Star Trek, the original series, a retrospective

The new rebooted Star Trek, Episode 2, comes out tomorrow. Made by a man who preferred Star Wars to Star Trek, it’s darker than Spock’s beard in “Mirror Mirror.” This isn’t about that. The original Star Trek wasn’t far removed from cheesy fifties SciFi flicks. What it had were lofty goals and writers with big imaginations.

I’m not really a Trekkie. I saw every episode of the original series several times and even videotaped them when they were run consecutively on the SciFi channel, but I’m not really a Trekkie. I got a communicator for Christmas and even bought the James Blish adaptations, along with his original “Spock Must Die,” but I’m not really a Trekkie. I never went to a convention and I don’t speak Klingon, I mean, I barely speak English sometimes. 
When I was a kid I drove my cousin insane by referring to the Leonard Nimoy character as Dr. Spock. I loved watching his face turn red and his veins expand to turn his forehead into a roadmap. I am also aware that the same thing is happening to some people reading this because they don’t like being called Trekkies. When Leonard Nimoy joined Mission Impossible, my parents called it Spock Without Ears, as in “Hey, Spock Without Ears is on.” It was a cultural phenomenon.

Star Trek, like all TV series, was filled with plot holes and contradictions. They played fast and loose with the Prime Directive. Galaxies became planets. Somewhere along the line, the ship’s phasers looked like photon torpedoes and vice versa, but no one ever seemed to notice on the show. Star Trek wasn’t that far removed from the 50s SciFi and horror classics that had men in gorilla suits as monsters. They had about the same budget and Star Trek’s episodes were probably shot more quickly. They cut corners to trim expenses. They used what was on hand.

Gene Rodenberry got fancy salt shakers for his wife, Number One, Nurse Chapel, Majel Barrett that she hated, so they turned them into Dr. McCoy’s medical kit. In the pilot episode, the crew has see-through communicators that look like kazoos and their phasers looked like children’s toys that came out of cereal boxes.

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What Star Trek did do was attract great writers whose imaginations had been stifled on television since the demise of The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. SciFi writers dropped from the ceiling like tribbles in a cargo hold to sing the praises of the new interstellar program. The series heralded a science fiction renaissance. Writers like Gene Coon who wrote “Arena,” “Space Seed,” “A Taste of Armageddon,” “The Devil in the Dark,” “Errand of Mercy,” “The Apple,” “Metamorphosis,” the gangster classic “A Piece of the Action,” “Bread and Circuses,” “Spock’s Brain” (“Brain and brain. What is brain?“), “Spectre of the Gun,” the quickie “Wink of an Eye” and the two-toned “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” and James Blish, who novelized the episodes. D. C. Fontana, Jerome Bixby, Robert Bloch and John Meredyth Lucas. Jerome Bixby who penned “Mirror, Mirror,” “By Any Other Name,” “Day of the Dove” and “Requiem for Methuselah.” Oliver Crawford, who wrote “The Galileo Seven,” “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” and “The Cloud Minders. 

 Harlan Ellison, probably best known for writing “A Boy and His Dog” and for being something of a pain-in-the ass to talk to (I kid the afflicted, you gotta love him for sticking up for writers getting paid), wrote a very advanced teleplay involving drug addiction, loss and the very frightening effects of messing with time. He witnessed the amazing Shatner feat of line counting while riding a motorcycle. The censors rewrote Ellison’s script until he thought it was unrecognizable. The episode was the “City on the Edge of Forever” and it remains one of the best of the series. It starred Joan Collins preachifying for peace in the days right before Hitler and imagined the Enterprise crew on Earth in the depression twenties. The televised script had a copout ending and shied away from the more contentious issues of the original teleplay.

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Star Trek’s theme song was written by Alexander Courage. Eight composers were under contract to provide incidental music and subthemes: Alexander Courage, George Duning, Jerry Fielding, Gerald Fried, Sol Kaplan, Samuel Matlovsky, Joseph Mullendore, and Fred Steiner. The music is very important on Star Trek. It is instantly recognizable, just a few notes brings us directly into the Star Trek galaxy, as even a casual watching of South Park will bear out.

