Inside Star Trek 8: George Takei on almost everything except Star Trek

Inside Star Trek was a semi-official newsletter, published under the guidance of Gene Roddenberry. This connection gave the writers access to the actors, production crew and sets.

I own the complete run:

  • Issues 1 to 12: Inside Star Trek, edited by Ruth Berman
  • Issues 13 to 24: renamed Star Trektennial News, edited by Susan Sackett
  • Issues 25 to 31: again called Inside Star Trek, edited by Virginia Yable

Here are highlights from issue 8, published early 1969.

The cover of the Inside Star Trek newsletter, issue 8. The cover is a drawing of Lieutenant Sulu, done by Andrew Probert in 1969.

Those invisible stagehands

This is the weakest Inside Star Trek so far. It opens with a silly reader question:

In “Plato’s Stepchildren,” did the actors control the forced movements the characters made when they were being telepathically pushed around, or were they pushed around by “invisible” stagehands? Dorothy Waibel

Invisible stagehands? Well, kudos to Dorothy for signing that question. Editor Ruth Berman responded, “The actors did it themselves.”

Reader Carol Stoddard asked:

Is Dr. McCoy’s daughter going to come on the Enterprise in any episode?

The idea of meeting McCoy’s daughter had first been pitched by Dorothy Fontana in early 1967, and the third issue of Inside Star Trek touched on this briefly. (Here is my article on that.) Berman replied:

No, at least not this season. Plans for a show about Joanna McCoy were begun, but did not work out.

No, those plans did not work out. Fontana’s pitch had Kirk and Joanna begin a relationship, and that caused problems between the captain and Leonard McCoy. It would also have caused problems for viewers, because it would have been icky. 

George Takei on everything else 

The rest of the issue is a wide-ranging interview with George Takei, and that’s why this is a weak outing. Not because of Takei himself — who I quite like and often find interesting — but because he wasn’t asked about Star Trek. We hear about a course at the Inner City Cultural Center, a small play he was in, the origins of Japanese Kabuki theatre, and a character study of Shakespeare’s Brutus. There was so little content available to fans in the 1960s that anything related to the show was consumed eagerly, but this really would have been a better article had they actually discussed Star Trek.

Still, there are two interesting bits. The first is about the advantage of being an Asian actor. 

Many people complain about being of minority groups and so forth. But I think the very fact that I have this face opened a lot of doors for me… Other kids I was going to school with were kind of envious of my thing. But they were tall, blond, blue-eyed, and good looking, and they were a dime a dozen. My type was a rarity, so I worked, and they stayed in school.

Takei also discussed his family’s internment in Japanese-American World War II camps. Berman asked him:

In the official biography of you, it says that during World War II your folks moved from California to Arkansas. Is that a euphemism for saying that you were in one of our concentration camps?

It’s amazing to me that Desilu or perhaps Paramount, depending on when this biography was created, would characterize forced imprisonment as a family move, and good for Berman for asking this question. Takei’s response, in part:

My real memories of those camp days are fond memories… When we went, I was two years old or something like that, not really old enough to comprehend, and my parents told us we were going for a long vacation in the country. To a child, you know, that’s exactly what it was.

The cover of George Takei's autobiography, To the Stars, showing Sulu in his movie uniform.

In his autobiography To the Stars, published in 1994, Takei puts his age at four, and states again that he thought of it as an adventure: “I just assumed this was the way people went to the country for a long vacation.”

For those old enough to understand what was being done to them, however, it was a grave injustice. Years later, that experience inspired the musical Allegiance, featuring Takei as the grandfather of an uprooted family. It premiered in 2012 and hit Broadway in 2015. It garnered mixed reviews, as in this piece from Variety

There’s a tremendously affecting scene at the end of Allegiance in which George Takei’s character, his eyes glistening with tears, reconciles with his conflicted past and finds a promise of comfort that has eluded him for more than 50 years. The knowledge that the story was inspired by Takei’s childhood hardships in the Japanese-American “relocation centers” of World War II adds significantly to the emotional impact. But the powerful sentiments involved are too often flattened by the pedestrian lyrics and unmemorable melodies of Jay Kuo’s score, making an unconvincing case for this material’s suitability to be a musical.

…the most moving work comes from beloved Star Trek veteran Takei, who brings gentle, albeit sometimes corny, humor to Ojii-chan. His deep personal association to the material and evidence of a generous spirit of forgiveness dictate the tone, and are among the show’s strengths.

A photo of three cast members of the Broadway play Allegiance, with George Takei in the middle.
Photo: NY Times

The newsletter’s overlong and unfocused interview comprises almost all of this issue, and it feels like Berman just wanted to fill the pages. Readers would have been better served by more Star Trek in their Star Trek newsletter. This issue does end on a great note, however. Berman says that just after her interview with Takei, the cast and crew learned the series had been “picked up for the rest of the third season.”

Inside Star Trek is an invaluable source of early Star Trek voices. I’ll cover each issue. Click here to read other articles in this series.

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