Thank Billy for catching some of the fun for us to share.

7. oddballuk - August 9, 2007

#4 Star Treks on 4 now with thier awful edits to the adverts

8. Drone #192056114 - August 9, 2007

Ooh! Can’t wait to see. Great interview. Thanks for the heads-up Trekmovie.

9. billy don't be a hiro - August 9, 2007

Not enough of an offset for me, Greg, but I suppose I can always Netflix them.

10. Thomas Jensen - August 9, 2007

I always welcome interviews from people who worked on the show. I’d bet that the ‘tension’ between the actors was something they kept within, and that with the success of the movies, egos became involved and memory of the experiences on the series were exaggerated by the actors to buttress their complaints concerning other actors. I had lunch with Mr. Doohan in 1974 and he never complained, he only had complements for the other actors and crew.

Too bad we’re not going to see more minutes of this footage, perhaps it’s of low quality.

11. Anthony Pascale - August 9, 2007

Hi gang…just arrived in Vegas…baby

anyway RE: 2
as the article states they have about an hour of footage from all three seasons. Each season will only have behind the scenes home movies shot during that season.

12. stallion (Archer is the best) - August 9, 2007

This guy was in more episodes than Scotty, Sulu and Chekov. Him and Uhura was in the same amount of episodes. I can’t help but be amuse by it.

13. Nelson - August 9, 2007

Thanks for that added bit of info, I figured the footage would be spread across the 3 sets. Can’t wait to see it!

Have fun in Vegas!

14. konar - August 9, 2007

i tried different searches on youtube and couldn’t find anything… could it have been taken down?

15. paustin - August 9, 2007

i hope we gat the see the entire hour, what i’ve seen before is stunning

16. CmdrR. - August 9, 2007

14 konar – try “after they were famous”

17. Kev - August 9, 2007

I didn’t know who this was until I saw this picture of him in the show. A solid player who added something to many of the shows. He always looked like a real ship officer.

18. jon1701 - August 9, 2007

#14

Try http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQiYnrAomXc

You might have to turn your speakers up.

19. Scott Gammans - August 9, 2007

> TrekMovie.com: Did you ever have a line that got cut out on Star Trek?

> Billy Blackburn: Well I did some voice overs like
> “landing party one, two, three and four report to
> transporter room.”
> And I did the rabbit (“Shore Leave”).

So THAT’s what Billy Blackburn sounds like!

20. Plum - August 9, 2007

Say… is there a link to these YouTube flicks? I’ve seen some bloopers there but I’m not sure if it’s Billy’s stuff. :)

21. Robert April - August 9, 2007

Great footage…would be nice to see it all. Shatner must have had great fun on the set with his Doberman running around all over the place.

This is the kind of stuff that makes this site great!

22. Mazzer - August 9, 2007

Anthony — I haven’t read anywhere what you (or other folks involved at Comic Con) thought of the actual HD footage from the upcoming remastered shows. Were you impressed?

I assume you saw some content at Comic Con, because as far as I know, nobody has yet seen TOS-M via HD broadcasts.

23. paustin - August 9, 2007

I love that he was the voice of the rabbit, thats funny as hell, and coupled with the news that Mr. Leslie played the truck driver that ran down Edith Keeler arm me with 2 useless but fascinating pieces of tos trivia

24. toddk - August 9, 2007

Sorry but Paramount is holding back alot of cool footage, Much like Lucas. If you have noticed on the cool site “Star Trek restoration” When a show is supposedly remastered from the original negative, there is alot of takes and even bloopers. It simply is not enough to justify the high price tag.
If george lucas was to give fans the deleted scenes, the holiday special, (yeah I Know…) and the first rough cut of star wars, I would gladly spend $200.00 to own it ! Wouldnt you?

25. star trackie - August 9, 2007

Great stuff. Can’t wait. (yes, I will be spending bags of cash on the HD DVDs)

26. Greg Stamper - August 9, 2007

#24 – “Paramount is holding back alot of cool footage, Much like Lucas. If you have noticed on the cool site “Star Trek restoration” When a show is supposedly remastered from the original negative, there is alot of takes and even bloopers”

It may be that Paramount does not in fact have direct access to those images you see on that site. Bob Justman stated in “Inside Star Trek” that Gene had loaded up a truck full of film (the security guard let him cause he was “Gene” for goodness sake). Clips from the film ended up being sold as 35mm stills by mail order from Lincoln Enterprises. I bought em as a kid myself. Check out the book.

As time goes by and more facts come to light, I have more and more admiration for both Bob Justman and Gene Coon.

27. Andy Patterson - August 9, 2007

I was at that presentation where they talked about that. Saw the little sneak peak they had for the audience. As much as I’d like to see them…..I don’t know if I’m going to pay that money for them. Somebody point me to a youtube link.

I had a question for the panel that day that I didn’t get to ask…but I’d love to see the famed blooper reel restored. It’s so grainy and deteriorated looking. Probably just as well they didn’t get to my question….I know they’d have told me how silly it is to propose all the man hours and labor to do that. I still think it’s worth it though…

Oh yeah,…and Anthony enjoy Vegas for me. I almost made a last minute decision to go there like Comic Con too.

