The World of Star Trek...

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Warped9, May 19, 2012.

  1. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    I thought about putting this in the Lit forum, but the book itself is really just a jumping off point for a larger discussion of Trek fandom and more particularly the fandom of the '60s, '70s and '80s.

    I first read David Gerrold's The World Of Star Trek when it was first published in 1973. I didn't immediately get some of his remarks that I initially took as unfair criticism Hey, I was only 14. :lol: But on closer inspection and a second reading I got what Gerrold was saying. His remarks were not born of distaste but of the same enthusiasm and love as I and many others had for the show.

    Somewhere along the line I lost track of that book and all I had was recall of what I had read four decades ago. I know the book had been reprinted, but it wasn't until recently that I learned that Gerrold had revised the book in 1984 and added materiel regarding the first two feature films.

    It isn't too hard to see where he added things. In the main body of the text you can spot references to things that happened after the 1973 printing. This wasn't long before TAS debuted. The latter parts of the book are definitely about what has happened since (I wonder if Gerrold ever thought of taking another crack at this in light of so much that has happened since the early '80s, particularly with his early involvement with TNG?) Anyway I ordered a good second hand copy through Amazon and I'm about a third of the way through it.

    It's an interesting small window into another time, back when TOS was the only game in town. I recommend this book to TOS fans who have never read it and also to Trek fans for whom TOS either isn't on their radar or mightn't be their favourite Trek. It gives a glimmer of understanding of what fandom was like back then and glimpses of the seeds of what it became and is today.

    It's a decent reference book yet in a different way than The Making Of Star Trek and Inside Star Trek. Those are more about the show itself and the ideas in it whereas Gerrold's book is more about what fans got out of the show, how they were influenced by it and how they in turn influenced Star Trek.

    In the 1970s fandom (for me) was mostly a handful of reference books, reruns of TOS, TAS, James Blish's adaptations of the episodes, Alan Dean Foster's adaptations of the TAS episodes, Starlog magazine, a slowly increasing number of original novels from Bantam Books, building a few AMT model kits, drawing endless pictures of the Enterprise and other ships, Franz Joseph's blueprints, a vague growing awareness of fan conventions and fandom at large and talking about the show with a few friends. I attended my first convention in 1976 in Toronto, but I wouldn't attend another or begin to frequent them (for a time) until the early '90s (around the time I also dabbled in writing fan fiction). I had no internet (or even remotest concept of what that would be) to connect with likeminded people around the world. For me fandom was somewhat limited and to an extent isolated with little knowledge of how many like me were out there.

    It was quite different than today. And I had a lot of fun even if not many people around me shared my enthusiasm.
     
  2. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I always really liked the Star Trek Compedium, and Mr. Scott's Guide to the Enterprise, as far as TOS-reference materials went. The former had some fun episode breakdowns and behind-the-scenes stuff and the latter got all kinds of pretty pictures and technical stuff about the Enterprise.
     
  3. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    I enjoyed talking with my friends about episodes or later going to the first films together and talking about them afterwards. For a good many years I missed that and didn't see any of it again until it started all over agin with some people I met in the early '90s. By then we talked about more than just Star Trek, but an interest in Trek is what initially brought us together.

    One of my fondest memories was making a cardboard model of the Galileo shuttlecraft. I attached a couple of bent safety pins to the roof. I then strung some strong thread from the base of the yard fence to the upper part of our TV antenna. I then spent the afternoon watching the Galileo flying down the thread to land on the grass by the fence. My father thought I was nuts seeing me run back-and-forth across the yard and up-and-down the TV tower. :lol:

    Man, that was cool and a helluva lot of fun. :lol:
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2012
  4. nightwind1

    nightwind1 Commodore Commodore

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    Whereas I would replace those with Bjo Trimble's "Star Trek Concordance" and Franz Joseph's "Star Trek Technical Manual" and "Enterprise Blueprints".
     
  5. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    I'm nearing the end of this book, presently reading the newer sections Gerrold added regarding Star Trek's return as feature film. I find it interesting that he completely ignores TAS. He doesn't even mention it in a footnote.

    A lot of what Gerrold says/said is just as applicable today. I also don't agree with everything he says. Like every fan I think some of his remarks are coloured by what he thinks the series should have been more like. Again I agree with him on some points and not on others.

    His view that Star Trek worked best as drama rather than action/adventure is interesting. Certainly drama works well for television particularly when you're limited in budget and resources. Focusing on drama also means telling more difficult stories to write well rather than action/adventure which is more straightforward. Drama also means you don't need or miss a broader canvas as an action/adventure story might demand. Star Trek managed to do both and other kinds of stories, often well enough and sometimes not. Gerrold does come across sometimes as a harsher critic than many other fans with similar criticisms.