Gene Rodenberry started peddling a “Wagon Train to the stars” in 1964. Rodenberry was a TV writer who came up through the Air Force and had been an LA cop. He wrote for the series Highway Patrol and Have Gun–Will Travel under the name “Robert Wesley” before producing the series The Lieutenant, which featured the future Uhura, Nichelle Nicols, for NBC. It didn’t last very long. Rodenberry pitched a new futuristic series to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’ studio, Desilu. Desilu liked the concept, but didn’t like the pilot episode, “The Cage.

 

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The pilot starred one of the universally regarded best-looking Jesuses (Jesii?) from film, Jeffrey Hunter, as Capt. Christopher Pike. Pike’s earth home was near the Mohave Desert. The galaxy-weary captain is tired of making decisions of life and death for the 203 crewmembers who rely on his expertise. Mr. Spock, who later in the series will have no emotions, sounds absolutely heartbroken when he pouts “We’re not going?” to a class M, earthlike, planet to pick up stray astronauts. Spock looks like he’s got an extraterrestrial stick up his ass. Nimoy never fully removed the stick for a lot of his performance. Of course it may have been that his ears were glued on too tight. This might explain why Spock is limping when he first gets to the asteroid.

 

Gene Rodenberry was an optimist who believed that humans would ultimately evolve into advanced beings. He saw a future where all races and genders could stand equally on one bridge and make fun of Vulcans. The crew wasn’t as extraterrestrially evolved in the pilot as they would become. The women were still being designed by the Don Drapers of pre-swinging sixties Madison Avenue. Female officer’s uniforms were miniskirts. Pike tells Number One, Majel Barrett before she got her nursing license, that he’s still not used to women on the bridge, except her. She’s different. She might as well be a man. (I’m glad I wasn’t at the Rodenberry household that night.)

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On the asteroid, Vena (Susan Oliver) is a sexual animal in a grass skirt that was raised by aging scientists. She plays into all kinds of sexual and personal fantasies, including the enduring, alluring Green Lady from the Orion system. (The production department kept painting her pink.) Green Ladies like it when you take advantage of them. The viewer gets subliminal foreshadowing when Vena occasionally assumes the position of what she will ultimately become, the mangled woman-child assembled by the aliens without easy to follow directions. For an advanced race, you would think the Thelosians might at least understand the basic concept of symmetry. The aliens have big veiny heads with an ass in the back to make the point that the rest of their bodies are superfluous. The future is agnostic. The aliens send Pike to Hell and tell him they got it from his memory of a “fable he once read in childhood.” Vena decides to stay on the asteroid with the Thelosians because she would be too grotesque to join her human counterparts. Dating would be out of the question, despite any surgical procedures they might have come up with in the 23rd Century to fix her condition. Captain Pike agrees with her reasons because really, there’s no place on the Enterprise for ugly bitches. Lucy didn’t love it.

On Lucille Ball’s orders, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” was shot to become the new pilot episode, introducing the cast to TV sets across the country. Although it would be the third episode aired on TV. After we’d already met them. The pilot introduces some of Star Trek’s recurring themes and subthemes. Kirk is dynamic, reckless and loyal, in this case to his friend. We get the first glimpse of Spock’s family issues. Spock says one of his ancestors married a human female. We later learn that ancestor is his mother. Not a close family, the Spocks. He’s seen as unfeeling. When news comes aboard that someone from the landing party died, Spock doesn’t question whether it was the Captain. Uhura, perturbed by his stoic self, reminds the Vulcan that Kirk is the “closest thing to a friend you have.”

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Charlie X” was the first spoiled space-brat story. Charlie’s an orphan who’s been shuttled around from ship to ship, pending paternity tests, I guess. He gets to the Enterprise seventeen and ready to party. Charlie gets a man-crush on Kirk and goes after the closest thing the skipper’s got to a steady fling, Yeoman Rand. Kirk would have Rand transferred soon so he could jump aliens unencumbered. The Enterprise would see more spoiled extraterrestrials, like “The Squire of Gothos,” played by William Campbell, no relation to the Paul McCartney replacement, who would also shrink from cute and furries as a Klingon warship captain on one of the most popular entries, the comedic “The Trouble With Tribbles.

