• I hope to revisit the real Enterprise soon

    I hope to revisit the real Enterprise soon

    I have seen the real Enterprise — the 11-foot hero model — in person only once, and she was not looking her best. 

    I was a young teenager on a school trip in the early 1980s and the only Washington sight I really cared about was the Enterprise at the National Air and Space Museum. I am not sure how I knew, in those pre-Internet days, that she was at the museum. I probably read about the display in Starlog magazine; perhaps it was issue 7 from August 1977, which profiled the model in an earlier museum location. By the time I got there, she was hanging in the Rocketry and Spaceflight gallery.

    I took these photos with a crappy little Kodak camera, and I’ve kept them for all these years. I think those grey areas just below the saucer section are tape slapped on as a quick repair, but I am not sure. 

    My photos of the Enterprise model hanging from the ceiling of the Smithsonian. There are four small photos of the ship.

    The angle of this photo taken by the museum does not include that area of the ship.  

    A professional photo from the NASM of the Enterprise in the 1980s.
    Photo: NASM

    But as rough as she was back in the 80s, she was in worse shape when Paramount shipped her to the museum. Here’s a photo of that arrival, from March 1974. 

    Another NASM photo, this shows the Enterprise in segments in a wooden crate.
    Photo: NASM

    And here is a wonderful gallery of images from the National Air and Space Museum.

    I recently bought myself a beautiful three-foot Polar Lights model and writing about that got me thinking about the original. I hope to revisit soon, to see her restored and in her new museum display case.

  • Inside Star Trek 11: saucer separations and a hypothetical Vulcan

    Inside Star Trek 11: saucer separations and a hypothetical Vulcan

    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 11, published in the spring of 1969.

    The cover of the Inside Star Trek newsletter, featuring a drawing of Uhura done by Andy Probert.

    In my article on installment 10 of this newsletter, I suggested that “little work went into the issue because the writing was already on the bulkhead about the series’ cancellation.” That seems to be confirmed by issue 11 which carried the announcement of Trek’s demise on its back cover and offered almost no original content.

    Editor Ruth Berman encouraged fans to write letters of appeal to NBC or, interestingly, ABC. Berman suggested targeting ABC because it “usually has more openings than the other networks.”

    Her goal was to get one of the networks to revive Star Trek as a “mid-season replacement in January, 1970, or even a fresh start in September 1970” and while that was a noble gesture there is a defeated feel to the appeal here. 

    A different Vulcan

    I did learn something from the letters section. Fan Debbie Brown wrote in with:

    Scientists once thought that there was a planet closer to the sun than Mercury and called it Vulcan. Is this the same planet Mr. Spock comes from?

    The second bit is a silly question, but I looked it up and indeed “a small hypothetical planet…was proposed to exist in an orbit between Mercury and the Sun. The 19th-century French mathematician Urbain Le Verrier hypothesized that peculiarities in Mercury’s orbit were the result of another planet, which he named Vulcan.”

    Take that, Encounter at Farpoint

    Fans Jack Brown and Michael Okuda (yes, that Michael Okuda) wrote in to ask “Can the Primary Hull take off from the rest of the ship and operate with the impulse engines located in the primary hull?” 

    Berman answered:

    Yes. The separation of the main hull from the rest would be a “last ditch” maneuver — it’s not likely to come up in any of the shows — performed because the main hull alone is capable of landing on a planet (unlike the ship as a whole).

    We never got to see this on screen, as the sequence would have been costly and perhaps even impossible with the available special effects, but Captain Kirk makes it clear in The Apple that his ship can do what Captain Picard’s did as soon as Gene Roddenberry had the necessary budget. “We’re doing everything within engineering reason,” Scotty tells the captain as the ship is being pulled toward the surface of Gamma Trianguli VI. Kirk replies:

    Then use your imagination. Tie every ounce of power the ship has into the impulse engines. Discard the warp drive nacelles if you have to, and crack out of there with the main section, but get that ship out of there!

    TOS stage tour, part two

    The bulk of the newsletter is the second half of a reprinted article from ST-Philes entitled Where It’s At and written by K. Anderson. Part one is included in my article on that issue and scans from this entry are below. 