    I think he touches well on that dry spell of the '70s when the fans at large basically took ownership of the show in keeping it alive even if they didn't own it legally (obviously). With most other shows there can be a lot of fan interest when a show is in production, but when it goes off-air and is no longer in the public eye the interest resides quietly with a small core following. Trek fans were different wherein Star Trek became more popular after it had been cancelled. There were pockets of organized effort, but I'd say most fans acted individually to keep interest in the show alive.
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2012
  6. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    Time passes slowly when you're young. School years last seemingly forever, but then so do summers. And it seems like Christmas will never get here. :lol:

    Three years of reruns (1970-73) seemed like forever until we got TAS and new adventures. Mind you early on I had no idea I was watching reruns of a cancelled show---for me Star Trek was new. But by 1973 I'd seen them all and still watched them all again and again. TAS was exciting though because it offered new things never before seen. My 14 year old self ate it up. Even so I was a bit bothered by some things in TAS like some of the static animation and the out of scale hangar deck and shuttlecraft and some of the story ideas. Later I went through a brief phase of disowning the show, but eventually welcomed it again. I came to see the Alan Dean Foster adaptations of the TAS episodes as the real versions of the stories because they were fleshed out and complete and didn't feel truncated. With them I could also easily see the live-action characters in the story.

    The five years more until we got TMP was an eternity. But by then I settled into a routine of catching reruns, models, drawings and reading Star Trek reference books as well as original novels. Of course there were also other interests besides Star Trek.

    I was one of the few who didn't get into the Star Wars frenzy unlike a friend of mine at the time. I didn't see the first Star Wars until I saw a double-bill with The Empire Strikes back years later. I thought it was okay and some of the hardware was nice, but it just didn't grab me. I still feel the same to this day: I like some of the hardware, but the rest doesn't really interest me. All I can say is that the originally trilogy has a charm and energy to it that the recent trilogy distinctly lacks.

    I watched all the original Trek films ASAP when they were each released and I liked them all in varying degrees albeit each with reservations of varying degrees. When the Enterprise was destroyed at the end of TSFS something seemed to go away with it. I continued to see the films, but there was something missing after that. It wouldn't be until years later that I could see it more clearly.

    I had a lot of mixed feelings about the upcoming ST-TNG. I felt anticipation and anxiety. Initially I wasn't very happy with TNG although in later years I chilled a little and could acknowledge I liked some of it. In retrospect now I find some of early TNG (Seasons 1-3) feels more like Star Trek than a lot of the TOS films. I think part of it is that Trek seems to work better on television because you can tell smaller scale stories and not always trying to one-up the previous film.

    Fandom today is quite different and not just because I have an older perspective. In the '70s and '80s I think fans felt more connected because there was only one brand of Star Trek and disagreements came down to discussing/debating/arguing the merits of individual episodes. Now fandom is fractured because the lines are drawn more along which version (series) of Trek is preferred, truer or best.

    In counterpoint it's easier to connect with like-minded people today because of the internet. And the diversity of perspectives and opinions can be thought provoking and stimulate lively discussions.
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2012
  7. Kail

    Kail Commodore Commodore

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    What I miss from fandom in the 70's is we were all all the same page. We all just loved Star Trek. When the later shows came along it started to get bitchy "My Star Trek is better than yours".
     
  8. plynch

    plynch Commodore Commodore

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    We all just loved it. And loved all the ancillaries we could get our hands on in the Seventies. There were enough episodes to be a lot, but not too many, so we all knew them all.

    You don't know what you've got til it's gone.
     
  9. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    I've caught some of the old feeling by revisiting TOS and TNG and TAS. I'm thinking of revisiting the films of which I haven't seen for quite awhile. Thing is, though, I have no real desire to see The Voyage Home again or the TNG films...except maybe the GEN and FC out of curiosity.
     
  10. Knight Templar

    Knight Templar Commodore

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    IIRC, fully one quarter of Gerrolds book was about the "unfulfilled potential of Star Trek" or something to that effect. Basically about things that Gerrold thought could've been done better on the show. Some of these ideas later made their way into modern Star Trek like the idea of "Away Teams". A spinoff of the "Contact Team" idea that Gerrold floated in this book and that he later featured in his Trek novel "The Galactic Whirlpool".

    Lots of Gerrolds ideas about how Star Trek should've been done were good ones. But some of them that would've been "better Star Trek" probably would not have been "better television" and thus the show would've suffered.

