TREK TRIVIA

In hon­our of its 50th an­niver­sary, here are a hand­ful of facts you might not know about cult TV series

Winnipeg Free Press - Section D - - LATITUDE -

FOR any­one lucky enough to have been alive at the time, 1966 was a year to re­mem­ber. It was a time when race ri­ots and an­ti­war protests swept the United States, the Au­to­mated Teller Ma­chine (ATM) made its de­but, the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens won their sev­enth Stan­ley Cup in 11 years, and the Bea­tles per­formed their fi­nal pub­lic con­certs.

But it was also a time when hu­man be­ings be­gan a quest to go where no man has gone be­fore, be­cause 50 years ago this past week, on Sept. 8, 1966, the Star­ship En­ter­prise and its iconic crew flew into our liv­ing rooms for the first time, and noth­ing has been the same since.

The orig­i­nal Star Trek TV series ran for only three years and was can­celled af­ter just 79 episodes, but it be­came a cult clas­sic on syn­di­cated TV and to­day it is noth­ing less than a cul­tural phe­nom­e­non, adored world­wide by ob­sessed fans known as “Trekkies” or “Trekkers.”

The 13th film in the fran­chise, Star Trek Beyond, opened last month and is do­ing big busi­ness at the box of­fice, es­pe­cially over­seas where it beamed up $36.4 mil­lion last week­end, in­clud­ing $30.7 mil­lion at 6,259 lo­ca­tions in China.

In Jan­uary, a brand new 13-episode TV series, Star Trek: Dis­cov­ery, set 10 years be­fore the events of the orig­i­nal 50-year-old show, is sched­uled to pre­mière on CBS.

But you al­ready knew that, right? We’ll bet you even knew the U.S.S. En­ter­prise had a six-lane bowl­ing al­ley on board? What? You didn’t know that? Well, in a bid to get you up to warp speed on the 50th an­niver­sary, here are the Top Five Things You Didn’t Know About Star Trek:

5) She Had a Dream —

The cast­ing of Nichelle Ni­chols as the beau­ti­ful and brainy Lt. Uhura, chief com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer on the En­ter­prise, was a mile­stone in tele­vi­sion his­tory. It was the first time North Amer­i­can TV view­ers were able to watch a black fe­male char­ac­ter who wasn’t a mere stereo­type. Ni­chols’ por­trayal of Uhura was a high­light of the orig­i­nal series and the first six Star Trek films. Which makes it hard to be­lieve she gave se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion to jump­ing ship af­ter the first sea­son. Ac­cord­ing to The Wash­ing­ton Post and a host of on­line sites, once the first sea­son wrapped, Ni­chols de­cided it was time to leave the show and try her hand at a ca­reer she’d long dreamed of — be­ing a Broad­way singer. “I was of­fered a role on Broad­way,” the star re­cently wrote on Red­dit. “I was a singer long be­fore I was an ac­tress, and Broad­way was al­ways a dream to me. I was ready to leave Star Trek and pur­sue what I’d al­ways wanted to do.” For­tu­nately, a huge Star Trek fan, one of the world’s first Trekkies, was able to change her mind at the last minute. We’re talk­ing about leg­endary 1960s ac­tivist Martin Luther King Jr. Re­calls Ni­chols: “Dr. Martin Luther King, quite some time af­ter I’d first met him, ap­proached me and said some­thing along the lines of ‘Nichelle, whether you like it or not, you have be­come a sym­bol. If you leave, they can re­place you with a blond-haired white girl, and it will be like you were never there. What you’ve ac­com­plished, for all of us, will only be real if you stay.’ That got me think­ing about how it would look for fans of colour around the coun­try if they saw me leave. I saw that this was big­ger than just me.” Thank­fully, with Uhura on board, the En­ter­prise con­tin­ued “hail­ing on all fre­quen­cies.”

