SPACE, THE FINAL FRONTIER
These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise, its five year mission, to seek out new life and civilizations, and to boldly go where no man has gone before……..
Debuting on September 8th, 1966, an iconic and thought compelling series called Star Trek began with a pilot called “The Cage”, starring Jeffery Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike, and Leonard Nimoy as his alien first officer Spock. The two actors were chosen for their screen presence on previous western shows and cameos on other series that were out at the time. Dubbed a western in outer space, it was intended to draw the same audience, but eventually drew a whole audience of its own. NBC, unhappy with this first pilot, aired a new pilot on the above date, titled “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, starring William Shatner as the new captain, Kirk, and became one of the first shows to offer a multiracial cast.
Set in the late 2260’s, it was based on an interstellar spaceship that used matter-antimatter propulsion to achieve speeds much faster than the speed of light. It carried 430 men and women throughout the galaxy on a five year mission, directed under the supervision of Starfleet Command, a division of The United Federation of Planets. Airing from 1966-1969, it included such diverse topics as war and peace; economics, racism, religion, human rights, sexism, feminism, and the role technology plays in societies.
Created by Gene Roddenberry, the show produced 79 episodes, lasted three seasons, and eventually spawned a franchise of 5 new shows, 12 films, books, games, and toys. First produced by Desilu, it was almost was cancelled, until there was a petition of 116,000 letters to keep the show. Paramount agreed to take on the series, and it slowly faded into rerun syndication.
I know myself what an impact the show had. When I was a young boy, and they had moved it to the everyday 5:00 time slot in syndication, I never missed an episode. Today, I know most of the shows word for word, which sometimes annoys my wife, and can name almost every episode. It was one of the most advanced shows of the time, and compared to “Lost In Space” was much more realistic and thought provoking. Although I also liked Lost, Trek was always my favorite.
All this week, in honor of the recent passing of Leonard Nimoy, we will pay tribute to the members who made it what it is today and have passed; beginning tomorrow, with its creator, Gene Roddenberry. Until then, here are the links for today:
IT ALL STARTED WITH A MAN NAMED GENE
He was born on August 19th, 1921 in El Paso, Texas, under the name Eugene Wesley Roddenberry, but later came to be known as just “Gene.” When he was a toddler, he almost died with his family in a house fire, but a milkman passing by saved them. Later they moved to Los Angeles, where Gene attended Los Angeles City College for police studies, and later changed to aeronautical engineering to qualify for a pilot’s license. He joined the US Army Corps in 1941, as a flying cadet in WWII, and later became a lieutenant and was sent to the South Pacific. He received two medals during this time, and began to write as a hobby at first.
After the war, he joined Pan American World Airways. Seeing that Hollywood needed writers, he took a chance and quit his job, moving back to Los Angeles. He found few jobs for inexperienced writers, so he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a policeman. He continued to write; at first getting scripts to westerns and police shows, such as “Highway Patrol”, and “Have Guns, Will Travel.” His first series that he produced was “The Leiutenant” in 1964. In 1966, after being inspired by books, such as “Guliver’s Travels”, he created and produced “Star Trek.” The series ran for three seasons, although DC Fontana had taken over as producer by the third season. Most of the actors he hand picked for the series were ones he had worked w ith on previous projects, including Majel Barrett(Nurse Chapel), who he married on Aug. 6, 1969. He had one son, and two daughters from a previous marriage.
After Star Trek was cancelled, he produced a pilot for a 1972 show called Genesis II. The pilot aired as a movie in 1973, but lost out as a series to a spinoff of the “Planet of The Apes” movies. He reworked the plot and came up with a second pilot, called “Planet Earth”, which starred John Saxon, for ABC with the same results. In 1977, he revived the Star Trek genre, with “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” By 1980, his role was reduced to “Executive Consultant”, and attended conventions and gave lectures. Towards the end of the movie series, he produced and directed “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and the first two movies involving the new characters.
In 1989, after having contracted cerebral vascular disease and smoking most of his life, he had a stroke. His health declined, and he was confined to a wheelchair until he died of cardiac arrest on October 24, 1991. On April 21, 1997, a Celestis spacecraft carrying Gene, Timothy Leary and 22 others was launched into orbit. It burned up in the atmosphere in 2002. NASA named a crater on Mars after him in 1994. On September4, 1986, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was named after him.
His innovation in the science fiction genre earned him the respect of the entertainment industry and science organizations such as NASA. Star Trek, however, was not just about science fiction. It was about relevant issues of the day, some issues that the networks thought were sometimes too controversial to discuss on prime time television. Hollywood had lost not just a great producer, but a cultural icon as well. Tomorrow, I will present a tribute to a well known, but not so well known in other endeavors, engineer named Scotty, or James Doohan. Until then, here are today’s links:
CAPTAIN, I’M GIVING IT ALL SHE’S GOT!
