07 Jan

In honor of seeing William Shatner next week, I am reblogging a story from my old blog.




These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise, its five year mission, to seek out new life and civilizations, and to boldly go where no man has gone before........


Debuting on September 8th, 1966, an iconic and thought compelling series called Star Trek began with a pilot called "The Cage", starring Jeffery Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike, and Leonard Nimoy as his alien first officer Spock.  The two actors were chosen for their screen presence on previous western shows and cameos on other series that were out at the time.  Dubbed a western in outer space, it was intended to draw the same audience, but eventually drew a whole audience of its own.  NBC, unhappy with this first pilot, aired a new pilot on the above date, titled "Where No Man Has Gone Before", starring William Shatner as the new captain, Kirk, and became one of the first shows to offer a multiracial cast.


Set in the late 2260s, it was based on an interstellar spaceship that used matter-antimatter propulsion to achieve speeds much faster than the speed of light.  It carried 430 men and women throughout the galaxy on a five-year mission, directed under the supervision of Starfleet Command, a division of The United Federation of Planets.  Airing from 1966-1969,  it included such diverse topics as war and peace; economics, racism, religion, human rights, sexism, feminism, and the role technology plays in societies.

Created by Gene Roddenberry, the show produced 79 episodes, lasted three seasons, and eventually spawned a franchise of 5 new shows, 12 films, books, games, and toys.  First produced by Desilu, it was almost was cancelled until there was a petition of 116,000 letters to keep the show.  Paramount agreed to take on the series, and it slowly faded into rerun syndication.


I know myself what an impact the show had.  When I was a young boy, and they had moved it to the everyday 5:00 time slot in syndication, I never missed an episode.  Today, I know most of the shows word for word, which sometimes annoys my wife, and can name almost every episode.  It was one of the most advanced shows of the time and compared to "Lost In Space," was much more realistic and thought-provoking.  Although I also liked Lost, Trek was always my favorite.


All this week, in honor of the recent passing of Leonard Nimoy,  we will pay tribute to the members who made it what it is today and have passed; beginning tomorrow, with its creator, Gene Roddenberry.  Until then, here are the links for today:



http://www.startrek.com /page/star-trek-the-original-series




He was born on August 19th, 1921 in El Paso, Texas, under the name Eugene Wesley Roddenberry, but later came to be known as just "Gene."    When he was a toddler, he almost died with his family in a house fire, but a milkman passing by saved them.  Later they moved to Los Angeles, where Gene attended Los Angeles City College for police studies, and later changed to aeronautical engineering to qualify for a pilot's license.  He joined the US Army Corps in 1941, as a flying cadet in WWII, and later became a lieutenant and was sent to the South Pacific.  He received two medals during this time and began to write as a hobby at first.


After the war, he joined Pan American World Airways.  Seeing that Hollywood needed writers, he took a chance and quit his job, moving back to Los Angeles.  He found few jobs for inexperienced writers, so he decided to follow in his father's footsteps and become a policeman.  He continued to write; at first getting scripts to westerns and police shows, such as "Highway Patrol", and "Have Guns, Will Travel."  The first series that he produced was "The Lieutenant" in 1964.  In 1966, after being inspired by books, such as "Gulliver's Travels", he created and produced "Star Trek."  The series ran for three seasons, although DC Fontana had taken over as producer by the third season.  Most of the actors he handpicked for the series were ones he had worked with on previous projects, including Majel Barrett(Nurse Chapel), who he married on Aug. 6, 1969.  He had one son, and two daughters from a previous marriage.

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After Star Trek was canceled, he produced a pilot for a 1972 show called Genesis II.  The pilot aired as a movie in  1973 but lost out as a series to a spinoff of the "Planet of the Apes" movies.  He reworked the plot and came up with a second pilot, called "Planet Earth", which starred John Saxon, for ABC with the same results.  In 1977, he revived the Star Trek genre, with "Star Trek: The Motion Picture."  By 1980, his role was reduced to "Executive Consultant", and attended conventions and gave lectures.  Towards the end of the movie series, he produced and directed "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and the first two movies involving the new characters.


In 1989, after having contracted cerebral vascular disease and smoking most of his life, he had a stroke.  His health declined, and he was confined to a wheelchair until he died of cardiac arrest on October 24, 1991.  On April 21, 1997, a Celestis spacecraft carrying Gene, Timothy Leary and 22 others were launched into orbit.  It burned up in the atmosphere in 2002.  NASA named a crater on Mars after him in 1994.  On September4, 1986, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was named after him.


His innovation in the science fiction genre earned him the respect of the entertainment industry and science organizations such as NASA.  Star Trek, however, was not just about science fiction.  It was about relevant issues of the day, some issues that the networks thought were sometimes too controversial to discuss on prime time television.  Hollywood had lost not just a great producer, but a cultural icon as well.  Tomorrow, I will present a tribute to a well known, but not so well known in other endeavors, an engineer named Scotty, or James Doohan.  Until then, here are today's links:




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