|Born||February 19, 1915|
|Died||March 2, 2003(aged 88)|
|Occupation||Television writer and producer
|Television||Star Trek (season 3) (1968–69)
Space: 1999 (season 2) (1975–77)
Fred Freiberger (February 19, 1915 – March 2, 2003) was an American film and television writer and television producer, whose career spanned four decades and work on such films and TV series as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), Star Trek (1960s) and Space: 1999 (1970s).
Freiberger is best known for his work as the producer of the third and final season of science-fiction series Star Trek', between 1968 and 1969. His screenwriting credits include 13 films made between 1946 and 1958. He appeared as himself in the short documentary Funny Old Guys, which aired as part of the HBO series Still Kicking, Still Laughing in 2003, a few months after his death in March.
Early life and career
In the late 1930s, Freiberger worked in advertising in New York. During World War II, he was stationed in England with the United States Eighth Air Force, but was later shot down over Germany and spent two years as a prisoner of war. After the war, he moved to Hollywood with the intention of working in film publicity, but a studio strike saw him move into screenwriting. He was associated with Buddy Rogers' Comet Productions and Ralph Cohn's Columbia Pictures. He was one of the four credited writers on the monster movie The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953).
From 1958, Freiberger worked extensively and almost exclusively in television. In 1960, he became producer of the medical drama Ben Casey, which was followed by a stint as producer of The Wild Wild West during its first season (1965–66). In 1968, Freiberger was hired as producer for the third and final season of Star Trek. He went on to script episodes for a number of early-1970s TV series, such as All in the Family, Emergency!, Starsky and Hutch and Ironside, and also worked as a story editor at Hanna-Barbera TV series such as The New Scooby-Doo Movies and Super Friends. Freiberger then moved on to produce the final season of The Six Million Dollar Man (1977–78) and the short-lived Beyond Westworld (1980). Toward the end of his career, he wrote six episodes of the 1980s syndicated series Superboy.
Producing Star Trek
Freiberger had been interviewed as a possible producer for Star Trek before it entered production in 1966, but had left the selection process due to a planned trip. In 1968, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, as a result of creative differences with broadcaster NBC, resigned as showrunner. Freiberger was again contacted and hired as producer for the series' third season. He assumed this role with a reduced budget that made the series more difficult to produce, as well as a new "Friday night death slot" that resulted in a further decline in viewing ratings for what was already a low-rated program. Many Star Trek fans have since criticised Freiberger for being the cause of this decline, but actress Nichelle Nichols (who played Uhura) has written in his defense. Nichols argues that the result of NBC's considerable budget cutbacks to the third season of Star Trek, in an environment of rising production costs and escalating actors' salaries, meant that:
|“||you saw fewer outdoor location shots, for example. Top writers, top guest stars, top anything you needed was harder to come by. Thus, Star Trek's demise became a self-fulfilling prophecy. And I can assure you, that is exactly as it was meant to be ... In the third season [the] new producer Fred Freiberger did everything he could to shore up the show. I know that some fans hold him responsible for the show's decline, but that is not fair. Star Trek was in a disintegrating orbit before Fred came aboard. That we were able to do even what we did is a miracle and a credit to him. One day Fred and I had an exchange, and he snapped at me. Even then, though, I knew he wasn't angry with me but with his unenviable situation. He was a producer who had nothing to produce with.||”|
Producing Space: 1999
On December 15, 1975, Freiberger was confirmed as both script editor and producer for the second series of Gerry Anderson's British science-fiction TV series Space: 1999, recruited in part to make the series more appealing to the American market. To that end, Freiberger re-worked the series with major cast and character changes and a heightened emphasis on action and drama, and even ensured that signage that appeared in the episodes used American English spellings. He wrote three episodes for Space: 1999 as "Charles Woodgrove", a pseudonym he had previously used when writing for the 1960s Western series Rawhide.
Negative reputation in science fiction fandom
Freiberger has a dubious reputation in science-fiction fandom, mostly due to his involvement in the final seasons of Star Trek, The Six Million Dollar Man and Space: 1999, all of which were cancelled under his watch. This has resulted in Freiberger being given the nickname "The Series Killer" in some circles, although he was also involved in the establishment of series that lasted for several seasons, such as Wild Wild West and Superboy.
Freiberger was repeatedly called in to "save" already-failing TV series such as Star Trek and Space: 1999, and tended to effect stylistic changes in an effort to do so. It is argued that Freiberger's involvement was sometimes instrumental in seeing otherwise doomed series be picked up for further seasons. Both Nichelle Nichols and William Shatner have refused to assign any blame to Freiberger for the poorly received third season of Star Trek. Freiberger himself took some credit for ensuring that Space: 1999 was picked up for a second season, because he had excited the series' financial backers with his proposed creative changes and the idea of introducing a new character.
- Oliver, Myrna (March 7, 2003). "Fred Freiberger, 88; Film Producer, Writer for Early Dramatic TV Series". Los Angeles Times.
- Heald, Tim (1976). The Making of Space: 1999. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-25265-9.
- Solow, Herbert F. and Justman, Robert H., Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, Pocket Books, New York, 1996. p. 399
- Nichols, Beyond Uhura, p. 189.
- Nichelle Nichols, Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories, G.P. Putnam & Sons, New York, 1994. p. 189.
- William Shatner, Star Trek Memories, 1993. pp. 264–72