Sunday, March 02, 2008

Gene Roddenberry




In 1964, Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek concept was born aboard the starship USS Yorktown exploring the Final Frontier commanded by Robert April, the logical female commander "Number One," navigator Jose Tyler, Captains Yeoman J. M. Colt, an elderly Dr Philip Boyce who drank during duty calls with a half human, green blooded alien, Mr Spock from the red planet Vulcania. Star Trek was in its infancy with its creator Gene Roddenberry shopping his idea to several studios. MGM's mindset that Science Fiction as a genre would'nt have mass appeal to a 1960's audience proved to be an expensive mistake which paved the way for Desilu Studios who were impressed with Gene's "Wagon Train to the Stars" concept. Desilu gave him a three year deal to seek out new liforms on new civilisations. I wonder did he charm the corsetry off Lucille Ball? Sorry Readers, I'm being totally illogical now, forgive me. XD

Star Trek stood on its own merits and Gene soon began pitching to the Networks grabbing NBC's interest. Finally Star Trek's pilot episode "The cage," was under way. It must have felt like a huge milestone for them which included significant changes to the USS Yorktown which started with renaming it the USS Enterprise NCC 1701. Jeffrey hunter was cast as Captain Christopher Pike renaming Captain Robert April and Susan Oliver played the green Orion dancing woman "Vina" who dazzled us with her wonderful performances. The rest of the characters adhered to the original format and over nine days the pilot was shot at a cost of $630,000 making it the most expensive in Hollywood history. The only problem was this version of "The cage" was never aired because NBC said it was too "cerebral" What it needed was action and adventure and less geek.

It was recommended that Roddenberry get rid of the guy with the "ears" because his satanic appearance might upset viewers and the frosty No 1 had to go. To the delight of Trek fans today, I want to thank everyone including the NBC executives who didn't give up on the Star Trek dream. Even though it was unheard of NBC re-commissioned a second pilot "Where No Man Has Gone Before," because they liked it at a cost of $330,000 with the rechristened crew of the starship Enterprise NCC-1701..


On Sept 8th 1966 the second pilot "Where No Man has Gone Before," aired with a spiffier Enterprise bridge crew and a new Captain. William Shatner was brought in as James T. Kirk to replace Jeffrey Hunter who chose not return as Captain Pike when NBC's decision to reject the first pilot of "The Cage" broke. Thank God the studio got rid of those dreadful silver s-scanners. They were horrendous and the Enterprise first pilot bridge was terribly drab with its grey color scheme but the idea behind it was to give consoles etc a metallic appearance similar to ocean liners and submarine battle bridges of the time. The viewscreen lost its curves and the bridge crew got new uniforms. Nyota Uhura played by Nichelle Nichols looks lovely in her mini skirt and was always ready with her hailing frequencies open.

You're wondering about the ears aren't you? Spock played by Leonard Nimoy was the only character from the first pilot to survive the editors cut to appear in the second! The pointy eared alien vulcan was saved which made total sence to female fans of the Star Trek TOS who found Mr Spock, "dreamy." How can you fault a character whose geek speak includes "Live Long and Prosper?"

Captain Christopher Pike gave up the big chair to the new captain of the USS Enterprise, Captain James T. Kirk.. Dr "Bones" McCoy aka DeForrest Kelley replaced Dr Piper aka Paul Fix who stood in for a while replacing the elderly Dr Philip Boyce aka John Hoyt in the first pilot. McCoy was famous for his westerns during the 60's and appeared with Leonard Nimoy as a drunken doctor in the episode of the "Virginian" and let him die. XD. Despite pressures of the 1960's George Takei was cast as a Japanese-Filipino Helm Officer playing Mr Sulu and a Russian Tactical Officer was played by Walter Koenig. This was quite a crew in the making and all NBC needed now was the Chief Engineer to fix the the USS Enterprise.

Thats when Jimmy Doohan stepped into the fold and read for the part in his many accents. Jimmy was so good he had executives rolling around on the floor in stitches and got the job straight away. "The writers of Star Trek found out that I read technical journals. And that's how they put the "science about ships" into Scotty's character. Scotty is ninety-nine percent James Doohan and one-percent accent." We see lovely Majel recast again in the character guise of Nurse Chapel as a bleached blond working in Sickbay and bringing Mr Spock soup as he re-couperates later on in the series. After Gene Roddenberry divorced his first wife of 27 years he marries again with Majel Barrett in a traditional Japanese Shinto ceremony on August 6, 1969 and later concieves a son Eugene "Rod" Roddenberry Jr.

Star Trek The Original Series aired for three seasons with relative success as s 79 tv episodic series and then in 1969 died a miserable death. The Tv networks, NBC figured they'd had a lucky escape but they were wrong. Worse again the Nielson electronic black box system had'nt a clue how many were watching the show because their search field parameters were way off base and so Nielson were wrong too. Star Trek simply refused to die because our heroes Captain James T. Kirk, Mr Spock, Dr McCoy, Scotty, Uhura, Nurse Chapel, Sulu Chekov and the rest of the starship U.S.S. Enterprise 1701 blazed passionately in the hearts and minds of trek fans everywhere. Star Trek TOS was infectious and soon went into syndication, kept alive by loyal Trekkies, letter writing campaigns, Star Trek conventions and Gene Roddenberry's hopeful vision of the future.

Within a few short years Kirk's starship USS Enterprise had become legendary. Phrases from the show, include Dr McCoys famous emotional outbursts,"I'm a doctor not a bricklayer," "Do something, Spock!" "He's dead Jim."
and Mr Spock's
"Live Long and Prosper," "I am a Scientist doctor, emotions are alien to me."
followed by the good doctors retort "In a pigs eye!"

The budget restrictions ensured that the series was set almost entirely on the starship USS Enterprise 1701, which toured the galaxy fighting Klingons and blowing up Romulan ships with a smiling Captain Kirk extending his hand in peace to new alien home worlds. When the USS Enterprise got into trouble and committed temporal incursions, it was Kirk the lad giving the orders to break the Prime Directive. On a safer note Scotty The Chief Engineer, occasionally operated the transporter pad beaming people and crew up and down from planet surfaces. But it was McCoy who kicked up the biggest fuss when it was his turn to "beam down." He did'nt much care for having his atoms scattered over empty black space to a planet surface but the d-mn machine had to scramble them too and filter them through the Heisenberg Compensators. Scotty's beam cost nothing to film which was a masterstroke because landing a spaceship on a planet was time consuming and expensive.

Its interesting to note Captain Picard never took the personal risks that Kirk faced virtually every day. But Jean Luc did have the Crusher boy's nerdling experiments to contend with which kind of evened up the USS Enterprise-D likelihood of blowing up in space. By 1987 Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek had grown up and while Picard's high tech USS Enterprise NCC 1701-D is a far superior ship in every way, some viewers resisted the idea of families travelling in space with the Crusher boy saving Picard's Enterprise and her adult Crew despite this Star Trek TNG ended with a huge bang and the highest tv ratings in Star Trek history..



Live Long and Prosper Trekkies!

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