Monday, September 11, 2006

40 Years of Celebration

Going boldly where no man had gone before, Gene Roddenberry's cult tv show, Star Trek TOS, debuted in September 1966 and reflected an era of optimistic space travel which people love. Star Trek TOS has thrilled us with 79 cosmic adventures. Set in the 23rd century, the classic series has regaled us with the intergalactic voyages of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC 1701 on her five-year mission exploring the outer regions of federation space and beyond. Captain Kirk's USS Enterprise has encountered strange new alien life forms on its journeys with Klingons, Vulcans, Romulans, Tribbles and Khan Noonian Singh introducing himself in Space Seed.

The Enterprise crew made history on tv when they paved the way as front runners in multiculturalism: Most Trek fans remember Asian Helm Officer, Hikaru Sulu played by George Takei who made Captain of the Excelsior by Star Trek VI in The Undiscovered Country stardate 9521.6. Sulu can pilot anything although sometimes he goofs up by forgetting to disengage the USS Enterprise parking brake! He is good friends with Chekov and has a keen interest in old guns and fencing. The beautiful, technically minded, Communications Officer is African-American Nyota Uhura played by Nichelle Nichols who sits beside Mr Spock and Captain Kirk. She rises to the rank of commander in the Star Trek movies. Uhura is a role model for women across the globe. For over 40 years, she has succeeded to prove to audiences worldwide that women are as capable as men in their jobs. Uhura means "freedom" in Swahii. She is a talented singer, dancer, musician and loves tribbles. Uhura's best friends are Scotty, Chekov and Sulu. She is by no means a pushover and can be tough with men and women.

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Everybody knows the legendary Chief Engineer Scotsman, Montgomery Scott played by James Doohan. His nickname is "Scotty." The Master Engineer's abilities have saved the USS Enterprise on countless occasions because the guy uses his wits to chill the captain out and never loses his cool when the ship is about to blow up with only moments to spare. Scotty seems to have the uncanny ability to retrieve energy from the ships jaded engines just when the captain needs warp drive to turn tail and run from the baddies. Scottys favourite drink is Scotch Whiskey and he likes to read technical manuals to exercise his brain. Science Officer, Spock played by Leonard Nimoy is arguably the real star of the show and is still loved by the fans worldwide. He plays the Vulcan lyre and is renowned for his inspirational use of logic, green blood, pointy ears, vulcan mindmelds and sneaky neck pinch.

I love Spock and McCoys arguments because they're so entertaining. Lets not forget the emotionally unstable Chief Medical Officer, Leonard "Bones" McCoy played by DeForest Kelley who is the ships doctor and Spocks friendly adversary. He is also Kirks good friend. Bones is essentially a cynic with a good heart who keeps Kirk and Spock on the straight and narrow path when their egoes take off. He hates transporters and can't stand it when Spock logically ignores his flawed feeling friends, so he constantly reminds him that hes half human. I'm a doctor not a moonshuttle conductor!

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Lastly we come to our heroic space warrior, Captain James T. Kirk played by William Shatner. Kirk likes to fire phasers first and ask questions later. He is promoted to admiral when Star Trek the motion picture hits the cinemas stardate 7412.6 but is subsequently demoted to captain by the Voyage Home on stardate 8390. Why you ask? Because Kirk and the Enterprise crew rescued Mr Spock from that burning fire ball of a Genesis planet. Lets face it William Shatners acting is exaggerated but its widely accepted, his special talent combined with the compadres gave the series much of its charm.

Kirk's best friends are Spock and McCoy and his son David was conceived with Carol Marcus. David was slain on the orders of Lord Kruge in Star Trek III, The Search for Spock on stardate 8210.3 Captain Kirk is motivated by challenge and is extremely proficient in hand to hand combat. Star Trek TOS spawned such a following that it continues to sell Starfleet uniforms, DVDs, Trek Merchandise and toys, with Books, Tricorders, Communicators, and convention bookings making warpspeed record sales to this very day. Captain James T. Kirk has broken the prime directive on several occasions with General Order One but the guy has a great excuse. Get the USS Enterprise to safety and end oppression in the galaxy which makes him a Starfleet hero.

