Trektennial News 14: NCC is not Naval Construction Contract, plus a Q&A with Kelley

Star Trektennial News was the second semi-official newsletter published under the guidance of Gene Roddenberry. The complete run of these publications includes:

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 14, published in 1976.

The cover of the newsletter, showing a drawing of the fortress from the Star Trek episode The Cage.

The second issue of the revamped newsletter offered a movie update and a solid interview with DeForest Kelley. Sadly, subscribers did not also receive the required magnifying glass.

The cameras will roll on July 15

This edition opens with the exciting news that the first movie, called Star Trek II in the newsletter, will begin filming on July 15, 1976. “The studio has set this date and they are getting anxious to get rolling on the film! Now, all we need is a script!”

That must have been a significant barrier, as principal photography on The Motion Picture actually started more than two years later, in August of 1978.

The contest over NCC

Readers were promised a regular contest in the last issue but, sadly, it was the trivia question “What do the letters N.C.C. on the hull stand for?” The thing is, there is no one answer to this, and the explanation provided by the newsletter is inconsistent with what Matt Jefferies said later.

The newsletter answer:

…the letters grew from Gene Roddenberry’s and Matt Jefferies’ brains — “N” was adopted by the United States around 1928 as the letter identifying that country; “C” came into use at that time also and stands for “Commercial” and the third “C” was purely for aesthetic reasons — Matt and Gene thought two “C”s looked good. Navy Curtis Craft was not allowed, because, after all, the Enterprise is not a Navy Curtis Craft. We also didn’t allow Navy Construction Contract.

Jefferies later told the BBC a slightly different version of the origin story, and I take this answer to be definitive:

NC, by international agreement, stood for all United States commercial vehicles. Russia had wound up with four Cs, CC CC. It’d been pretty much a common opinion that any major effort in space would be too expensive for any one country, so I mixed the US and the Russian and came up with NCC.

It’s interesting that editor Susan Sackett specifically says NCC does not stand for Navy Curtis Craft. If you Google NCC you will see that explanation posted widely, and the idea was obviously around even in the mid 1970s. Here is a modern example of this story from the Memory Alpha discussion boards:

According to both “The Making of Star Trek”, and the second season writers’ guide update, NCC officially stands for “Navy-Curtis Craft”, referring to the fact that the design and construction of the cruisers was a combination of the Navy’s and Curtis Industries inputs. Curtis Industries is (will be) an industrial ship-builder located in San Francisco that has fulfilled many Starfleet-bid projects. The Navy was responsible for transporting the components into low Earth orbit, and assembling the ship in space.

This is not stated in the TOS show bible and if it is in The Making of Star Trek, I cannot find it. 

Wikipedia gives yet a third version and includes the Naval Construction Contract idea that Sackett specifically ruled out.

The ship’s NCC-1701 registry stems from NC being one of the international aircraft registration codes assigned to the United States. The second C was added because Soviet aircraft used Cs, and Jefferies believed a venture into space would be a joint operation by the United States and Russia. NCC is the Starfleet abbreviation for “Naval Construction Contract”, comparable to what the U.S. Navy would call a hull number.

All of which means this was not the best trivia question to select. 

This issue asks for the best artwork, with prize packs in four age categories. Those efforts are promised in the next issue. 

Good luck reading the DeForest Kelley interview

Sackett offered a lengthy Q&A with DeForest Kelley that is almost unreadable. Not due to the writing or the content but because, inexplicably, she ran it on one page in a miniscule font. It was a bizarre decision. Skip the fan poem above and run the Dr. McCoy interview over two pages.

I had to scan the interview and then zoom the image on my screen just to make the words legible. Here are the best bits.

Which fan letters do you answer?

I answer letters that appeal to me — if there’s something that touches me, something that specifically gets to me, that I feel is important, and I do get letters like that occasionally. People seem to divulge their unhappy lives and I get letters telling me that the character I portrayed had been a source of inspiration to a young boy with someone in the family who’s ill, or what have you. I get a great deal of mail from people who have had tragedy in their lives. A mother with an 18-year-old son who’s paralyzed from the waist down, both became tremendous fans, he had received a lift from my portrayal and that I meant a lot to him — would I please drop him a note — that kind of thing. I receive gifts, and oddly enough I receive a lot of love letters. Most of them are fantasy types of things. I have one girl who writes to me who calls me “Trees.” It took me a while to put that together. I guess “DeForest.” She writes beautiful letters, very poetic. Others are out and out love letters from teenage girls. Then there’s a girl in France who sends me socks and handkerchiefs and chocolates and ties.

Do you accept these gifts?

Well, if the sock fits…

What did you do to support yourself in the early years between acting jobs?

The first year I was out here I was really just a beach bum. I love the beach, and I did as little as possible. I worked in a seaside hospital in Long Beach for a few days a week to make enough bread so I could stretch out on the beach. Then I ran an elevator in Long Beach, and then I got a job in the shipyard, and oil fields. I roughnecked for Richfield Oil, and I worked for Bethlehem Steel. I was working at Bethlehem Steel in the daytime, I was getting up at 6 in the morning, getting home about 5 in the afternoon, rushing to the theatre at night and doing a play every night. Very little sleep. 

How do you feel about conventions? Do they tend to unnerve you?

Well, in the beginning I had a situation happen to me here in Los Angeles. The situation was exaggerated a great deal. It was a bit harried, and it was my first experience with a convention. I went out at the request of Gene Roddenberry. He asked me to go to this hotel at the airport for a couple of hours, and I did. After I’d done a panel with Ted Sturgeon and some people…they took me to an autograph room. There were stacks of books that I had never seen before on Star Trek — I didn’t realize there was all this stuff. And there was a huge table that ran the length of the room. Carolyn was with me and we were behind the table and I was signing. The crowd was a bit disorganized and the table began to move, moving back, and I looked at all these people. I had never really been subjected to that many people in that kind of circumstance before. I thought “My God!” They managed to stop it and they got me out. I walked out of there really kind of wrung. It was a hell of a way to start conventions. 

R-rated Majel

The poster from the 1976 movie Drum.

The newsletter concludes with a list of conventions and appearances for the main cast, along with a note that Gene Roddenderry Jr. (Rod) had fled a TV commercial audition. “He took one look at the waiting room of children and ran out crying ‘No doctor! No doctor!’” 

Sackett also told readers that:

Majel Barrett will appear in the forthcoming film “Drum” — but don’t plan on seeing her if you’re under 17. Majel says it will definitely be rated R!” 

IMDb, however, does not list Barrett in the 1976 film Drum, which is not a big loss: it’s pretty much a sex and violence exploitation film. Here’s the trailer.

Click here to read other articles in this series.

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