The central living area Sarek escorted Terry to was not what he would have expected of Vulcan living. Onboard ship, Vulcans tended to be rather spartan in their decor. This room, in fact. the whole house, showed a human touch—specifically a feminine one. Obviously, Amanda had had a hand in the decorating.
Once inside the central room, however, Terry didn’t find himself noticing walls or floors or other things inanimate. Around him were anxious faces, most of them with a touch of sympathy in their expression. Captain Scott, Dr. McCoy and Commander Uhura sat casually on the large couch in front of him. In nearby chairs, facing one another, were his commander, Hikaru Sulu, and a man he assumed to be Pavel Chekov.
Sulu smiled at him in greeting, as did Uhura and McCoy. Could they see how nervous he was? Were they offering him a vote of confidence? Perhaps they wanted to remind him that they were old friends and teachers as well as criminals he’d been sent to arrest. He remembered.
Terrible episode, right? If you’re of a generation of fan that doesn’t recognize any Star Trek quote other than, “Khaaaaaaaannnnnn!!!”, I’ll explain.
Gene Roddenberry, aka the Great Bird of the Galaxy, creator of Star Trek, developed a script early on in the production of Trek—so early that it was a contender for the show’s famed second pilot episode—called “The Omega Glory.” The premise was that there was a planet of two primitive, but apparently immortal, tribes of people called the Yangs and the Kohms. They had a hereditary feud. The Kohms presented as basically civilized, the Yangs were mute and apparently savage.
They were mute, that is, until Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, imprisoned with two Yangs, mentioned that they needed to somehow attain their freedom.
“Freedom?” said the big, male, mute, shocking the two Starfleet officers. “Freedom?” And, as above, he told the outworlders that they were not to use the sacred word.
USS Phoenix Log, Stardate: 8223.4
Lieutenant Aer’La commanding in the absence of First Officer Hadley.
Phoenix has been called out of maintenance in spacedock and ordered to follow the path of the USS Enterprise, stolen by a band of Starfleet renegades led by Admiral James Kirk and including former Phoenix commander Sulu, to the Genesis planet in the Mutara sector.
It was truly the most bizarre order she had ever been given: pull the ship out of dock in the middle of maintenance work and reassemble what crew she could to track down and arrest six of the most celebrated officers in the fleet—the former command crew of the Enterprise. Two thirds of the crew had been available, and, despite their grumbling, the repair crews had had the ship ready to go in six hours.
Aer’La had looked at Admiral Morrow as though he were mad when he had called her, a simple lieutenant just off of border patrol, into his office and put her in charge of the most delicate mission the fleet could ever dream of undertaking—the arrest of a band of heroes for mutiny. No diplomatic undertaking could ever be so sensitive as this. Starfleet would not be popular when it hauled Jim Kirk in for court martial. Why her? And why Phoenix?
Few fans of science fiction do not remember the moment in Star Wars when Luke Skywalker enters the cantina at Mos Eisley, accompanied by C3PO and R2D2 and is told “We don’t serve their kind.” Luke is confused, and the barman explains that ‘droids are not wanted in his establishment. So the ‘droids glumly go to wait outside while Luke and Obi Wan meet Han Solo.
Nothing else happens related to this incident. The hateful behavior of the barman is not addressed. We’re left to assume, I suppose, that someone is always at the bottom rung of the social ladder, and such people are always discriminated against. In the Star Wars universe, those disenfranchised people are ‘droids. The moment stands that hate is a fact of life.
Pavel Chekov was seated at a table in the back of the lounge, looking quite haggard, when Scotty came in. In front of him was a huge stack of tapes. He exhaled heavily, ran a hand through his hair, and inserted one of them into the viewer.
After stopping to order a glass of scotch from the selector, Scotty went to join him. “Whot are ye up to here, lad?”
Pavel looked up with a frown. “I em going through the log tapes—or helf of them, if you believe thet—for Uhura. The executive reports hev to be ready tomorrow, and she’s supposed to review all the logs. She got me to do these,” he explained, his frown growing more pronounced.
Scotty swallowed a sip of his drink and laughed. “When I was second officer, Spock took care of all thot.”
Popping another tape into the viewer, Chekov said, “I suppose thet’s vhy you wanted me to hev the job?”
