Star Trek turns 50

Unless you’ve been living on some remote planet like Ceti Alpha V, you know that 8 September 2016 is the 50th anniversary of that five-year mission that sent Captain James Tiberius Kirk off into the final frontier on the Starship Enterprise.

If you were not in New York this weekend for the Star Trek: Mission New York (2-4 Sept.), there are still Star Trek conventions you can attend. You can also  celebrate by watching the Smithsonian Channel’s two-hour documentary, “Building Star Trek,” that premiered at 8 p.m. on Sunday, 4 Sept. 2016.  The documentary tries to be too much and ends up being too little. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum had the screen used Starship Enterprise model and wanted to restore the prop so that it could be properly displayed. This part, about dedication and love of Star Trek fans, is interesting.

At the same time, the Seattle Experience Music Project (EMP) Museum was working on a restoration of the bridge from that show for an exhibit: “Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds.” The exhibit, which is already open, includes props from five “Star Trek” TV series such as Captain Kirk’s command chair, the navigation console, original series costumes for Kirk, Spock, Uhura and McCoy, and the six-foot filming model of the Enterprise for “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

In addition to these two stories about restorations of beloved props from this iconic original series and the Star Trek series that followed, the documentary includes scientific inventors and researchers who are trying to bring Star Trek science into modern reality. This is where the documentary is at its weakest, giving us tantalizing hopes for the future, but without objective criticisms. The tractor beam segment is particularly light on specifics, much less than was discussed at the San Diego Comic-Con panel. You also wish there was more on the development of the tricorder.

Connecting some of these segments and helping to explain some elements of the scientific research are hokey animations which detract and distract rather than enhance. Only young children will be entertained by these.

Better is the documentary on Leonard Nimoy and the character that became his legacy, “For Love of Spock.” As a contributor to the Kickstarter campaign, I am mostly proud of the film although at times it meanders, particularly at the end. Starting in November of 2014, Adam and his father Leonard originally intended to make a documentary about Mr. Spock to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Star Trek: TOS.” However, when Leonard Nimoy died in February 2015, Adam decided to widen the scope. The documentary includes comments by William Shatner, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, Jim Parsons, Jason Alexander, Neil deGrasse Tyson and J.J. Abrams as well as Adam’s sister Julie.

Adam and his father weren’t always close; they both suffered from substance addictions. These issues are addressed, but perhaps a little more distance would have been helpful. Adam was sometimes too close and yet too far.  At times, the direction of the documentary is unclear, particularly when the documentary ends up in the desert for stunning images, but not necessarily a coherent thread. The documentary is, nonetheless, a touching, personal look at TOS Spock and the man who played him and opens on 8 Sept. 2016 nationwide.

For the record. My favorite Star Trek movie is “Wrath of Khan,” my favorite episodes are “Enemy Within,”  “Let That Be Your Battlefield” (I was also a fan of Frank Gorshin as The Riddler in the “Batman” TV series) and “A Piece of the Action.” I’ve visited Vazquez Rocks earlier this year on the way back from Death Valley (where parts of “Star Wars” was filmed). As part of my 50th anniversary celebration, I’m planting some Star Trek-themed plants: A daylily called Spock’s Ears, one called Vulcan Logic and another called Borg Technology. Next year, I hope to add more such as bearded irises called Starship Enterprise.

When I asked my fellow Ebertites about their favorite Star Trek moment, here’s what I got:


The SNL skit where the ship encounters the NBC executives who have come to cancel the show.


You mean this one with John Belushi as Capt. Kirk, Chevy Chase as Spock and Dan Aykroyd as Dr. McCoy?


I was not a “Star Trek” viewer. It was on opposite ABC’s power block of “Bewitched” and “That Girl.”
Favorite “Bewitched” moment? Anything with Serena. Or Uncle Arthur. But mostly Serena.
The benefit of watching reruns is you can watch both. I also loved “That Girl” and on “Bewitched” Uncle Arthur was my favorite!
I had epic crushes on Elizabeth Montgomery and Marlo Thomas, and “That Girl” was, like, the only TV show ever where the woman had a boyfriend named Donald.

So many moments, but if I have to pick one, it is the final stretch of Star Trek 2.

Kirk gets called in by Bones. He notices Spock’s chair is empty. Hands the command to Saavik, who had been struggling to be ready for it.

While the music rises, he tries to rush toward the Genesis device to Spock, and gets held back. “He’s dead already” and the music softens.

Spock sees him, rises, straightens out his uniform, and stumbling along, tries to speak with Kirk, starting wth with work and philosophy, grief and logic. And farewell.

The eulogy. “Amazing Grace” from bagpipes, to orchestra, to Star Trek music, as Spock’s casket gets shot out into space, as he merges into the new world.

With the star blazing its nourishing light.

I, like Donald, was on team “Bewitched”/”That Girl.” The crew of the “USS Enterprise” had nothing on Agnes Moorehead’s imperious meddler Endora and Marlo Thomas’ cute working-girl outfits. As a result, I was never a devoted Trekker. But I did have certain family members who were diehard fans. That is how I happened to be exposed to one of the most infamous episodes, “The Trouble With Tribbles,” since it aired in 1967 around the Christmas holidays and our guests didn’t want to miss their favorite show. Imagine my surprise when I watched that stick-in-the-mud Capt. Kirk awash in a sea of cooing fur balls. I now realize that given their rapid rate of reproduction that these round mounds of squishy adorableness were mini sex addicts who were binge eaters. But, in my 12-year-old mind, any show that could squeeze in that many cute stuffed outer-space critters – 1,771,571 and counting, according to Mr. Spock — can’t be all bad.


The only other episode that I can recall seeing during the show’s first run was 1969’s “Let That Be Your Battlefield,” with Frank Gorshin (best known as the Riddler on TV’s “Batman”) as Bele, a half-black, half-white alien from a war-torn planet who is at odds with a fellow alien whose coloring is the mirror image of his in a storyline that dealt with the heavy topic of race relations. Despite a lack of subtlety, I admired Gorshin’s acting chops and his striking makeup as well as the attempt to handle such a pressing issue that just might have inspired “Seinfeld’s” ode to the black-and-white cookie.

Tribbles clip

Battlefield clip


Well guys its so much fun to read Star Trek moments!! I am literally a Star Trek kid. My sister who is eight years older was obsessed with Star Trek – so I know every episode of the original! ( My sis to this day signs every b day and Xmas card with Live Long and Prosper). And the merchandize back then – it was so exciting being in Australia and getting delivered boxes of Star Trek stuff from the US – my sister has all these original scripts signed by Roddenberry, star insignias, all sorts of crazy stuff they used to send to fans back then! We used to talk about the show and the meanings for hours ( we still can:) I loved Bones – she was a Spock girl!! She even bought all his original vinyl LPs ( Leonard did quite a beautiful version of “Both Sides Now”)
We even wrote a little musical about the show which we performed to the family – I wrote my first song then all about Janice Rand ( remember her?) …so Star Trek has very sweet childhood memories for me!! And that first feeling of a connection to a big US show all the way in Sydney Australia:)
And just in another strange coincidence -when I first moved to LA, I was staying in an apartment block in Burbank which I found out later was owned by Leonard Nimoy!!

Official Star Trek Convention – Chicago
September 9-11
Westin O’Hare – Rosemont, IL

Destination Star Trek Europe
October 7-9
NEC Birmingham – Birmingham, England

Official Star Trek Convention – San Francisco
December 9-11
Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport – Burlingame, CA

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