The Man Trap” was written by George Clayton Johnson, and directed by Marc Daniels. We get to see Dr. Leonard “Bones” “Plum” McCoy’s first love, Nancy Crater. To us she looks like a middle aged research scientist’s wife, but she is really a sexy salt monster. Crewman Darnell recognizes her from Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet, where they chew more than gum. The Enterprise orbits planet M-113 so the medical team can conduct a routine annual health certification, but they have to be quick about it. Kirk has to make sure that some outpost commander named Jose gets his chili peppers. “Prime Mexican red,” Kirk picked them himself. I wonder what “prime Mexican red” meant on earth in 1966, maybe the chili peppers were code words for some interstellar dope dealing. Rodenberry hadn’t introduced the non-interference Prime Directive yet. But they certainly broke it in this episode. Spock smacks the shit out of the salt monster and McCoy destroys the only indigenous life on planet M-113.

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Balance of Terror” was one of my favorite episodes. It is suspenseful and tight. It was based on submarine movie classic The Enemy Below, a great story and great movie. (The move was directed by Dick Powell and starred Robert Mitchum and Curt Jürgens. The book was by Denys Rayner.) The episode also tackles bigotry. The Romulans look like the Vulcans and Spock gets targeted. Spock admits that the Vulcans and the Romulans might have a common ancestry. Common ancestry? Spock’s father (Mark Lenard) is the captain of the Romulan ship, for Chris’sake. You can’t get more common ancestry than that. Family issues.

The Naked Time” introduced Scotty’s laws of physics gag. It also introduced the Time Warp. Too bad they didn’t find the time warp while the crew was still on a viral high. I would have loved to see Spock and Sulu jump to the left. We get more of Spock’s family issues. When he breaks down he admits he never told his mother he loved her. No big reveal there. He’d already referred to her as some ancestor’s sugar baby. And why does the crewman take off his gloves to scratch his nose. Haven’t they read “Andromeda Strain?” You’d think they were better trained for that. This isn’t Leviathan. Another note, this episode also introduces a biological quirk in Kirk. No matter where he gets hit, he bleeds from the right side of his mouth. Punch him on the left side, he bleeds from the right. Kidney punch, same thing. If you kick him in the nuts, which are located by the zipper of his boots, he bleeds from the right side of his mouth. Except in the alternative universe of “Mirror Mirror” where he bleeds below the center of his mouth.

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Arena” was written by Gene L. Coon, based on a short story of the same name by Fredric Brown. It was directed by Joseph Pevney. The episode introduces the Gorn. Sooner or later, the Gorn is gonna get you. Sooner or later, the Gorn is gonna win. It’s just a matter of time before you make up your mind and see what the Metrons (or, as Kirk calls them, the Metrones, either way a cool sixties band name) have been planning. It’s just a matter of when he’s gonna get up again. The Gorn can take a landslide, but pop him on the cheeks and he’s gets knocked for a whirl. Kirk teaches us basic chemistry, potassium, sulfur and a little bit of coal packs a big enough bang to label Earthlings “a most promising species, as species go,” defining Rodenberry’s vision.

Mirror Mirror” inspired a million goatees. What could be more evil than a goatee and pointy ears. Sulu as gestapo? An agony booth? Before “they put things in his ears” in Wrath of Kahn, Chekov has a defining quotable moment. “So you die, Captain, and we all move up in rank. No one will question the assassination of a captain who has disobeyed prime orders of the Empire.” I wonder why the Halkans are good personified in both realities. How come when Kirks asks them if why they’re still resisting they don’t say, we’re not, knock yourself you. Take all the dilithium crystals you want. We’re in the alternate universe and don’t play that. When I was a kid, I saw a different ending. As Kirk had anti-corrupted his bearded Spock with promises of logical plunder, why couldn’t killer Kirk convert nice Spock into a bit of graft. The man who a male computer relays “succeeded to command ISS Enterprise through assassination of Captain Christopher Pike. First action, suppression of Gorlan uprising through destruction of rebel home planet. Second action, execution of five thousand colonists on Vega Nine” was a man of charm. When Kirk reunites on the deck and tells Spock that the other Kirk has some surprises in store. Spock could have said, “as do you” and phased him. “Mirror Mirror” is also the first time “Vulcan ears” sounds like a profanity.

The Crew
William Shatner has done it all. Listing his TV credits would exceed my word limit. He is a consummate actor since the beginning of television, appearing in almost everything. He writes fiction. He writes non-fiction. He’s written several autobiographies which are a combination of both as he plays into his own mythology. He directs. He does comedy, intentionally and otherwise. He narrates, shills and Pricelines. He kinda sings and I think I have a memory of him dancing, besides the duet he did with Spock on “Plato’s Stephchildren.” He is probably the best spokesperson Science Fiction has ever had. From his roles on Space Command, Twilight Zone and Outer Limits to his own Tek Wars, Shatner always has one foot in outer space.

