Thursday, September 07, 2006

Forty Years of Star Trek by Arthur C Clarke

Blog #40 by Arthur C Clarke

Forty years of Star Trek

(© Arthur C Clarke – all rights reserved.
Photos © by Jeff Greenwald. May not be used without permission.)
I still can’t believe that it’s now forty years since Star Trek entered our lives – and we started roaming the universe of Star Trek.

Photos © by Jeff Greenwald. May not be used without permission.How things have changed! Star Trek was born at a time when the Space Age was less than a decade old, and humans had just taken a few faltering steps into near space. The United States and the late, unlamented USSR were locked in the Space Race, itself a product of the Cold War. The spectre of nuclear war loomed large, and the civil rights and women’s movements were still struggling for equality among humans.

Appearing at such a time in human history, Star Trek popularised much more than the vision of a space-faring civilisation. In episode after episode, it promoted the then unpopular ideals of tolerance for differing cultures and respect for life in all forms – without preaching, and always with a saving sense of humour.

Photos © by Jeff Greenwald. May not be used without permission.Over the years, the sophistication of storylines and special effects has certainly improved, but Star Trek retains its core values – still very much needed in our sadly divided and quarreling world.

There are purists who say that Star Trek isn't science fiction, but science fantasy -- and they have a point. Genuine science fiction should describe things that could happen according to present knowledge, and today we are fairly certain that we won't be able to dash from one star system to another in time for the next week's episode. We can also be sure that the inhabitants of other worlds won't look anything like human beings -- or speak fluent American.

Photos © by Jeff Greenwald. May not be used without permission.But we have to remember that much that once seemed fantasy has now become fact. Seventy years ago, if anyone had written a story in which a whole city was destroyed by banging two small pieces of metal together, virtually all physicists would have said: "Utter nonsense!" Yet this is how the greatest of wars was ended in 1945. Today there are many other examples of my Third Law: ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’ (I’m amused to hear from a friend that the villain Lex Luthor utters these very words in the latest Superman movie, which I haven’t yet seen. My agents will be following this up.)

Although Gene and I met only a few times, we had a warm friendship that lasted twenty years. I am proud to have played a part in creating one of the great icons of our time – as Gene reminded my biographer, Neil McAleer, when he made an extremely generous assessment of my contribution. Nor was this the first time; in 1987, he wrote for my seventieth birthday felicitation volume: “Arthur literally made my Star Trek idea possible, including the television series, the films, and the associations and learning it has made possible for me.”

He continued: “My association with the Clarke mind and concepts began in 1964 with his book Profiles of the Future. In 1969, I traveled to Arizona to listen to a Clarke lecture on astronomy, where….I was persuaded by him to continue my Star Trek projects despite the entertainment industry’s labeling the production as an unbelievable concept and a failure…It was a friendship that deepened into the most significant of my professional life.”

That was indeed how it happened. After attending my lecture, Gene introduced himself and told me that his series was being cancelled because the television executives, in their inscrutable wisdom, had decided that there was no audience for it. Poor Gene was broke and about to mortgage his home. I introduced him to my lecture agent, who was skeptical but booked him into a small hall -- which couldn't hold the audience he attracted.

Photos © by Jeff Greenwald. May not be used without permission.The rest, as they say, was television history. I am very glad that Gene went on to achieve professional success and world respect. What must have given him even greater satisfaction is that he lived to see so many of his ideals triumphantly accepted. As I wrote in my tribute to Gene upon his death: “Few men have left a finer legacy. The Enterprise will be cruising the galaxy for centuries to come.”

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Leaving the Red Shirts at Home

FINALLY! I feel like I have been anticipating this event my entire life, and maybe I have considering my mom was pregnant with me in September of 1966! Early registration opens at the Sci-Fi Museum tomorrow, and I’m going to do my best to get to Seattle before 7pm. So, I’m packing tonight and having a heck of a time figuring out what I want to wear on Friday night. The one thing of which I am certain, I won’t be packing any red shirts!

Blog #39 by Dave Marinaccio,
author of All I Really Need to Know
I Learned from Watching Star Trek
Anyone with even a passing interest in Star Trek should know this rule: Never, ever, ever wear a red shirt-not under any circumstances. Don’t do it.