    For instance, he suggested that the ending of "The Cloudminders" should've been left very ambigous with McCoy delivering the final line about "But how many more children will die until they do?(make peace)".
     
  11. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    ^^ Agreed, some of his ideas were valid and others I don't think would have worked. So many people have already said that Kirk shouldn't be leading landing parties for instance, but Kirk was the hero and so he had to be in the thick of things. When they tried to use the idea in TNG it became more challenging to create the desired drama. What it means is that the story has to be told differently. For that to have worked on TOS it would have had to have started practically right from the beginning of the series...but would it have made for exciting television?
     
  12. Knight Templar

    Knight Templar Commodore

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    Gerrold also described a more realistic battle scene with a single enemy torpedo coming in and the weapons officer (Gerrold suggested putting him on the left side of the bridge perimeter, forward which is exactly where Chekov ended up in the movies in that role), describing each of his attempts to stop the torpedo before it detonates against the Enterprise shields.

    As Gerrold says, no sounds of explosions, no bridge shaking, no sparks flying from the consoles, just the bridge lights dimming briefly as emergency power comes on.

    I have serious doubts as to how that would play on television.
     
  13. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    It would if it was directed and edited right. Look at the torpedo avoidance scenes in movies like The Hunt for Red October, where any single torpedo hit is probably lethal.
     
  14. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    ^^ It's something that could work easily in prose, but it would take a deft touch to make it work on TV or in film. Done right, though, it could be quite compelling.
     
  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    No, there were certainly plenty of arguments back then, just over different things. And sometimes the same things. Recently I was going through some old DC Trek comics from the mid-'80s, and there was an ongoing debate in the letter column about whether the animated series should "count" as part of the canon (and this was years before Roddenberry's memo expressing his view that it didn't).


    Well, the original intent was that Riker would be the Kirk-equivalent character, the action lead, and Picard would be more of an elder statesman/advisor type. The plan backfired because Stewart just had so much more charisma and presence than Frakes that he naturally dominated the show.


    The way to do it would be to make a series that revolves primarily around the "lower decks" characters and treats the ship's command staff as supporting players. Kind of like the usual cop-show format where the detectives or street-level officers are the leads and their commanding captain or lieutenant is supporting, or like Law & Order where the assistant DAs are the focus and the DA only shows up for a scene or two to give them advice.


    I see it as something like the movie Fail Safe, where much of it involves people standing in a room watching a screen displaying events happening very far away. More about suspense and tension than heart-pumping action.

    Gerrold's novel Yesterday's Children (aka Starhunt) and his related Star Wolf novels treat space combat the way he describes, and it's built heavily around suspense and uncertainty, about being hamstrung by the limits of physics and striving to locate your enemy before they locate and destroy you. So it's the suspense of a thriller or monster movie where you're searching in the dark and could be struck down at any moment. I think that could work as well as the usual, more action-oriented approach.
     
  16. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    I think a lot depends on expectations and that influence on writers and directors. There have been plenty of other films and television that have used suspense to great effect, but it's not something usually associated with sci-fi space battles. I think if a director pulled it off in a SF film or television episode it would be noteworthy.

    Setting the near-miss thing aside one I've long liked about TOS was that we rarely saw two ships, particularly two combating ships, in the same frame. It gave the scenes a greater sense of credibility, that these ships were moving at incredible speeds hundreds to thousands to millions of kilometres apart. And the enemy ship often appeared as nothing more than a blip on the screen. The fact it was done the way it was for simplicity's sake doesn't change the fact it worked in the show's favour.

    But ever since Star Wars that idea has been basically thrown out the window. In regard to Trek I can't say it started in TNG because it actually started in TWoK, TSFS and TUC. In TWoK two far-future starships were no better than two lumbering 18th century galleons firing broadsides at each other. And they were doing it in a thick fog that was erroneously called a nebula. It makes sense in a film like Master And Commender, but it's complete nonsense in far-future SF like Star Trek.
     
  17. Knight Templar

    Knight Templar Commodore

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    I agree completely.

    Having "fighters" appear in the same frame onscreen is one thing and almost tolerable.

    Having large starships in combat in the same scene is ridiculous in my opinion.
     
  18. Joe_Atari

    Joe_Atari Commander Red Shirt

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    We did see how it would play, twice -- in TMP and TNG "The Last Outpost". I got into Trek because of Star Wars; the space fantasy/sci-fi craze of the late '70s captured my imagination, and in addition to Galactica, Buck Rogers, et al, I inhaled anything and everything Trek-related I could (including Gerrold's book) during the run up to TMP. I had no idea at the time about the aborted Phase II series, but it seems likely that many of Gerrold's suggestions would have made it into that show (and a few made it into TMP).