    One interesting bit in this piece details how props were used to decorate offices:

    Robert Justman has the mask of one of the primitive uglies of “Galileo Seven” and the lambent-eyed disembodied head of the melkot of “Spectre of the Gun” scowling from the bar in his office; the salt vampire of “The Man Trap,” chastely dressed in a red pinafore, stands near the door. Gene Roddenberry’s office harbors one of the euphoria-producing lilies of “This Side of Paradise” and a parasitic creature from “Operation: Annihilate.” A beastie which hasn’t appeared in any episode, as far as I know, but which looks as if it is a natural for extraterrestrial skies broods atop one of the filing cabinets in the office of Sylvia Smith, Mr. Justman’s secretary. It is a black-feathered, gleefully rapacious-looking bird labelled “Great Bird of the Galaxy.” It doesn’t look a bit like Gene Roddenberry, though.

    A crossword created by Andy Probert, who would go on to be an illustrator and designer on The Motion Picture and The Next Generation, and an ad for IDIC necklaces make up the rest of this issue. 

    That crossword is covered in its own post.

    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.

  • Inside Star Trek crossword: 25 across is SPVCK

    Inside Star Trek crossword: 25 across is SPVCK

    I dislike crosswords, and indeed all word games. That is probably because I make my living with words. But I decided to try this 1969 puzzle created by Andy Probert, later a noted Star Trek illustrator. It was published in issue 11 of the Inside Star Trek newsletter.

    Probert is undeniably a talented artist but his crossword skills were not all that we would wish. There are 11 entries that have the wrong number of squares, require incorrect letters (SPVCK) or are simply missing from the grid.

    Find out for yourself by completing the puzzle. Below are scans of the crossword pages and also the answer sheet, along with JPG download links.


    But, take note, don’t get hung up on the following entries, because they are just wrong for various reasons.

    ACROSS

    • 25
    • 28
    • 32
    • 62
    • 69
    • 70

    DOWN

    • 2
    • 7
    • 12
    • 18
    • 62

    One more tip: 2 down is “Tube containing much engine circuitry” and the answer is obvious if you know your Trek but a spelling error is required to get it to fit. 


    The answers

    Here is the answer page, which was published in issue 12. The editor added this note: “Due to a printing error, there are discrepancies in the crossword puzzle.”

    Right. A printing error.


    Even the answer sheet had issues. 42 down, Research area (abbr)., is LAB, and this fits in the puzzle, but for some reason the answer is listed above as RAR. Another of those pesky printing errors.

  • Anyone else make a Star Trek scrapbook — or just me?

    Anyone else make a Star Trek scrapbook — or just me?

    I started getting serious about Star Trek at around age nine. A year or so later, I looked at my small stack of newspaper clippings and realized envelope storage wasn’t doing it anymore. I found a two-inch binder and started gluing my Trek resources onto punched note paper.

    I have written twice about the importance of digging through old storage boxes (here and here) and I was doing just that when I came across the binder. I hadn’t looked at it in decades. A couple hours slipped away as I read through what the kid me collected in those days before I had a shelves full of Star Trek books and magazines. 

    You have to remember that there was so little information on Star Trek. Anything, even silly clipped TV listings, were important. So, here is a selection of the stuff I glued to paper and then kept for 40 years. Some of it is a little embarrassing, but other fans may see their young selves in these yellowed pages. 


    I copied a Gorn, for some reason

    We open with an embarrassing entry. The Star Fleet Medical Reference Manual started out as a fan publication before it was put out by Ballantine in 1977. (Fun fact: One of its main artists was Doug Drexler, but apparently he is not exactly proud of this book today.) The manual is full of anatomical drawings of Star Trek species including Excalbians, Andorians, Vulcans and Klingons, and other lifeforms like Denebian Slime Devils, the borgia plant, the mako root and Tribbles.

    It also features Gorns and I traced that drawing. Why? No idea. 


    An all-important episode guide

    A very crummy photocopy of an episode guide from a magazine.

    Access to an episode guide was once a big deal. This is a poor photocopy from, I think, a magazine, and I was pleased to have it.


    Remember microfilm?

