Autumn is here, and I know many of you are anxiously awaiting cooler weather, delicious comfort food, and the latest spooktacular movies for October and Halloween. Normally, I’d be right there with you, gearing up for classic films… AMC’s Fear Fest, TCM, and all the horror lurking on DVDs in my swelling media closet.
But no… right now I am fixated with a different kind of comfort food, one that has been with me since I was a child and that I often turn to for nostalgic cravings—a rock-solid show that never ceases to delight me for myriad reasons. I am talking about the original Star Trek.
Wait. What’s this? You’re the horror guy—this is David’s territory.
Well, you see, David and I bonded over both genres. He just happens to be prevalent in Sci-fi, and me in horror. It doesn’t mean I didn’t fall in love with this show like the rest of you out there.
I will say though that I am somewhat of a purest. I gave Next Generation a spin but departed after the first season. And I have never seen a single episode of Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, or Discovery. But I don’t care. I still love the original show and the movie incarnations associated with those characters and plots.
And to start, Gene Roddenberry had no intention nor idea that the show would grow as it did. He was a television writer for a plethora of shows prior including Highway Patrol, The Virginian, and Have Gun, Will Travel. He was used to writing westerns and thought… Hey, what if we did Wagon Train in space.
Maybe that’s the reason we like it. Maybe it tweaks the dormant cowboy nerve that many of us still have genetically. I mean, look at those Monument Valley-esque sets… the dirt, the rocks, and those gigantic Styrofoam boulders! The good guys always roll in, take care of the bad guys, and justice prevails.
But it’s a little deeper than that. Morality comes into play, diversity in cast (and species), and that cadre of golden age sci-fi writers Roddenberry solicited for many memorable episodes… Harlan Ellison, Theodore Sturgeon, Richard Matheson, Robert Bloch, George Clayton Johnson… not to mention television stalwarts—Gene L. Coon, D.C. Fontana, Jerome Bixby, and David Gerrold to name a few.
And it almost didn’t happen. The pilot was scrapped two years prior and in an unprecedented move, NBC ordered a second pilot with an almost completely new cast.
And for most of us… the cast is why we love the show. Bill Shatner is the man… kicking ass, taking names, banging green broads, drinking blue booze, making mistakes, but always winning in the end.
And at his left and right are McCoy and Spock, compromising the holy trinity… the literal and psychological manifestations of super-ego and ego, to Kirk’s id. Not only do we love them all individually, but we also love the character they comprise… the men not only in charge of the helm but responsible for the integrity and well-being of the crew… notwithstanding the loss of an occasional red-shirt.
And though this is two white men and a white-skinned, green-blooded, male alien (it was the 1960s remember), look at how Roddenberry snuck diversity in the backdoor with his supporting cast—Uhura (a black female communications officer), Sulu (a Japanese chief of Astro Science), Scotty (a Scottish Lt. Commander / chief engineer), and Chekov (a Russian ensign).
And there were women everywhere! Granted most of them had really short skirts (which could be another reason why many boys were obsessed with the show), but they were there… on a military vessel blasting through the galaxy. How many women did you see in similar roles on Gunsmoke, Dragnet, and Gomer Pyle?
But, really, it is the culmination of components, the collaborative effort of many that lifted Star Trek into the stratosphere of a show that simply refuses to die—the grandeur of the writing, the Shakespearean-esque titles and lofty subject-matter, the universal appeal of Earth’s finest on a mission to new worlds, the chemistry of the cast, Roddenberry’s concept, Finnerman’s vision, set and prop design, the makeup, the music… All of these ingredients were perfectly blended to create a show that was literally where no man had gone before.
So, yes… David and I are unabashed devotees of Star Trek TOS… so much so that we’ve decided to do another podcast. We’re going to discuss each of the original 79 episodes and the scrapped pilot. Recording has already commenced and though we had planned for these shows to be shorter than our regular Johnny Has the Keys episodes—often, that is not the case. But that’s OK because they come from the heart of two boys in love with space travel and adventures promised.
“We’re giving her all she’s got, Captain!”
The Dilithium Chamber Podcast will blast off this November on Patreon only. We hope to see you there… second star to the right and straight on till morning.