Who could forget one of the most famous sayings and characters in Star Trek, Montgomery Scott, or better known as Scotty? Born on March 3, 1920, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, he was the son of a pharmacist, veterinarian, dentist, and serious alcoholic. His mother was a homemaker. He went to high school at Sarnia Collegiate Institute and Technical School, where he excelled in Math and Science.
During WWII, he enrolled in the 102 Royal Canadian Army Corps and fought in the battle of Normandy, where he was wounded by 6 rounds fired by a Bren gun by a nervous Canadian sentry. Four rounds were in his leg, one in his chest, and one in his right middle finger, which was amputated. He later hid this fact during his acting career. He was given a silver cigarette case by his brother, which saved the bullet from entering his chest. He graduated from the Air Observation Pilot Course, and flew Taylorcraft Auster Mark V aircraft for the 666 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Although he was never actually a member, he was labeled “the craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Force.”
After the war, he moved to London, Ontario for further technical education. He won a 2 year scholarship to a drama school in New York City, where his classmates included Leslie Nielson and Tony Randall. He had several roles on radio and television, and in the mid 50’s, he appeared as forest ranger Timber Tom in the Canadian version of “Howdy Doody.” By a strange coincidence, William Shatner was playing the same role at the same time in the American version. They later worked together in the Canadian sci-fi series “Space Command.” He has also been in episodes of “The Twilight Zone”; “Hazel”,”The Outer Limits”, “The Fugitive”, “Bewitched”, ” The Man From Uncle”, and “Bonanza.”
He developed a talent for accents as a young child, and became one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood. He was married three times, had seven children. Two of his children, Christopher and Montgomery, appeared in “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”, and the reboot of “Star Trek” in 2009. He, himself had appeared in the original series, the movies, and had a cameo on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” His persona defined his character, and Montgomery Scott was named after his grandfather. Much of the technical information used in creating the series came from his and Gene’s technical educational background and knowledge of physics, mathematics, and science.
After Star Trek, he found himself being typecast, and found it difficult to get future acting jobs. He supported himself by attending conferences and giving speeches, until he became ill with Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. He died at home on July 20th, 2005. His ashes were sent into space three different times. The first two times were sub-orbital, the third was into space on May 22, 2012.
My favorite thing about Scotty was his way of trying to rig things together in the worst possible situation. This kind of reminded me of my own father and the way he would mend things together to get something to work. I remember once when he rigged a starter switch under my dash of my Datsun pickup because the starter switch had to be ordered, and wouldn’t be there for two weeks. It worked, and kept it going. Scotty always seemed to find a solution, even when things were grim. In Galeilo 7, he used the phasers as an alternate source of power to run the shuttlecraft- ingenious.
Tomorrow, I will feature Deforest Kelley, better known as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, definitely one of my favorite characters. His southern doctor charm added a little bit of humor to the series. Until then, here are today’s links:
“I’M A DOCTOR, NOT A MIRACLE WORKER”
Who could forget the old country doctor from Georgia, who changed the face of interplanetary medicine? His persona both onscreen and off was that of a good old southern boy. Born on January 20, 1920, and delivered by his uncle, he was the son of a Bapist minister, Earnest David Kelley, and his wife Clara. As a boy, he often sang in the church choir, and won an engagement with the Lew Forbes Orchestra at Paramount Theater. In 1934, he attended the Decatur, Georgia Boys High School and played on the baseball, football, and basketball teams.
During WWII, Kelley served as an enlisted man in the US Air Force, but he never left the states and never saw battle. He was assigned to the First Motion Picture Unit. After an extended stay in Long Beach, CA, he decided to pursue an acting career. His mother agreed with his decision, but his father was against it.
He started out in the major motion picture “Fear of The Night” in 1947. Even though the movie did well, he didn’t find steady work. He moved to New York City for 3 years with his future wife Carolyn Dowling, an actress, and did various radio and television spots, but was unhappy with the jobs he was getting. He decided to move back to CA, and landed several roles on Western movie and television series, including “Warlock”, “Gunfight At The OK Corral”, and on shows such as; Donna Reed, Ironside, Perry Mason, Riverboat, and Loredo. For nine years, he was cast in villian parts. In 1956, Kelley played a small supporting role as a medic in “The Man With The Grey Flannel suit”, in which he says “This man’s dead, Captain,” which became a trademark phrase on the Star Trek series. He also starred in a low budget horror flick, called “The Night Of The Lepus”, about a crazed horde of giant rabbits, which is ironic, because in “Shore Leave”, on Trek, he again runs into a giant rabbit!
After refusing Roddenberry’s 1964 offer to play Spock, Kelley agreed to play Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy. He reprised his role in a voice over in “Star Trek: The Animated Series”, in the first six Star Trek movies, and then finally did a cameo on Star Trek: The Next Generation. After Trek, Kelley had problems being typecast as well, and also did speeches and conventions to compensate his lost income. He also wrote two poetry books as well. He had no children. He died of stomach cancer on June 11th, 1999, and his ashes were spread across the Pacific Ocean.
