Herbert F. Solow, the head of production at Desilu Studios who oversaw the development of the original Star Trek series, has passed away at the age of 89. The Hollywood trades are reporting that Solow died in his sleep of natural causes on Thursday.
RIP Herb Solow
In a classic Hollywood story, Solow started in the mail room of the William Morris Agency to rise through the ranks at CBS and then on to Desilu Studios, where he was vice president of production. It was Solow who originally signed Gene Roddenberry to a development deal in 1964, and worked closely with Roddenberry to get his “Wagon Train to the stars” sold to NBC. Star Trek premiered in September of 1966.
Solow was instrumental in the development, selling, and marketing of Star Trek. Before it could be presented to the networks, he worked with Roddenberry to refine the idea and the pilot, including keeping Spock’s pointed ears but nixing the idea of the devilish red skin and tail. After two pilots were produced and successfully sold as a series to NBC, Solow was credited as “Executive In Charge Of Production” for the first two seasons.
Solow did a lot of the hiring for the series, including key producer Robert Justman. In 1996, Solow and Justman wrote Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, which is an essential read for anyone interested in the history of the franchise. He followed that up with The Star Trek Sketchbook in 1997, co-written with his wife Yvonne.
In addition to Star Trek, Solow also developed Mannix and Mission: Impossible for Desilu. After a short period with Paramount Television following the Gulf+Western purchase of Desilu, Solow moved to MGM, where he developed more television shows, including The Courtship of Eddie’s Father and feature films like Brewster McCloud and Kelly’s Heroes. During this time he collaborated with Roddenberry again, bringing him in as producer and screenwriter for the 1971 film Pretty Maids All in a Row. In the mid-seventies, he formed his own production company, which included co-creating the television series Man from Atlantis.
After retirement, Solow lived for some time in Wales, where he was a part-time lecturer at the University of Wales before returning to the USA. He is survived by his wife.
Solow on Star Trek
Herb Solow sat down for a 3 1/2-hour interview with the Television Academy to discuss his career, including Star Trek. In the clip below, he talks about the birth of the show.
UPDATE: Takei on Solow
Star Trek: The Original Series actor George Takei has made a comment on Twitter on the passing of Herb Solow, including saying, “We owe him a debt of gratitude beyond measure.”
Herbert F. Solow was the great man responsible for getting Star Trek its first legs at Desilu. Without him there would be no Star Fleet, no Spock. With his passing, I ask we all honor this often unsung hero. We owe him a debt of gratitude beyond measure. https://t.co/GUnNjxpD1H
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) November 23, 2020
I don’t know this man but I’m thankful for what he has done for Star Trek and appreciate his work.
Us Trekkers owe a debt of gratitude to Solow. And to think he also produced Mannix and Mission Impossible, two of my favourite shows I remember watching in the late 60’s!
Absolutely. Solow and Bob Justman did so much to make Star Trek watchable and a viable franchise.
We probably wouldn’t have had Star Trek without him, which means we all owe him SUCH a great debt. Thank you, Mr. Solow!
Condolences to his wife, other family, and friends.
Sorry to here about Herb Solow. Inside Star Trek is a very entertaining look into the production of Star Trek. I especially love his story about how Lucille Ball thought that Star Trek was going to be a show about USO entertainers in the South Pacific! Star Trek Sketchbook is also great.
Thanks, Mr. Solow, for all you did to create Star Trek. Rest In Peace.
Herb Solow’s contributions to Star Trek are towering as well as his contributions to film and TV. He will be missed by all worldwide. The original architects of Star Trek are reunited eternally. RIP
Herbert made a HUGE contribution to the franchise. Was a ship, planet or character on the show ever named after Mr Solow?
I enjoyed listening to this 3 hour interview with him on what it took to start the show (with lots of details on The Cage): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y71QWWEJQ0w
I own INSIDE STAR TREK – a great read! This video, I watched from start to finish. ‘Facinating’ that he talked so much about Mission as well. Thanks for the story and RIP Herb.
Great book! I thoroughly enjoyed it.
That’s a great video with few views. I can’t find the other parts to the interview.
I believe that Spock’s “devilish tail” is an Old Wive’s Tale! Because nothing like that is mentioned in Roddenberry’s first outline for the show.
There are enough confirmations from those who were involved that this was a thing.
