Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ensign, Hand me your Phaser! (If He Only Knew)

I’m going to try something a little new with the blog today and want everyone to come back here to let me know what you think!

I’ve spent my summer immersed in podcasting and came across the audio poem “Ensign, Hand me your Phaser! (If He Only Knew)” by Garland L. Thompson Jr. on After listening to this poem, I checked out and, sure enough, Garland Thompson played Transporter Technician Wilson in “The Enemy Within” and “Charlie X.” I e-mailed Garland L. Thompson Jr. a couple of weeks ago to see if he or his dad would like to write something for this blog, but I haven’t heard back from him. Since we are running out of time, I’m going to provide a link to the audio file of his poem, so we have time to discuss it before the big event. So, please listen to it and then come back here to comment! Oh, and I’m also going to copy it onto my iPod and bring it to Seattle so Nichelle Nichols can listen to it, too!

Blog #33 by Garland L. Thompson Jr.
(Originally posted on May 16, 2005)
  • “Ensign, Hand me your Phaser! (If He Only Knew)”
    Click on this link to download the MP3 file of the author reading his poem.
  • Wednesday, August 30, 2006

    He Is Not Spock

    Blog #32 by Jeff Greenwald
    Author of Future Perfect:
    How Star Trek Conquered Planet Earth

    Taken from the chapter
    "He Is Not Spock"
    …Nimoy recalls two specific incidents where translation had a direct impact upon the popularity or perception of Star Trek. The first occurred in France, years after TOS aired in America. Nimoy tried to find out, at Paramount’s request, why the original series had done so poorly there. He learned that, early on, Paramount had cut corners by importing the Canadian, Quebecois-dubbed version of Star Trek to France. One can imagine how the French reacted; the show went over like yak-wool panties.

    The second incident occurred in Japan, during a promotional tour for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, in 1984. On his way to a bookstore signing, Nimoy met the translator of the Star Trek novels in Japan.

    “We had an interesting conversation, to say the least.” Nimoy laughs, a gesture that transforms his entire appearance. “He was extremely chauvinistic. He said—” Nimoy frowns, and furrows his brow like a Hokusai samurai— “ ‘I must make changes in the Star Trek novels, for Japanese audience!’ I said, ‘What kind of changes?’ And he said, ‘Aaahh! Too much, ah, familiarity with crew and captain! Japanese culture does not accept this kind of easy familiarity: Dr. McCoy and Mr. Spock with Captain Kirk! Authority figures demand more respect. Not appropriate conversation in Star Trek!’

    “I told him that one of the things Star Trek was about was the camaraderie between these people. ‘Not acceptable for Japanese audience!’ said he.

    “I came back and told this to Gene Roddenberry. I was shocked by it. I thought, this is an amazing misuse of power by this man—to decide how Star Trek should be interpreted for Japan!”

    As Nimoy speaks, I find myself stealing glances at his ears. They are large ears, beautifully shaped, and, for the moment, perfectly human. They may be, I realize, the most notorious ears in history. Nearly every book about the making of Star Trek describes in exquisite detail the agonies these poor ears have suffered: the endless plaster castings, the rubber molds, the fittings with foam rubber and glue; month after month of trial and error, culminating at last in the otherworldly appendages familiar to everyone from Dennis Rodman to the Dalai Lama. Seeing those famous ears this way—in their natural, unguarded state—is vaguely shocking, like seeing God without his beard.

    “You know,” I say, “what you’ve done may be unique in the history of entertainment. You’ve created a mythological character as compelling as any in world literature. But have you given any thought as to why Spock strikes such a universal chord? What is it about Spock himself that resonates so deeply with people?”

    “I think it operates on a lot of levels,” he reflects. “Early on, when the show first went on the air, I was receiving mounds and mounds of fan mail from little kids. They couldn’t have had any concept of what Spock was about, except that he was a strange and interesting-looking man, one who didn’t frighten them.”

    The children sent him thousands of drawings, all of Spock. Something about the Vulcan’s image—the ears, the eyebrows, the bowl-cut hair—was tremendously compelling to them.

    “Which was very interesting, because NBC was very trepidant about the ears and the eyebrows.” Nimoy leans back, his arm draped casually behind his head. “They especially thought Spock might be problematic in the Bible Belt, where people would see him as a devilish character.” He smiles faintly. “It was quite the contrary, of course…And then there’s the aspect of Spock’s distance, Spock’s coolness,” Nimoy continues. “Which played well in the ‘60s, when ‘cool’ was important. I’ve also read pieces by women, that describe Spock as someone whom women wanted to nurture, as he seemed to need the warmth that a woman can offer. There was also the challenge of, ‘Could I be the one to “awaken” Spock? Could I be the one who can help him get in touch with his sexuality, and with intimacy?’ ”

    I was hooked on Spock at twelve—but it obviously wasn’t about sex, or nurturing. And although I never trotted out my Vulcan Green Crayola, he definitely got under my skin. He’s there still —and I admit as much to Nimoy. He nods sympathetically.

    “That’s because there is also a sensitive side to Spock, to which a lot of people, male and female, responded. Also very important—at least I thought it was, because it was what I was constantly playing—is the yin/yang balance between our right and left brains. How do you get through life as a feeling person, without letting emotions rule you? How do you balance the intellectual and emotional sides of your being? I think people identified with that and understood that, in that sense, Spock is a very human character. He chooses to downplay, ignore, deny, his emotions—but he has them.”

    Nimoy scratches his chin, and I notice his arm. He’s wearing, of all things, a Mickey Mouse wristwatch. The juxtaposition of these two characters, these two familiar icons from the American mythos, is transcendentally weird. I try to imagine the reverse: Steamboat Willie, whistling off to work with a Star Trek lunch pail.

    “I think Spock was a proud alien,” Nimoy concludes. “Proudly alienated. And kids still identify with that. I see kids today with strange hair, strange piercings, tattoos; this is all about alienation, and establishing a separate identity. ‘I am not one of the crowd. I am different. I am special.’ And Spock always was different and special. Jokingly, to Dr. McCoy [DeForest Kelley], he would say, ‘This is the way I am, and I don’t have a problem with it. If you do, it’s your problem.’ I think that resonates for young people. Teenagers, adolescents, who are trying to play out their own identity in the world, without getting sucked into the mass culture.”

    But it is mass culture, of course, that has given them Spock in the first place. Beaming from television sets and theater screens from Darwin to Dubuque, Nimoy’s alter ego was the harbinger of a future world in which logic would reign over emotion, and rational thought triumph over blind faith. He was a digital being in an analog world, the Pied Piper for the wired generation.

    Tuesday, August 29, 2006

    Countdown to 40: On the Final Frontier

    William Kowinski recently posted on Soul of Star Trek that he “will be moderating a panel called ‘The Soul of Star Trek: The Prime Directive and Beyond’ at the Planet Xpo Star Trek 40th Anniversary Gala Celebration in Seattle. As of now it’s scheduled for Friday, September 8 at 3:30 p in the main auditorium at the Science Fiction Museum. Also on the panel will be screenwriter (and TNG writer) Tracy Torme, and authors Jeff Greenwald (Future Perfect) and Dave Marinaccio (All I Really Need to Know I Learned From Star Trek). So if you’re going to be in Seattle, come on by where no blog has gone before, and engage.” Here is a recent excerpt from his blog, and I encourage you to read the entire entry/series by visiting Soul of Star Trek.

    Blog #31 by William S. Kowinski
    from Soul of Star Trek

    (originally published Saturday, August 19, 2006)

    excerpt from Countdown to 40: On the Final Frontier
    First in a brief series leading up to the 40th anniversary of the first Star Trek episode to air in the U.S.

    On a Friday afternoon in October 1957, Gene Roddenberry could have been among commuters driving on the freeways of Los Angeles, with their radios playing. He was 36 years old, and finally and officially living in a world of stories, and now some of them were his.

    His script, “The Great Mohave Chase,” had been filmed for the third episode of the new adult western series, “Have Gun, Will Travel,” which aired the previous Saturday. “West Point Story,” the first series he’d written for regularly, would have been on tonight except that a month ago it switched networks, and was broadcast on Tuesdays now. Tonight “Court of Last Resort,” would be broadcast on NBC, a drama about crime experts who reviewed cases in which convicted criminals might be innocent. Gene’s friend and mentor, the mystery writer Eric Stanley Gardner, had started this panel in the real world. An actor was portraying him on the series. Perhaps GR was planning to tune into that. In the east, where it was already 8 p.m., people were already watching it.

    But a few hours before, news of an astonishing event began to spread quickly in government and scientific circles. At about 6:30 pm on the east coast, President Eisenhower had been alerted at Camp David.

    Commuters in LA might be listening to Jimmie Rodgers sing “Honeycomb,” the current number one hit, or the song it dethroned, “That’ll Be the Day” by Buddy Holly and the Crickets. But a few minutes after 8 p.m in New York, NBC technicians recorded something completely unpredicted, shocking and alarming. Soon everyone would hear it. An NBC announcer broke into programming coast to coast.

    “Listen now for the sound,” the announcer said, “which forevermore separates the old from the new.”

    I don’t know when Gene Roddenberry heard this sound. I know when I did.

    I was 11 years old. (So was Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Steven Speilberg would turn 11 in a couple of months. George Lucas was 13. ) I was at home, just outside a small town in western Pennsylvania. I was in my room, sitting at the heavy, dark-grained hand-me-down wooden desk that was surely older than I was. I had set aside the brown notebook in which I was writing a story about an alien invasion called “The Desert Menace,” to concentrate on my homework. It was already dark outside, and most of the room was dark as well, except for a circle of bright light from the lamp hovering over the desk, a green-shaded bulb at the end of a long, multi-jointed arm. It was quiet, and I didn’t even notice the muffled sound of the television set beyond the far wall behind my bed.