28. Kirk's Girdle - August 9, 2007

It always seemed that everyone was having fun on the bloopers and behind the scenes footage. I suspect that the resentments of Shatner grew over time with age and reflection (and upon comparison of paychecks).

29. steve623 - August 9, 2007

“It may be that Paramount does not in fact have direct access to those images you see on that site. Bob Justman stated in “Inside Star Trek” that Gene had loaded up a truck full of film (the security guard let him cause he was “Gene” for goodness sake). Clips from the film ended up being sold as 35mm stills by mail order from Lincoln Enterprises. I bought em as a kid myself. Check out the book.”

Exactly, exactly, exactly. Any hope we ever had of seeing outtakes, deleted scenes and bloopers (other than the famous ‘blooper reel’ that has been shown and bootlegged for 35 years) went out the window so Gene could cut up the outtakes and sell film clips for 50 cents. I understand that, certainly at the time, “Gene gotta eat”, but in retrospect it seems awfully shortsighted.

“If george lucas was to give fans the deleted scenes, the holiday special, (yeah I Know…) and the first rough cut of star wars, I would gladly spend $200.00 to own it ! Wouldnt you?”

Not me. Wrong site for that.

30. mb - August 9, 2007

Any photos anywhere of what Blackburn looks like now? Just curious.

31. trektacular - August 9, 2007

Gene really comes off as a sheister type in retrospect, and Justman as the guy who really ran the show. Roddenberry didn’t come down on set WTF.

32. THEETrekMaster - August 9, 2007

Thanks for posting the link to the YouTube containing these clips…now I have absolutely no reason or the slightest inclination to buy these sets!

BWAHAHAHHAHAHA!!!

TTM

33. trektacular - August 9, 2007

Whenever I see Nichelle Nichols or George Takei talk about how bad Shatner was it always come off as total bullshit, they always look like they’re lying and it pisses me off.
Anyways where do they get off thinking their characters were more important then Billy Blackburns who was on the set as much if not more than they were?

34. steve623 - August 9, 2007

They had lines and they were featured players.

35. trektacular - August 9, 2007

they had lines’
so apparently did Billy Blackburn, and why wouldn’t be considered a featured player, he was listed in the end credits like Takei and Nichols?

36. steve623 - August 9, 2007

I don’t recall ever seeing his character utter a word. And, no, I don’t count a background voiceover or dubbing a couple of lines for the white rabbit. And if you want to show me a screengrab with Blackburn featured along with Takei or Nichols, I’ll happily eat my words, at least in regards to the featured player business. But extras and stand-ins are not featured players, and that’s what Mr. Blackburn was.

Regardless, if you are seriously trying to argue that Billy Blackburn’s line-less Lt. Hadley was as important to Star Trek as Takei’s Sulu and Nichols’ Uhura then we are living on different planets because it just ain’t the case. Although I suppose this could be the beginning of the “Bring Back Hadley” movement, coming this summer to a website near you.

37. Greg Stamper - August 9, 2007

Hey steve623 –
Wonder if anyone has ever considered that Lt. Hadley may not have been from Earth or a similar humaniod type but from Gamma Vertis IV.

http://memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Gamma_Vertis_IV

38. Kirk: The Jack Bauer Of Space - August 9, 2007

It’s been my impression that Shatner and the rest of the cast have reconciled. All except Walter Koenig, who still will not speak to Shatner to this day. (I wonder what happened between them?) I don’t know if James Doohan and Shatner were “good” before Doohan died, but Shatner did release a kind press statement when he died.

39. Stanky McFibberich - August 9, 2007

Koenig is a jackball.
I’d like to see Shatner give him one of those drop kicks…

40. John CT - August 9, 2007

# 38.

On the Star Trek V DVD at the press launch. Shatner forgets Koenig’s name. I don’t know if thatw as it, but it’s funny.

41. trektacular - August 9, 2007

#36
Nichols and Takei still come off as liars especially about those days when there is so much evidence to the contrary.
Also I could’ve sworn I saw Blackburns name in the end credits, If I’m wrong then my apologies

42. Chuck Amuck a.k.a. Shran from Memory Alpha - August 9, 2007

“I got on Star Trek through the assistant director Tiger Shapiro.”

Who??? I cannot find any information on this guy, not even on Google. Is Tiger perhaps a nickname? I don’t know of an assistant director on Trek named Shapiro, though; there’s Bob Justman, Gregg Peters, Michael Glick, Claude Binyon, Rusty Meek, Phil Rawlins, Gil Kissel, Elliot Schick, Gene De Ruelle… no Shapiro. I can’t even find a Shapiro who worked on My Favorite Martian… very odd.

Anyways, aside from that little conundrum, this is a great interview.

#35 Blackburn was never credited on the series, IIRC.

43. CmdrR. - August 9, 2007

He says he never got Jimmy Doohan on his camera. Here’s some Scotty to spare…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Khrpy4V0-U4

a pint to the first one who can translate it…

44. Harry Ballz - August 9, 2007

Ach, I dinna understand a word!!