The franchise is still trying to deal with the unfortunate trope of the green Orion slave-girl.
We also have Roddenberry’s problematic ideas for 3-breasted Betazoids and for bat-like Ferengi for TNG (which was regrettably revived for another species in Andromeda) to demonstrate that Roddenberry wasn’t the best source of visual ideas for aliens.
What was good is that Roddenberry insisted that the crew had a visually distinguished alien bridge officer, and wanted it done with high production quality.
That Solow insisted on a adapting the design to achieve the objective of being alien but appealing is to his credit. Knowing when to rein in poor ideas is definitely the role of the executives.
Pretty sure it was four breasts, not two, because DC shot him down by asking ‘two rows of two, or four across?’
Or as Picard might cry out, “there are four breasts!”
The INSIDE book is a fun read, but some of the accuracy is suspect, just going by the errors in the CITY ON THE EDGE part, stuff that the authors refused to correct for subsequent editions even when called on it directly by Ellison. Probably the reason I don’t have the book anymore, though they did get me to buy full-price, unlike the more recent and totally dubious acts of ‘journalism’ perpetrated by the inept and unscrupulous who substitute creative lies in place of accuracy (see facttrek.com for honest and genuine trek journalism.)
Thanks for the correction kmart.
A daft idea in any event, and grounded in some weird titillation that Roddenberry was best not encouraged to proliferate.
I still distinctly recall the female lead in Genesis II in a crop top to feature her two bellybuttons.
Wow sold two pilots, Star Trek AND Mission Impossible, in one week – that was a good and an enduring week!
Funny how he says that the networks execs didn’t think The Cage was too cerebral, but he did go out of his way to say Peebles WNMHGB was chosen for the 2nd pilot because it was simple to understand.
Too bad we didn’t get the story behind why they got rid of Number One.
RIP Mr. Solow – you made a significant and enduring mark on Hollywood and the world that lives on nearly six decades after that week when you sold those two pilots!
Solow felt loyalty to his former 1950s network exec cronies and falsely claimed there was no 1960s good old boys will be boys systemic racism or misogyny at NBC because of their token efforts to respond to the government’s civil rights inspired pressures of the times.
The post millennial MeToo movement blew up this blind contention when it proved they had been thriving for decades, hence, at NBC.
Truly a sad year for Star Trek fans.
I will forever associate Herb Solow’s name with that final ending-credit image of Balok!
I always associate TOS postproduction guy Eddie Milkis with BOSOM BUDDIES and SILVER STREAK – guy probably had a better post-TOS ‘trek record’ than the rest, especially since he was smart enough to get away from TNG as soon as his awful FARPOINT experience was over.
Just think of how much money he would have saved Paramount if they’d had him on TMP … probably enough to pay for TWOK and half of TSFS (and more than that if Justman had been involved … more cases of GR letting ‘big-screen’ and ‘mine’ get in the way of telling a good story with the right people.
He probably would have not been able to do much for TMP unless he could have stopped the attempted failed launch of the Paramount network and associated development costs of Trek Phase 2 before they decided to dump the series revival and turn it into a movie. That fiasco was all dumped into TMP’s budget and inflated it by tens of millions of dollars with costs unrelated to making the movie.
development costs are well under 7 mil for all pre-TMP development, even with all the pay or play contracts. No, most of the money wasted was wasted on Abel’s VFX team and the insane OT that went to the crew that finished the effects and the rest of the rushed sound work.
It should be made clear Abel was all on Paramount.
Also, Paramount didn’t just add the cost of Phase II development to TMP’s balance sheet, but the entire Paramount Network scrapping as well as the Trek motion picture before that they scrapped for the network, etc.
Because of him, we all have what we now have had for over 50+years. Thank you Mr. Solow for the “universe” you helped to give us. For being the driving force behind it. For creating two pilots to sell to NBC.
I feel that Harry Ballz wrote it best, “Us Trekkers” owe him a debt” that we could never repay, but I somehow think he would feel that our debt to him has been repaid many times over because of the love we have for Star Trek and keeping it alive with our passion.
Rest in Peace, you will never be forgotten.
RIP to a great talent who in no small way was instrumental for us getting the Star Trek that we did…
Yes. We are losing more of the originals all the time. What they left behind will be celebrated for a very long time.