    My door opened suddenly and startled me. It was my father, who seldom knocked. He and my mother were watching TV in the living room. I knew it wasn’t time yet for “The Life of Riley,” which our family often watched together on Friday nights, sharing a bowl of popcorn. My father asked if I’d been listening to the radio. I glanced up at it—a supposed “short wave” radio he’d assembled from a kit, but despite its impressive dials, slate gray face in front of exposed glowing tubes, transistors and resistors, it seldom pulled in more than the local AM station. It sat on the bookshelf just above my desk, next to the globe. I answered, “no,” defensively, thinking he was checking on my attention to my homework. But that wasn’t it. He told me that they’d just said on television that the Russians had launched a satellite into space, and it was in orbit around the earth at that very moment. They’d broadcast the actual sound of the signal coming from the satellite, called Sputnik.

    I was too amazed to move. Nothing like this had ever happened before. After my father returned to the living room I turned on my radio, and eventually I did hear the eerie, even-toned beeping sound from space. Even though many people—even other kids—made fun of the whole idea of spaceships, I was already fascinated by anything to do with rockets and outer space. Besides Saturday morning science fiction on TV and Saturday matinees at the movies, I’d seen the “Tomorrowland” program on Disneyland with Werner von Braun, that went step by step through the history of rocketry, the problems that had to be solved in order to get into space, ending with an animated dramatization of the first manned space shot.

    In school I read about the International Geophysical Year going on this year, and I was always looking for news about the satellite the U.S. hoped to rocket into orbit as part of it. I’d even heard one of the smartest men in America, the quiz show champion Charles van Doren, talk about it on a television documentary about the IGY. The newsman asked him if the Russians might orbit a satellite first. He just chuckled.

    But now the Russians had. I had absorbed enough of the Cold War mentality to be alerted and perhaps a little afraid. I couldn’t think of anything to do but record my thoughts that moment in my brown school notebook:

    "The Russians, Conquerors of Space. Oct.4, 1957. I have just heard some news which will affect my whole future. Russia has just successfully launched the first man-made satellite into space…How did the Russians do it? Out of their own ingenuity? Did they get information from a spy in America? A traitor? All the work our scientists and top brains did, what for? Will the Russians take advantage of this and use it to start a war?"

    The technical achievement of humans sending a rocket into space to deliver an artificial satellite into orbit around the earth marked a monumental moment. For some, this very fact was profoundly shocking. “It is hard for people now to realize how stubbornly the idea of any form of space travel was opposed before that date," wrote Brian Aldiss, “and not only by the supposedly ignorant.”

    But besides boys with stars in their eyes, many of those who had flown sophisticated aircraft high into the darkening sky, and those who had read and written science fiction, must have felt some universal thrill at the news. Gene Roddenberry of course had done all of those things (his proposal for a Science Fiction Theater episode the year before had been turned down, but the basic idea would someday recur in the holodeck of the Starship Enterprise-D.) He may well have noted that an important threshold had been crossed, from science fiction into reality that would transform the future.

  • Read the full article at Soul of Star Trek

    Previous blog by William S. Kowinski
  • Blog #17: "Inside the Magic" from The Inner Light, The Outer Darkness.

  • Monday, August 28, 2006

    Sheesh! Thanks a lot, Marty!”

    Blog #30 by Marc B. Lee,
    Master of Ceremonies, ST40

    I’ve read many wonderful passages in these blogs and have come to a conclusion—it’s time to lighten this sucker up! Appreciation is nice. Worship is treasured…but I have a beef to share with you all and it begins like this:

    Reach in your purse, grab your hip or dig into your pockets and you’ll probably find a small communication device which has now become a necessity more so than a luxury. Those in attendance at the Science Fiction Museum on the weekend of September 8th will know who was initially responsible for those rude ring tones, those loud cell phone speakers and those damn text screen terminologies. Oh, he may not be directly responsible for the advances to cell phone technology, but he’ll be the closest dude in the neighborhood for my rants.

    You’ll listen to the great Martin Cooper and wonder to yourself, “Should I go up and shake this guy’s hand or punch his lights out?” LOL! Of course you’ll choose the first choice for the sole reason that this is a guy to be honored, to be thanked and to be asked one simple question: Why? Why did you do it Marty? Why?

    I drive in traffic and I look over to my right to see that soccer mom trying to make a left turn across the front of my hood because the guy attached to the speaker in her ear which is attached the woman who is attached to her steering wheel decided she needs to get into MY lane and she has decided RIGHT NOW would be a perfect time to piss me off!! Thanks a lot, Marty!

    I go to the movies, there to enjoy a nice quiet theater experience when I see a simulated trailer of two Asian guys fighting on water. They stop their battle only to respond to what seems to be a cell phone ringing out of nowhere. Finally words blast on the screen for the audience to do a simple procedure in respect to the patrons around them. Just when you think all 500 persons in the theater gets the message and abides by natural etiquette, GUESS WHAT?! Thanks a lot, Marty!!! Can’t wait to meet’cha!

    I’m shopping in Wal-Mart—yeah you heard me, Wal-Mart—and I’m looking for that nice reduced price on kitchen utensils when I eye a cute damsel needing a little help reaching for an item. I quickly spring into action when her cell phone goes off. I saw her as a wonderful person I may eventually want to get know until she answers the phone and speaks as if she was announcing the players of the Miami Dolphins as they entered the stadium. I could have sworn I heard her say “Can you hear me now?” too. Right on, Marty!

    Mr. Martin Cooper, through his vision of what I assumed he ultimately saw in Jim Kirk’s hand, felt it necessary to volunteer his brilliant mind, his wonderful imagination, in the pursuit of happiness for the people of Earth. Mr. Martin Cooper shared with us a device we admittedly cannot do without, and has decided to come to Seattle to tell us all about it. I look forward to Mr. Cooper’s visit for I have a lot of wonderful questions and unrestrained anger to share with him. I’m sure I am not the first person with the need of sharing their thoughts to ol’ Marty and I suspect his training with a Tibetan monk in the art of self-defense, or maybe his skill with firearms and kitchen cutlery has brought him a new appreciation for the art of communication he is so responsible for. I’m sure I don’t stand a chance against Martin Cooper. He’ll only grab me by the short hairs, extend his forefinger and press my mute button. I’ll probably vibrate too.

    Thanks for nothing, Martin Cooper…and thanks for everything. We look forward to chatting with you and listening to what will surely be wonderful stories that led you to a marvelous advancement in the field of personal communications. Thank you so much, Marty, but can you do me a small favor? Just a tiny one? Can you work on a cerebral communications implant next time so I can stop dodging soccer moms who feel I am occupying the same space they are about to? Please? Pretty please???

    I’ll see you all in Seattle when a gathering of individuals, like-minded individuals, will come to a sort of Mecca, a place of appreciation in honor of a broadcast on American television that revised the scientific path of this world.

    One week after the first day of next month, members of the intellectual community will gather to share with you their visions that eventually became realities, which ultimately instilled itself into the everyday fabric of America, and tell you what inspired them to do it. I’m sure their attendance at STAR TREK’s 40th Anniversary is for a very good reason…and oh, thanks a lot, Marty!

    Blogs by Martin Cooper
  • Blog #4: “Wireless Enterprise—part 1” by Martin Cooper
  • Blog #5: “Wireless Enterprise—part 2” by Martin Cooper
  • Blog #6: “Wireless Enterprise—part 3” by Martin Cooper

    More by Marc B. Lee
  • Blog #13: “Fannish Dreams, Fannish Realities” by Marc B. Lee

  • Sunday, August 27, 2006

    "25 Years on the Final Frontier"—part 2

    Blog #29: 25 Years on the Final Frontier by Sky Conway
    (originally printed in Ad Astra, September 1991)

    Click to see the full page.

    Click to see the full page.

    Click to see the full page.

    Saturday, August 26, 2006

    "25 Years on the Final Frontier"

    As we prepare to celebrate 40 years of Star Trek with Mr. Conway and the rest of the Planet Xpo team, let’s take a look at what he had to say about the 25th anniversary in Ad Astra, the magazine of the National Space Society. I’ll divide this article over two days. Click on each image to see a larger image file.

    Blog #28: 25 Years on the Final Frontier by Sky Conway
    (originally printed in Ad Astra, September 1991)

    Click to see the full page.

    Click to see the full page.

    Click to see the full page.

    Be sure to come back tomorrow to see the rest of this article!

    Friday, August 25, 2006

    Fan Blogger--Dr. Becky Fartash

    Blog #27 by Dr. Becky Fartash

    "Dr. McCoy, My Idol"
    As my young eyes gazed upward in wonderment at the starry skies, I wondered, what’s out there and can I be part of it someday? My childhood curiosity in the Heavens was only rivaled by my desire to help others in need and to make a difference. The tumultuous adolescent years were filled with plans, hopes and apprehension of what the future may hold. I was fascinated by one of my favorite television shows which presented such a future, seen at the present. I remember being glued to the set when Star Trek was on, watching and savoring every moment of the program. Seeing colorfully uniformed men and women of all races working side by side, encountering challenging situations in outer space and arriving at a meaningful end each episode, presented a surreal world where there was no hunger, greed or bigotry.

