Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Blog #8: My Take On Star Trek, Part I

Hey there loyal reader this is Chris bringing you the first part of 'My Take On Star Trek Essay'. There is so much ground to cover I have decided to break down the essay into parts, this one focusing on Star Trek: The Original Series. The first time I saw Star Trek I was just a little kid, maybe 2 or 3, I remember my Dad watching the original series Saturday afternoons on CBC. I was immediately hooked and since then have been a life long fan of the franchise. I would consider myself a 'Trekker' and I am very knowledgeable about most things Trek. However I am also a very critical fan of the franchise as well. I'm often asked by people which series are best, what movies are good, etc. So I have decided here and now to break
down the franchise and offer my opinions of each series and movie of the fabled Trek universe.

Star Trek: The Original Series:
The series that started it all back in 1966. Gene Roddenberry is credited as Creator, but some would argue that it was show writers/producers such as DC Fontana and Gene Coon who really made the original series the cult classic it truly is. Set in the 23rd century it follows the adventures of Capatin James T. Kirk played by William Shatner, as he leads the USS Enterprise on adventures. Leonard Nimoy stars as First Officer Commander Spock, a half human half Vulcan scientist. James Doohan as Chief Engineer Lt. Commander Scott or rather 'Scotty'. George Takei as 'Lt Sulu', Nichelle Nichols as 'Lt Uhura' and Walter Koenig as 'Ensign Pavel Chekov'. Back in the 60's it was rare to see such a multi-national cast of characters, and
with it being set in the future the Writers were able to tackle topics which normally couldn't be done on conventional TV. But with it being a Science Fiction series they were able to get away with a lot. It truly was
an original series. Unfortunately it was made in a time where special effects were in its infancy so by today's standards the FX is quite bad. However they have in recent years released a 'Remastered series' with
updated FX which really is awesome and worth watching. But again it was filmed in the 60's with a shoe string budget so the make-up, wardrobe andacting (at times) is very bad and a direct result of lack of funds, and also a lack of interest shown by Gene Roddenberry, especially in the shows 3rd and last season. Roddenberry by the 3rd year had pretty much given up on the show and their budget was cut even more resulting in episodes being constantly filmed on set and not on location. But if you can get past
all that and watch the show for it's heart and the great episodes they did do it is so worth it. The first season episode, 'City On The Edge Of Forever', written by sci-fi literary icon Harlan Ellison, is my absolute
favorite Trek episode of any series of all time. William Shatners performance in particular for that episode is stunning and proves what a great actor he truly is.

William Shatner for Prime Minister!!!


My favorite TOS episodes you should check out:

- "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (Great pilot episode of Kirk & Crew)

-  "The Enemy Within" (Kirk separated into a Good and Evil version of himself)

- "The Menagerie, Part I & II" (Seeing footage from the original 'Cage' pilot, we learn what happened to Captain Christopher Pike and Spock is on trial for his life)

- "Balance of Terror" (First appearance of the Romulans)

- "Arena" (Kirk fights for his life against a giant humanoid lizard)

- "Space Seed" (Kirk meets his greatest enemy for the first time, Khan as played by the great Ricardo Montalban)

- "Errand of Mercy" (First appearance of the Klingon Empire)

- "The Alternative Factor" (The same man from 2 different universes threatens to destroy out universe)

- "The City on the Edge of Forever" (Kirk must make the ultimate sacrifice to save the future)

- "Amok Time" (Spock must journey home to marry his arranged marriage wife, but then fights Kirk to the death...)

- "Mirror, Mirror" (Kirk & Co are trapped in a evil parallel universe)

- "The Doomsday Machine" (A machine that destroys planets threatens the galaxy and only the Enterprise can stop it)

- "I, Mudd" (Harry Mudd returns with comical results)

- "Journey to Babel" (We get to meet Mr Spocks family for the first time)

- "The Deadly Years" (Kirk and crew must battle against rapid ageing while a stupid starfleet Commodore almost gets the Enterprise destroyed by Romulans)
- "The Trouble With Tribbles" (Tribbles are cute and cuddly and this episode is funny like no other Trek episode)

- "The Enterprise Incident" (Kirk seemingly goes nuts and the Enterprise is surrounded by Romulan ships. Spock seems to have turned traitor but not everything is as it seems...)

- "Day of the Dove" (Kirk must battle Klingons again while a entity feeds off their aggression)

- "The Tholian Web" (Kirk may have died, Spock is now in command and the Enterprise may be captured by the Tholians)

- "All Our Yesterdays" (It's a race against time as a star is about to explode and Kirk, Spock and McCoy are trapped in different time periods)
If you can get past all the dated aspects of this series it really is good at it's core. Some episodes are very bad, and if you are a new viewer you may want to stick with the episodes I recommend.

