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Louis Elman - An Interview with the Producer/Director of Star Fleet

The 17th August 2001 was an interesting day. Early in the morning a work colleague gave birth to her first child, a son, whose first name is my surname. Late in the afternoon I was speaking to the gentleman who was, as it turns out, the driving force behind Star Fleet appearing on British television. It's a funny old world!

The chain of events leading to my conversation with Mr Elman was totally unplanned, although I don't know why I hadn't thought of it before. The old discussion about who held the rights to Star Fleet came up on the forum again as it has done in the past, and Mark asked whether Leah International still existed. Now, I was pretty sure they didn't but I went looking on Google anyway. I knew there was a mention of them in connection with an old TV show called Silas on Watched It. On reading that page again, something caught my attention. One Louis Elman was credited as the producer for that Leah International dubbed show - and Star Fleet is a Leah International dubbed show!

The first time I'd come across that information I didn't know who Louis Elman was, you see, in connection with Star Fleet. So no synapses fired to tell me that there was a link. Curious, I tried something I'd never done before - I put Mr Elman's name into the Internet Movie Database. Star Fleet isn't listed in it, but I thought that if Mr Elman had done other work Leah International might be mentioned. Try putting his details in. He's mentioned, alright!

You'll see that he's credited right up to the current day on many major British films, and he's always worked on the sound side of productions. So I knew that a) he was active and b) was very likely to be the right Louis Elman - because the major piece of work on Star Fleet would have been the dubbing element. After that it didn't take me long to track him down - and having sent him an email, I plucked up the courage to ring him up late in the afternoon. The conversation, which was completely unrehearsed on my part (!) went something like this...

I introduced myself, and explained how I'd come to find his details. I then asked the big question. "Did you work on a kids TV show called Star Fleet?" to which Mr Elman replied, "Yes - I'm looking at the poster right now!" This threw me, as you might imagine! It turns out that the poster is actually one of the covers from a Look In that came out at the time. Anyway, I regained my composure and tried to tell him in a coherent manner who on earth I was and why I'd asked him about Star Fleet.

What became apparent very early on is that Mr Elman feels very strongly about Star Fleet. I was probably too young at the time to remember, but he told me that it actually outstripped the BBC's children's programmes of the time in terms of viewing figures and popularity. His children came home from school telling him that the other children wanted his autograph! He'll be passing on the details of my site to his now grown up children - I hope they'll like it.

Mr Elman was immediately able to clear up some issues. When I mentioned Enoki he knew the name and confirmed that they'd been involved with Star Fleet back in the 80s as the originating company. So that cleared that one up! Jin International Limited, ITC and London Weekend Television (LWTV) were also involved in this country. As for Leah International - as I'd suspected, Mr Elman was Leah International! Which explained the apparent coincidence I'd noted earlier.

As you might expect with Enoki being involved, the version of the show which Leah International was provided with was the Japanese version. Mr Elman makes no bones about the fact that he and his team were quite ruthless about making the English version. The show was re-cut, re-scripted and re-scored in order to make it into the definitive English language version. Paul Bliss was recommended by someone on the team to do the music - never having done a soundtrack before! I think we can agree that he did a good job, and Mr Elman knew about the Brian May version as you'd expect.

The next comment made me smile. Such was the popularity and attention that Star Fleet was getting, THE Gerry Anderson rang up Mr Elman to ask him about the show. Why? Because a certain new show by the name of Terrahawks was about to air, and Mr Anderson was concerned about the competition! I told Mr Elman that Terrahawks actually got mistaken for Star Fleet quite often, and that a Terrahawks site actually included a Star Fleet section because the mistake was so commonly made, which he found quite amusing!

Mr Elman told me that the popularity of Star Fleet was so great that he immediately wanted to make a new series. Sadly, the Japanese production company told him that all the puppets and props had been destroyed. This was obviously a devestating blow to any hopes he had of building on the success of the first series. This was, of course, where I piped up and started saying "Well actually, we've been thinking about how we could do a series without puppets because of course we coudn't hope to do one with puppets ourselves..."

Now, there are no promises here. Obviously, Mr Elman knows people who know people. So two opportunities present themselves - a re-release of the original series if Enoki have the original prints, or a much more complicated endeavour along the lines of Star Fleet Genesis or other projects: a whole new animated show. We've gone no further in our discussions than that so please don't get your hopes up, but Mr Elman and I will be keeping in touch so if there's any progress in any direction I'll let you know! Fingers crossed....

Oh, and Mr Elman and I agreed that it was very surprising, if not unbelievable, that no-one's repeated the series - not even Channel 5!

Last updated 14 December 2013

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