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Shatner played a racist instigator in a little known 1962 film The Intruder. He screamed the agonies of the pits of hell in The Devil’s Rain and spiders crawled out of his eyes in Kingdom of the Spiders. He tried to warn Seth Macfarlane about the Oscars. He gave anguished fatherly advice behind big glasses and a mustache in Go Ask Alice and anguished everyone else in Shit My Father Says. He exchanged his Star Fleet uniform for a police uniform, the Federation Insignia for a badge, for a cowboy hat and studs, regulations for Boston Legal lawbooks.

Captain Kirk is a megalomaniac and he doesn’t delegate authority. He goes to the planet ahead of any scouting team. Everything is always on him. It even miffs the unmiffable Spock, who notices a “certain inefficiency on constantly questioning me on things you’ve already made up your mind about.” Capt. Kirk did what he wanted. Even if he didn’t want to. And he always got the girl. But what did he do with her when he did? Every time Kirk has a sex scene, there is a dissolve to him zipping up his boots. We have to assume these trysts are sailor-on-leave quickies, because they take less time than a commercial break. Except when in Rome or when he goes native, Kirk zips up his boots with a knowing flourish after doing the nasty. Why? Futuristic cunnilingus maybe? Do all of his women have a foot fetish or is Kirk’s nutsack in his ankle?

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Leonard Nimoy was Spock. He wasn’t Spock. He was Spock again. The Simpsons pointed out that he was also Sulu and Scotty. On weekends he was Yeoman Rand. Nimoy’s first significant role was as a street punk who doesn’t like his face, so he brutally beats in a bunch of other faces. The punk goes pro in the ring as the title role in 1952’s Kid Monk Baroni. Before he put on the ears, Nimoy appeared on TV in Perry Mason, Dragnet, Bonanza, The Rebel, Two Faces West, Rawhide, The Untouchables, The Eleventh Hour, Combat!, Daniel Boone, The Outer Limits, The Virginian and Get Smart. The first time Nimoy worked with Shatner was on the “The Project Strigas Affair” episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Nimoy played a bad Russian, Shatner a good U.N.C.L.E. doesn’t-wannabe. Nimoy first worked with DeForest Kelley in the “Man of Violence” episode of The Virginian. After he took off the ears, Nimoy put on all manner of disguises as Paris on Mission: Impossible.

In the Science Fiction genre, Nimoy appeared in Zombies of the Stratosphere in 1952. He played an Army sergeant in the classic ant tale of 1954 Them!. He also played a professor in 1958’s The Brain Eaters and had a small role in 1961 in the “A Quality of Mercy” episode of The Twilight Zone. In 1978, Nimoy played Dr. David Kibner in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Nimoy cut out parts of Dr. Walter Bishop’s brain in the X-Files rip-off, Fringe. He once taught actors how to sing “Happy Birthday” on TV. Nimoy is mainly taking pictures now.

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Spock is a contradictory science officer. In the first season, every time the Enterprise crew encounters something on a planet they’ve trespassed on, he advises the captain to “kill it.” Just kill it. Kill the salt monster. Kill the Romulans. Kill Gary Mitchell. Kill it, Captain. Kill the guy who got you laid at the academy who you’ve known for years and pulled strings to get on your ship. Kill it before it kills you. Kill it before I, as science officer who’s supposed to find this stuff interesting or fascinating, have to study it. Before I write up a report no human would understand. Spock’s rank is commander, but he is often busted down to lieutenant commander. Probably the ears.

DeForest Kelley played Dr. Leonard McCoy as a crusty, ship’s doctor, and sometime surgeon. He’s not a psychiatrist, mechanic, engineer, moon shuttle conductor, escalator, coalminer or a bricklayer. He’s a doctor, dammit. The ship’s doctor in the pilot dispenses command advice on tap like a neighborhood bartender. Dr. McCoy doesn’t get to do that until the movies, which we’re not discussing. McCoy was also a romantic, ready to give up his military career on a moment’s notice when he met a nice girl.