4) We Love You, Lucy —

If you think some of the sto­ries on Star Trek were far-fetched, the true tale of the show’s brush with death be­fore hit­ting the air will have your head spin­ning. Back in 1964, ac­cord­ing to Trek-lov­ing web­sites, cre­ator Gene Rod­den­berry found a home for his new sci-fi series at De­silu Pro­duc­tions, the stu­dio founded in 1951 by the famed co­me­dian Lu­cille Ball and her hus­band, Cuban ban­dleader Desi Ar­naz. The cou­ple had be­come su­per­stars in the 1950s with their iconic sit­com I Love Lucy. By 1964, the pair were di­vorced and flame-haired Ball be­came sole owner of the stu­dio, mak­ing her the most pow­er­ful woman in tele­vi­sion. For­tu­nately for Rod­den­berry, Ball was a staunch sup­porter of Star Trek, even though she was a bit fuzzy on the con­cept. Ac­cord­ing to au­thor Mark Cush­man’s book, These Are the Voy­ages, the famed co­me­dian mis­tak­enly thought it was go­ing to be a show about USO per­form­ers who would travel and visit troops sta­tioned in for­eign coun­tries. She of­ten re­ferred to it as “that South Seas show,” the book notes. As the story goes, in 1965, Rod­den­berry pro­duced the orig­i­nal pi­lot, The Cage, but it was re­jected by the net­work, sup­pos­edly be­cause it was too cere­bral. But Ball flexed her mus­cle and per­suaded the net­work to give the show a sec­ond chance, so Rod­den­berry over­hauled the cast, and pro­duced a sec­ond pi­lot, Where No Man Has Gone Be­fore, which was given the thumbs-up. Ac­cord­ing to Cush­man, while crews filmed the sec­ond pi­lot, the cam­era tracks be­came gummed up with the “dust” they’d used for the planet’s sur­face; sup­pos­edly Ball her­self grabbed a broom and swept the tracks clean. Which is why one stu­dio ex­ec­u­tive is quoted in the book as say­ing: “If it were not for Lucy, there would be no Star Trek to­day.” Had it not been for Lucy, that stu­dio would have had some ‘splainin to do.

3) Pucker Up And Make His­tory —

You may be sur­prised to learn that Star Trek was, in fact, what our mother used to call “a kiss­ing show.” What we are talk­ing about here are his­toric kisses. It has long been claimed that the first in­ter­ra­cial kiss be­tween a white man and a black woman on Amer­i­can net­work tele­vi­sion came in a Sea­son 3 episode called Plato’s Stepchil­dren, which aired on Nov. 22, 1968, when Capt. Kirk (William Shat­ner) locked lips with Lt. Uhura. That is true. Sort of. The episode in­volved the crew of the En­ter­prise be­ing turned into the un­will­ing slaves of pow­er­ful be­ings called “Pla­to­ni­ans,” who wielded the power of telekine­sis and used their su­per-brains to turn the crew into their pup­pets, the high­light be­ing forc­ing Kirk and Uhura to swap spit, so to speak. Dur­ing those trou­bled times, the “telekine­sis” an­gle made the con­tro­ver­sial kiss more palat­able for queasy stu­dio ex­ec­u­tives. Ni­chols has re­called: “Bill shook me and hissed men­ac­ingly in his best ham-fisted Kirkian stac­cato de­liv­ery, ‘I! Won’t! Kiss! You! I! Won’t! Kiss! You!’” Fan sites note the his­toric kiss was orig­i­nally sup­posed to fea­ture Mr. Spock (Leonard Ni­moy), but ap­par­ently Shat­ner ve­toed that plan. “Bill Shat­ner saw what was go­ing on,” Ni­chols has said. “And he said, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa. If any­body is gonna get to kiss Lieu­tenant Uhura it’s gonna be me.’ And he had the whole thing changed so the first in­ter­ra­cial kiss was Lieu­tenant Uhura and Cap­tain Kirk.” In re­al­ity, most ex­perts say North Amer­i­can TV’s first in­ter­ra­cial kiss came months ear­lier, Dec. 11, 1967, when Nancy Si­na­tra got a friendly peck on the cheek from Sammy Davis Jr. on her spe­cial called Movin’ With Nancy. And Bri­tish TV had al­ready beaten every­one to the punch. But Star Trek had the first scripted kiss, so they went where al­most no one had gone be­fore, and that’s pretty cool, too.

