These Are The Voyages: A Celebration of Star Trek #6: Ensign Pavel Chekov

One constant in the sci-fi /fantasy fan bases is that while these stories may be created by adults, and heavily feature adults in lead roles, they appeal greatly to younger audience members and readers. It is for this reason that all too often creators will add a younger character to the story to appeal to that audience. These characters give the stories a since of wonder and fascination that would be otherwise missing from a cynical adult point of view, and also allow for meaningful exposition for ethos not familiar with the story or the world the characters live in.

Thus Batman had Robin, Superman had Jimmy Olsen, Captain America had Bucky

Ensign Pavel Chekov

Ensign Pavel Chekov

Barnes, Indiana Jones had Short Round, and the newer James Bond films with Daniel Craig envisioned Q as a tech-savvy young wunderkind. However while the characters became popular, and in some instances, such as Robin and Bucky, went on to be heroes on their own right, others were not so well received. One of the most infamous examples came in Star Trek with Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation. He was a young, over eager ensign who was written as an author avatar for Gene Rodenberry, and seemed so perfect that he could even out think the captain.

Contrast this with the reception of another young character on Star Trek, the ensign Pavel Chekov on the original series. While Chekov was young and eager, he didn’t come across as an annoying kid. While he was a skilled navigator, he never tried to show up more experienced characters, like Spock or Dr. McCoy in their respective fields. He was a character who could appeal to kids, but one not meant exclusively for them. As Rodenberry noted,

“We may well find our most important secondary character this season, certainly one which might give us our best entre to youth, is Chekov. The studio has been sufficiently impressed by the volume of Chekov fan response to sign him to a contract, one of the few secondary characters we have so optioned in our third season… most of us…tend to forget that Kirk and Spock and the others actually seem rather “middle aged” to the large youthful segment of our audiences. We badly need a young man aboard the Enterprise—we need youthful attitudes and perspectives. Chekov can be used potently here.” Continue reading

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These Are The Voyages: A Celebration of Star Trek #5: Lt. Nyota Uhura

One of television’s most controversial moments almost happened very differently. In the Star Trek episode in “Plato’s Step-children”, the crew encounters a race of sadistic, telepathic aliens that based their society on Ancient Greek ideals. Their leader was dying and they send a distress call, that is intercepted by the Enterprise. Requiring the aid of Dr. McCoy they request that the doctor stay behind, and would allow the ship and the rest of her crew to leave. Kirk refuses, and they aliens use their powers to humiliate Kirk, and force him and Spock to act like court jesters, even torturing Spock to the point he feels emotion. They even used their powers to bring LT. Nyota Uhura, and Nurse Christine Chapel down from the Enterprise to continue their pleasure.

It was in this moment when the Platonians force Kirk and Uhura to kiss and force Spock and Christine to do the same. Today this would be nothing , simply a guy kissing a girl. However, in 1967, when the episode aired, it was a huge area of consternation as Kirk was played by a white man, and Uhura was played by an African-American woman. In fact, TV Historians note that it was the first interracial kiss in television history.

The original script called for Spock to be the one to kiss Uhura, however, Nichelle Nichols, who played the  character in the original series, recalled in Star Trek: “Where No One Has Gone Before: A History in Pictures,

“My understanding is Bill Shatner took one look at the scene and said, ‘No you will not! If anyone’s going to be part of the first interracial kiss in television history, it’s going to be me!’ So they rewrote it.”

Lt. Nyota Uhura

Lt. Nyota Uhura

Continue reading

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These Are The Voyages: A Celebration of Star Trek #4: Scotty

While prototypes for Kirk, Spock, and Bones existed in the earliest notes for Roddenberry’s original Star Trek pitch, one of the shows other iconic characters almost didn’t exist. This character is Montgomery Scott, better known as “Scotty.”Almost everyone in Western society knows the misquoted phrase “Beam me up, Scotty!” , which is intended to imply that Kirk, Spock, and Bones are in over their head and either need someone to rescue them, or the mission is over and it’s time to go home and role credits.

Scotty was one of the characters introduced in the second pilot for the series. However, as

Scotty

Scotty

actor James Doohan who played the character on the TV series and the feature films that followed, noted in his memoir,

“Three or four days after hearing that the pilot had sold, I got a letter from Gene Roddenberry saying, ‘Thanks very much, but we don’t really think we’re going to need an engineer.’ I think they were probably trying to save money. I got the letter about eleven o’clock in the morning, and I called my agent, Paul Wilkins.…He said, ‘You just wait there. We’ll see about this.’ I could tell from the tone of his voice and the pauses he took that he was trying to hold his temper…He went to Gene Roddenberry and Herb Solow, Herb being the executive in charge of production on behalf of Desilu. Paul was not one who was easily ignored. He was six foot two, with silvery dark hair. Then Paul called me and said, ‘You’re back on the show.’ I didn’t have a commitment for ‘every show produced’; they only signed me up for some of the episodes.” Continue reading

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These Are The Voyages: A Celebration of Star Trek #3: Dr. Leonard H. “Bones” McCoy

Despite how iconic his catch phrase was, Dr. Leonard McCoy, more commonly called “Bones” by his friends only said “I’m a doctor not a ( insert impossible task here)”a total of eleven times over the course of the original series, and twice in the two newer films.  However, despite its limited use and conveyed a sense of how out of his element this country doctor was when put in a situation that went beyond his training. In fact the spin-offs and later films even had Dr. Julian Bashir on Deep Space Nine, The Doctor from Voyager, and Dr. Phlox on Enterprise had to echo the statement.