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Kelly debuted in film under the influence of an evil hypnotist in the low budget 1947 film noir Fear in the Night directed by Maxwell Shane, based on the book “And So to Death” by Cornell Woolrich. He plays a loyal, likeable dweeb. In 1950, Kelley appeared in Marlon Brando’s first film, The Men, the one where everyone looked at him “like a bug;” the one he confined himself in a wheelchair for a month (and jumped up once at a revival meeting, yelling “I can walk.”) to prepare himself. Kelley saddled his holsters in Tombstone long before “Spectre of the Gun.” The country doctor had been in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas in 1957. (The actual gunfight only lasted thirty seconds.) He also rode sidesaddle in Gunsmoke and played Slate Prell in the “Incident at Barker Springs” episode of Rawhide. In 1959, Kelley and Leonard Nimoy both played in the “Trail of Revenge” episode of 26 Men. Kelley’s first foray into Sci-Fi came in 1955 when he played Captain Hall in the “Y..O..R..D..” episode of Science Fiction Theatre. After Star Trek, Kelley and Rory Calhoun, who stands and walks on his hind legs, dealt with some pissed off bunnies in 1972’s Night of the Lupus, like Shatner got caught in a spider web.

She walked in beauty, like the night. She was also handy with a blade, as she showed in “Mirror Mirror,” when she was teasing Sulu. Uhura was the first crew member to flirt with Mr. Spock. In “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” Uhura makes an error in the frequency column of her log. She says if she hears “the word frequency one more time I’ll cry.” Spock doesn’t get it. Vulcan has no moon so he doesn’t get romance and doesn’t see the feelers Uhura’s putting out. Uhura was studious and artsy, sexy and sharp, and she was one of the best knuckle-biters on TV.

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Nichelle Nicols started in theater in Chicago, New York and LA. She got her first break playing with the devil as Hazel Sharpe, the “Orgy Maiden of the Month” in the Playboy satire “Kicks and Co.” Hefner saw her and booked her his Chicago Playboy Club. She danced and sang at New York and Chicago’s respective “Blue Angels.” She played Carmen in a Chicago stock company production of Carmen Jones and did Porgy and Bess in New York. Nichols has said that her proudest moment came when Martin Luther King Jr. talked her out of quitting Star Trek because what she was putting on that screen was too rare and special to abandon. She made the cover of Ebony magazine in 1967. She sang with the Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton bands and put out two albums, “Down to Earth” and “Out of This World.” She wrote “Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories” and said she couldn’t beam onto Mannix to play Peggy Fair because Roddenberry wouldn’t give her shore leave. She was nicely nasty with Isaac Hayes in Truck Turner in 1974. She played herself on The Simpsons.

Commander Montgomery Scott is a company man. He likes his Scotch and wouldn’t mind a walk in the grass once in a while, but prefers sitting in his quarters, reading technical manuals, which is probably an allegory to some kind of interstellar porn. You can count on him in a bar fight, but don’t leave him alone with a dancing girl. He’s got a little Jack the Ripper in him. He is a proud Scotsman and blows a mean bag pipe. He is man enough to wear a kilt. When he went toe-to-toe with the Klingons in “Day of the Dove,” he brought his own sword. And a fancy one at that, with ribbons and shit. Kirk fired and rehired him in one episode (“The Apple,” where again they bust the Prime Directive wide open and introduce blonde natives to sex). Never one to turn down an intoxicant, Scotty joyfully huffed Dr. McCoy’s happy gas, mixing it with a quick shot.

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James Doohan always did voices. He studied with Leslie Nielsen, Tony Randall and Richard Boone at the New York’s Neighborhood Playhouse on a scholarship. Doohan did about 4,000 radio and 400 TV shows before he setting his coordinates to the Enterprise. His did The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Bewitched, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and co-starred with Majel Barrett in a 1964 episode of Bonanza. He was also the assistant to the president in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. He worked with Shatner in the fifties Canadian SciFi series Space Command. After Scotty he played more Scotty on Homeboys in Outer Space and The Ben Stiller Show.