    As an adolescent, I admired the major characters of Star Trek including a charismatic captain, a cool, intelligent and partly-human first officer and a devoted bridge crew; however, I was most intrigued by the ship’s doctor. Dr. McCoy, played by our beloved De Forest Kelley, represented the ideal medical practitioner; he was intelligent, unpretentious and caring. His practice of medicine, although modern and futuristic as the 23rd century would prompt, seemed somehow familiar and Earthly. His integrity and devotion to his work and patients further sparked my interest in the art of healing. The dignity and immensity of his character withstood even the all-too-famous single-liner spoofs such as “he’s dead Jim” and “I’m a doctor, not a…..” Dr. McCoy was always poised and ready to render medical help under the most difficult circumstances. However, he managed to keep his country charm and caring demeanor even while butting heads with Mr. Spock during Red Alert situations.

    The future medical technology portrayed in the show appeared unreal yet, attainable. It is amazing to see how Gene Rodenberry’s vision from forty years ago is becoming a reality in our current medical field. The medical monitors and tricorders, the hypospray shots, laser scalpels, and protoplasers to heal wounds seem closer at reach now than ever before. Dr. McCoy’s skills and expertise to utilize such instruments to heal and save lives prompted my young psyche to choose and confirm my path for the future. I wanted to be a doctor just like him when I grew up.

    Although, in lieu of a blue medical tunic, I wear a white jacket and examine and heal eyes now, I will always have Dr. McCoy of the Starship Enterprise as my hero and idol. While receiving my patients, I remember his kind face, caring eyes and skilled hands demonstrating how deeply he loved his profession and his dedication to his patients. I then strive harder to achieve the same; I truly think that I am a better doctor because of him. A little “McCoy mannerism” practiced in our profession can do wonders for our patients.

    Dr. McCoy/DeForest Kelley has been a popular topic of this blog:
  • Blog #23: Husband-Hunting on the Enterprise
  • Blog #3: Excerpt from DeForest Kelley: A Harvest of Memories
  • Blog #2: Get to know DeForest Kelley through Kristine Smith!

  • Thursday, August 24, 2006

    All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Watching Star Trek

    Blog #26 by Dave Marinaccio,
    author of All I Really Need to Know
    I Learned from Watching Star Trek

    I work in one of the noblest enterprises ever conceived by man, advertising. My work environment is a stress-filled one. About the only thing taken for granted is that today’s problems will be completely different from yesterday’s. At its best, it can be said that the job offers variety. Unfortunately, it’s the same old variety day after day.

    In situations of change, it is natural for human beings to look for touchstones. As a human being, I had always sought a center to my life, an example to follow. What I hadn’t realized was that I was already following a path into the future. It was pointed out to me at a business meeting.

    I was comparing a current problem to something I had watched on television the previous night. I can’t recall the particular problem, but I do recall saying, “Well, we could be diplomatic, but as Scotty said on Star Trek last night, ‘The best diplomat I know is a fully charged phaser bank.’”

    “You turn everything into Star Trek,” a coworker responded.

    She was right. For years I’ve related everything in life to Star Trek. But why not? Captain James Tiberius Kirk is the most successful person I’ve ever observed. He’s a great leader, a good manager of people, dedicated, moral, adaptable, at the top of his profession, gets the girls, is well known and respected. There are worse role models.

    Most importantly, I was practically a Phi Beta Kappa in Star Trek. As a kid it was my favorite TV show. As an adult, virtually every night after work I would walk in the door, collapse on the couch and hit the remote control. Like most men, the remote control is part of my arm. Unlike most men, I can actually watch an entire program. Just so long as the program is Star Trek.

    Anyway, that comment at work helped me discover something I already knew. I realized then that I already know what’s necessary to live a meaningful life—that it isn’t all that complicated.

    ALL I REALLY NEEDED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned watching Star Trek. These are the things I learned:

    • Each person or each species, no matter how alien, has the right to live their lives as they wish. (As long as they’re not trying to take over the galaxy or eat you or something.)
    • Everyone has a role in life. Sulu is the navigator. Uhura is the communications specialist. Do your own job and the ship will function more smoothly.
    • Whatever you are doing, answer a distress call. The most important time to help someone is when they need it.
    • If you mess something up, it’s your responsibility to make things right again. (Say you disrupt history and cause the Nazis to win World War II. To correct matters, you have to let Joan Collins walk in front of a car even though you’re in love with her.)
    • The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play.
    • If you can keep your head in a crisis you’ve got a fighting chance.
    • The unknown is not to be feared. It is to be examined, understood and accepted.
    • Close friends become family and family is the true center of the universe.
    • End every episode with a smile.
    • And lastly, with time and patience you can even learn something from The Next Generation.

    Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. It may be dressed in some real lame costume. But it’s there. Every situation you will face in life has already been faced by the crew of the Starship Enterprise NCC 1701. How to respond to challenge. How to treat your friends. How to pick up girls. How to get ahead on the job. How to run a business. How to bandage a wounded silicon-based life-form. Everything you need to know.

    Wednesday, August 23, 2006


    We’re 16 days away from the show, and I still want to hear from you about how Star Trek has influenced your life. Send it to Amy Ulen as soon as possible. I would love to fill up next week with guest bloggers!

    Blog #25 by Dr. Seth Shostak,
    Senior Astronomer, SETI Institute
    Sure, there were obvious mistakes in Star Trek, version 1.0. I mean, every time the Enterprise zipped by the camera en route to some far-off M-class planet, there was a nicely audible “whoosh.” Well, everyone over the age of five knows that in space, no one can hear you whoosh. But it was a necessary dramatic device. As a viewer, you expected to hear that sound (after all, how many of us, other than David Oreck, live in a vacuum?) It was akin to the sound-track convention of gun battles in the early western movies. One bullet in five would make a high-pitched, deeply satisfying ricochet sound: “piiinng.” Must have been a lot of sheet steel out there in the old west.

    Then there was the Enterprise’s artificial gravity. It was always exactly 1G, as I’ve noted before. Convenient for actors and film crew, but kind of hard to explain on a ship that wasn’t slowly spinning. Who knows? Maybe the 23rd century had mastered synthetic gravity, just as they had mastered synthetic fabrics (all those stretchy uniforms… I kept hoping that one of the crew members would put on weight so I could see if they came to resemble the Michelin tire guy.)

    And speaking of crew members, there must have been thousands of them hunkered down in the enormous bowels of the Enterprise. Mind you, we didn’t see many of them: just the occasional anonymous lackey harvested from what was surely a vast pool of underlings, to be beamed down to a planet as expendable (and always expended) bait for nasty aliens. But there was the larger question of what did all those people do? Swab the decks? There weren’t any decks (other than of the holo variety). Launder the stretch uniforms? Grease the phasers? Give Spock page boy haircuts? What?

    Then again, Shakespeare wrote about the royal court of Denmark, and didn’t bother to give speaking lines to the few million Danes who were just farming beet roots outside the castle, so I suppose you’ve got to expect this.

    Then there were the aliens who, no great surprise, were nearly always humanoid. Oh, sure, they had faces that sometimes suggesting they had shuffled genes with an insect, but these aliens sat in chairs, they had the usual number of grasping appendages, and they talked with their mouths. Now mind you, there is at least one evolutionary biologist who thinks it’s likely that a humanoid shape is the best design for a thinking creature, and therefore the extraterrestrials (if they exist) will look much like us. But his is a singular view. After all, not many terrestrials look like us (the exceptions all eat bananas). And truly advanced intelligence might not be biological at all – more like the Borg without the lovely, chief Borgette. But Gene Roddenberry, according to my barely reliable sources, always insisted on being able to see the eyes of the aliens. So, perforce, they had to have eyes (and more than one). If the aliens looked like Linotype machines, it would be hard to gauge their mood, or decipher what they were up to.

    And finally, the biggest mystery of all. No, I’m not talking about Jean-Luc Picard, who took over the helm from Kirk. I mean, this drama takes place in the deep future, when interstellar travel is a lark, virtual reality is a… reality, and beaming folks around is a legitimate transport option. And yet they still haven’t managed to cure male pattern baldness. But no, that isn’t the greatest mystery of all. The greatest mystery is… in a world where technology has reached stratospheric heights, when matter-antimatter drive is prosaic, when tricorders can tell you the biological state of an entire planet, and when lasers, masers, and phasers are all kiddie toys… When all of this is true, the automatic doors to the bridge of the Enterprise still make noise when someone walks in!

    I think the sound effects man had a whoosh fetish.

    Tuesday, August 22, 2006

    The Making of Star Trek

    Chris Comte (fan blogger for blog #18) recently submitted this excerpt from The Making Of Star Trek, which was published at the beginning of TOS's final season. This could have been written a couple of years ago when people were fighting to save Enterprise! Whitfield had it right in 1968, and his words ring true today…"We have [Star Trek’s] legacy . . . all we have to do is use it."

    Blog #24 excerpted from The Making Of Star Trek
    by Stephen E. Whitfield & Gene Roddenberry
    New York, Ballantine Books, 1968, pp. 400-402

    Taken from the chapter
    “Whither Star Trek?”

    Gene Roddenberry

    The victory that had been so exultantly proclaimed by NBC’s March first announcement (of Star Trek’s renewal for the 1968-1969 season) quickly paled before the news of a change in time slot. Originally scheduled for Monday night viewing, Star Trek would now open its third season on Friday nights at 10:00 p.m. Many were they who gloomily predicted the end was at hand for the Voyages of the Starship Enterprise. The late night spot was considered certain death for the series. NBC’s commitment was for sixteen episodes, and most studio personnel held little hope for a mid-season pickup.

    By then I was living in Hollywood (my company had transferred my office from Phoenix at the end of January) and was spending a fair amount of time at Paramount, trying to complete the design of the new Klingon space ship. I knew Roddenberry, most of the staff, and many of the crew quite well by then, and I felt like a member of the family. When your family suffers hurt, you suffer also. I had grown to know and feel as they did, and the openly acknowledged “inevitable fate” saddened me at least as much as it did them.