45. billy don't be a hiro - August 10, 2007

“Nichols and Takei still come off as liars … ”

Wow, that’s pretty harsh, especially considering they were there and you weren’t.

Look, I love Shatner at least as much as the next guy, but let’s be realistic. Doohan, Takei, Nichols and Koenig are all on record, numerous times, saying that Shatner tried to cut their lines and their screen time: “Why can’t I say that line? Does Uhura really need to say that?” And that was their career. Getting that face time and that time to give a bit of a performance was their bread and butter and their opportunity to potentially get more work in the future based on what they did on that show. So I can see why they would be pissed.

Shatner, conversely, says he doesn’t remember doing those things, but if he did, he was doing it for the benefit of the script. Trying to cut out superflous stuff or trying to tighten and focus the story. And I think that’s probably true too – although I also think Shatner was pretty hammy and insecure at the time, especially in regards to Nimoy. I don’t know if Shatner has ever copped to it or not, but its a well known story that Shatner used to count his lines and Nimoy’s lines, to make sure he had more. So I don’t think he’s a saint either. He had his concerns and they had their’s, and sometimes they clashed. And since he was the star of the show and they were co-stars or featured or whatever, they grinned and bore it at the time, the same as anybody would in any job where they had a boss who wasn’t easy to deal with and they were afraid of getting fired.

So I think there’s room for both of their perspectives to be true. Shatner doesn’t remember because he was trying to improve the shows and in doing so cut some of their lines and screen time and they were hurt or offended. They remember the hurt and he doesn’t, probably because they didn’t express it for fear of being let go like poor Grace Lee Whitney. But to call people you don’t know “liars” about something that happened 40 years ago and about which you have no first-hand knowledge seems unfair and over the top to me.

46. Stanky McFibberich - August 11, 2007

re: 41 and 45.

They wanted to sell books. True stories or not, that’s what it was about. These things have probably happened with numerous people on numerous shows…this just happened on Star Trek, which, years later, still had an audience ready to jump on every little thing that happened or allegedly happened.
These people became “stars” years after the show was cancelled through the popularity of the show in syndication and the conventions. Without that, they would have been as forgotten as any other supporting players of that or any era.
Whether or not Shatner did any of these things is immaterial. It’s likely he did some of these things to some degree. They put it in the book as a “grabber” to sell their books. I wouldn’t doubt that these people have “wronged” someone somewhere along the line as well. We just haven’t seen a book about it.

47. Jeffrey S. Nelson - August 11, 2007

Please, just give us a stand alone disc with the home movies. Make it so.

48. Harry Ballz - August 12, 2007

Let’s face it, if we’re brutally honest about it, the supporting cast are only remembered because we love the show. Stanky is right. It’s just as well that the supporting cast didn’t get more lines or screen time. Simply put, they weren’t that good and didn’t deserve the opportunity. Take Kirk, Spock and Bones out of the equation and the rest of the cast aren’t worth a sweet damn. It’s the chemistry between those three that made Star Trek so compelling! The one exception to this was James Doohan, who did a good job with his character. His effort is worth noting.

49. Stanky McFibberich - August 12, 2007

re: 48
I’m not saying the rest of the cast was not good in their roles (except Koenig who I wish could be digitally removed somehow), but I like the fact that they didn’t have huge roles. I’m not a fan of ensemble casts. I like things to focus on 2 or 3 main characters with occasional contributions from the supporting players.
I agree that Scotty was a great character and Doohan did a great job with it, but the part did not need to be any larger than what it was.

50. Greg Stamper - August 13, 2007

#49 – “I’m not a fan of ensemble casts”

When done properly they can be terrific.
Example – Ron Howard’s “Apollo 13″

51. Cervantes ( living under a HIGHLAND Scottish sky... ) - August 17, 2007

#43 CmdrR

Sorry, can’t help you…the ‘Chewing the fat’ guys are great, but even I can’t make out what they’re saying at times!…’Glaswegians’ eh? ;)

52. paustin - August 20, 2007

finally our answer (kinda) on blue ray…or lack of blue ray for tos-r
http://www.viacom.com/NEWS/NewsText.aspx?RID=1042073

53. Dan - August 21, 2007

I could not be happier knowing that Bill’s footage is finally getting the attention that is deserves. I have known Billy Blackburn for 10 years and have always told him that something good would come from this.

I have seen all the footage in its original form and it is a treat to see this rare insiders prospective.

Bill’s life is steeped in such treasures as this and he is happy that all of you will or have enjoyed his film.

54. T in HI - August 25, 2007

Dan–among the episodes Mr. Blackburn appeared extensively in is my (and many other’s) favorite, “The Doomsday Machine.” In that episiode he got to spend a lot of quality time on the set and on camara with William Windom, as well as Nimoy, Kelley et al. Can you ask him whether he has any particular memories of that shoot? Thanks….

55. Star Trek Season 1 on Blu — a Geb Review - May 1, 2009

[…] to use and nice to look at.  There are extras on each disk including the awesome home movies of Billy Blackburn on disk 7 — a rare look behind the […]

56. Chuck Norton - November 29, 2009

God bless you Billy Blackburn :-).

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