Pick any episode. Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, a series of regular like Uhura and some guy you’ve never seen before are standing on the transporter pad. If the guy is wearing a red shirt, he will not live past the first commercial. Somewhere on the planet below the certain death awaits.

I’ve watched these guys in red shirts get shot, be blown up, be disintegrated, have all of their blood drained, have every cell in their body explode and otherwise meet the most painful and horrible deaths imaginable.

The endings aren’t even especially heroic. First a guy beams down, then he’s dead. At least it’s usually quick. Nine times out of ten, the poor fellow doesn’t have a clue what hit him. Within seconds, Bones examines the fallen crewman with a tricorder, turns to the captain and says, “He’s dead, Jim.” By the next scene it’s as if the guy never existed. There’s no wake, no funeral and most of the time his name is never spoken again.

I bought red swim trunks once. I took them with me on a scuba diving trip to the Cayman Islands. While wearing those trunks ninety-five feet underwater on the north wall of the ten-thousand-foot-deep Cayman Trench, my regulator came apart. For those of you unfamiliar with scuba, the regulator is the thing that you breathe with. No regulator, no air. Under ninety-five feet of water this is more than an inconvenience. I managed my way up to the surface. Once safely back in my hotel room, I threw the red swimsuit away.

You would think I had learned my lesson. Wrong, security-detail breath. I bought a red short-sleeved shirt last summer. Next morning I unfolded the shirt and took out the pins. Ouch! A small trickle of blood. No big deal.

Work was relatively unremarkable that day, and I hopped into my car for the commute home. A car, I later realized, is a twentieth-century version of a transporter pad. On the ride home—WHAM. I ran into a van. My front end crumbled. The van sustained no damage.

Although I wasn’t killed, there was several hundred dollars damage to my car, and I did receive a $125 fine from the United States Park Police (one of Washington’s many police forces.) I tossed out the red shirt that night.

I do not own red socks or a red jacket or a red sweater or anything else that is completely red. It’s a wonder I’m not afraid of Santa Claus. I do find red-haired women attractive but I don’t recall ever dating one. That’s probably for the best.

Listen, wear red if you want to, but I’ll pass.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


  • View original post on TrekUnited!

  • Monday, September 04, 2006

    Fan Blogger--Rick Dostie from Treks in Sci-Fi

    Last week I mentioned my immersion in the podcasting craze this summer and said I would share a few of my favorites. Well, today we are hearing from Rico from Treks in Sci-Fi who kindly submitted a blog entry on very short notice. Be sure to check out his website and podcast. Rico celebrated the Treks in Sci-Fi podcast one year anniversary with a live web cam podcast yesterday, which included some great giveaways. Congratulations, Rico!

    Blog #37 by Rick Dostie,
    Treks in Sci-Fi

    "How Star Trek helped make me who I am"
    Wow, has it really already been forty years of Star Trek? It's hard to believe its been around that long already. I have been a fan of the show almost my entire life. I started watching when the original series was in syndication and haven't stopped since. Star Trek shows a vision of the future that gives us all hope and examples of tolerance and equality that we all can learn from. The show also gave me hope when I needed it most. You see, my father passed away when I was quite young. It was a difficult time for me. A few years after his passing I happened to discover a Star Trek rerun on television. I think it was the episode "Tomorrow is Yesterday." I remember being quite taken with the show right from the start. I especially enjoyed the interplay between the three main characters of Kirk, Spock & Dr. McCoy. They seemed to really care about each other even though they sometimes disagreed on things. With my father gone I think I sort of adopted the Trek family as sort of a surrogate group that I could learn from. As I started to watch all the episodes over and over again in syndication, I was able to learn many important things about what it means to be a good human being. From Kirk, I learned to be decisive and to listen to my instincts. From Spock, I learned to be analytical and to keep my emotions in check when necessary. And from Dr. McCoy, I learned to be caring and to speak out against things that are wrong. I think there is a Star Trek T-shirt someone made that says something like I learned everything I need to know from Star Trek. It's sort of cliché but that is somewhat true for me.