    I thought a great deal about the unique group of people who were the driving force that had made Star Trek what it was. Gene Roddenberry, pure creative genius, sometimes serous, often full of laughter, always with his mental motor in overdrive. Bob Justman, a sharp, creative technician with a critical eye for flaws in script or film, forever twisting and twirling his handlebar mustache. Gregg Peters, one great big, friendly, hulking smile. Eddie Milkis, always instigating a put on – and always protesting innocently in the process. Dorothy Fontana, a real doll – and one heck of a fine writer. “Uncle” Matt Jeffries, smiling behind those silver rimmed glasses even when the situation was grim. Bill Theiss, who was wearing mod clothes before the term was invented. Penny, Rick, Sylvia, Dale McRoberts, the friendly guard at Paramount’s Gower Street entrance – Jerry, George, Fabian, Don – quite a group, quite a group.

    As this is written, mid-season pickup is a long way off in the future. But just as Star Trek projects an optimistic future, so, too, does the staff and crew as they enter production for the first half of the third season. Despite the unknown ahead, they are determined to be tigers all the way.

    The new producer, Fred Freiberger, is a “pro” with impressive credits from “Ben Casey”, “Slattery’s People,” and other top shows. He’s backed by Bob Justman as co-producer and both Milkis and Peters as associate producers.

    Should Gene have pulled back, to confine his duties to administration and policy? He put in over a year on pilots, plus two more years in production. Perhaps as grueling a three years as any man in the history of television. When you see a man work night after night, without sleep, until white with fatigue, it’s hard to insist that he owes more of what few others give at all.

    It is impossible to predict at this point what will ultimately be the outcome. If Star Trek does, in fact, come to an end next January, millions of viewers will mourn its passing.

    Even so, the starship launched by Roddenberry and manned by an extraordinary crew will not depart the scene without leaving some ripples in its wake.

    Star Trek has proved that it really does matter to the viewer what he sees on television. Contrary to what the networks may believe, people do care about television programming. And they do not at all mind learning while being entertained. Learning implies believing. Learning also implies intelligence – the ability to see relationships, in a Vulcan, a Gorn, or a Horta. The response to Star Trek’s message is irrefutable proof of the totally inaccurate network concept of the viewer as a clod.

    But Star Trek has done far more than that. It has given us a legacy – a message – man can create a future worth living for . . . a future that is full of optimism, hope, excitement, and challenge. A future that proudly proclaims man’s ability to survive in peace and reach for the stars as his reward.

    Whither Star Trek?

    It really doesn’t matter. We have its legacy . . . all we have to do is use it.

    Monday, August 21, 2006

    Husband-Hunting on the Enterprise

    Can you believe we are only 18 days away from the big event? The Vegas convention is over, so now everyone can turn their eyes to Seattle! Although I must admit that I'm excited to read the convention reports on You must go check out the photos of Scott Bakula with long hair!

    Those photos reminded me of a great comedy act Kris Smith delievered at conventions in the 90s that she is graciously letting me reprint here. When discussing her routine, Kris said, "I asked Carolyn's (Mrs. Kelley's) permission to 'lust' (comically) after her husband's alter ego before presenting the routine. I submitted the routine to her in advance. She giggled and laughed all the way through and then said, 'Go ahead, Kris! It's terrific.' So there was no reason for me to fear a phaser blast from the area of the auditorium where Mrs. DeForest Kelley sat. Quite a lady!"

    Blog #23 by Kristine M Smith,
    Author of DeForest Kelley: A Harvest of Memories

    Husband-Hunting on the Enterprise
    Stand-Up Comedy Routine Presented in Oakland, Denver and Baltimore in the 1990's
    (© 1988-2006 by Kristine M. Smith)
    I love being among Star Trek fans. It's better than being anywhere else -- on Earth. The only conceivably better place to be would be aboard the Starship Enterprise. I'd go find me a husband. And who would it be, out of all those eligible hunks?

    Captain Kirk? Not on your life. He has a lady behind every bulkhead. I'd always be wondering why he wasn't home yet. I mean, it's his JOB, isn't it -- up here, running this ship? No! His job is down on the planet, with the most beautiful woman in the galaxy! He has never landed on an ugly woman planet yet! He gets one in his sights and says, "No way! Prime Directive! No interference! Beam us outta here!"

    Mr. Spock? Unlike Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock is only "in the mood" once every seven years! And then it is not exactly moonlight and roses! Can you imagine living with a man who will tell you for nearly a decade running, "Not tonight dear... I have -- other priorities." A human woman would go stark raving MAD living under those conditions! "Check back in 3.7 years." And what about Vulcan foreplay? (Show the mutual rubbing of two fingers.) I waited seven years for this?!

    Mr. Sulu? Cute little devil, isn't he? But he has a tendency to want to play Lancelot at unpredictable intervals and when he isn't doing that, he's jogging, or doing karate, or cutting up in botany... And I don't know how long I could take that crazy laugh!

    Mr. Chekov? Vell, he vouldn't be bad -- but your kids would all talk funny... and if you ever said or did anything to anger or upset him, you could be deafened -- or given cardiac arrest -- by that blood-curdling scream of his! I'd have to give him a ten for his Gleem smile, though...

    Scotty? Aye, Scotty's a darlin' of a man, isn't he? But he has a bit of a self-image problem. He's forever telling the Captain he cannot possibly do what needs to be done in the time they have left to save the ship from imminent and total destruction. You'd be up half of every night giving HIM self-esteem lessons!

    Well..... I guess you know who I'm after. Uh-huh.... Ol' Blue Eyes. Leonard H. McCoy. The H stands for Hallmark, because Starfleet cared enough to send the very best. Now, I may be prejudiced, but McCoy is charming, gallant, a gentleman... and his ethics are beyond refute... plus the fact that he has a nice little tush and the sexiest lower lip in the galaxy. I realize these last items are non-essentials, but they do add up!

    So, if I was beaming aboard the Enterprise hoping to find somebody's boots under MY bed, they'd have to be McCoy's. Just imagine it: free medical check-ups as many times a week as you wanted them! Be still, my heart!

    Since I am so crazy about McCoy, I have a major gripe with the writers of Star Trek. They gave Kirk about every eligible female that came along. And the celibate, cerebral Mr. Spock had somebody who wanted him every time he turned around. Unless he was approaching ponn farr, he'd react like: "I presume she TYPES, or does something useful?" Poor Chris Chapel: She was so gone over Spock, I'm amazed she didn't jump off a bridge railing and kill herself. Spock would have looked up from his console and gone, "Unfortunate..."

    But McCoy... now here was a decent, good-looking man with normal "needs," shall we say? -- unattached -- who would probably have requited the unrequited and left the rest to Kirk. He was gentle, ethical, charming, and what did he get? ZIP! ZILCH! Oh, right... he did get Natira. Now, when that show came on, I thought we finally had something. But how come the writers only give him a girl when he can't sit up? He has xenopolycethemia in this one, and in "The Empath" he's all beat up the moment that you know Gem is crazy about him. I'm not making this up! Think about it! In "Shore Leave," instead of getting the girl, he gets a lance through the gizzard! In "Friday's Child" -- you know, the one where Eleyan decides that only MAC COY can touch her? -- she names her baby after him eventually, too -- but not before she spatters him with a rock, laying him out cold! And in the most recent example, The Search for Spock, McCoy goes into a bar and asks the waitress, “Anybody been lookin’ for me?” and the waitress says, “I have, but what’s the use?” WHAM! Within two minutes he’s flat on his back in detention! I tell ya, I don't know what the writers have against McCoy and women, but it's detrimental to his physical and emotional well-being!

    Anyway, back to my gripe about the Natira story. He finally gets this beautiful woman, and I'm thinking, "AWRIGHT!" They get married. They exchange these lovely vows. I'm dabbing at my eyes and thinking, "Oh, how perfect. At long last, LOVE! At long last, HONEYMOON!"

    But is Natira thinking “honeymoon” with this handsome devil she’s been kissing since she got her first chance? NO! Natira wants to show him The Book! I’m standing there and I’m screaming at her, “Wake up and smell the coffee! You have a great evening in the offing and you want to talk about a BOOK you haven’t even READ yet?!” I mean, where are this woman's priorities. This is HONEYMOON NIGHT, lady, Prime Time With Your Man! And McCoy seems just as happy to discuss the damned book as SHE is. He has 365 days before he kicks off, right? So what’s the rush?

    Well, then I got mad at the writers again. I thought, "Who WROTE this blasted thing?!" Someone with hormones well in check, I can tell you that much! If it had been ME, it would have been called, "GEE, JUMPIN' BONES"! And it would have had a happier ending... and a sequel... and a spin-off...

    Of course in those days Star Trek couldn’t get away with what television gets away with in these days. But I have news: for my money, the sexiest guy on the ship has always been and always will be Dr. Leonard H McCoy! Even at age 137, he had something special to share. He knew the Secret, and he told Data the very first time he spoke to him. He was talking about the Enterprise, but all of us McCoy maidens knew exactly what he meant -- he did, too! -- when he told Data: “Treat her like a lady -- and she’ll always bring you home..."

    If you haven't ordered DeForest Kelley: A Harvest of Memories, you're running out of time, so you may just want to call the Publisher's Toll Free Order Line: 1-888-280-7715. Kris will only have ten copies on hand after her presentation Friday afternoon.

    Sunday, August 20, 2006

    Star Trek turned me into a rock star!

