Fred Freiberger
Born February 19, 1915(1915-02-19)
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Died March 2, 2003(2003-03-02) (aged 88)
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Years Active 1946–1989
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Occupation Television writer/producer
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Fred Freiberger (February 19, 1915 – March 2, 2003[1]) was an American film and television screenwriter and television producer, with a career spanning four decades including The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Star Trek, and Space: 1999. He appeared as himself in the short documentary Funny Old Guys,[2] which appeared on the HBO series Still Kicking, Still Laughing in the summer of 2003, several months after his death.


Freiberger is most widely known for his work as producer of the third and final season of science fiction series Star Trek from 1968–1969.

Early life and careerEdit

In the late 1930s Freiberger worked as an advertising man in New York. During World War II, he was stationed in England with the U.S. 8th Air Force, was 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 led him into script writing.[3] He was associated with Buddy Rogers' Comet Productions and Ralph Cohn of Columbia Pictures.[4] He was one of the four credited writers on The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953).[5] His film writing credits include 13 motion pictures between 1946 and 1958.

Television careerEdit

From 1958 forward he worked extensively and almost exclusively in television. In 1960, he became producer of the popular medical drama, Ben Casey, which was followed by a stint as producer of The Wild Wild West during its first season in 1965-66. In 1968 Freiberger was hired as producer for the third and final season of Star Trek. Freiberger went on to write episodes for a number of popular early-1970s TV series, such as All in the Family, Emergency!, Starsky and Hutch, and Ironside (TV series). He even worked as a story editor at Hanna-Barbera on 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 in 1977-78 and the short-lived Beyond Westworld in 1980. At end of his career he wrote six episodes of the 1980s syndicated series, Superboy (TV series).

Producing Star TrekEdit

Freiberger had been interviewed as a possible producer for Star Trek prior to its first production year in 1966, but owing to a planned trip, bowed out of consideration. In 1968, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, as a result of differences with NBC, stepped down as showrunner for Star Trek, and Freiberger was again contacted and hired as producer for its third season. He was saddled with a reduced budget[6] that made the show more difficult to produce, and a new so-called Friday night death slot which resulted in a decline in ratings for the already low-rated show. Many Star Trek fans have criticised Freiberger for being the cause of this decline but Nichelle Nichols has come out in his defense. As Nichols writes, the result of NBC's severe budget cutbacks to the third season of Star Trek, in an environment of rising production costs and escalating actor's 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.[7]

Producing Space: 1999Edit

On December 15, 1975 he was confirmed both to manage the scripts and to produce the second series of Gerry Anderson's British-made science fiction TV show Space: 1999, and hired in part to make the series more appealing to the American market. To that end Freiberger reworked the show with cast and character changes, a greater emphasis on action and drama, and even ensured that signage on the show used American English spellings.[4]

Freiberger himself wrote three episodes for Space: 1999 under the pseudonym "Charles Woodgrove" as he had done when writing episodes of the Western series Rawhide.

Negative reputation in science fiction fandomEdit

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 on his watch. This has led to Freiberger being given the nickname "The Series Killer" in some circles,[8] although he was also involved in the establishment of several other series that lasted for several seasons, such as Wild Wild West and Superboy. Both Nichelle Nichols and William Shatner refused to assign any blame to Freiberger for the inferior third season of Star Trek.[9][10] In fact, Freiberger was a person who was repeatedly called in to "save" already-failing TV series like Star Trek and Space: 1999—and tended to give them make-overs in an attempt to do so. However, others point out that Freiberger's involvement was sometimes instrumental in getting otherwise cancelled shows picked up for another season.[11] Freiberger himself took some credit for getting Space: 1999 picked up for a second series because he excited the backers with his proposed changes and a new character.[3]


  3. 3.0 3.1
  4. 4.0 4.1 Heald, Tim (1976). The Making of Space: 1999. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-25265-9-195. 
  6. Solow, Herbert F. and Justman, Robert H., Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, Pocket Books, New York, 1996. p.399
  7. Nichols, Beyond Uhura, p. 189
  9. Nichelle Nichols, Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories, G.P. Putnam & Sons, New York 1994. p. 189
  10. William Shatner, Star Trek Memories, 1993. pp. 264–72

External linksEdit

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