    As time passed I started to really embrace the show even more and this led me to others that shared my passion for the series. I met a small group of friends in school that also enjoyed the series very much. We would get together often and discuss the various episodes and comment on what we would do in those situations. Since Star Trek was still only in syndication with the original three seasons, we started to come up with our own storylines for episodes. At this point we decided to create our own little "spin-off" ship called the Aurora. We wrote several scripts for our own episodes and recorded them on to audio cassette tapes. It was a huge amount of fun getting together with everyone and doing the recording sessions. I, being the techie and science guy in the group, got to play the science officer on the ship, of course. I remember trying to gather sound effects off various televised episodes and inserting them into our recordings. This was back in the days before CDs, computers, mp3 files and so forth. So it was quite a chore to edit the shows together simply using a couple of tape recorders. In the end, we came up with six episodes all of which I still have to this day.

    Another area which Star Trek inspired me to get involved is in model and prop making. There was very little around in terms of collectibles that you could buy from Star Trek during that era, so I decided to make my own. Using very little reference material—except what I saw many times on the TV—I created my own props such as the classic phasers and communicators from the show. I made these out of whatever I could find around my house. Paper, cardboard, plastic, wood, etc. were all used in various ways to create the many devices seen on the show. I became a very good model maker, carpenter, and electrician just from my desire to recreate these items that were not available anywhere at the time. It was lots of trial and error; and I spent many summers building and creating Star Trek merchandise of my own in my basement growing up. I even ended up building mockups of the bridge helm console and Spock's station. It's amazing what some Christmas lights, wood, switches and contact paper can accomplish. I think my mother still wonders where our Christmas lights kept disappearing to year after year.

    I also started to do a little costuming during this time and began going to Star Trek conventions. The cons back then were much smaller than today, and I miss that aspect of them now. My brother and I even won a costume competition in Toronto way back then. My friends and I would visit the dealers room looking for little things we could buy with our limited funds. I remember very well seeing a fan made phaser for sale with a strobe light in the tip back then. I was in awe of it. I think it was selling for $100, which was a small fortune for me back then. But I examined it and used some of what I learned to make my own replicas better. After I returned home, I then started to buy electronics books in order to learn how to wire more elaborate circuits into my creations. Star Trek really sparked my desire to learn a variety of different and useful skills in order to build things I had seen on the show.

    As time passed, most of my friends moved on a bit from Star Trek, and I also did to a degree. We still loved the show, but other things in life started to take up more and more of our time. As I moved through college I still would watch the reruns and catch the movies as they came out. I made some new friends in college that were also fans of Trek. It was interesting, because it was starting to seem (as time went on) that many more people than I thought were into the show. I always think it was that hope for the future that was one of the best and most appealing aspects of the series.

    Eventually, I got married, had some kids, and "settled down" so to speak. I've always kept up on all the various Star Trek series and still go to the occasional convention. About a year ago, I started to listen to these new Internet audio talk shows called podcasts. I've always enjoyed computers and technology and had a small web site that I tinkered with to learn html and so forth. I began to look around for a good Star Trek podcast with intelligent discussions about the show. There were a few around but nothing that really was what I wanted. I decided to create my very own podcast. I used the name of my web site for the show. It's called Treks in Sci-Fi. It's a weekly show (sometimes two a week) about Star Trek and other science fiction movies and TV that I enjoy. Most episodes I do a commentary on a particular Trek episode. This can be an episode from any of the various series, although I do tend to cover the original series a bit more since I know it best. It's mainly a solo podcaster type show, but I do group shows from time to time with members from the forums and listeners discussing a particular subject. Each podcast is usually around one hour long and takes quite a bit of work to put together. But it's tons of fun! I've met many great new friends by doing the show. Anyone that wants to give my show a listen stop on by. I encourage anyone interested in a particular subject to listen to podcasts about it and maybe start your own if you are interested in that. It's a great way to take your passion for something and share it with the community on the Internet.

    In closing, I just want to thank Gene Roddenberry for creating this wonderful TV show and really the whole Trek universe. It helped me through a time in my life when I needed hope and role models to look up to. It also encouraged me to learn many skills I know I would not now have if it weren't for my love of the show. I'm a much better person from watching and learning from a simple TV show than I would have been without it. Thanks Star Trek and Happy 40th anniversary.