    Blog #22 by Amy Ulen,
    English Teacher, Tumwater High School

    I keep begging all of you to send in a story about how Star Trek has influenced your life, and the few I have received are amazing. Many of the blog articles to date are about profound issues and effects that Star Trek has had on peoples lives, so I’m going to lighten it up a bit and describe how Star Trek turned me into a rock star for a day and an instant celebrity at my school!

    Excerpt from A Day on the Set: A Fan's Ultimate Star Trek
    first printed on April 29, 2004
    My trek to the stars began with a radio contest on KZOK-FM in Seattle. The contest ran for three weeks with two finalists picked each week. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear about the contest until the second week, so I only had two shots at qualifying. My first attempt was a miserable failure when I tried calling in on my cell phone from school. Although I knew the answers to the trivia contest, I couldn’t get through the phone lines. I made a decision that morning that I was going to take the following Thursday morning off work so that I could use my landline at home to qualify. Wednesday night rolled around and I sat poised with a notepad and watched “Hatchery.” Four pages of notes later, I was ready for the contest. Again, I called and couldn’t get through. The question was “What was the Starfleet regulation that allowed Phlox to relieve Archer of command?” The answer was Regulation 104, Section C, but the line was busy. While I frantically hit redial, at least six callers gave the wrong answer. When I finally made it through, I had to wait for two more people to attempt the answer. I was in agony as one woman said “104, section…3,” and the next caller said “section 5.” Finally, my line was selected and I shouted the answer. At that moment, my incredible journey began.

    Those of us who qualified had to submit a photo and brief essay to KZOK. My essay read, “As a high school English teacher, I have my students compose a list of 50 things they want to do, see, or accomplish before they die as a journal entry. I always share my list with the kids, and they laugh when they see ‘Be on an episode of Star Trek’ as one of my goals. They don’t believe that my goal is attainable therefore shouldn’t be on the list. I want to prove to them that as outrageous as a dream may seem, anything is possible! You can help me teach this valuable life lesson by voting for me.” After submitting my contest entries, I went to school and straight to my principal. As I was one of the last qualifiers, the final web voting was opening that afternoon. I told my principal all about the contest and asked him if I could make an announcement over the intercom. He agreed! As soon as voting opened, students all over the school logged on and voted for me. After being announced the winner the following morning, I instantly earned celebrity status at school. As I walked across the commons toward the Performing Arts Center to teach my acting classes, kids were hanging out the windows yelling their congratulations and that they had voted for me. Over a month later, the kids are still talking about it and eagerly anticipating the episode.

    What I didn’t write about in the article was the depth of student involvement in helping me win the contest and achieve my dream. After my principal made the initial announcement inviting students to vote for me in the contest, nearly every computer in the school was used for voting. The radio station used cookies so that each computer could only be used once, so by the time 4th period rolled around, the kids could no longer vote. As usual, the tech-savvy kids came up with the solution to erase the cookies so more kids could vote. I didn’t want to take the chance of being disqualified, so I told them to wait and vote at home. My kids did more than that…much more! They immediately started sending off e-mail, sending text messages, and calling everyone they knew to encourage them to vote for me. Their campaign was so successful, that I won by a landslide. Hundreds of votes separated me from the rest of the contestants, and I only had qualified that morning!

    The following morning the school was abuzz with anticipation while we waited for the contest winner to be announced. At the appointed time, my 3rd period class and I paused our lesson to listen to the radio. As I stood in front of the room, a bundle of excited nerves, I looked at my students who were ALL giving the Vulcan salute! To this day—two years later—that moment still brings a tear to my eye. Those kids genuinely wanted me to achieve my dream. They didn’t get everyone they knew to vote for me so they could earn extra credit or some other form of personal gain, they gave from the goodness of their hearts, and I will always admire them for that. Even had I not won the contest, I considered myself blessed in that moment to be teaching such a fine group of human beings. Yet, I did win, and the room erupted with shouts of celebration. My lesson plan for the period was forgotten as the kids swarmed me with hugs and high-fives. Students from around the school ran to my room to let me know I won and the phone started ringing off the hook. It was an incredible moment that I will never forget.

    Many of those same kids tuned in to Enterprise for the first time on May 26, 2004. They had heard all of the stories about my day on the set and wanted to see my television debut. Several of them became Star Trek fans that night, which gave us a lot to talk about when they were hanging out in my room after school. Most of the kids who voted for me that day graduated last year, but the freshmen will be seniors this year, and we are looking forward to exploring the world of Sci-Fi in my new English elective!

    Star Trek has influenced my life in so many ways, but this experience encapsulated it all. Star Trek is about achieving impossible dreams. It is about using technology to seek out and enhance life. It is about community. Star Trek is about a room full of kids who will forever “live long and prosper” in my heart!

    Saturday, August 19, 2006

    “Away Mission III: Klingonisch”—part 3

    Today is Gene Roddenberry's birthday, so after reading this final installment of “Klingonisch,” head over to to read their tribute of the man that created “the show that changed the world”!

    Blog #21 by Jeff Greenwald
    Author of Future Perfect:
    How Star Trek Conquered Planet Earth

    Taken from the chapter
    " Away Mission III: Klingonisch "
    There’s an awards ceremony at twilight. The top Klingon officers assemble on a crude cement stage beneath a canopy of trees, dressed in thick regalia. The formalities are conducted under the glowering eye (and crustacean brow) of Toqduj Zantai JonwI: the fearsome Fleet Admiral of the entire Khemorex Klinzhai . Bats swoop around his ears, feasting on invisible gnats.

    Ten warriors are called up in turn, and honored for outstanding service to the fleet. Finally, Q’Eltor himself is summoned. Along with a promotion to Lieutenant Commander, Ralf receives the Qet’lop’s coveted SuvwI’a’ award. “The literal translation,” taj’IH explains proudly, is, ‘That’s a warrior!’ ”

    There is more drinking, more singing, and drinking again. When darkness falls, the warriors reconvene for a Klingon wedding. Qor-Zantai Haqtaj, Commanding Officer of the Dark Vengeance Fleet, will wed the half-Klingon, half-human B’Elanna Torres. The bride and groom look marvelous. Haqtaj struts among the picnic tables in his armadillo-like jacket, bedecked with medals and pins; B’Ellana (named for the half-Klingon engineer on Voyager) adjusts her headpiece, and applies dark makeup to her nose.

    Though the ceremony won’t have the blessing of the Holy Church, it’s carried out in reverent Klingon style. Haqtaj literally battles his way to the altar. He’s a big man, and brooks no nonsense. Thick-suited warriors tumble over park benches (and each other) with loud shouts, their swords clanking into the dust. When the couple is finally united, taj’IH—the master of ceremonies for many of the evening’s events—presents them with small tokens: an amulet for her, a nose ring for him. They exchange vows and drink together from a silver chalice. Finally the bride and groom snarl at each other and share a savage kiss. Blood (or something close) flows down their chins. They exit the stage amid roars of congratulations.

    By the time the ceremony ends, it’s bitterly cold outside. I join a pack of Klingons standing around the pit fire, singing battle songs and roasting marshmallows. RaH’el appears beside me, palming her dagger.

    “The wedding was great,” I sigh.

    “Yes.” She leers, fangs glinting in the firelight. “But the divorce will be better.”

    An hour or so later, I find Supreme Admiral Toqduj Zantai JonwI—aka Andy Wilson—sitting alone on a picnic bench. I take a seat beside him. In his other life, Wilson is a rough-looking Scot, born in Paisley. A former cop, now a mechanic, he shows up at the Qet’lops “whenever I can afford it.”

    Wilson first saw Klingons on TOS in 1966, when he was fifteen. “I’ve never been a Federation fan,” he sneers. “It’s like cowboys and Indians. I’ve always sided with the Indians—and Klingons are definitely the Indians.”

    Wilson and his buddy, Stephen Donnelley, started the Khemorex Klinzhai (literally, the “Klingon spirit that grows”) in 1993. It was an act of treason: a mutiny from the U.S.-based Klingon Assault Group (KAG). Klingons in the U.K. and Europe cheered the move, shifting their allegiance to the local leaders. From its seed group of “ten Scottish guys,” the KK membership spread like wildfire. There are now more than 400 members throughout Europe.

    “America-based fan clubs tend not to be a great idea for the U.K., or Europe in general,” Wilson tells me over a Styrofoam cup of wild prune juice, “because communications are difficult. Also, American Klingon groups tend to have a very short life span. They last a year, eighteen months at most, and then they fold. Compared to that, the Khemorex Klinzhai’s been going a very long time.”

    There was probably another motive for the split as well. Personalities attracted to the Klingon mystique, obviously, prefer being in charge. It’s hard to blame them. Especially the Scots, whose great heroes have been in small, marauding bands rather than united armies.

    “Scots are born warriors,” Wilson confirms, puffed up in his flamboyant uniform. “We’ve always been warriors. It’s in the bloodline. And if y’hear two Scots arguin’—why, it even sounds like Klingon!”

    “Do you feel,” I ask, “like a Fleet Admiral?”

    Wilson laughs, rolling a smoke. “When there are other Klingons about, yes.”


    “Otherwise I’m just Andy Wilson, mechanic.”

    A pod of warriors walk by, saluting smartly. Wilson nods in response, and strikes a match with his thumbnail.

    At 2 a.m., music is still blasting through the trees. The late-night anthem is Tek for Trek, a heavy metal CD produced by a band of musicians from Berlin. Everyone present knows the songs by heart, and their Klingonisch howls could rouse a rotted skunk.

    I slink off into the medical tent and collapse onto one of the army surplus cots, shivering under a borrowed sleeping bag. The music pounds on through the night. When I wake at dawn, breath steaming, I see a Klingon asleep in the cot next to mine. His black leather tunic, metal sash and molded brow piece are covered with frost.