    Sometime in my early teens I spent a day at the Toronto Reference Library feeding microfilm or microfiche into a reader. I had been clipping local newspaper articles and at some point it occurred to me that I could access other publications at the reference library. How I knew which resources to pull is a mystery; I guess there was some sort of subject catalog. But somehow I found a lot of articles. I paid the library to print them for me on weird coated paper, and the pages are so small and low-res that they are really tough to read. But read them I did, and then I glued them into my binder.  

    An image from the Internet of people using microfilm readers in the '80s.
    Source: TC Library Blog


    A surprise Topps find

    A really nice wrapper from the 1976 Star Trek card set, laid flat and covered with a taped piece of plastic.

    The 1976 Topps trading cards are sought-after collectibles, with a set of 88 cards and 22 stickers selling at good prices. An almost complete set, missing one sticker, recently went on eBay for about $300. 

    I own a complete set and I also have one of the original wrappers, but it’s folded to fit in the sleeve with the cards. It was a nice surprise, then, to find a wrapper stored flat and in excellent condition in my scrapbook. Young me did a good job of taping a piece of plastic on three sides over the wrapper. 


    Hey, Spock’s Brain is coming up

    Episode descriptions clipped from the newspaper tv listings.

    Again, there was so little Star Trek stuff back then. These are episode listings cut from a newspaper guide. Even I got bored with this after only 37 episodes. 


    The refit looks amazing

    I saved a lot of movie ads; I’ve included only a few in this post. I saw TMP a bunch of times in theatres and I was glued to my TV when CFTO played it the first time. 


    Time magazine hated The Motion Picture

    A poor photocopy of the one-page review of The Motion Picture from Time magazine.

    From the review:

    It used to be that special effects were created to serve a movie’s story, to permit the camera to capture that which could not be found — or recorded on film — in the natural world. But now, in the post Star Wars era, stories are created merely to provide a feeble excuse for the effects. Star Trek consists almost entirely of this kind of material: shot after shot of vehicles sailing through the firmament to the tune of music intended to awe. But the spaceships take an unconscionable amount of time to get anywhere, and nothing of dramatic or human interest happens along the way.

    …the picture ends not with a bang but, as it were, with a bang. One of the space cadets, who had his eye on the original Ilia all along, agrees to mate with the improved model and produce a hybrid race of brainy but emotionally turned-on creatures. 

    Star Trek is, finally, nothing but a long day’s journey into ennui. 


    Circus of the ’80s fashions

    A small article from, I think, the Toronto Star about the upcoming Circus of the Stars show. Shatner and Brooke Shields starred.

    I love the headband. The sixth annual Circus of the Stars was broadcast December 13, 1981, and I have no memory of watching it.


    Thanks for the huge spoiler, jerks

    A newspaper article announcing -- before the movie was out -- that Spock dies in Star Trek II

    So, apparently, Paramount screened a sneak peek of The Wrath of Khan at the ConQuesT 3 convention, held May 22 to 24, 1982, in Kansas City. This was shortly before the June 4 premiere of the movie.

    It was nice that the fans got to see the movie early, but the press then blabbed the big reveal on the pages of the Kansas City Star

    “I couldn’t ask for anything better,” (producer Robert) Sallin said of the audience, which applauded at the end of the movie in which Spock — the green-blooded alien stoically played by Leonard Nimoy — dies. 

    That’s great. Thanks.


    Three days until Star Trek II

    A newspaper ad for Star Trek II, with a poorly drawn Enterprise.

    I saw it opening night and then went back to a Famous Players theatre a bunch more times. (Also: a warrior?)


    Early Memory Alpha

    My notes on Star Trek II, carefully typed in all caps.

    The VHS of The Wrath of Khan came out in late 1982 and my mother (bless her!) surprised me by renting a VCR and the movie. We had them for the weekend and I don’t know how many times I watched it. But it was a lot.

    I apparently took notes, pausing and rewinding the tape, and then typed up this little sheet of trivia. And yes, I misspelled “Khan” a few times and “Mutara.” The editor within me cringes. 


    Little interest in Hooker

    The cover of the Toronto Sun Television magazine, featuring Shatner as T.J. Hooker.