    Follow these links to check out the Treks in Sci-Fi website and podcast:

  • Sunday, September 03, 2006

    Transporter Operator Wilson beams on in from NY

    I am so excited about today’s blog entry and the power of the Internet to connect us with people whom we would never have met. As you read in Blog #33, I happened across Garland L. Thompson, Jr.’s poem "Ensign, Hand Me Your Phaser!" while searching for poetry podcasts. I commented on his poem and posted it on this site last Thursday. Well, Mr. Thompson got in touch with me and forwarded the blog link to his father in New York. This morning I received the following blog entry in my inbox! How cool is that?!

    Blog #36 by Garland Lee Thompson, Sr., Founder/Exec. Director,
    Frank Silvera Writers' Workshop Foundation, Inc. of New York

    Two of the most important writers/producers in my life and professional career are Ray Bradbury (The Martian Chronicles) and Gene Roddenberry (Creator of the Star Trek TV series). I first introduced myself and my acting work to Gene Roddenberry when I auditioned for his Star Trek series, and I invited him to screen a 1964 Academy Award nominated short film in which I performed the title role in The Legend of Jimmy Blue-Eyes (directed by Academy Award-winner Robert Clouse). After he viewed our Jimmy Blues-Eyes film, he explained to me that the series Executive Producers had decided to cast actress Nichelle Nichols as the "Communications Officer" on board the "Starship Enterprise." However, he would consider casting me as "The Transporter Operator Wilson," as a recurring role when needed.

    In the meantime, in 1965, I went to work as a technician/assistant stage manager for Ray Bradbury's Theatre Company production of his sci-fi plays in Hollywood at the Coronet Theatre. While working for Ray Bradbury, which was like taking a master course in Theatre, he graciously encouraged me to also write, after he read a short film treatment idea of mine. My acting coach, the director Corey Allen, also liked my short film idea and optioned it and we made my first film as a writer, MadGame, in1966. It included my three-year old son, Garland Jr., as a little boy playing "war games" with other kids in a public park in Los Angeles, Ca.

    During that same period in 1965, Gene Roddenberry kept his promise and did cast me in his fifth episode of the original Star Trek series entitled, "The Enemy Within," starring William Shatner (Captain James T. Kirk) and directed by Leo Penn. This was definitely "going places where no one has gone before." As "The Transporter Operator Wilson," I was blessed with two personal film scenes with Captain Kirk. First, when we "beamed" him up to the "Starship Enterprise," and due to a malfunction of the transporter, he was split into two Captain Kirks. One was negative and the other was positive (a good and a bad Captain Kirk). Both characters looked just like our "fearless leader," to my character as a crewman on the spaceship. What a debut for a new young actor it was. Firstly, I was alone with the "Starship Captain," who looked just like himself, in uniform and all. Secondly, Gene Rodderberry (The Creator) and the writer Richard Matheson, wrote my ensign character to pass the private quarters of Captain Kirk, and director Leo Penn, staged my character to be confronted with: "Ensign, give me your phaser!" And immediately afterwards the negative Captain Kirk, attacked my character, knocking me down martial arts style. I rolled onto a safety floor mat and director Leo Penn cried, "Cut & print it!" And the set crew all applauded Mr. Shatner's and my scene performance. Why? Not because it was so great, but because it was done in one "film take," and all the crew could then go to lunch early!

    For me too, it was a relief indeed. For I, as a "rookie player," with "the Star," had gone aside and quickly rehearsed our body moves together as in dance and stage combat. And that’s what made it work. William Shatner is trained in martial arts, stage combat and I am also and in dance. I was a teenage dancer in my film debut in the Twentieth Century-Fox major film, South Pacific, (1957), in Hollywood, as a "Fire Tender, on the Island of Bali Hai" (on the old back movie lot at Twentieth Century-Fox Studio).

    Gene Roddenberry awarded my family and I with a second episode of Star Trek entitled Charlie X (1966) with me cast as a "Crewman." But it was nearly two years before the Star Trek casting office called me for a third episode, in which I could not do, because I was under a stage manager contract at the Inner City Cultural Center Repertory in Los Angeles, Ca. Thus, I was forced and may have become one of the few actors in Hollywood to turn down a Star Trek episode. I shall have to live with that fact, and unfortunately, I never saw Gene Roddenberry again in this life.