    That’s a warrior.

    Friday, August 18, 2006

    "Away Mission III: Klingonisch"—part 2

    Blog #20 by Jeff Greenwald
    Author of Future Perfect:
    How Star Trek Conquered Planet Earth

    Taken from the chapter
    " Away Mission III: Klingonisch "
    The Josef Haydn rolls south from Köln, hangs a right at Koblenz and swoops down the Mosel Valley, clinging to the river. The hillsides lie emerald green, candy-striped with grapevines. This is true rustic Germany: steeples everywhere, the houses severe as Mennonite barns.

    A turn and a tunnel carry the train away from the Mosel, and we race among fields. Horses graze between white fences. The sun, intense but uncertain, shimmers behind a cirrostratus veil. Every kilometer brings us nearer to the Luxembourg border, another of Europe’s odd corners. Once a Roman stronghold, Trier marked the last of the Empire’s conquests on the continent.

    The perfect location, I reflect, pulling my bags off at Trier, for a Klingon Qet’lop....

    My instructions, delivered via e-mail from a Munich Internet jockey named Ralf Gebhart, are simple: Take a local bus to the edge of town, and walk toward the forest. Follow the signs to the Qet’lop.

    The bus ride continues for nearly an hour, much of it spent grinding up streets so twisted and narrow there are mirrors on the corners. Past the homes and streets and hidden drives, the land bursts open into wet rolling countryside, fragrant with pine. A feral cat streaks across the road. There are other passengers on the bus.

    The driver pulls over. There is a hydraulic hiss, and he thrusts his thumb toward the open door. He speaks no English; I, no German. I step off, hauling my bags, and he drives away. There isn’t a car in sight. A sign along the road says Auf wiedersehen, though I’ve had no sense of being anywhere for a good half hour.

    I start walking.

    Rain falls. I get wet. Voices filter down from the hills, but I see no humans. There are signs I can’t read. The road changes to gravel, then dirt; the wheels of my flight bag are sucked into the muck. Weak with irony, I recall Gene Roddenberry’s initial Star Trek sales pitch: a “Wagon Train to the stars.” It is difficult to convey how stupid I feel at this moment, wet hair hanging limply across my face, pants soaked, dragging 40 kilos of carry-on down a bad road toward a dubious encounter with a bunch of Worf wannabees....

    I’m not an obsessive enough fan to know how many times the term Qet’lop has been mentioned on Star Trek. Part lodge meeting, part bacchanal, a Qet’lop is a sporadic festival at which the might of the Klingon fleet is celebrated. The European events are held twice yearly, in Spring and Fall, when cold weather makes the heavy Klingon costumes sensible. I first heard about this Qet’lop via the Internet, and spent many anxious e-sessions lobbying for permission to attend (hard-core Klingons are reluctant to allow journalists into their private functions). Last-minute clearance had arrived while I was in London, approved by one Admiral Qor-Zantai Haqtaj (don’t ask me how to pronounce it) and delivered by Ralf Gebhart.

    An hour later, and still no sign of the event. I’ve given up hope of ever finding the party when I hear an extended crunching sound, and an American-made Jeep pulls up beside me. A freckled, earthy-looking blonde sits behind the wheel; there are saddles in the back. Christine—she introduces herself—understands English, and I convey my dilemma. She listens to my half-crazed description of an alien warrior picnic and seems to wrestle with her better judgment before motioning me in.

    We follow the road another few miles. It turns toward a canyon, meets the anchorage of a collapsed bridge, and disintegrates into the tangled concrete of a construction site. I shudder, imagining my fate if I’d reached this place alone. But Christine shoots off along a spur, directly into the woods, and we spend the next ten minutes bouncing over rocks and logs.

    We emerge, miraculously, at the entrance to what is apparently a regional park. A hand-lettered sign, drawn on a paper plate, points us toward the Qet’lop.

    “Yes,” Christine observes, perplexed, “but how do we know when we....” Then she slows the jeep to a crawl, her jaw slack, as we approach an open area filled with tents. Banners with sinister lettering flap in the wind; the low sun glints off bat’telh swords.

    Here, within a circle of trees, among picnic tables and barbecue pits, are the Klingons.
    * * *
    Jag mobogh puuuu’...! Jag mobogh puuuu’....!

    The strangely familiar musical refrain pounds through the grove, blasting from an industrial-sized boom-box suspended between two trees. In a campsite at the foot of Germany’s Mosel Valley, eighty snarling warriors raise goblets of crimson “blood wine”—shots of colored vodka, each containing a writhing worm—and toast the glorious Klingon Empire. For the moment, all is laughter and fun; later, they will engage in contests of brute strength and eat broiled wienerschnitzel with their bare hands.

    This is the third Qet’lop held in Germany thus far, drawing warriors from as far as Switzerland and Scotland. It’s a highly deconstructionist event: walking up the crude wooden steps leading to the picnic area, I pass a table loaded with make-up, glue and sewing kits. A man sits quietly on a bench, stitching a wig onto the latex headpiece that will transform him from an Austrian accountant into a warlord from Qo’noS, the Klingon home world.

    He is the rule rather than the exception. Out of costume, few of the men or women attending this celebration would merit a second glance at an outdoor cafe. It’s amazing how the ridged brows and black lipstick, the spiked boots and fangs, lend these bankers, students and computer nerds a savage panache. Ralf Gebhart himself, a grunge beanpole in street clothes, spends nearly an hour squirming into a costume of leather and latex that transforms him completely. What was geeky becomes diabolical; his whole personality rises to the role. Ralf is dead and buried, and I find myself facing Q’Eltor, a Klingon lieutenant capable of eating live spiders.

    The change is even more amazing in Astrid, Ralf’s American-born lover. Astrid is the first to admit her own plain appearance, and it’s tough to argue with her. But in full Klingon gear, with her small breasts pushed up in a tight leather teddy and her gnomic head expanded by a black wig and cartilaginous brow, she is a consort worthy of a warrior.

    “What do I call you now?,” I ask.

    “I’m taj’IH.”

    “Can you spell that for me?”

    She takes my notepad, supports it on my back and scrawls the odd hybrid of capped and lower-case letters. “In the Klingon language it means ‘beautiful knife.’”

    I scan her hips for weapons. “Are knives a big part of this event?”

    “No.” taj’IH shakes her head emphatically. “One of our strictest rules is, no live steel.”

    “What’s ‘live’ mean?”

    “Sharp enough to cut your throat.”

    Astrid is an M.D., currently working as the director of an on-line medical service. Her family moved to Europe from New Jersey 22 years ago, when she was twelve. As taj’IH, she is Captain of a Munich-based “Bird of Prey” named quv’a’ (literally, “Honor”). The ship is part of the Khemorex Klinzhai: the European “Dark Vengeance Fleet” to which all these warriors belong. Its 400-plus members hail from England, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Scotland. Taj’IH herself joined in 1994.

    Taj’IH first met Q’Eltor in March of 1996. Ralf—a longtime fan just coming out as a Klingon—had been surfing the Web in search of kindred spirits, and found the Khemorex Klinzhai’s home page. A picture of Astrid, resplendent as the warrior Taj’IH, pulsed on the screen. Ralf spent the next two weeks tracking her down. The first few times they first went out, both wore full Klingon costume. Astrid barely recognized Ralf when she finally saw him as “his real self.”

    She leans toward me, lowering her voice. “Wanna hear a Klingon joke?”


    “Okay. Why are Klingons born with ridged foreheads?”

    I shake my head.

    “Because Klingon pussies are so tight!”

    We yuk it up. I inquire—with the barest hint of lechery—how her relationship with Q’Eltor gets on.

    “In a normal way,” she replies testily. “We know who we are. Listen, I keep a healthy gulf between my civilian life and my Klingon existence. Though a great deal of my time is devoted to my ship....”

    I ask taj’IH if she can shed some light on why the Klingon mystique is so appealing here in Germany.

    “Absolutely,” she laughs. “Germans have a very anal, regimented existence. They’re stiff, they’re quiet, and they drink hard. This is a chance to break away. To enjoy a little anarchy. To...” A command, barked in fluent Klingon from the picnic table, draws her attention. She responds in kind, and turns back to me. “Gotta go,” she announces. “It’s time to stuff the Romulan.”

    The dummy, an effigy of an alien race despised by all Klingons, figures prominently in the afternoon’s Decathlon. Befanged contestants chafe and stomp, waiting for the privilege of hurling the mannequin to the ends of the earth—a feat performed to the accompaniment of blood-curdling battle cries. That competition is followed by an “obs-tribble” course, in which merciless warriors walk a crooked line while balancing furry “Tribbles” on spoons. Next comes balloon slashing, accomplished with crescent-shaped bat’telh swords.

    It’s a lot to absorb. I approach the bartender—by now a fond acquaintance—and order another bloodwine, straight up. Nem’Roc grins, reaching for the tweezers, but I grab his wrist: “Hold the worm.”

    Just then the music starts again: Jag mobogh puuuu’...! , at volume ten. It’s so familiar, and yet.... “What is that song?” I demand.

    “You don’t know?” Nem’Roc throws back his head and laughs. “It’s Born to Be Wild, translated into Klingon!”

    Pork steaks broil above a barbecue pit; prune juice flows like wine. Along a groaning board loaded with Klingon and Terran delicacies, fourscore warriors heap their plates with stuffed to’baj legs, qagh, and mixed bean salad.

    RaH’el Qvl’n cha’, the Klingon Defense Force Weapons Officer, stands beside me in line. She’s lithe, dark and savagely beautiful. Her jet-black hair ripples like Nefertiti’s. The look fits; by day she’s an Egyptologist, employed by the University of Bonn.