George Takei plays Sulu as a buttoned down swashbuckler. He is repressed on the ship and takes every excuse to let it all hang out. He sports a sexy scar in “Mirror Mirror,” again you have wonder about the future of plastic surgery. During World War II, Takei’s family was rounded up and sent to the Rohwer War Relocation Center for internment in Arkansas and the Tule Lake War Relocation Center in California. Takei played in Godzilla Raids Again and Rodan. Takei ran over JFK’s PT-109 in 1963. He played with the future Captain Pike in Hell to Eternity, Richard Burton in Ice Palace, James Caan in Red Line 7000 and Cary Grant in Walk, Don’t Run. On TV he did Playhouse 90 and Perry Mason’s “The Case of the Blushing Pearls.” He played a lead in a Twilight Zone episode that’s not shown in the U.S. After Star Trek Takei did an episode of Mission: Impossible and two Jerry Lewis movies, The Big Mouth and Which Way to the Front?

Since the end of the original three-year Star Trek run, Takei wrote the SciFi novel “Mirror Friend, Mirror Foe” with Robert Asprin in 1979. Later, he showed up as Kaito Nakamura on Heroes, an episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and appeared with his husband, Brad Altman, in the documentary George & Brad. He also did The SimpsonsThe Big Bang Theory and The Neighbors. Takei got involved in politics, as an alternate. When he came out about his own alternatives, he was born again as a witty gay activist. He is most recently a twitter god.

Hey. Hey. He’s a Monkee. The producers thought Walter Koenig looked like he could have been on the TV comedy The Monkees, which was inspired by (ripped off from) Richard Lester’s “Citizen Kane of jukebox” movies and Beatle vehicle, A Hard Day’s Night. The makeup department did a Koenig comb-over into a groovy Davy Jones do. Koenig was cast for comic relief. The publicity department put it round that they made him do that god-awful accent because Pravda complained that there were no Russians on the Enterprise and they had beaten the United States to space. But no, it was because Rodenberry thought it was funny.

Koenig led a teenage gang in Alfred Hitchcock Presents, hit on Gidget and did a Las Vegas stage show for I Spy before putting on the ensign’s uniform as Pavel Chekov, who may or may not have a brother, Peter, depending on which Klingon is around. Koenig was special guest star as the Psi Cop Alfred Bester for twelve episodes of Babylon 5. He was almost spun off into another B5 series, Crusade, but it got cancelled B4 that could happen. Koenig also played Oro on the Canadian SciFi series The Starlost. Koenig starred in Moontrap, a 1989 science fiction film as Mission commander Colonel Jason Grant. He terrorized Wiccans in the indie film Drawing Down the Moon in 1997 and played “a sleazy, slimy, sex-addict” televangelist in Mad Cowgirl in 2004.

Koenig wrote the screenplays for the films Actor, I Wish I May and You’re Never Alone When You’re a Schizophrenic, and scripts for TV shows like Star Trek: The Animated Series, Land of the Lost, Family and The Powers of Matthew Star. He wrote the autobiography “Warped Factors: A Neurotic’s Guide to the Universe” and the movie journal Chekov’s Enterprise. He also created a comic book series called Raver. He taught acting and directing at UCLA and wrote and produced several plays. He is right now writing the graphic vampire novel, “Things To Come.” Right now. As you read this. Google Earth him and you’ll see.Sadly, Koenig made headlines in 2010 when his son, the actor Andrew Koenig, committed suicide. Walter has a daughter, Danielle Koenig.

Majel Barrett was trained in comedy by the head of Desilu Studios, Lucille Ball. Before picking up the stethoscope as Nurse Chapel (and Number One in the pilot. And the voice of the ship’s computer.) she played Gwen Rutherford on Leave It to Beaver. She also did an ad parody in the film Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? After Star Trek, she played the robot cathouse madam Miss Carrie in Michael Crichton’s 1973 sci-fi western, Westworld. Barrett played Primus Dominic in Genesis II and kept house as Lilith in Spectre, both shows by Gene Rodenberry. After Rodenberry died, she executive produced and played Dr. Julianne Belman on Earth: Final Conflict and produced Andromeda. Barrett played a Centauri emperor’s psychic widow, Lady Morella in the “Point of No Return” episode of Babylon 5. She also voiced Stewie Griffin’s ship’s computer in the “Emission Impossible” episode of Family Guy. Barrett and Rodenberry have a son, Eugene Wesley “Rod” Roddenberry, Jr.