2) Scotty Gave It All He Had, Cap­tain —

On the TV show, Chief En­gi­neer Mont­gomery (Scotty) Scott was a hero, fre­quently sav­ing the En­ter­prise and its crew with his 11th-hour hero­ics in the star­ship’s en­gine room. In real life, the ac­tor who por­trayed him, Van­cou­ver-born James Doohan, was an even big­ger hero. Doohan joined the Royal Cana­dian Ar­tillery at the be­gin­ning of the Sec­ond World War and be­came a lieu­tenant in the 14th Field Ar­tillery Reg­i­ment of the 3rd Cana­dian In­fantry Di­vi­sion. He was one of the first Cana­di­ans to land on Juno Beach on D-Day dur­ing the Al­lied in­va­sion of Nor­mandy. Ac­cord­ing to on­line re­ports, he was hit by ma­chine-gun fire, tak­ing four rounds in one leg, one in the chest and one through his right mid­dle finger. Re­ports vary on whether he was hit by Ger­man fire or rounds fired by a ner­vous Cana­dian sen­try. Amaz­ingly, the bul­let to the chest, which could have been fa­tal, was stopped by a metal cig­a­rette case, re­port­edly given to him by his brother. His right mid­dle finger had to be am­pu­tated, a fact he con­cealed dur­ing his years on Star Trek, when a stand-in was re­port­edly used for close-up shots. He even braved new fron­tiers in death. On May, 22, 2012, some of Doohan’s cre­mated re­mains were launched into space from Cape Canaveral in­side a shiny can­is­ter the size of a tube of lip­stick. His fam­ily heeded his fi­nal wish and paid to have a gram of ashes fer­ried into or­bit on a pri­vately owned rocket. For the record, he never ut­tered his fa­mous catch­phrase — “I’m givin’ her all she’s got, cap­tain!” — in that ex­act form in the shows or films. The clos­est he came was dur­ing a Sea­son 2 episode in which he grunts: “Giv­ing them all we got.” Which he did his en­tire life.

1) “Beam Me Up, Scotty!” —

Re­mem­ber that thrilling episode? The one where Kirk is trapped on the scary alien planet, slaps his com­mu­ni­ca­tor and or­ders Scotty to trans­port him back to the En­ter­prise with this iconic catch­phrase: “Beam me up, Scotty!” Re­mem­ber that? Well, if you do, you were likely un­der the in­flu­ence of some of those drugs that were pop­u­lar back in the ’60s. That’s be­cause, as it turns out, Kirk never said those ex­act words. Se­ri­ously, the famed phrase is ir­re­vo­ca­bly linked with the orig­i­nal show and its spinoff movies, along with be­ing a cor­ner­stone of pop­u­lar cul­ture, even though it has never been ut­tered in that form in any Star Trek TV episode or movie. You think we’re kid­ding, but we’re not. It turns out Shat­ner said things that were sim­i­lar, but dif­fer­ent. In var­i­ous episodes, the cru­sad­ing cap­tain of the En­ter­prise said, “Scotty, beam us up” or “Beam us up, Mr. Scott” or “Three to beam up” or “Beam them out of there, Scotty,” but never “Beam me up, Scotty!” Ap­par­ently the phe­nom­e­non of mis­quoted catch­phrases is more com­mon than you think. For in­stance, Jack Webb’s char­ac­ter, Joe Fri­day, on the iconic Drag­net series never said, “Just the facts, ma’am.” And Sher­lock Homes never ut­tered, “El­e­men­tary, my dear Wat­son.” Ac­cord­ing to TV.Tropes.org, the ac­tual phrase comes from a fa­mous bumper sticker: “Beam me up, Scotty, there’s no in­tel­li­gent life on this planet.” The only time Shat­ner said those words was in the au­dio­book ver­sion of his 1995 novel, The Ashes of Eden. In a 2015 ar­ti­cle in The At­lantic, writer Maria Kon­nikova noted mis­quo­ta­tions are of­ten re­mem­bered be­cause they are catchier than the orig­i­nal quote. “The ad­just­ments are mi­nor ones,” she wrote. “They aren’t bla­tant mis­quo­ta­tions so much as at­tempts to, on some level, make things sound the way they should sound. These mis­quotes are in the cat­e­gory of, ‘Right, that’s what I wanted to say, and maybe even how I wanted to say it.’”

What we’re try­ing to say is all you Trekkies (or Trekkers) know more about your beloved show now than you did at the start of this col­umn. Even if you don’t, it doesn’t mat­ter, be­cause 50 years af­ter its jour­ney be­gan, Star Trek con­tin­ues to live long and pros­per.

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