Linda Whitmore, the in-house “Star Trek” specialist here at Hero Complex, checks in with a review of a new bookshelf voyage into the Starfleet universe.
Any Trekkie worth his or her salt can tell a Romulan from a Vulcan, much less a mugatu from a horta.
And although most fans don’t speak fluent Klingon, their shelves bulge with episode guides and “Trek” novels. Before the dawn of the Internet, a spate of books compiled well-researched episode guides (for the original “Trek,” for example, there was Allan Asherman’s “Star Trek Compendium” in 1981) and put plot synopses, photos and cast lists at fans’ fingertips. (For instance, Mark Lenard, who played Spock’s father, Sarek, first appeared as a Romulan commander in “Balance of Terror,” the series’ ninth episode. Basic stuff for the average fan, but one of the book’s bonuses is Lenard’s filmography, up until 1981. Remember Terrans, this is pre-IMDB.)
Authors Michael and Denise Okuda took it a step further with “Star Trek Chronology: The History of the Future,” 1993. Michael Okuda was in the art department of “ST: TNG,” “ST: DS9,” “Voyager,” “Enterprise” and several of the films. Together with his wife, they trace the “Trek” roots from the past into the future, starting 6 billion years ago, with the creation of the Guardian of Forever. (For those of you not “of the body,” that’s the time portal that a crazed Dr. McCoy leaps through in arguably the classic series’ best episode, “City on the Edge of Forever,” written by Harlan Ellison. (Sort of.… that’s a loooong story.) Most people just remember it as the episode where Captain Kirk falls in love with that chick from “Dynasty.”
The Okudas, with Jenga-like precision, meld actual historical events (space race with the Soviets, the launch of NASA probes, etc.) with the fictionalized incidents of the “Trek” universe. This is all part of the firmament of fandom but for the faithful who… wait for it … boldly go somewhere new with their bookshelf, Abrams Books is releasing “Star Trek 365” by Paula M. Block with Terry J. Erdmann, a thick, color photo-filled tome that pulls back the veil on the 1960s series.
And it’s a revelation.
Don’t worry. There’s still useless trivia to amaze and bore your friends. Did you know the Famous Spock Nerve Pinch was the brainchild of Leonard Nimoy? In “The Enemy Within,” he was supposed to dispatch the “evil” Capt. Kirk with a karate chop. Well, the actor thought that was out of character for Mr. Spock, so he suggested to director Leo Penn (yes, that would be Oscar-winner Sean’s dad) “that the Vulcan, who knew something of human anatomy, would realize that if he applied pressure to the nerve complex at the base of the neck, he could render someone unconscious instantly and non-violently.”
But what this book does best is to put each episode within the context of its time. Sure, 40 years after the fact, those space “hippies” from “The Way to Eden” look pretty darn funny, but the episode did air in 1969, and remember what was going on in the U.S. — the Summer of Love was still echoing and the word was spreading about Woodstock. People were waving peace signs and wearing flowers in their hair. We reach, brother.
The genesis of “The Mark of Gideon,” whose theme is overpopulation, was born of Stanley Adams, who played trader Cyrano Jones in “The Trouble With Tribbles.” He “is said to have been a man deeply concerned with the problems of overpopulation,” a major issue in the late 1960s. And who can blame him, seeing the furry little things nearly take over Deep Space Station K-7?
Ever wonder about that episode with Frank Gorshin? In “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” the actor who played the Riddler on the old “Batman” series, is Bele, half white and half black. His mortal enemy, Lokai, played by actor Lou Antonio, is also half black and half white. But on opposite sides of their bodies. It’s such a trivial distinction that Kirk, Spock & Co. fail to see what separates them. The intriguing inisght here is that the seed of the episode was planted in writer Gene Coon’s head as a result of the Watts riots in 1965.
“Amok Time,” the episode in which Spock goes into pon farr (heat, for you laymen), was racy enough so that one German TV channel, ZDF, reportedly cut several scenes and rewrote dialogue, giving Spock a kind of “space fever.”
While Clint Howard was filming his scenes as Balok in “The Corbomite Maneuver,” older brother Ron was on another sound stage on the lot playing Opie in “The Andy Griffith Show.” Oh, and that little Enterprise, encased in a 4-inch block of Lucite and dangled at the end of a chain in “Catspaw”? It’s in the Smithsonian now. Details like that and rarely seen photos will keep fans turning these pages.
– Linda Whitmore
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Photo credits: CBS Studios