“Look at my legs, Captain.” Grace Lee Whitney, who vied for the Captain’s attention as Yeoman Janice Rand, was the original Chicken of the Sea Mermaid (extra crispy came later). Whitney made hundreds of TV appearances before Star Trek. She appeared in Cowboy G-Men, The Real McCoys, Wagon Train, The Islanders, Hennesey, The Roaring 20s, Gunsmoke, Bat Masterson, The Rifleman, 77 Sunset Strip, Bewitched, Mike Hammer, Batman, The Untouchables, and Hawaiian Eye. She played with the future Archie Bunker, Carroll O’Connor, in the “Controlled Experiment” episode of The Outer Limits. Whitney also blew reeds as a member of the all-female band in Billy Wilder’s classic 1959 comedy Some Like It Hot. As Rosella, she shared scenes with Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Marilyn Monroe. (She played a Marilyn Monroe lookalike on a Bewitched episode in 1964.) She was one of the women in the “upper berth” sequence. Wilder featured her again as Kiki the Cossack in his 1963 film Irma la Douce with Shirley Maclaine and Jack Lemmon. Whitney got no credit for her role in House of Wax with Vincent Price. She also appeared without credit in The Naked and the DeadPocketful of Miracles and Critic’s Choice with Bob Hope and Lucille Ball.

 

After Stark Trek Grace Lee Whitney had parts on The Bold Ones, Cannon and Hart to Hart and in the 1983 television movie The Kid with the 200 IQ with Gary Coleman. Whitney reunited with crewmembers George Takei, Walter Koenig anf Majel Barrett Roddenberry for a 1998 episode of Diagnosis: Murder. In 1998 she put out her autobiography, “The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy.”

 

 

He’s not a regular, but I have to point out that Gary Lockwood, who played Lt. Cmdr. Gary Mitchell in “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” was also in the Stanley Kubrick science fiction masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. That episode also featured Sally Kellerman as Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, the ship’s psychiatrist. Yvonne Craig, who played Batgirl on the Batman TV series, painted herself green as a psychotic Orion slave girl. Julie Newmar, Batman’s Catwoman, was a spoiled queen who would only let McCoy touch her. Diana Muldaur showed blinding jealousy. Terri Garr stepped out of her Hootenanny go-go boots to take up with Gary Seven. Don Marshall stepped off the “Galileo 7” and materialized on Land of the Giants. Susan Oliver, who played Vena in “The Cage,” was the fourth woman to fly a single-engine aircraft solo across the Atlantic Ocean, piloting her own Aero Commander 200 in 1967. She was the second to fly one from New York City. She did all the usual TV shows of the sixties and later became a director, shooting an episode of M*A*S*H and its sequel, Trapper John, M.D. Oliver’s last movie appearance was in a 1988 episode of Freddy’s Nightmares. Michael J. Pollard and Kim Darby energized the acting with their one youthful appearance.

As a weekly series that was based somewhere out of this world, Star Trek was free to make social commentary and incorporate topical references. The show was a product of its time and writers used it as a vehicle to explore racial issues, diplomatic failures and the war in Vietnam. Kirk and Uhura shared the first inter-racial kiss on prime time TV. The series also featured interspecies intermingling. The new movie promises to be dark, not too dark, but enough to reflect where society is today. And where would society be today without Star Trek? As William Shatner pointed out on the History Channel’s How William Shatner Changed the WorldStar Trek influenced technology, space travel, social mores and popular music (Captain Kirk is mentioned in “99 Luftballoons,” as well as countless other songs that reference the show.) Star Trek’s communicators influenced the design of the cell phone. Dr. McCoy’s medical bay and hypo preceded today’s wellness machines.

In “Tomorrow is Yesterday,” a black star sends the Enterprise plunging through space, out of control, back to earth in the 1960s to be identified as a UFO. Star Trek writers brought possibilities to the audience that opened their minds. The series featured an award-winning amoeba. Aliens built cities in the clouds. Spock’s anatomical mysteries were explained by his green blood. The Federation space militia had great makeup but shoddy uniforms. Dr. McCoy can rip off the sleeves without breaking a fingernail to administer a hypo shot. Punch Kirk on the right side of his mouth and his shirt rips, revealing a well-oiled chest.

Yes, it’s cheesy. Yes, you can fly a Romulan Bird of Prey through the story holes. But you can’t deny its charm and relative sophistication. Star Trek only lasted three seasons but it spawned an empire that even the Halkans (from “Mirror Mirror”) can’t predict when it will be overthrown.

 

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