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Twenty years later after Gene Roddenberry's classic STAR TREK The Original Series, star trek fans witnessed a new beginning with Star Trek THE NEXT GENERATION. Its interstellar adventures established Captain Jean-Luc Picard played by Patrick Stewart, firmly in the driving seat. His brand new Starfleet crew took to their stations aboard the Galaxy class USS Enterprise NCC 1701-D.

This phenomenally successful spin off created by Roddenberry began airing in 1987 and ran for seven seasons until 1994. Although Mr Roddenberry was actively involved in the shows early production, he soon stepped back to a more supervisory role leaving day to day operations in the hands of Executive Producer, Rick Berman. The TNG Enterprise crew has a Klingon called Worf played by Michael Dorn. He is the first Klingon Warrior to serve the Federation and takes over as Chief of Security after Tasha Yars death.

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In 1991 it was decided by Paramount executives to estabish a show that would not run with a starship roaming the galaxy. Alot of speculation ran wild about the premise at the time. Some suggested using the Klingon Empire and I remember being excited about this prospect. Sadly makeup costs ruled this totally off the drawing board. Sulu's starship idea was shelved too. In the end Rick Berman and Michael decided to set the new series on a starbase and it was called Deep Space Nine. Gene Roddenberry died on 26th October, 1991. His death was a shock for us all. Genes vision of Star Trek lives on but Deep Space Nine is undoubtedly the darkest and grittest of all the Star Trek series. The starbase has a diverse culture and staff who don't always agree with each other.

I like how the show is plagued with conflict driven characters who visit the space station and threaten federation life in the "wild west frontier" which makes for interesting story arcs and interplay between the characters. Deep Space Nine orbits Bajor, a wartorn non federation world and as luck would have it, Starfleets interest peeks up when a stable wormhole is discovered nearby. A number of people travel through the starbase when the wormhole enables lucrative trade and exploration routes to be set up with the builders of the station, the Cardassians, soon regretting their decision to abandon it. When Worf joins the show in "the way of the warrior" and the threat of an evil empire looms in the distance with the Dominion on the other side of the wormhole, the Klingons breakout the bat'leths and end their alliance with the Federation of planets. What follows is the most spectacular space battle ever seen in Star Trek history......including the movies. Eat your hearts out trek fans.

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Captain Kathryn Janeway, Star Trek's very first female captain has thrilled us too. In Voyager's quest for survival, Janeway has more than once put her ship and her crew in danger. The Captain was the perfect Ahabe in the "Year of Hell" sacrificing half her crew and ship in a kamikaze bid against the Krenim Temporal Timeship. Star Trek Voyager was launched in 2371 and is the fourth spin-off for the Star Trek franchise. The USS Voyager NCC-74656 is propelled into the Delta Quadrant by a powerful force that kills half her crew. Captain Janeway is forced to make a pact with outlaws.

Voyagers crew unites with a group of Maquis rebels to increase the odds of returning home from the far-flung Delta Quadrant. Tensions increase when Starfleet Security Officer Tuvok, disappears aboard a vessel commandeered by a band of renegade Federation officers. The U.S.S. Voyager, under the guidance of Captain Kathryn Janeway is dispatched to find him. During hot pursuit, both ships are mysteriously transported to the Delta Quadrant, 70,000 light years away. Now the only hope of getting back to Earth is an unlikely collaboration between the two crews.

" This is one year I'd like to forget" A firm haggard Janeway, states rather gloomily.

We've watched transporter accidents, Orion Slave Women, Vidiian raiders who snatch body parts and leave you to take your chances, kidnappings, superior emergency medical holograms, alien race encounters, time travel, war-like Kazon, beserk computers, females that drain the life out of humans in order to propagate their species,(lovely lot they were!) red alert-all hands man your battle stations! technology thieves/criminals from the past and the future, attempting and obtaining technology for their own ill gotten gains.

"History records that Picard destroyed the Tox Uthat" replied one of two mournful, weird shiney, Vorgon criminals from the future. The Tox Uthat was a quantum phase inhibitor with the ability to halt all nuclear reaction within a star.