    I assume Roddenberry consulted with Gerrold (or just read his book) during the development of Phase II as he would later for TNG. To his credit (or discredit as it seemed more often than not) GR had a very open mind about how to improve his creation, although he would all too often claim credit for others' ideas as his own. Whatever the case, the concepts of an Executive Officer, away teams, and weapons officer (Chekov) complete with a prominent tactical display (the "targeting bubble" seen in early PII bridge concepts) would have figured prominently in PII as they would later in TNG. I always enjoy connecting how much of PII that was abandoned after TMP's "failure" was later resurrected in TNG with great success, and Gerrold certainly owns much of the credit for that although it was GR that insisted it be carried over in the first place. As mentioned here earlier, as TV-savvy as Gerrold was at the time he was a little naive thinking the "Captain staying on the ship out of danger (and out of the drama and action)" concept would fly for long in star and ego-driven Hollywood. GR himself (much more TV business-savvy, especially given the hardball he was playing with Nimoy) probably liked the away team concept more for leverage against Shatner and later Stewart's increasing salaries than for its dramatic value.

    In TMP, as originally filmed (and in the ABC / Special Longer Version) the initial attack by V'ger plays out like this (somewhat interminably) with the energy bolt (torpedo) slowly approaching and the bridge crew giving status reports, Uhura contacting Starfleet, Sulu making course adjustments and presenting minimal aspect to the incoming weapon, etc. This was drastically cut in the theatrical version to where the bolt pretty much appears and then strikes and depletes the shields, with Scotty reporting the shield level after the attack. Gerrold would probably not have approved of the "electrical overloads" (Chekov's burns, etc.) inside the ship, but at least there were no explosions or sparking control panels. Gerrold was in fact very critical of TMP at the time as I recall, but his influence on at least this scene was pretty clear.

    In 1987 I was also unaware that Gerrold was actually on staff at TNG, but when I first saw the Enterprise and Ferengi faceoff in "The Last Outpost" I immediately recalled Gerrold's book and thought the writer or director must have done the same. As with the V'ger attack in TMP, I found the Ferengi attack in this episode to be lifeless and lacking in suspense, however technically and dramatically "correct" it may have been. Of course Gerrold departed the series very early on, and by the time of S1's "Arsenal of Freedom" we were back to the more conventional depictions of space combat (explosive sounds, shaking and tilting cameras, etc.). For better or worse, I think it worked much better on a visceral level and that enhanced the suspense more than the other approaches.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2012
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    But that's the problem in itself -- SF audiences have been conditioned for so long to expect it to be an action-oriented genre that there's no tolerance for anything outside that very narrow window. In prose, SF is a literature of ideas, but in mass media it's forced to be more about things going boom.


    Yes, that's one way in which the more limited visual effects of the era helped make it more realistic. (A similar example is in Filmation's Space Academy and Jason of Star Command versus the original Battlestar Galactica. In the former, the starscapes outside the windows of small spacecraft were completely static backdrops, while in BSG they were rear projections of stars whizzing by at high speed. But given how immensely far away the stars would be, the former is what you'd actually see even if you were moving at a fair fraction of the speed of light. The only way you'd see the starscape rushing past uniformly the way it did in BSG's Viper scenes would be if your ship were spinning wildly around its Z axis.)


    Yeah, I've never understood why people thing TWOK is a better-paced film than TMP. I find the pacing of the action scenes in TWOK to be ponderous and dull.
     
  20. xortex

    xortex Commodore Commodore

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    The away team was a bad idea. A better idea would have been to have a smaller, more update Enterprise with only like 35 people on it. Were they sight seeing Romulan warships with children aboard. GR was losing it, but DG was also wrong about the transporter being a bad idea too at the beginning. He did mention hardening of the arteries quite alot when referring to overused premises week to week and an unused story idea of his called the creeping Blortch which sounded great to me - Heck that idea was used several times over the course of it's run. Even though he said it as an unconscious joke, I liked it. I still don't like TNG. The Geordi thing was stupid. A woman's hair braid or what ever on a guy who's known specifically for the expressiveness of his eyes. Makes one wonder who's blind and who wasn't. GR was out of his depth with Berman who cast a large powerful and omninous subtle shadow over the whole thing that smothered all creativity like a wet blanket to make it last longer and milk it for all it was worth.