Fifty-three years ago today I was 13 years old. The first episode of Star Trek was screened, at 8:00 p.m. local time in Denver, and by 9:00 p.m. I had a new favorite television show. I was an instant trekkie.
In those days the show was called “Star Track” by functional illiterates, at least the ones in my eighth grade glass, and they resented me correcting them. There was also a rumor that Mr. Spock had green skin. Bear in mind that color television sets were just going mainstream, so the first episodes of Star Trek that I saw were in black and white. I was completely thrilled when my one friend with a color TV, Pam, invited me over to her house to watch the show in color. Listen to this clip and walk down memory lane.
— Star Trek (@StarTrek) September 8, 2019
Rod Serling was not happy when Star Trek was cancelled. But then he wasn’t happy fighting with CBS the five years and three cancellation threats that he endured over Twilight Zone. On the last go round, he just let them have their way. Serling was a visionary, and he appreciated the same in Roddenberry, although Serling was far and away the better writer. And neither of them was particularly loved by the “legitimate” science fiction writing community. Serling had an epic falling in the 60’s with Ray Bradbury, who strongly inferred that Serling was a plagiarist and said that he “didn’t understand the genre” of science fiction.
— The Twilight Zone (@TheNightGallery) September 8, 2019
Roddenberry was called a “third rate hack” by Harlan Ellison and while that was considered a bit over the top, it was generally acknowledged that other, better writers, such as Theodore Sturgeon and Norman Spinrad helped Roddenberry’s concept reach it’s full potential, most definitely in the many spin off series. Ellison said, “Star Trek can turn your brains to pure puree of bat guano,” and he went completely bonkers about the show on an interview with Tom Synder in 1976. Roddenberry told him that he agreed with him that “Star Trek is neither scripture and certainly is far from being great literature. I understand that you use ‘overstatement’ in order to shake up the audience and jolt them into thinking. But in your enthusiasm to slay the dragon your sword begins to slice up a lot of fellow warriors who are fighting the same battle as you but are simply using different methods.”
The letter is worth reading in full and is at this LINK.For some reason it’s now a PDF and I can’t copy and paste it, but it is extremely worth reading.
I met a few of the actors from Star Trek. In 1976 I was working at talk show radio station KWBZ in Denver and George Takei was a guest one afternoon. I also met James Doohan in the produce department at Ralph’s in Van Nuys in 1979. He was gong through the green beans and that’s where I was headed, so I just started chatting with him. Very nice, congenial fellow, as was Takei. I almost met Leonard Nimoy, but that would not have been a good thing to happen. Nimoy was driving his beautiful brown Mercedes with a very fancy grill right behind me on Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills. The car in front of me slammed on the brakes, I had to slam on mine, and Nimoy had to slam on his. I guestimate that we both were about four inches away from hitting the bumper of the car in front of us.
I thought I was at least acquainted with every corner of the Star Trek universe, but apparently not. I had never heard of Star Trek Cats until today.
Mouse long and purrs-per, everybody. Happy Star Trek Day!