    I now remember back when my mother, Sylvia N. Thompson, came to Hollywood to visit me, that I was able to introduce her to Gene Roddenberry on the Star Trek set at Paramount Studio. I shall be forever grateful for that fact, but I only regret that my son Garland Jr. was too young to be there also to meet the great Gene Roddenberry. And my daughter Alex was not born yet. But I must remember "my take" on this life situation: "Don't let your son catch you crying (Or your daughter, either)."

    Now, as far as "Star Trek" is concerned, I was glad "to beam them up, Scotty," "To go where no one has gone before," as Nichelle Nichols wrote about in her 1994 book, Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories. Or as Ray Bradbury and Gene Roddenberry taught me: "He who hesitates, spectates." "Make it so, engage!"

  • Be sure to check out Blog #33 by Garland L. Thompson, Jr. and his poem, "Ensign, Hand Me Your Phaser!"

  • Saturday, September 02, 2006

    To Enhance or Not To Enhance?

    Blog #35 by Amy Ulen
    This is it. As of today, I only have four more days for blog entries before I post the big Arthur C. Clarke blog with photos. I really want to fill the final four days with your words. Who are you? How has Star Trek influenced your life? What is your favorite Star Trek series/episode and why? What are you anticipating the most about the Star Trek conference in Seattle next weekend? This is your time to shine, so send your thoughts (and photos if possible) to Amy Ulen today!

    Like me, many of you are counting down the minutes to Planet Xpo’s STAR TREK 40th Anniversary Gala Celebration & Conference in Seattle next weekend. As I gear up for the conference, I’ve been checking out all the latest Star Trek news, blogs, and podcasts. I’ll share some of my favorites with you over the next couple of days. After watching the Star Trek marathon on G4 again this morning, I’ve been thinking about CBS Paramount’s announcement about the “enhanced” Star Trek episodes. I have conflicted feelings about this, so I’m looking forward to discussing it with people who have more to say about it than my husband. His only comment was that “Paramount has lost their minds!” The man is a Trek purist. If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, check out the Remastering Star Trek: TOS FX, Music Enhanced article posted on on 8/31/06. Be sure to come back here and leave your comments.

    On a related side note, you may have seen Daren R. Dochterman’s website, and his version of “The Doomsday Machine” posted on YouTube. Daren clearly states on his 8/31/06 blog that he isn’t involved with this new enhanced Star Trek project, so don’t get the two confused. He has done some great work, though, so be sure to check out his website.

    When you are done exploring all of these links, come back here and let me know what you think. To enhance or not to enhance?

    Friday, September 01, 2006

    Only one week to go!

    September is here…finally! One week from today—at this very moment—we will be celebrating 40 years of Star Trek at the Space Needle in Seattle! No matter what is going on in our lives, in one week we get to shed all of our cares and play! I look forward to meeting you all as we celebrate the show that changed the world.

    Blog #34 by Dave Marinaccio,
    author of All I Really Need to Know
    I Learned from Watching Star Trek
    Finnegan was an upperclassman at Starfleet Academy. An upperclassman who tormented a plebe he called “Jimmy me boy.” Jimmy me boy was , of course, Cadet James T. Kirk. Long after Kirk graduated from the academy, the captain of the Enterprise remembered Finnegan.

    “Remembered” isn’t strong enough a word. What James Kirk wanted was to beat the tar out of Finnegan. And beat him silly he did—years later, on a planet that made dreams come true.

    Virtually every member of the Enterprise lived out a fantasy on that planet, a planet constructed for the sole purpose of recreation. A planet constructed by an intelligence so far beyond our own. Spock wondered why they needed recreation at all.

    The curator could have answered Spock. But it was Kirk who spoke. “The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play.” Bingo. On the nose. Home run. Yeah, buddy. I’m gonna turn all the cards over. “The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play.”

    Other phrases may sound similar. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Work hard and play hard. All those clichés are close but no cigar—they subtly miss the mark.

    This is a prescription for maintaining one’s mental health. An understanding that intelligence requires both purpose and diversion. That the more challenging uses a mind is put to, the more important it is to have fun. CEOs should scuba dive. CEOs must scuba dive. A vacation isn’t just a good idea, it’s an absolute need.

    To tailor the concept a bit, the more complex the task (or job) the greater the need to build in some fun. Extrapolate this baby all over the lot. Star Trek strikes again. Everything you need to know is in this series someplace.

    In this particular instance, it’s also stated as eloquently as imaginable. The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play.