Trek Week, Part 2

Trek week continues on Jones central for the whole week of my birthday. Regularly scheduled posts will resume next week. Be warned: if you’re not a fan of the original show, your eyes may glaze over.

I’ve spilled any number of kilobytes of data about how much I’ve been influenced by writers like Leigh Brackett, Harold Lamb, Robert E. Howard, Roger Zelazny, Fritz Leiber, C.S. Forrester, Saki… the list could go on. Yet I’ve seldom discussed the influence of my first great fictional love, the original Star Trek.

I was 4 in 1972. My friend Mike Boone gave me the first phone call I’d ever received and told me that the “new show” he’d told me about was on (we were 4 and probably didn’t know about re-runs) and my dad allowed me to flip the channel. There were Kirk and Spock, beaming down in the episode I later learned was titled “Patterns of Force.” To make a long story short, my little mind was blown, and pretty soon I was a fan for life.

I couldn’t see the sexism, any more than the women on the show, who apparently found the miniskirts liberating. I didn’t even notice the cheese, and I certainly didn’t perceive much problem with the special effects, which in ’72 were still pretty cutting edge. What I saw at age 4 and for years to come was a band of people from different cultures who worked together to overcome adversity and had amazing adventures.

When I first started trying to write stories it should come as no surprise that I tried writing some Star Trek. By the late ’70s there were original Star Trek novels out there, many of them pretty bad, so I figured if they could do it, so could I. Sometimes I wrote about the familiar characters and sometimes I wrote what’s now called fan fiction about my own crew aboard the starship Yorktown, which I decided was the only other Constitution class ship that made it back from its five year mission mostly intact.

By the end of high school I finally came face to face with the fact that some of the show’s special effects were dated and that some of the episodes were a lot better than others (almost all of the shows in the third season are quite weak, but there are some stinkers in season 1 and 2 as well) and that there were a whole lot of little issues that made the whole thing unravel if you thought about it too hard. But even though I might have made surface noises about the show’s problems, I still loved it. I grew to realize that more than anything, even, perhaps, more than a novelist, I wanted somehow to be the story editor on a new Star Trek series. That may still be my dream job even today.

When my good friend Bruce brought the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which he’d taped off of a Canadian station before the show was available for viewing here in the US, I was thrilled, even if, when asked if it were good, he said only “well… it has potential.” Yeah. On viewing, that was kind of my feeling as well. I watched faithfully for the first year and then pretty much gave up. I’m told that by the fourth season it got pretty good, and I’ve caught individual episodes from later on that were enjoyable, but I never got heavily invested, and I was busy enough later in life that I never got sucked into any of the other series. Maybe I was always irritated that it took at least three years for the Next Generation to get good, and my favorite show got lobotomized after only two.

As the years rolled on I’ve kept thinking about the original Star Trek from time to time, and how I would handle a reboot were I ever so lucky as to take the reins as series story editor. And for the rest of the week I’m planning to subject you to those thoughts.

 

7 Comments on “Trek Week, Part 2

  1. But Howard, “Lost” is just so superior. Everyone’s still talking about it. Right? Lost? Everyone? Yooo hoooooo!

    • I think there probably are some fans out there who watch and re-watch… but I’ve never talked to ’em. I wonder if, 50 years on, people will still have been deeply affected and inspired enough by it that they’re rebuilding Lost sets and making new episodes. I’d say probably not.

  2. I love the original Star Trek, and I know the show had a huge impact on me as well. I was also 4 in 1972.

    Not only on my writing, but the show influenced the way I see the world. I didn’t see problems with the show either back then, but now even though I see those problems, I still believe in the core massage of different peoples working together for good, things about independent thinking, growing up, and loyalty. It makes me happy that my son enjoys the show too (thank you, Netflix).

    The later Star Trek series never caught on with me either. I don’t know why. Timing? Story lines? I didn’t even want to watch it much, though I have come to love Patrick Stewart.

    I look forward to your other posts about Star Trek. Maybe I’ll write one of my own.

    • I know what you mean. Trek had a huge influence on the way I see the world as well. Loyalty. Kindness. Standing up for what’s right in adversity. I also agree with you on Sir Patrick Stewart.

      It may be that I never got involved with the other series because I saw them when I was older and more skeptical… but even now when I watch the original the storytelling seems so much more professional and polished than that in the shows that came after.

      • Of all the follow-ons, I’ve been most impressed by DS9, at least what I’ve seen of it. I like the characters, the “Gunsmoke” setting as opposed to the “Rawhide” change of locations of the others, and the sense that there is a little more chaos in the Federation than on a Starship full of highly trained people under a chain of command. I should really sit down and make an effort to view the whole thing.

        It’s an old story, but I’ve often thought a Mirror-universe Trek series would be a fun thing to do, featuring a fat, dissipated old William Shatner in full Tiberius-at-Capri as the Emperor. I except that particular window of opportunity is closing fast.

        • I have heard — but cannot personally confirm — that by the 4th season there were regularly some very strong episodes in DS9. I was shown two from that season by my old friend Sean Medlock that really impressed me, but unfortunately I never explored much further.

          I always liked your “Mirror, Mirror” proposal. The one I wish they’d made — one that was actually pitched at the time of Star Trek IV — was “Captain Sulu.” Hopefully they’d have given it a slightly better name, but that title gives it the gist. Man, I’d have so tuned in for that.

          I suspect the reason that the network never ran with it is because they were afraid to feature a gay man as the star of a TV show, even though, as Takei has said, George Takei is gay, not Mr. Sulu. (People seem to have confused the issue ever since, which annoys me. Zachary Quinto is gay, but Spock isn’t, right?) Remember how fast the networks cancelled that fairly cool Flash series from about the same time as STIV when word leaked out that the lead actor was gay?

          Hopefully our society is better than that now. Alas, it’s too late for a Captain Sulu show starring George Takei. All of the old guard who are left are getting up there.

  3. Pingback: Writing Star Trek Pastiche : Howard Andrew Jones

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