3 September 2005 | silverscreen888
Like Forbidden Planet, a Most-Copied Masterpiece; Still the Standard in Sci-Fi
The science fiction series "Star Trek", called TOS (The Original Series) since its 1966-1969 three-season run on NBC-TV because there have been four other "Star Trek" series, has been made the biggest success of any re-run series in television history. Its re-run profits have been misused, in my view, by those who had nothing to do with the series' creation to set up the Fox Networl; in addition, novels of an authorized and of independent versions have been allowed to be published, many products have been created and sold, ranging from die-cut models to calendars, and a series of more than half-a dozen films have been made as features. But the nature of the series I argue has neither been understood not defined sufficiently in all the decades since its too-early demise and astonishing later career. The series was the product of an intelligent republican postmodernist; his central character for a 2200's starship-based series of adventure was an Iowa born activist named James Tiberius Kirk. Roddenberry's characters talked about individual development but generally confuted emergency ethics (altruism) with real-space-time ethics; and more than a dozen times, his central character was involved in actions a starship captain should not have assigned himself to carry out. The series' main creator, Gene Roddenberry, despite being a veteran both of military and police department experience, also frequently neglected or somewhat mishandled virtually all the details of physical importance to such a series--such as ship's equipment, duty assignments, defensive formations, weaponry, computers, transport, language and translation, color-coding, insigniae, Academy training, shipboard relief procedures etc.... Yet in spite of thee secondary omissions, the story-lines and plots were so strong in idea-level that above 50+ of 79 episodes in my estimation as a writer were above- average dramatic or comedic efforts, A look at the roster of writers and directors employed on "Star Trek" will demonstrate one reason why the show was so lively, emotionally-positive and dramatically compelling. Fine directors were used a number of times; in season two, Marc Daniels shared duties with Joseph Pevney; Vincent Mceveety, Gerd Oswald, Michael O'Herlihy, Gene Nelson, Ralph Senensky, Marvin Chomsky, Robert Sparr and others provided their talents. Writers also contributed story ideas or scripts in more than one case each , such as Jean Lisette Aroeste, Jerome Bixby, Margaret Armen, John D.F. Black, Robert Bloch and Theodore Sturgeon for example. And the series' head writers included Black, D.C. Fontana, Gene Coon, Stephen Carabatsos and Roddenberry. The famous cast was comprised Canadian William Shatner as Kirk, Lonard Nimoy as the half-alien pointed-eared 1st Officer, Spock, Georgia-born De Forest Kelley as the ship's doctor, McCoy, Candian James Doohan as Montgomery Scott, Chief Engineer, George Takei as Lt. Sulu, singer-dancer Nichelle Nichols as Uhura, and Majel Barrett as Nurse Christine Chapel. In pursuit of verisimilitude and an allegorical relationship to the Cold War 1960s, Roddenberry oversaw the elaboration of the Klingon race of aliens, stand-in for Communists, the Vulcan allies, stand-in for the British, and the Romulans, a Vulcan offshoot who were stand-ins for the Germans and Chinese. There are so many important story ideas on "Star Trek" TOS, especially when the series is compared to mere adventure programs of the same period, it is difficult to discern a pattern or to nominate the most worthy, separating the plot from its produced episode. The strongest included "Return to Tomorrow", "City On the Edge of Forever", "Balance of Terror", "This Side of Paradise", "Bread and Circuses", "Mirror, Mirror", "A Piece of the Action", "The Cloud Minders", "All Our Yesterdays", "Mudd's Women", "A Taste of Armageddon" and "The Enemy Within". Recurring themes included god-machines, the power and mystery of sex, humans' ingenuity, the need for self-discipline, the dangers of superhuman powers, the need for a government of sane people, the limits of logic and the problems of emotional extremity, loyalty to a charismatic leader, etc. If Spock was Eliot Ness in alien makeup, a normative human, the rest as depicted came across as promising humans with minor flaws that only got in their way under extreme circumstances. This was a show about the Federation--the flawed U.S. bureaucracy, and Starfleet Command-- the US Air Force and Navy, with details of the civilization of the future kept intentionally vague under such notions as "speaking basic English', the Prime Directive of non-interference being in force and the crew never visiting Earth, etc;, Yhe really questionable elements of the show were the universal translator device, the molecular-disassembly and reassembly "transporter" device and the mysterious "energy shields". But in spite of technical lapses and postmodernist philosophy, the viewers responded to the series' many positive elements--the multiracial crew getting along and functioning bravely under adverse circumstances, the exciting plots, and the sense of a human future of all-but-unlimited potential-- qualities very often entirely missing from other series of the same era. Many of the series' episodes are worth viewing, by my lights as a writer, many times over. That is the series' legacy, I suggest--that it spoke for hope, tolerance and self-assertion, albeit imperfectly, at a time when angst and doubt were all-but-universal on the fictional screens of the United States.