It’s November 27th, 2014, and fifty years ago today, filming started on the pilot of a little show called Star Trek. Now, obviously, this is a rarely-visited and used blog for a website that reviews cartoons. However, thanks to the way that syndication worked in the 1980s, Star Trek aired right after the weekday cartoons, at 5PM, in Vermont on the ABC affiliate, WVNY (which, until DuckTales arrived on NBC affiliate WPTZ, was the only place that aired cartoons at this time of day in the state if you didn’t have cable) before eventually moving to a more “normal” 7PM time slot. So, in a very real way, Star Trek is an extended relative to the cartoons that I spend time reviewing.
So, as a result of this, in the weeks and months ahead, this blog will be charting and discussing the three seasons of Star Trek, from “The Cage” to “Turnabout Intruder”, in production order. However, since Star Trek is one of the most documented television series of all time (with autobiographies by all but two of recurring featured actors and countless episode guides and “behind the scenes” books, to say nothing of multiple documentaries, websites, forums, fanzines, and interviews), this will be a bit different, as it’ll be as much a discussion of the series and its episodes as my journey with the show, from awkward 7-year old to geeky (and at present, chronically unemployed) 36-year old. However, there will be some texts that will inform my posts:
The Star Trek Compendium by Allan Asherman-The second (red) edition was a gift from my parents on my 8th birthday, which I managed to destroy through overuse before getting the (black) third edition, which still survives, in part because I later purchased the (white) fourth edition and even later rounded out the collection by replacing my long-lost second edition and adding the (blue) first edition. So, suffice to say, a lot of my initial knowledge of how Star Trek was made came from this book, as flawed as it may be with the new information out there since Asherman stopped updating the book.
These Are The Voyages: TOS by Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn-This three-volume set (one for each season, though the third book is scheduled to be released next month) is the culmination of three decades of research and interviews, as is, to put it mildly, the last word on Star Trek. Using the original production memos archived at UCLA and ratings data licensed from Nielsen and other ratings agencies, a far different picture of the series has emerged due to cold, hard facts. And, best of all, since Cushman’s research includes many of the autobiographies and reference books I don’t own, it covers a lot of those bases for me in three convenient texts.
The TARDIS Eruditorum by Philip Sandifer-Obviously, by the title, this website (and book series) has exactly nothing to do with Star Trek. It’s a Doctor Who-related endeavor. (And, as much as I enjoy Sandifer’s work, to the point of funding two of his Kickstarters, I strongly disagree with his views on Star Trek as American imperialist fantasy. But that’s for later discussion.) But his approach to Doctor Who has undeniably influenced the decision for my project, and the structure is going to be practically the same in many regards (though my writing style is vastly different). So, credit must be given where it is due.
Dusted: A Buffy Podcast hosted by Lani Diane Rich and Alastair Stephens-Another non-Star Trek source of inspiration, Dusted is dedicated to analyzing and ranking every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and Angel) with an emphasis on the writing of those series (no shocker, as Buffy and Angel were pioneers in the field of shows led by strong, continuing storylines with an emphasis on character development). Listening to Lani and Alastair tackle the first season-plus of Buffy has sharpened my analytical thinking in new ways, so I have to give credit where it is due. (Besides, it’s an excellent podcast!)
Obviously, just focusing on the “Classic 79” (even with two entries for each part of “The Menagerie”) is going to be limiting, and result in some massive gaps if I decide to tackle the three season premieres (“The Man Trap”, “Amok Time”, and “Spock’s Brain”) on the 50th Anniversary of each episode’s original airing (September 8th, 1966, September 15th, 1967, and September 20th, 1968) with the intent to warp things up on the 50th Anniversary of the airing of “Turnabout Intruder” (June 3rd, 1969). The first couple of years alone would be huge piles of nothing. So, that’s why there will be multiple types of posts for . They include:
These Are the Voyages-Besides a nod to Marc Cushman’s book series, these will be the posts on Star Trek‘s 80 hour-long installments (yes, there will be one post for each part of “The Menagerie”).
Guardians of Forever-Whenever a key player in the Star Trek story needs to be introduced, they’ll get one of these posts. They will also be pretty straightforward.
Tomorrow Is Yesterday-In order to create a proper context for just what the world was like when Star Trek‘s production began, we need to talk about some things. None of it will be too horribly obscure, but it’ll help you understand just what kind of world Gene Roddenberry was living in when he decided that writing science fiction was the best way to comment on the world around him. This will show up in the early days of the project before disappearing altogether, to be replaced by…….
Assignment: 1965/66/67/68/69-No man lives in a vacuum, and neither does a TV show produced by dozens of men and women working very hard and ultimately competing with other TV shows, professional and college sports, popular music, and movies for attention. (Many of these elements would influence Star Trek while it was being produced, as well as involve and comment on the same social and political issues, as well.) Unlike the Tomorrow Is Yesterday articles, these ones will be a bit more specifically targeted to time with their own 50th anniversaries, as noted by the year on the posts.
Mirror, Mirror-As stated above and elsewhere, I’m not in my 50s or 60s. I’m 36. So I didn’t watch Star Trek on NBC (and the NBC affiliate serving my area, WPTZ, is worthy of a discussion for all of the wrong-or right, for my purposes-reasons, besides). I watched the show on WVNY, Channel 22, an ABC affiliate that was every bit the stereotype of a small-market UHF station, something compounded by the pervasive nature of Portland, Maine’s ABC affiliate, WMTW, Channel 8, which until the digital switchover had a super-powerful transmitter atop Mt. Washington in New Hampshire that was in effect the only ABC station for many parts of Vermont. And, in the ’90s, I was watching on KVVU, Channel 5 in Las Vegas, which was a much more respectable station (for years, it was owned by Johnny Carson), though those days are LOOOOOOOONNNNNNG gone (other than some news broadcasts and the government-mandated E/I programming, the only non-network shows on Channel 5 during the weekends are infomercials). These stations and your usual Reagan/Bush I/Clinton era business will be like the Future Pretext/Subtext posts, but will have a funhouse mirror feel to them.
Priority One Alert-Occasionally, the need will arise where things need to be reviewed, discussed, celebrated, memorialized, or what have you. And since the most urgent news from Starfleet Command on Star Trek came via the aforementioned Priority One Alerts, the name comes naturally.
So, this is the gist of Star Trek Debriefed. A five-year mission, if you will, to chat up Star Trek. For regular Cartoon Review Site readers, this project should not interfere with the normal reviews-and-editorials doings of the site (and besides, I’m hoping that there should be enough to interest you with ). As the plan is for this to be a weekly series, lasting (as stated above) until June of 2019, there’s about 180 or so more posts to come, with 80 of them being episode posts. As for the other 100ish posts, I’ve discussed what they’ll be about. Next week, you get the first taste of how those non-episode posts will work as we discuss the most important person in Star Trek history.