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Saturday, September 08, 2012

Happy Birthday, Star Trek!

This morning I went to Google to look up something and found a Star Trek cartoon on it.  Of course! It was the 46th anniversary of the show. A click on the picture took me to a Google search on various aspects of the show, but I didn't have time to check those out, so will look at them later.

I already loved science fiction when I discovered this series. I had plundered my sister's shelves ad borrowed what I could find from the school library(which was not very good, alas; I had to go to the State Library for my research materials).

Looking back at it, the special effects were not very special; it had a budget similar in TV terms to my own library budget. The set artists had to scrounge in the Mission Impossible bins for stuff they coud spray paint silver for futuristic statuary and such and I think Dr McCoy's equipment was a set of salt and pepper shakers. Creatures were people in costumes, pretty, much like the ones in Doctor Who.

What it did have, like Doctor Who, was top-class writers, some of whom had been famous in the golden age of SF. We're talking here about Robert Bloch, Theodore Sturgeon, Jerome Bixby, Harlan Ellison(who, admittedly, was furious at the rewrite of his episode) and others whose names have escaped my memory for the moment. Isaac Asimov never wrote an episode, but liked Star Trek and said so. Larry Niven wrote an episode of the animated series, though he later decided he didn't want to be involved with Trek after all and withdrew his Kzinti and Slavers from the universe. There was also "Arena", an episode based on a story by Fredric Brown, a golden-age writer.

David Gerrold, who later became a well-known SF novelist, made his first sale with "The Trouble With Tribbles", which nearly won him a Hugo - the winner by about five votes was Harlan Ellison, for that episode which was totally rewritten. Later, both of them wrote for Babylon Five, and Harlan Ellison became story editor for that series, as well as playing some walk-on roles. Dorothy Fontana, who had written some of Star Trek's better episodes and been story editor, also wrote for B5.

I loved the series and still do.  It was intelligently written and you could care about the characters. I liked Kirk precisely because, in the words of one of his former lovers, "he was never a boy scout". He was a con artist supreme, capable of persuading the gangster rulers of a planet that he was a bigger gangster than they were,  of pretending to be the captain of a ship where promotion came though murder, of picking a Nazi's pocket, of inventing an explosive that didn't exist, but persuading the enemy it did. Spock was,admittedly, my favourite, not only because he was smart - actually, the captain could manipulate him - but because of that gorgeous velvety voice. McCoy was their conscience, but could also be funny and I was absolutely with him on the idea that it was not a good idea to let yourself be pulled apart and reassembled in the transporter! Uhura might say,"Captain,I'm frightened," but then she got on with the task at hand, however dangerous, and tiny as she was, she could throw a big hulking male when she needed to.

And it's interesting how many writers got their start in fan fiction. Lois McMaster Bujold says that her Cordelia Naismith and Aral Vorkosigan started life in a fan story as a red-haired Federation officer and a Klingon. I have some fanzines with stories by the likes of Phyllis Ann Karr and Diane Duane. In Australia there are plenty of us who wrote a lot of fan fiction before we made our first sales. I think I wrote about 150 fan stories in my time, most of them in the Star Trek universe, and there's a scene in Wolfborn with a very silly unicorn of a shaggy pony variety which I first created for a series of fan stories; Maggie the Shetland unicorn embarrassed poor Pavel Chekhov, who was trying to get romantic, long before one of her kin, the pony Dapple, turned out to be a unicorn and embarrassed my hero Etienne's best friend Armand in the Otherworld. Just take a look through the fanzines produced back in the days when we had Gene Roddenberry's permission to do them and you'll probably see the names of some writers you know and like. We learned to write short stories and we got plenty of feedback from readers, believe me.

Here's a toast to Gene Roddenberry and his creation!


TG said...

I loved the Star Trek Google doodle! I'm a fan of the series, too. Many of the episodes, particularly from the first season, hold up incredibly well today and Uhura was a very important figure to my mother when she was growing up.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Amazing how many people did find Uhura important. Whoopi Goldberg was inspired by her to become an actress, and after Star Trek was over Nichelle Nicholls was involved in the space program, recruiting women and minorities to become astronauts. Okay, that was Nichelle, not Uhura, but it was because of the role she had played that she was able to do it, just as Tom Hanks managed to persuade the US government to keep up the funding for the space program where the real astronauts couldn't. ;-) Anyway, Uhura was a great, strong character, I don't care how many times she said,"Captain, I'm frightened."

She was one of my own favourites.

Welcome to my blog, TG.