This is not meant as an objective overview. This is also not meant as some definitive list. As J.J. Abrams literal reinvention of Star Trek prepares to beam onto movie screens worldwide this weekend, I thought I would take a moment and offer my ten most prominent memories from my four decades in the making fandom. You notice the lack of an adjective like “Best”, or descriptive phrase like “Most Memorable”. Instead, these are the images that flash before my mind’s eye when I recall first finding this amazing sci-fi series, and the reactions/distractions I had/picked up along the way. As you see, some aren’t even directly related to the show, though it’s hard to look through my entire aesthetic catalog and not find a link to Kirk, Spock, and the rest of Gene Roddenberry’s merry crew. It will be short and sweet without a lot of metaphysical heft, but that doesn’t diminish the value of any entry here. So without further ado and in no particular order, here are my 10 Trek moments – for now:
William Shatner’s The Transformed Man LP
It was the Holy Grail for us ’70s syndication fans, a copy of the Enterprise Captain’s seminal sonic assault on what people might call “music”. From the brilliant deconstruction of The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, to the near Billboard blockbuster success of “Mr. Tamborine Man”, the non-singer’s style could be best described as poetry readings on horse tranquilizers. When a copy was finally located, it was share and share alike. I still have my cassette of the album, right next to my mandatory CD translation.
My Friend Ray’s Rumpus Room
Ray’s older brother Robbie owned practically every Star Trek novelization ever printed, and the paperbacks lined a rectangular space filled with other science fiction artifacts. Drawn to the books as we were, the lend/loan policy was simple – take one, and when you read it, replace it and take another. I’ll never forget wandering into the room, various Trek models hanging the ceiling, waiting to see what adventure I’d come across next.
Late Night Line Queue
That’s right – Star Trek: The Motion Picture was opening, and several of us stayed up late the night before it’s December bow to see a Midnight sneak screening. It was cold. It was tiring. And by the time they let us in, the “recreational pharmaceuticals” we had enjoyed were taking their toll. A couple of hours later, we thought we had experienced something really profound. Thinking back now, it must have been the drugs.
Harlan Ellison’s The City on the Edge of Forever
No – not the actual episode itself. It is indeed a classic. No, the famed author, angry over the continued rumors regarding his original script treatment for the fabled installment (“He made McCoy a drug addict!!!”) wrote a book which offered both his first treatment, and the version that Roddenberry “rewrote” to conform to his own particular perception of the show. It’s a stunning, if somewhat self-serving, read.
The green reptilian humanoid that battled Kirk in the first season of Star Trek (in “Arena”, if you must ask) is a pure love/hate contrivance for franchise aficionados. But my memory is something more specific. In college, there was a strange little kid whose only claim to fame was that he could do a killer imitation of the creature…and he did it constantly. It drove his poor roommate crazy.
Tallahassee Trek Headquarters
Otherwise known as my first dorm room. No air conditioning. Antiquated steam heat. Enough room for two young adults and a desk set – that’s it. Yet every day, while the rest of the residents huddled downstairs to see what was on the community tube, an ever-changing number (between four and fifteen) gathered in front of my big, enormous 13″ screen to experience our daily dose of speculative goodness. Over the course of two years, we probably saw each episode of the original series three or four times. Rituals didn’t get much more rigid than this.
The Next Generation Premieres
We marked the day on the calendar. We followed the promos on our local TV station. We waited anxiously for any announcement about casting, returning characters, and critical reaction. So when the proposed Next Generation finally made its appearance in first run syndication, my wife and I were part of the millions who tuned in to see if it could hold a creative candle to the original. The verdict for most of us Trek Heads is still up for grabs.
William Shatner’s My Star Trek Memories
It’s arrogant and egotistical. It’s not a serious self analysis about identity and personal perspective like Leonard Nimoy’s I Am Not Spock. Instead, this was one apparently misunderstood monster’s way of setting the record straight from his own inflated sense of self – and it is brilliant. From the various lines he originated and/or changed to the various plotpoints he crafted on the fly, Shatner was the original Star Trek‘s savior, apparently. Doesn’t explain the film The Final Frontier though, does it?
Howard Stern Goads Sulu and Scotty
Feuds among the original Trek cast members were legendary. Many spilled over into real life settings, certain actors unable (or unwilling) to concede their celebrity to the combined efforts of the entire cast. This was especially true of George Takei and the late James Doohan. Shatner was a frequent guest on Stern’s radio show, and inevitably, during these segments, the shock jock would play clips of various Takei/Doohan rants. While he could take the joke, these costars clearly thought that Kirk was a “magnificent bastard.”
The Memory “Moment”
If you haven’t seen J.J. Abrams version of Star Trek yet, I apologize for this semi-spoiler, but there is a moment in the new film that offered the clearest, most concise connection to the original series I have ever seen in a supposed sequel. When old Spock meets Young Kirk in an ice cave, the brash boy asks how the aging Vulcan knows him. And when Leonard Nimoy invokes the classic franchise maxim “I have been, and always will be…you friend” there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.