In the second pilot episode for the series, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” the

Dr. Leonard H. "Bones" McCoy

Dr. Leonard H. “Bones” McCoy

Enterprise actually had a different doctor. However, in the following episodes that doctor was replaced with McCoy, played by Deforest Kelley. Initially he was only listed in the end credits, but Kelley’s character became so integral that by the shows second season he was listed in the opening credits alongside William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.

Surprisingly, the character of Bones was included in Rodenberry’s original pitch for Star Trek, and while much like Kirk, while the name may have been different at the time, the central core of the character remained the same. The short paragraph would go on to describe everything fans would love about “Bones”. As Roddenberry  noted,

“…An unlikely space traveler. At the age of fifty-one, he’s worldly, humorously cynical, makes it a point to thoroughly enjoy his own weaknesses…”Bones”..considers himself the only realist aboard, measures each new landing in terms of relative annoyance rather than excitement.” Continue reading

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These Are The Voyages: A Celebration of Star Trek #2: Spock

It’s hard to imagine Star Trek without one of its most iconic characters, but there was almost a time when Mr. Spock was destined for the dust bin of television. When NBC requested that Gene Roddenberry reshoot the pilot among the things they wanted him to get rid of was Spock, fearing that with his pointed ears and eyebrows that he looked too Satanic and would give the children nightmares. There was something unearthly about Spock’s appearance, and unlike Martin in My Favorite Martian, he couldn’t hide his unique features.

It seems surprising, considering that television on that time featured such magical creatures as  witch Samantha on Bewitched and the Jeannie on I Dream of Jeannie, that the pointy eared hobgoblin could cause this much consternation for network censors. The production notes from Gene Rodenberry addressed the Spock’s appearance probably

Mr. Spock

Mr. Spock

didn’t help matters much,

“The Captain’s right hand man, the hard working level commander of all the ship’s functions from manning the bridge to supervising the lowliest scrub detail. His name is “Mr. Spock”… and the first view of him can be almost frightening—a face so heavy lidded and satanic you might almost expect him to have a forked tail. Probably half Martian, he has a slightly reddish complexion and semi-pointed ears. But strangely—Mr. Spock’s quiet temperament is  in dramatic contrast to his satanic look.”

Continue reading

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These Are The Voyages: A Celebration of Star Trek #1: Captain James T. Kirk

Anytime you have a wild, and seemingly hostile environment around you, it is natural for the storytellers of that time to populate those places with heroes. Whether it’s Jason, Odysseus,  Captain Nemo, Ishmael,  or Horatio Hornblower with the sea or folk heroes Davey Crocket, Daniel Boone, John Henry, Paul Bunyan, and Pecos Bill with the American frontier, that which is unexplored is always the best proving grown for these mighty men. Naturally with the beginnings of the science fiction genre in the late 19th century and humankind beginning to dream of traveling to the stars, outer space would be populated by its own heroes.

There was Civil War veteran John Carter would fall asleep in a cave and mysteriously end up on Mars where he would win the heart of the beautiful Dejah Thoris in Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter of Mars books. Exposed to a radioactive gas during a cave in, Buck Rogers would fall into a state of suspended animation for 492 years until he is awoken in the year 2419 and becomes Earth’s space faring defender. In an attempt to halt the collision of the Earth with the planet Mongo, Flash Gordon and his friends Dale Arden and Dr. Zarkov would board a make shift rocket,  only to end up tangling with Ming the Merciless.

Captain Kirk

Captain Kirk

It was these three characters who would pave the way for one of the most iconic heroes in the history of science fiction television: Captain James T. Kirk of the Federation starship Enterprise from the original Star Trek series. While the show spawned four spin-off TV shows, it was Captain Kirk who would lay the ground work for all who would come after. In fact among the Star Trek fans as to which  there is much discussion as to which Captain they would rather serve under, Captain Kirk or Captain Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Sure, there was Benjamin Sisko on Deep Space Nine,  Kathryn Janeway on Voyager, and Jonathan Archer on Enterprise, but at the end of the day the eternal Trek debate will always be waged between Kirk and Picard. Continue reading

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Coming soon to this blog…

He has gone from the halls of Asgard and the fields of World War II in a Countdown to the Avengers, to the doomed planet Krypton and the dark alleys of Gotham City in Road to Rises. He’s gone to Erebor with Bilbo and Gandalf in an Unexpected Blog-series, and traveled to a galaxy far, far away in The Saga Continues. Then he went to Narnia in Beyond the Wardrobe. Now, Jonathon D. Svendsen gets ready to take his readers on another exciting journey to…

In anticipation not only for the all new Star Trek Beyond this July, but the 50th anniversary of the classic series, Jonathon will look at the iconic heroes of this modern day odyssey. Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov and the Star Ship Enterprise will all be a part of this exciting voyage that celebrates the lasting legacy of this series in These Are The Voyages: A Celebration of Star Trek.

 

Launching this April.

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