Again, McCoy reminds me a little of someone,; maybe even myself. I’m the son of minister, a bit skeptical, a bit cynical, and a bit comical. I wasn’t born in the south, but having been there, I’m a little used to the climate and atmosphere. He was always one of my favorite characters, especially when he was upset. One of the memorable moments that I remember from the series is in the episode “City On The Edge of Forever”, where he accidently injects himself with the hypo, and runs amok straight to the surface of the planet-Classic!
Tomorrow will be the final installment of the series, and the biography of the most beloved of all the Star Trek series, Leonard Nimoy. Please join me for this final tribute to a great actor. Until tomorrow, here are today’s links:
“I LOVED HIM LIKE A BROTHER…….WE WILL ALL MISS HIS HUMOR, HIS TALENT, AND HIS CAPACITY TO LOVE”
Leonard Simon Nimoy is perhaps the best known and best loved of all the characters of the Star Trek genre. He is the only one of the actors of the series to star in every episode. Even William Shatner has not appeared in all of them; he wasn’t in the first pilot, “The Cage”. His unique approach to playing an alien with no emotions and pointed ears, was truly inspirational to all science fiction actors since. Battling the double sided upbringing of a Vulcan-Earthling existence, he learned to deal with the fact that he could not suppress his human side. He often found the opposite problem off set, unable to be recognized as a man, and not Spock; as he later described in his two autobiographies “I Am Spock”, and “I Am Not Spock”.
Nimoy was born on March 26th, 1931, in the west end of Boston, and began acting at 8 yrs old at a local neighborhood theater. Once he did, he never wanted to do anything else. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Iziaslov, Ukraine. Max, his father, owned a barbershop in the Mattapan section of Boston. He went to Boston College for Drama, and sold vacuum cleaners, and also worked in an ice cream parlor. In 1953, Nimoy enlisted in the United States Army Reserves, serving 18 months and leaving as a Sergeant. During this time, he worked on shows he wrote, narrated, and emceed. He began his acting career in his twenties, teaching acting classes in Hollywood, and making minor film and television appearances through the 50’s, playing several roles in B movies and television, such as; Perry Mason, Dragnet, Wagon Train, Bonanza, Rawhide, Untouchables, Gunsmoke, Outer Limits, “Them” and “Zombies of The Stratosphere”.
In 1965, he made his first appearance in the rejected Star Trek pilot “The Cage”, playing sidekick to Jeffery Hunter, as Captain Pike. He continued to play the role of Spock through the entire series, until its demise in 1969, followed by 8 more Star Trek movies, and guest slots in various spin-off series. He received three Emmy nominations for his portrayal of the character, and was picked up by “Mission Impossible” as a replacement to Martin Landau for two seasons, and also hosted the paranormal series of “In Search Of” and “Civilization IV”, and also guest starred in “Fringe” in later years.
William Shatner and Leonard became close friends, first working together on an episode of “The Man From U.N.C.L.E”, where they portrayed characters from separate sides of the iron curtain. When Shatner was offered the opportunity to work with him on Star Trek, he jumped at the chance. Spock created the Vulcan salute from watching Jewish priests offering their blessings, and basically used “Live long and prosper” from them, and created the Vulcan neck pinch and Death grip on his own.
After Star Trek, he had two guest appearances on “Night Gallery”, and starred in “Catlow”, opposite Yul Brynner and Raquel Welsh. He also played several stage roles on Broadway, produced a play and movie about the Holocaust, and directed “Star Trek III: The Search For Spock”, and “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.”
He also had several other talents, such as his singing career, in which he produced 5 albums, including renditions of “I Walk The Line” and “Ruby”, as well as more eclectic tunes such as “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins, which is his tribute to “The Hobbit”, and his analysis of the human race as Spock in “Highly Illogical.” He was also an avid photographer and owned and flew his own private plane. He was married twice to Sandra Zoler, an actress, and later to Susan Bay, cousin to Director Michael Bay.
On February 27, 2015, he died from contracting Chronic Obstruction Pulmonary Disease, after years of smoking, at the age of 83. He is survived by two children, six grandchildren, and a great grandchild.
When he died recently, I felt that I had lost a friend as well. Although I didn’t know him personally, I grew up watching lots of shows he was in, and remember a lot of those small parts he had in them. When he became Spock, his mannerisms were a hoot, and still are. I saw both of the new films, and his contribution to them was one of the things that made the films, not to mention the superb job Zach Quinto did as his younger self. I will miss that old Vulcan, a legend in his own time, and an excellent human being. Goodbye, Old Friend, and Shalom.”
Monday, I will be back with a brand new series. If you as readers, have ideas for future series, please send them in the comments section. I am starting to run out of ideas, and could use a little help. Until then, here are today’s links: