50 Live long and pros­per

Star Trek is half a cen­tury old to­day.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By DAVIN ARUL en­ter­tain­ment@thes­tar.com.my

HALF a cen­tury ago, an un­usu­ally shaped ves­sel charted a course that took TV view­ers to places they had never gone be­fore.

To a world in the grip of two wars – Cold and Viet­nam – and still re­cov­er­ing from others, this new se­ries Star

Trek also held out an op­ti­mistic mes­sage for the fu­ture.

Three cen­turies hence, se­ries cre­ator Gene Rod­den­berry sug­gested, mankind would not have blown it­self up. In­stead, we would learn to con­trol our self­ish­ness and ag­gres­sion ( after some close calls with Ar­maged­don), ma­tur­ing as an in­clu­sive civil­i­sa­tion to the point that Earth could take its place as a prin­ci­pal part­ner in a league of worlds – the United Fed­er­a­tion of Plan­ets.

Rod­den­berry’s vi­sion of a bright, shin­ing fu­ture was pos­si­bly some­thing ev­ery­one needed at a time when most peo­ple’s great­est fear was look­ing out the win­dow and see­ing a gi­ant mush­room cloud blos­som­ing not too far away. ( Granted, it’s not just his vi­sion; nu­mer­ous others, es­pe­cially long- serv­ing story ed­i­tor DC Fon­tana, helped shape it.) More than a hope­ful look past dayto- day con­cerns, Star Trek also of­fered great es­capism: high ad­ven­ture, drama, sus­pense, ac­tion, ro­mance, com­edy ( some of it un­in­ten­tional), and mind- bend­ing tech­nol­ogy. And what about all those far- out con­cepts? To name just a few: a space amoeba 17,000 kilo­me­tres across; the Guardian of For­ever, a por­tal to any mo­ment in time; crea­tures made of liv­ing rock; gi­ant planet- de­stroy­ing dooms­day ma­chines; and among a myr­iad of ex­trater­res­tri­als, alien be­ings with im­mense men­tal pow­ers who can force Vul­cans to dance the fla­menco. Yes, that re­ally hap­pened ( see: Plato’s Stepchil­dren). It was the Swing­ing Six­ties Six­ties, after all all, and Star Trek also had some mom ments of supreme sillin ness and high camp to gog with all its tho ought- pro­voki ng, cere­bral con ntent. Oh,O and Tri ib­bles. Let’s not for­get the Trib bbles. For all that Star Trek hadd to of­fer, though, no ot nearly enough pe eo­ple watched it at the time. The se­ries was saved from can­cel­la­tion for low rat­ings after its sec­ond sea­son by a fren­zied fan cam­paign. But typ­i­cal net­work bril­liance – like con­sign­ing the show to a rat­ings “dead zone” on Fri­day nights – and some pretty dodgy episodes in its fi­nal year ended the five- year mis­sion quite early and un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously, in 1969. But Star Trek sim­ply would not die. The cre­ators, the ac­tors, the fans, con­tin­ued to fan the flames, keep­ing in­ter­est and de­mand high, and even­tu­ally giv­ing rise to hun­dreds of books and comics, six TV se­ries ( with a sev­enth com­ing next year), 13 fea­ture films, dozens of games ( video, board, card, minia­ture), tons of mer­chan­dise, con­ven­tions ... each of these play­ing its part in es­tab­lish­ing a legacy and in­flu­ence un­par­al­leled in pop­u­lar cul­ture.

Yet for all its last­ing and wide- rang­ing in­flu­ence, Star Trek: TOS ( The Orig­i­nal Se­ries) was far from per­fect.

Rod­den­berry and his col­lab­o­ra­tors made use of the science fic­tion set­ting to tell so­cially rel­e­vant sto­ries that would not have been pos­si­ble in a more down- to- earth set­ting, but some of the al­le­gory was so heavy- handed as to ren­der some episodes al­most un­watch­able in these cyn­i­cal times.

And some sto­ries were just plain silly – we all have our pet hates, and the in­fa­mous Spock’s Brain episode is high on many “worst of” lists, though per­son­ally, it’s The Way To Eden that trumps them all.

It was ap­par­ently quite a mi­nor mir­a­cle get­ting each episode on the air, too, with leg­endary tales of back­stage feuds, clash­ing egos, forced rewrites and cre­ative dis­putes – for the gen­eral idea, check out Galaxy

Quest, the best Star Trek movie ever made ... that is not Star Trek.

And still, with all these chal­lenges, stum­bles and fum­bles, the fact that

Star Trek: TOS went on to es­tab­lish such a vi­brant legacy speaks vol­umes about the many things that it got oh, so right.

There are just too many to cover in this lim­ited space, but let’s take a stab at just the top five in our book.

5. Strange new worlds

Papier mache, scale mod­els, rub­ber masks, ping- pong balls glued to­gether ... the alien worlds, ships and be­ings served up al­most week after week were typ­i­cally mar­vels of creativ­ity forced on view­ers by bud­getary and tech­no­log­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions. Yet we will­ingly bought into them be­cause more

Space: the fi­nal fron­tier. These are the voy­ages of the star­ship En­ter­prise. Its five- year mis­sion: to ex­plore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civil­i­sa­tions, to boldly go where no man has gone be­fore.

of­ten than not, these oth­er­worldly vis­tas were deftly woven into the over­all struc­ture of the show, with the ac­tors’ re­ac­tions, the di­a­logue, the mu­sic and clever cut­aways help­ing to ce­ment the il­lu­sion. While the TOS you get on Net­flix these days is the up­dated ver­sion with CGI, what we saw back in RTM in the late 1960s and on TV3 in the early 1980s was the “raw” form of it with the orig­i­nal, prac­ti­cal ef­fects ... it was cheesy, and we loved it.

4. Open­ing up fron­tiers

Not just in space, but the heart and mind as well. TOS pre­sented tales that chal­lenged our per­spec­tive on a great many sub­jects – prick­ing the con­science, tug­ging at the heart­strings, stir­ring the imag­i­na­tion. From the heart- rend­ing sac­ri­fice of City On The Edge Of For­ever to the prag­matic sac­ri­fices made in Amok Time, to ex­plor­ing the hu­man ca­pac­ity for grasp­ing at ( and then abus­ing) power, to ask­ing early ques­tions about the pit­falls of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence ... the am­bi­tion in most episodes of TOS is un­de­ni­able.

3. Such won­der­ful toys

Oh come on. Trans­porter tech­nol­ogy – who wouldn’t want it? TOS made no bones about its won­der­ful tech­nol­ogy. Its char­ac­ters just used the stuff like it was an in­te­gral part of their lives ( and in­deed it was, in the con­text of the set­ting), without dwelling too much on the nuts and bolts of things. Phasers! Warp drive! Med­i­cal de­vices that work – to 20th- cen­tury minds – like magic! Though Dilbert cre­ator Scott Adams noted that Star Trek fails to take into ac­count the stu­pid­ity and self­ish­ness of the or­di­nary hu­man be­ing. “On Star

Trek, the doc­tors have hand­held de­vices that in­stantly close any open­ings in the skin. Imag­ine that sort of de­vice in the hands of your un­scrupu­lous friends. They would sneak up be­hind you and seal your @$$ shut as a prac­ti­cal joke. The de­vices would be sold in nov­elty stores in­stead of med­i­cal out­lets,” he wrote in The Dilbert

Fu­ture. So, yeah. Imag­ine trans­port­ing your­self to Hawaii for a hol­i­day, and as you step up onto the plat­form you recog­nise your old sec­ondary school neme­sis at the con­trols with a sin­is­ter glint in his eye ... guess it’s a good thing the 23rd cen­tury is a long way off still.

2. the crew

Frankly speak­ing, there’s no crew from any of the Trek se­ries that we’d rather have on a five- year mis­sion than the orig­i­nal “Mag­nif­i­cent Seven” from TOS. The cen­tral tri­umvi­rate of Cap­tain James T. Kirk, Mr Spock and Dr Leonard McCoy yielded a dy­namic that ma­tured so beau­ti­fully in the films. Shar­ing the ad­ven­tures were engi­neer Mont­gomery “Scotty” Scott, com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer Ny­ota Uhura, helms­man Hikaru Sulu and ( from the sec­ond sea­son) nav­i­ga­tor Pavel Chekov. The char­ac­ters are beloved, the orig­i­nal cast – Wil­liam Shatner, Leonard Ni­moy, DeFor­est Kel­ley, James Doohan, Nichelle Ni­chols, Ge­orge Takei and Wal­ter Koenig – noth­ing short of liv­ing le­gends among the fans. Three have passed on, as has Rod­den­berry, leav­ing a huge void in many hearts.


The Vul­can phi­los­o­phy of “in­fi­nite di­ver­sity in in­fi­nite com­bi­na­tions” is best ex­pressed through this di­a­logue between Spock and the telepath Dr Mi­randa Jones ( guest star Diana Mul­daur) from the third sea­son episode Is There In Truth No

Beauty: “The glory of cre­ation is in its in­fi­nite di­ver­sity ...” “... and the ways our dif­fer­ences com­bine to cre­ate mean­ing and beauty.”

A be­lief that it is so much ( in­fin­itely?) bet­ter to ap­pre­ci­ate our dif­fer­ences for be­ing part of the in­fi­nite va­ri­ety of things in the uni­verse, rather than merely tol­er­ate them, IDIC has be­come a cor­ner­stone of the un­der­ly­ing phi­los­o­phy of the en­tire

Star Trek canon, and one of its most in­spi­ra­tional el­e­ments.

Ap­par­ently, how­ever, the mo­tive be­hind it was more com­mer­cial than al­tru­is­tic: Rod­den­berry had this neat de­sign for Vul­can jew­ellery ( the IDIC pin) that was to be of­fered for sale to fans through his mail- or­der busi­ness, and so he needed to work it into a story.

We in­cluded this last anec­dote not so much to pour cold wa­ter on beloved myths. It’s just a re­minder that Star Trek was very much a hu­man en­ter­prise and, like all such ven­tures, rife with hid­den mo­ti­va­tions and con­se­quently, flawed. But the way it has tran­scended the sum of its parts? Per­fec­tion.

Source: Tri­bune News Ser­vice

— pho­tos: Filepics

Key mem­bers of The Orig­i­nal Se­ries in a clas­sic pose ( clock­wise from bot­tom right): Cap­tain James T. Kirk ( Wil­liam shatner), mr spock ( Leonard Ni­moy), Lt Ny­ota uhura ( Nichelle Ni­chols) and Dr Leonard ‘ Bones’ mcCoy ( DeFor­est Kel­ley).

The uss En­ter­prise ... the ship with per­haps the rich­est his­tory and great­est legacy of any in science fic­tion.

In their orig­i­nal TV en­counter, Khan sim­ply could not get Kirk to ac­cept that man should never mess with su­per­man.

The clas­sic episode Bal­ance Of Ter­ror in­tro­duced the war­like ro­mu­lans who, to many en­ter­prise crew mem­bers’ con­cern, looked un­com­fort­ably close to Vul­cans.

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