The heart of this series really is the interaction between the characters and the actors who play them. The dynamic between Kirk/Spock/McCoy (Shatner/Nimoy/Kelly) really is amazing, and in the last season they added Scotty in more with that dynamic. If I could point out one glaring issue I have with Roddenberry's Star Trek is that the characters never seem to evolve or be expanded on to a certain extent. They just did their jobs and never really got involved with anyone. No one got married or had families. Sulu had a daughter apparently, but he was never seen to have had a family. Having characters that never moved on seemed not realistic to me. I would like to have seen Uhura hook up with Scotty, or something like that. I never understood the logic of having characters simply married to their jobs. Growth of a character allows the viewer something to relate to, and I feel that some people may not have been able to relate to the characters.

Gene Roddenberry created the series and the characters, but he did not create the heart of the series in my opinion. To make a real world analogy: Roddenberry was a biological father who was responsible for the birth of a child, but that child is raised by another person, and said child becomes the person they are based on the person who raised them, not the person who helped create them. Roddenberry came up with the original concept of the characters and the series, but it was the actors, and producers and writers like Gene Coon and D.C. Fontana who defined the characters and the series. Truth is Roddenberry has been given too much credit when it comes to Star Trek, and most of that credit was self praise he gave himself. Gene Coon died in 1973, and thus never lived to see Star Trek become the phenomenon it has become. He never attended a Trek convention, he never was able to tell his side of things. Had he lived I think Roddenberry would have been forced to share the credit with Coon, rather than take it all for himself. Gene Coon is credited for many creations on Star Trek which include the Klingons (in "Errand of Mercy"), Khan Noonien Singh (in "Space Seed"), Zefram Cochrane (in "Metamorphosis"), and the Prime Directive. Coon also had the position of doing rewrites for scripts, and as such his work touches many more episodes. This Trekker will never forget “The Forgotten Gene”

Gene Coon

Gene Roddenberry

Anyway this last June I got the chance to meet my childhood hero, Mr William Shatner at the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo. William Shatner was awesome at his panel. Shat came out on stage with a arm full of hot women in the green Orion slave girl make-up, very cool. R2D2 presented the Shat with a white cowboy hat from the Mayor of Calgary. Apparently the white hat ceremony is a big thing in Calgary. A guy behind me said "That's not right. R2D2 should not be giving him the hat. The mixing of universes is not right!"...wow, and I thought I was a nerd... Shat was great on stage and announced a special documentary series he has done interviewing all the Captains of the Star Trek series, I actually watched that last month and it was great. The line up for my picture with the Shat was crazy busy. When we got to get our pic with him I didn't get to ask him anything.There was a little boy who got his pic before us and after the pic the boy didn't know where his dad was and Shat said to me "Who does he belong to?" referring to the kid. That was it. It was very much get in and get out or get tossed by security. Shat just wanted it to be over, you could tell he had had enough at that point. Still very cool to be standing next to him!! The guy is 80 years old and the fact he still does so much is amazing to me.

Chris and his wife Crystal with William Shatner

The only other original series cast member I have met is the late great James Doohan, back at a Trek Convention in 1994 in Edmonton. He was very entertaining on stage and answered all our questions including his dislike for William Shatner. I got his autograph and he was very friendly and kind to us all. Like Shatner Doohan was Canadian. Doohan was also a veteran of WWII. I read his biography a few years ago, co-written by Trek novelist Peter David, Doohan opened up about his life and his military service for Canada. He was truly a remarkable person and a Canadian icon.

James Doohan

Another original series star who I admire is George Takei. One of the reasons I admire George Takei is not for his work on Star Trek or his work on the Howard Stern satellite radio show, I admire him because he took a very difficult step and admitted publicly that he is and has always been gay. He came out of the closet after spending most of his life in it and has become a huge star in the gay community. September 14, 2008 he married his companion of over 18 years Brad Altman. Walter Koenig ("Chekov" from Star Trek) served as Best Man and and Nichelle Nichols ("Uhura" from Star Trek) was the matron of Honor. As a fan of Takei and Star Trek I applaud this man for his bravery in coming out and being true to himself. I'm sure it wasn't easy, he comes from a time when Gay meant "Happy" and not "homosexual". But times have changed and he has changed with them. George Takei you are a great man, I am a fan and I salute you sir for being the great person you are.

Well that concludes my discussion on the Original Star Trek series and it's stars. As I said earlier this is just the first part of my take on Trek with more to come in future blog posts. They break down as follows:

Part I: Star Trek The Original Series
Part II: Star Trek The Next Generation
Part III: The Star Trek Movies
Part IV: Star Trek Deep Space Nine
Part V: Star Trek Voyager & Enterprise
Part VI: The Future Of Star Trek

And that is a wrap for me. Take care and see you in the future!

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