    “Your nameplate isn’t bilingual,” I notice. “Only Klingon.”

    She shrugs. “I forget the German names anyway.”

    “Are you fluent in Klingon?”

    “I love the language. There are so many similarities between Klingon and Egyptian. For example....” She spoons what looks like fresh placenta onto her plate. “This—‘Rokeg blood pie’—is a famous Klingon dish. In Egyptian, rokeg is also a kind of pie, made with meat and vegetables.”

    “Sounds like you’re leading two parallel lives.”

    “I try to.” She smiles, her teeth a gleaming ripsaw blade. “The name RaH’el, for example, means, ‘to be violent’—and I am.” She grabs my arm and yanks me a few steps away from the feeding masses. “I’m addicted to weapons.” She lifts her leather tunic, displaying the Klingon d’k tahg against her skin. The ritual dagger is a beautiful piece of work: well-balanced, razor sharp, and unquestionably lethal. So much for ‘no live steel....’

    Thursday, August 17, 2006

    “Away Mission III: Klingonisch”—part 1

    So, I was checking out the announcements on Planet Xpo’s Star Trek 40th Anniversary Gala Celebration & Conference page and was saddened to see that Jason Alexander had to cancel due to jury duty. It really is too bad, but they also added some great guests to an already incredible lineup. As I scrolled through the rest of the page, I was reminded that we are going to see the Klingon band, Stovokor, on Friday at the Space Needle. Now, I’m into heavy metal bands like Iron Maiden, but I’ve never been a fan of death metal; yet, I have a feeling these guys put on an entertaining live show! You can check out some of their songs on MySpace and purevolume. To get us in a Klingon state of mind, I’m going to share some more excerpts from Jeff Greenwald’s Future Perfect: How Star Trek Conquered Planet Earth over the next few days.

    By early next week I’m going to need more fan blogs, so send your story and photo to Amy Ulen as soon as possible.

    Blog #19 by Jeff Greenwald
    Author of Future Perfect:
    How Star Trek Conquered Planet Earth

    Taken from the chapter
    " Away Mission III: Klingonisch "
    …I flew into Düsseldorf and was met at the airport by Torsten Frantz, a tanky, 26-year-old computer scientist from nearby Dortmund. Frantz organizes the town’s monthly Star Trek dinners. Described by Frantz as a “non-organized culture,” the dinners are endemic in Germany. More than a hundred of them happen each month, in cities and villages across the German Democratic Republic.

    My original plan had been to join Frantz and about sixty of his buddies for their Friday night gathering. Since then, I’d been invited to attend a bi-annual Klingon feast—a weekend-long Qet’lop—in the forests near Trier. My visit to Dortmund, I confess to my host, will be a short one.

    With sun-starved skin, floppy blond hair and wire-rimmed glasses as wide as TV screens, Frantz is a certified member of Neogeeks Anonymous. Smart and serious, he bends over backwards to make my stopover productive. Our program begins with a lunch visit to Gaststaette Wuestefeld, the restaurant where the Dortmund dinners are held. Frantz proudly shows me the custom menus printed for the monthly events. A disclaimer appears on the bottom of the last page:

    Dishes are served in the Klingon manner if the waiter is asked to do so—but you’ll have to look for a location far away from the other guests.

    Among the incomprehensible menu selections, Frantz recommends the Uhura-schnitzel. It tastes a bit like chicken.
    * * *
    Star Trek was post-war Germany’s first real introduction to sci-fi. Frantz doesn’t count Shuttle Orion, a home-grown program from the early 1960’s: “It had such a small budget that electric razors, radio microphones and irons were used as props.”

    Before the mid-80s, he explains, science fiction was considered entertainment for children. “Star Trek first appeared here in 1974, but you would not have recognized it. The censors of the German Public Network cut out the violence and changed the dialogue, smoothing whole episodes to make them suitable for kids.”

    German morality, along with humiliating memories of the Holocaust, gave the censors plenty to do. They nipped away at the racey American import, shortening some episodes by as much as ten minutes. They wrote fresh, wholesome dialogue and dubbed it in wherever sexual innuendo might intrude. There is a famous episode called “Amok Time,” Torsten reminds me, in which Spock goes into “heat” and must fight Captain Kirk to the death. The dialogue was rewritten to make it sound as if the Vulcan merely falls ill, and has a series of amusing dreams. Another episode—”Patterns of Force,” in which Spock and Kirk visit a planet knuckled under a Nazi-like dictatorship—was banned for many years, and aired for the first time in 1996.

    To illustrate this butchery, Frantz hands me a typewritten translation of the Star Trek teaser, as recited on German TV:

    Space. An infinite area.
    We write the year 2200.
    These are the adventures of the spaceship Enterprise,
    which, with its 400-man crew
    is five years long underway, in order to explore new worlds,
    new life, and new civilizations.
    Many light-years distant from the Earth,
    Enterprise forges ahead into galaxies which no man has seen before.

    “Pure nonsense,” Frantz grunts. “Four hundred men? And it takes the Enterprise years just to cross this galaxy!”

    In 1985 the first Star Trek movies—and unexpurgated video tapes of the original TV shows—made it across the Rhine. Episodes of The Next Generation began airing on private channels in 1989, though hardcore fans were already trading bootleg videos from the U.S. and England. The fan club dinners started in southern Germany 1981, many years before Frantz got involved. “So there were already lots of fans in Germany,” he said, “even before TNG.”

    That evening we visit Frantz’s friend Andreas, a gangly, gregarious Trekker with a huge beer cooler bolted into a corner of his living room. He shows me his bedroom. The walls are papered with photographs of Rosalind Chao—the obscure actress who plays Keiko O’Brien, wife of the chief engineer, on Deep Space Nine. A satisfied feeling envelops me as I behold this shrine: I am in the presence of true obsession.

    Surrounded by a dozen bags of potato chips and enough beer to fill Picard’s aquarium, I flop onto an overstuffed couch to watch the Friday night, prime-time broadcast of Voyager.

    “I don’t know if I have the courage to show you the German treatment of Voyager.” Andreas hesitates apologetically, fiddling with the remote. “The voices have nothing in common with the American version....”

    We watch it anyway, as well as a taped episode of Raumschiff Enterprise (i.e., The Next Generation) and the censored version of “Amok Time.” It’s the first time I’ve seen Star Trek in a foreign language. German works; the orders barked by Picard on the Bridge—especially during Red Alert—seem far snappier in deutch than in English, and the banter between Spock and McCoy has a sharper, more diabolical edge. Voyager is especially weird. Kate Mulgrew’s reedy elocution, problematic as it may be, is infinitely preferable to the voice of her dubbed replacement, who sounds like Olga of the SS.

    My hosts bristle when I call the series an icon of American pop kultur. Star Trek is the cutting edge of a universal vision, Torsten explains; a mythos that owes no allegiance to borders or politics. It’s a template, a role model for an enlightenened contemporary lifestyle.

    “It’s more than a hobby for me,” Andreas says. “It’s not exactly a religion, either but something in between. It shows me how to understand other cultures; how to solve my own problems in a way of peace, and not always with aggressive methods.”

    My hosts agree that Star Trek has been an inspiration for Germany’s post-recovery generation. But they don’t see it as a blueprint for the human future in space. A myth spawned by the Apollo era—which ended when Torsten was an infant—need not compel its viewers toward cosmic journeys, any more than reading the Odyssey makes us want to cross the Aegean Sea on a raft. To Americans, Star Trek reflects a manifest destiny, a new space age to be finessed with American technology and know-how. For my German hosts, the focus is different: it’s the recipe for courage and resourcefulness quilted into each episode.

    Late that night, while Torsten snores, I contemplate how Starfleet, with its Prime Directive and multi-racial crews, is the polar opposite of the Third Reich. Star Trek’s huge popularity in Germany reflects a generation’s complete rejection of the Aryan übermensch philosophy that led to World War Two. It is the irony of ironies that the first real flowering of rocket science occured during the same insane epoch—with the deadly technology of von Braun’s V2 rockets.

    Be sure to check back tomorrow night for part two and meet some German Klingons!

    Wednesday, August 16, 2006

    Fan Blogger--Chris Comte from Seattle

    Here is our third fan blog all the way from…Seattle! Far or near or somewhere in between, I want to hear from you. Share your story about how Star Trek has influenced your life with like-minded fans by E-mailing it to Amy Ulen. Please include a photo if you have one.

    Chris writes that he has performed in theatre, film and television productions throughout the Pacific Northwest for the past 20 years. He currently serves as the Membership Director for the Seattle Local of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and as Seattle Liaison for Actors' Equity Association, in addition to serving in numerous volunteer positions in the Seattle performing arts community. He's been a space enthusiast as far back as Project Mercury (at least according to his father), and holds memberships in both the National Space Society and Planetary Society. Although a devoted fan of Star Trek from almost literally “day one,” he admits he hasn't attended a convention since 1978, when he was kicked out of an elevator by Harlan Ellison!

    Blog #18 by Chris Comte
    from Seattle, Washington
    I can't recall with exact certainty the first time I saw an episode of Star Trek, but I'm pretty sure it was sometime during the first season. And I won't swear by it, but I think it's even likely I saw the very first episode when it premiered in September of 1966. The problem of course, is that memory is a strange and funny thing, and a child's memory in particular is subject to the influences of imagination and wistfulness, and so I won't make the claim outright.