Lets not forget Q, the omnipotent entity and Captain Picards nemesis, who troubles the USS Enterprise NCC 1701-D with his strange sense of humor and jokes, often causing them harm in the process. Q appears in many TNG episodes Voyager and DS9 episodes. He has a vague passing regard in humans stating openly, he is a Klingon at heart gifted with an I.Q. of 2005. Q is a constant thorn in Picard's side who appears out of no-where from the Q continuum. Captain Picard used to get so worked up about it which made for very entertaining watching.

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"What'd you want Q" demands a Picard rudely.
" State your business and get on with it!"

John De Lancie shared a moment he had with Gene Roddenberry, (Creator of Star Trek) that I watched on dvd. Gene approached John and heaped praise on the actor.

"You know, you make my lines sound so much better than they read from script" said G. R. but as I've got to know Gene from afar at the conventions and watching Star Trek dvds, you can count on one thing. Gene spoke softly in his kind fatherly gentle voice.

So John De Lancie answered -
-Well I'm glad so who are you?

" I'm Gene Roddenberry."

"So you must be the writer" replied John innocently.

John asked someone later,
" Well, who is Gene Roddenberry?"

-He's the creator of Star Trek.-

You Goofed up John! Big Style, but we forgive you!

Star Trek has reached such heights that during the reign of U.S. President Gerald Ford, Trekkies of the time sent a flood of letters in. The official line was that the shuttle was going to be named after the world war II carrier Enterprise anyway, but it was really the Star Trek Fans determination that made it so.

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Paramount Pictures

Gene Roddenberry is the creator of Star Trek. Gene campaigned for Star Trek, he mixed with the fans, writers, he attended conventions and made speeches, in sept 1966 he aired Star Trek TOS pilot "where no man" at the Sci-fi convention in Cleveland.

It was his hope to gain publicity and gauge whether people liked it. Isaac Asimov was there and has always been a supporter of the show. The audience loved the pilot and gave a standing ovation. Star Trek made its debut on Thursday, Sept., 8th 1966 at 8.30pm. Gene made a lot of people happy and he got a standing ovation from the fans.

"Star Trek speaks to some basic human needs that there is a tomorrow. It's not all going to be over with a big flash and a bomb. The human race is improving, we have things to be proud of as humans. No astronauts, ancient astronauts did not build the pyramids, human beings did, because we are clever and work hard and Star Trek is about those things" -Gene Roddenberry.

Gene Roddenberry saved Star Trek, while NBC were getting ready to cancel it during the first season. He did this by rallying well known sci-fi writers. Harlan Ellison (sci-fi writer) spearheaded the first letter writing campaign sending out 5000 letters using Genes established committee.

The committee of sci-fi notables included Ellison, Robert Bloch, Theodore Sturgeon, Poul Anderson, Lester Del Rey and Philip Jose Farmer. In the second season Star trek was facing the axe again. Gene, armed with his letterhead of names from the previous campaign, hired Bjo and John Trimble. (Well known science fiction fans!)

It was their job to put together a campaign, using the writing committee, to convince sci-fi fans to write letters to NBC and Paramount. When the Studio and the Network received 75000 letters pleading that Star Trek continue, it knocked them for six and hit the news of the time. NBC executives were buried in a mountain of mail, I wish I could have seen their faces.

Despite unimpressive Nielsens ratings, which were later proved unreliable, the Original Series lasted for three seasons. Nielsen's Network loser "Star Trek" was still being watched by millions of people every week, years later and 40 years later finding new life in re-runs and syndication television. Star Trek's stories and characters has reached mass cultures across the world with its vision of a hopeful future where people belong and live in peace.

"It's the Human condition to improve and to improve" - Gene Roddenberry.
Thanks to Genes and Majel's hard work, the committee, the Science Fiction writers, The Fans, Film Crew, Production Staff, The Actors, Paramount/Viacom/CBS and everyone who works on the lot. Star Trek wouldn't be what it is today.

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Paramount Pictures

Congratulations! I guess you deserve a prize for reading all of this! Live Long and Prosper! Trekkers.

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