Posts tagged ‘Star Trek’

R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy

I’m at a bit of a loss here.  When I heard Leonard Nimoy was hospitalized earlier this week, I knew deep down it would not end well.

I grew up watching Star Trek, even before I discovered Doctor Who.  I grew up watching Spock, and I learned a lot of things from him.  The most important one to my young mind was his line from the episode “Operation: Annihilate!” – “Pain is a thing of the mind.  The mind can be controlled.”

But he was so much more than Spock.  And he was fascinating to watch in any role.

A legend is gone.  Tonight, my family and I will be sitting down to watch Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan in his honor.  It’s the perfect night for that.

 

Pioneers Of Television: Science Fiction

“You might want to see this,” I heard my daughter yell from the other room.  A show called Pioneers Of Television was about to start on our local PBS station, and this episode (supposedly) covered the science fiction genre.  A quick Yahoo search told me that four eps had aired on PBS last year, and this was the beginning of a second set of four eps, looking at the people who made early and memorable strides in television.  Hmmmm, intriguing.

I’m not entirely surprised they started by talking about Star Trek.  Gene Roddenberry was a pioneer, pushing the bounds of what scripted dramas would allow him to do back in the ’60s.  Hell, when I think of the phrase “sci-fi TV pioneer,” I think Roddenberry, Serling, & Captain Video, not necessarily in that order.

And then they started talking about Irwin Allen.  What?!?  Irwin Allen, a television pioneer?  I would argue against that.  Yes, Lost In Space might have premiered before Star Trek premiered, but I’ve never considered Irwin Allen any kind of television pioneer.  His series may be fun to watch, but there’s very little science in his science fiction.

Scattered throughout all of this, we see snippets of an interview with Rod Serling from what looks like his Night Gallery days, and I keep thinking to myself, “What about The Twilight Zone?!?”

Finally, we get to The Twilight Zone.  Ahhhhh, yes.  That qualifies as pioneering in my book.

But by then they had already made too many mistakes and misleading implications.

In setting the scene for the state of theatrical science fiction in the 1950s, they reference such drek as Killers From Space, Zombies Of The Stratosphere, and Beginning Of The End, making the state of ’50s science fiction look completely ludicrous.  Yes, there were a heck of a lot of stoopid ’50s sci-fi films, but they made no mention whatsoever of such classics as Forbidden Planet, This Island Earth, Destination Moon, or The Day The Earth Stood Still.

Why oh why did they address Star Trek vs. Lost In Space before they addressed The Twilight ZoneThe Twilight Zone broke some serious ground in using science fiction as a venue for morality plays, which Roddenberry continued with Star Trek.  They seemed like they were far more interested in promoting a Star Trek vs. Lost In Space rivalry and tacked on The Twilight Zone as an afterthought.

Where’s the cultural context?  They made no mention whatsoever of a big reason why science fiction was so popular in the ’50s and ’60s: the space race.  The Soviets spanked us with the first satellite, the first animal in space, the first man in space, the first man in orbit, the first woman in space, and the first spacewalk.  There was no way we were going to let them beat us to the moon.  The race was on, and we were living in a time where aspects of science fiction were becoming real live facts right before our eyes.

They perpetuated the mistake that Star Trek aired the first ever interracial kiss on television.  Nope.  Star Trek aired the first ever interracial kiss in a scripted drama on American television.  Sammy Davis, Jr. smooched Nancy Sinatra in a variety special a year before that Trek ep ever aired, and a British programme called Emergency Ward 10 beat all of ’em to it back in ’64.

They talked about casting William Shatner as Captain Kirk before they talked about casting Leonard Nimoy as Spock, implying that Shatner was cast first.  Shatner may have been billed as the star of the show, but he wasn’t even in the first pilot, which starred Jeffrey Hunter and (gasp) Leonard Nimoy.  Spock was cast before the character of Kirk was even created.

Their discussion of the end of The Twilight Zone makes no mention of the deteriorating mental health of writer Charles Beaumont, who was instrumental in the show’s success.  Part of the reason Serling felt so burned out by the fifth season was because Beaumont could no longer function as a writer.

After discussing Lost In Space, they later mention Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, implying that Lost In Space came first.  Nope.  Voyage premiered a year before Lost In Space did (and two years before Star Trek).  Nor do they mention that the TV version of Voyage was based on Irwin Allen’s 1961 movie of the same name.

And where the hell was June Lockhart?  I think they interviewed all of the surviving Lost In Space cast except her.

In spite of all this, there were several good moments.  I always appreciated Irwin Allen for the original Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, and I have to say I learned more about Irwin Allen in 30 minutes here than I ever did anywhere else.  It was good to see them interviewing Bill Mumy, firstly because we’re working our way through Babylon 5 right now and secondly because he’s able to comment on both Lost In Space and The Twilight Zone.  I had never heard about who Roddenberry originally wanted to play the roles of Kirk (Jack Lord) and Spock (Martin Landau).  I’m still trying to wrap my head around what a Lord/Landau Kirk/Spock relationship would’ve been like.  And the archival footage of the interview with Rod Serling was fantastic.  I really miss Serling.

One thing my daughter pointed out: this should be called Pioneers Of American Television.  In 1938, the BBC aired a production of Karel Čapek’s R.U.R. You can’t get much more pioneering than that.  And they produced another version of R.U.R. in 1948.  What about Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass serials?  What about their 1954 broadcast of Nineteen Eighty-Four?  What about A For Andromeda?  What about Doctor Who (which, premiering in 1963, predates both Star Trek and Lost In Space)?

But … waitaminute … where’s Captain Video And His Video Rangers?  That was one of the first sci-fi TV series ever produced, on the DuMont Network in 1949!  Where’s Tom Corbett, Space Cadet?  Where’s Space Patrol?  No mention whatsoever of ANY of these classic pioneering series.

Major fucking fail.