Back in the days before most of us could afford a video recorder, and before there was such a thing as a DVD, a BluRay, or an MP4 file, there was no easy way to view a favorite TV show or movie between the times it was running on television. A few collectors could afford 16 MM film prints, but that was a very few. Star Trek fans had such a voracious hunger to experience and re-experience their favorite TV show that, in 1977, a company called Mandala Productions decided to cash in. They produced “Fotonovels”— composed of screen captures from Star Trek episodes, with dialogue and narration added comic-book style using boxes and word balloons. Bantam books published these monthly for one year, and I was all over them. Not only did they let me relive a TV show I couldn’t get enough of, they were also great photo reference. I was a budding artist in my teens, and later an illustrator for fanzines. Fotonovels were indispensible aids.
So when John Byrne of X-Men fame launched a series of new, larger format fotonovels a couple of years ago, I was immediately in for the long haul. Using photoshop technology and screen caps from the 79 original hours of Star Trek, Byrne has so far created 17 new Trek episodes in this nostalgic format.
“Shoot big now!”
Okay, that really doesn’t mean anything, other than it was my family’s reaction to the first hour (read: first 40 minutes) of the new Star Trek series. I mean, really, CBS, 40 minutes? You’re asking people to pay to watch this show, and you can’t give its fans a full hour? Maybe they’re afraid its fans wouldn’t have the patience to sit for 60 whole minutes? The pacing of the show is so lightning-quick, one wonders.
Which leads me to a special request: can anybody quantify for me, or point me to good, scholarly piece which does quantify, how TV scripting works differently now than it did when Star Trek was first on the air in 1966? I know it does work differently. Scenes are shorter, pacing is faster, there’s more action, and, of course, no story is ever resolved in a single episode. But I’d like to see and down-and-dirty discussion of what all the changes are, and how and when they happened.
I recently watched a fun little documentary called “The Trek Not Taken,” about Star Trek spinoffs that were discussed, developed, in some cases written and even taken to the point where sets and costumes were built, but not released to an audience.I really enjoyed it, and thought it was nicely done. There was a point I took exception to, however. I bring it up here, not to criticize the producer of this video in any way, but more to examine how I, as an aging fan, tend to see things a little differently.
The makers of this video posited that, in fifty years of existence, Star Trek has gone through several “dark ages” and one “golden age.” These ages aligned with the times that a Trek TV series was or was not in production, so the first two dark ages were 1969-1973 and 1975-1987.
Interestingly, although four Trek films were released during that second interval, it’s the opinion of the documentarian that only televised Trek saves fans from a dark age.
Clarification: There’s been a misunderstanding to the effect that I felt Star Trek: Axanar had derived their story from my work. That is not the case. The fan film referenced below, in which some fans have noticed similarities to my novel, is not Axanar.
Intellectual Property–copyright–is the topic at hand right now in Star Trek circles. The high profile Axanar team has been hit with a lawsuit for violating CBS’s copyright in making an independent Star Trek film. Meanwhile, on one of the Trek-related bulletin boards, some fans have noticed similarities between a fan film and my 2006 novel Taken Liberty. I blogged about those similarities last year, saying I saw several points of plot overlap between the film and my book. Several of those commenting on the topic had read my blog. Apparently, not many had read my book.
The discussions on both topics have shown that a startling amount of ignorance and irrational thinking pervades modern Star Trek fandom, and that many fans have no concept of the law, much less of right and wrong.
September, 1979. Ads for Star Trek: The Motion Picture were popping up everywhere. They showed a glorious new (but recognizable!) USS Enterprise, and had photos of all of our favorites in a row beneath it. The uniforms were a little drab, but this was the sophisticated 1970s. We didn’t expect primary colors anymore.
Bev and Nancy, having not even seen the film yet (they would attend the gala opening night at the Air & Space Museum in Washington DC, just months later), were already showing their approval of its style. Perhaps their most striking, memorable cover to date graced this double issue of Contact, numbered 5/6. Like the more expensive paperbacks of the time, this issue had a double cover. The first layer depicts Kirk in blue monochrome in his classic uniform, sitting amidst rubble, while a golden-haloed visage Spock looks down on him. They are together, but isolated. The Spock image is, in fact, from the next layer, revealed by a circular die-cut in the upper cover.