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