    All I know is, at the time, my dad, my two younger brothers, and myself were living in my grandparent's house in Portland, Oregon, where we had a color TV upstairs in what used to be (and was again temporarily) my father's bedroom, and on most nights we would crowd onto his bed to watch our favorite shows. At the time, one of our most favorite, Batman, aired on both Wednesday and Thursday nights, and so I'm fairly certain we would have been watching on September 8th when a brand new series called Star Trek had its network premiere.

    My dad was something of a space buff in those days, and so anything having to do with rockets or outer space would have piqued his interest, not to mention my own. Having been born in 1960, I was raised as a child of "the space age": as my dad likes to tell it, he would prop me up on pillows or cradle me in his lap to watch the early Mercury blastoffs, and I can easily recall Walter Cronkite's sing-songy intonations as he narrated later Gemini launches. In later years, we collaborated on building a model of the Saturn V moon rocket, complete with a Cape Canaveral diorama, as a cub scout project, and I can still remember begging him to take me to a screening of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey for my eighth birthday. The momentous events of July 20th 1969 have been indelibly etched into my memory, and it only takes a bit of concentration to call up the image of sitting on the floor in our living room, dad in the recliner behind me, as we stared slack-jawed and awestruck at the grainy black-and-white images of Neil Armstrong and "Buzz" Aldrin planting those first furtive steps on the surface of the moon.

    So, on that September evening in 1966, I can't imagine my dad NOT granting us an extra half-hour grace period from our usual 9:00 p.m. "lights out," if there was a promising new science fiction show about to premiere on TV.

    But, even if I can't exactly recall watching that first episode, I DO remember seeing subsequent programs during the original run of the series, and nearly four decades of seemingly continuous reviewing have only sharpened my appreciation for the show's considerable strengths: its truly ahead-of-its-time depiction of race, gender and class equality; its vision of hope and optimism for our future; its willingness to confront contemporary social, political, religious and philosophical themes - and to acknowledge its equally obvious weaknesses: the decided lack of budget, its occasional forays into campiness, and - especially, near the end of its three year run – the embarrassingly ridiculous plot lines.

    Yet, over the years, those of us who have grown to love Star Trek, whether we saw the series in first-run or later in syndication, remember it as much for these all-too-human failings as for its stunning prescience. Who would have imagined, back in the age of the rotary-dial telephone and room-sized computers, that in our own lifetimes we'd all flip open our palm-sized cell phones, just like Captain Kirk did with his communicator every week, or that we would routinely use tiny memory cards, smaller even than the colorful chips that littered Mr. Spock's library console, in portable computers not much larger than his trusty tricorder? Sure, they didn't get EVERYTHING right. Luckily there's been no "World War III" - yet, and no shipload of cryogenically frozen "supermen" blasted off to the stars in the late 1990's, but when you consider how much of our present day reality the creators of Star Trek imagined back then, well, it truly is "fascinating."

    But, more influential even than the series' depiction of futuristic gadgets and hardware, was its vision of what we as human beings could achieve, despite our limitations and biases. The future world of Star Trek was not one darkened by apocalyptic struggle, or nuclear annihilation, but instead was bright and hopeful, full of adventure, heroism, and yes, occasionally sacrifice and sadness. But a FUTURE nonetheless, where all people, and indeed all beings, had the opportunity to live in peace and harmony with each other, if they so desired; where conflict and struggle were obstacles to be overcome, and not ends in themselves; and where our ability to exceed our potential was limited only by the scope of our own imaginations.

    When I was young, I wanted to become an astronaut - in part because I wanted to help create the future that Star Trek envisioned. Later, when my eyesight and math aptitude seemed to preclude that particular career path, I became an actor instead - because I hoped someday to have the chance to do something as good and memorable as Star Trek. Today, I'm still in "the industry", albeit not on the stage or in front of the cameras, but instead working to provide opportunities for performers to realize their own dreams and ambitions. As the Klingons say, "The honor is to serve," and I hope my service to my profession and to my community of fellow artists has allowed others to go where I have not. That's another thing I learned from Star Trek: no matter what you do, no matter how small your task is in the bigger scheme of things, do it well, because the success of everyone depends on the success of each of us. It's not just about "the needs of the one" versus "the needs of the many"; it’s about "the needs of all."

    And so, for forty years, I, like so many others, have kept the vigil: watching the various incarnations and reimaginings of the series, both on TV and film; purchasing the books, novels, magazines, blueprints, patches, photo stills, models, props, videos, DVDs, and who-knows-what; going to the conventions; keeping alive the dream Gene Roddenberry and so many others gave us. Because, to those of us with the imagination to truly see, the creators of Star Trek gave us more than just a TV show; they gave us the gift of a glimpse into a future where the best qualities of humanity shone with the light of a thousand suns; where everyone has been granted the opportunity to make the best use of their native talents and acquired skills; where worth is truly defined by the content of ones character, and not by the color of ones skin, nor the God to whom one worships, nor the land in which they were born. It is a future that we can all today help to turn into a reality, if we just have the grace, the imagination, and the courage to "boldly go where no man (or woman) has gone before."

    Let's go!

    Tuesday, August 15, 2006

    The Inner Light, The Outer Darkness

    I recently received an E-mail from my mom who was excited to inform me of the Christie's Star Trek auction and tour that would be coming to Seattle in September. I almost didn’t have the heart to tell her that I’ve known about it for three months! I did tell her about the press release on and how I was most excited about the Ressikan Flute from "The Inner Light" that is estimated to go for $300-500. Through our E-mail exchange, she confessed that she wanted to buy me something but couldn’t figure out how the on-line bidding worked. She then said that if I could get the Ressikan Flute for $500, she would buy it for me! I thought that was such a sweet and generous offer, but I had to laugh, because I’m certain that prop is going to go for much more than estimated. "The Inner Light" is a fan favorite that continues to be a topic of discussion. I was reminded of William Kowinski’s incredible series of blog entries about that episode on the Soul of Star Trek earlier this summer. What follows is an excerpt from The Inner Light, The Outer Darkness, but you will want to visit his site to read the rest of this fantastic essay.

    Blog #17 by William S. Kowinski
    from Soul of Star Trek

    (originally published Sunday, June 25, 2006)

    excerpt from The Inner Light, The Outer Darkness
    "Inside the Magic"
    H.G. Wells explained how his science fiction stories worked: a plausible or at least fascinating “magic trick,” in a self-consistent world with recognizable characters. The science fiction in “The Inner Light” is a beam that causes a man to experience himself as someone else, and live more than thirty years of a life in less than a half hour in real time. This remarkable idea is both somewhat plausible (our science says that damage to the brain or electrical stimulation can alter a person’s perceptions and memories; chemicals can cause hallucinations) and intriguing, because we are all fascinated with dreams that seem to be real. We’re also especially fascinated with how we experience the passage of time, in dreams or in various circumstances in our waking life.

    The “magic trick” works, Wells says, only if you don’t look too hard at it. In this case, we aren’t supposed to speculate on how a society that isn’t capable of interplanetary travel can create a device capable of projecting into an unknown being such a completely felt and experienced hallucination. Besides, in the context of a television series, we often accept any excuse to see a well-known character in an entirely different situation or life, caused by anything from fever-dreams to mirror universes.

    A more serious problem would be if we didn’t believe that Picard could forget who he was, and become someone else so completely. But the careful writing and wonderful acting makes this magic trick successful---we believe it entirely. Not only was this one of Patrick Stewart’s best performances, but Margot Rose was perfect as Elise. She seldom gets the credit she deserves for the success of this episode.

    In some ways, the episode harks back to the original series in its bounded simplicity. Though it is beautifully lit and photographed, and filled with scenic detail, the world we see could be physically contained on a theatre stage. There are a few rooms in a modest house, a backyard, and a town square a few yards or feet away. Except for one matte painting, that’s all we see of Ressik. So like many TOS episodes, this is more like a stage play than the usual outer space, hardware-driven science fiction.

    In fact I remember being a bit bothered by this constrictedness, this seeming artificiality when it first aired. But its emotional power was always there, and the subtlety of its structure became more apparent on subsequent viewings. Like certain fables or myths, it is deft and economical in its storytelling.

    As a story about Picard, it is fascinating to those who know about his past in the series, and now, to those who can see how this experience changed him, as seen in later episodes and films. The life Picard leads as Kamin is almost the opposite of his life as Picard. Instead of an explorer through space, he stays in one place, and his explorations are in time. Instead of a commander of many, with high technology at his command, he is a relatively powerless man living a modest life with very little technology. But the most important difference, of course, is that as he himself observes: Picard he had no wife or children, and felt his life could be complete without them. But as Kamin, he cannot imagine his life without his family, and the love of a partner.

    That Picard experienced being a father and then a grandfather, stayed with him even after he returned to his real life. We see his longings for family recur in the feature film, “Star Trek:Generations.” There are specific echoes of Kamin’s observations in what Picard says in that film as well. When Picard learns of the death of his nephew, he mourns the loss of all the experiences the boy would have had in the same terms as Kamin mourns the lost future of his children and grandchild. And Kamin’s words to Meribor to “live now…Make now the most precious time. Now will never come again” are virtually repeated by Picard to Riker at the end of Generations.

    There are echoes and references even before that, notably in the sixth season episode, “Lessons,” when Picard plays the Ressikan flute with a woman he allows himself to fall in love with, (creating a duet with her around the melody of Frere Jacques), perhaps looking for a relationship like the one he had experienced as Kamin. The realities of Starfleet and serving as officers together on a starship, however, proved too difficult to sustain that dream.

    But in our time especially, more than a decade after this episode first aired, what seems most relevant about it is the situation of the planet Kataan, and Kamin/Picard’s response to it, which also involve the episode’s mysterious title: “The Inner Light.” What could it mean, and what could it mean for us now?