I have been a fan of Star Trek since I began watching in 1969 and was hooked from the get go.
In those early days as I watched those episodes and was introduced to Captain Kirk, Mr Spock and the rest of the crew, all of whom would become such iconic characters, I didn't give much thought as to why it appealed so much. It was adventures in space, it was exotic aliens, it was escapism.
Over the course of the next 40 years I retained that sense of boyhood exhilaration when it came to Star Trek and followed the development of the series into feature films and then the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise. In 2009 we saw the latest phase in the Star Trek canon with the movie directed by J.J Abrams. I am eagerly awaiting the next movie.
I can't think of any other tv series that has shared such a longevity or that has won a place in the hearts of so many across the generations.
Trekkies or Trekkers, each loyal to the whole but equally drawn to one facet. For my generation I think there can only be Kirk, Spock, McCoy et al although I did enjoy Picard and Data.
Talking about Trek today seems to be the culmination of a few events this week...the deaths of Biff Elliot and William Windom and the anniversary of the births of Persis Khambatta and of Gene Roddenberry all occurring within a few days of each other.
I know that 99.9% of you will not have heard of Biff Elliot or Persis Khambatta and maybe even William Windom although he was a fine character actor with a cv which includes great movies like To Kill A Mockingbird and he played Doc Hazlitt in Murder, She Wrote.
Roddenberry was the creator of Star Trek, a decorated WW2 pilot and a police officer, he became a writer for tv in the 1950's - the time when television was really taking off.
Don't worry, I'm not going to describe the whole process that led to Star Trek arriving on the screen but the man himself was clever in that he wrote what he described to executives as Wagon Train to the stars but in reality he was writing clever little morality tales all wrapped up in science fiction.
Roddenberry gave us a future with no poverty or famine, he gave us equality in sex and race and he hardly ever mentioned religion. In hindsight I do begin to consider how much of my humanist nature was nurtured by Gene Roddenberry and his idealism?
I will admit to the fact that I have often quoted lines from Star Trek during funerals.
But I digress, Biff Elliot and William Windom guest starred in two of my favourite episodes in the original series, The Devil In The Dark and The Doomsday Machine.
The Devil In The Dark introduced us to the Horta, a silicon based life form desperate to protect the eggs it has laid and is nurturing. Injured, the creature is treated by Doctor McCoy who initially protests "I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer!" After he successfully completes the operation he turns to Kirk and exclaims "By golly, Jim, I'm beginning to think I can cure a rainy day!"
In The Doomsday Machine, Windom plays Commodore Matt Decker, a man haunted by the loss of his crew and consumed by his Ahab like obsession with finding their killer. It is a superb performance by Windom and it remains a great favourite of mine.
|William Windom as Matt Decker|
Persis Khambatta was an Indian actress best known for playing Lieutenant Ilia in Star Trek:The Motion Picture. In that film she appears shaven headed, the love interest for Captain Will Decker played by Stephen Collins. Will Decker is the son of Matt Decker.
|Persis Khambatta as Lt Ilia|
All of these little threads, all of these events but what is the point of drawing them to your attention?
Well, it gives me a chance to say to you all...
"A man either lives life as it happens to him, meets it head-on and licks it, or he turns his back on it and starts to wither away"
Gene Roddenberry (1921 - 1991)