    Today, I am a William Shatner generalist (see my piece on The Horror at 37,000 Feet) but when I was younger I really only cared about Kirk, so I never watched a lot of T.J. Hooker


    Promoting The Vegetarian World

    I don’t believe Shatner is still a vegetarian, but back in 1983 he hosted a documentary on the lifestyle’s benefits. Watch the 30-minute film on YouTube. 


    Secret Shatner

    An ad for the TV movie The Secrets of a Married Man, with a very "sexy" shot of Shatner

    Wow, this photo is really well matched to the movie’s title. Shatner is a frustrated family man who strays and is then blackmailed by a sex worker, played by Cybill Shepherd. I don’t think I saw this movie in September of 1984 but this promo really tells you everything you need to know about it. 


    This blog post covers only a fraction of the 100 or so pages in my scrapbook but it gives you an idea of fandom in the late 70s and 80s. I bet a lot of people created similar collections back then.

  • Star Trek film history: a terrible trailer, Saavik’s parentage, and preliminary effects shots

    Star Trek film history: a terrible trailer, Saavik’s parentage, and preliminary effects shots

    Three pieces of film spanning 1979 to 1984 tell interesting stories about how Star Trek movies were marketed over those five years. 

    Prolific author Howard Weinstein was the guest at a lot of conventions in the ’70s and ’80s, and because of that the Paramount publicity department gave him wide access to promotional material. Weinstein told me: 

    Here’s how loose things were: In the early ’80s, when Star Trek II and III came out, main publicity for the movies still worked out of Paramount’s NY office. I worked in Manhattan at the time, and I had good contacts with the promo people, who knew I was helping to promote the movies at Trek and SF cons. So they’d invite me in to root through their storage room and take whatever I wanted to use (and to do some giveaways) at cons — including official slides, press kits, stills, posters, 16 mm trailers and product reels. Can you imagine anybody doing that today?!

    Star Trek: The Motion Picture

    The theatrical trailer for the first movie was awful. It is now well documented that the film barely made it to theatres on time (read the excellent book Return to Tomorrow for a lot more on that) so it’s no surprise that the trailer was thrown together, but even so…

    Oh, wow, that TMP “trailer” was miserable. When I got it to show at cons and library talks, I was almost embarrassed. As you could tell, they didn’t even have the most basic SFX (like stars in the shots of the ship) ready to include. Probably the lamest, most static trailer in movie history. No wonder they didn’t want it back from me!

    Here is what the public saw before the movie premiered in December 1979.


    The Wrath of Khan

    Paramount also let Weinstein hold on to the product reel made to sell The Wrath of Khan to theatre chains — and this is the gem of Weinstein’s trove. Those watching the film in theatres in 1982 and after that on home video assumed Saavik was a Vulcan but, originally, they would only have been half right. Scenes in the shooting script and the novelization made clear that one of her parents was a Romulan. 

    The product reel I had for Star Trek II is to my knowledge the ONLY piece of film including the cut scene in which Kirk and Spock discuss Kirstie Alley’s smoldering Saavik and reveal that she’s half-Romulan.

    Product reels were shown at industry conventions like ShoWest, run by the National Association of Theatre Owners, which showcased upcoming films to moviehouse operators. Theatrical trailers are appetizers meant to be intriguing, but product reels are almost full meals, and this one reveals nearly the entire story, holding back only Spock’s fate. 

    Here are the scripted scenes in which Saavik’s heritage is discussed. 


    The reel also shows a decidedly flirty Saavik in a scene intended for the last moments of the film, with most of the crew gathered on the bridge. As Weinstein noted, Saavik comes across as “smoldering” but in the script she was meant to be coy and also funnier. Here is that scene.

    I am glad that scene was not included. The levity was out of place right after Spock’s death.


    The Search for Spock

    Paramount decided to poke a little fun at ShoWest attendees with this one, using subtitles to have Kruge insult the audience. This reel gives away a little less of the plot than did the promo for the second movie. 

    The effects were not quite final when the reel was made. In the film, Scotty’s opening salvo of photon torpedoes both strike the Klingon Bird of Prey on its central section. In the reel, the second torpedo can be seen striking the starboard wing.

    My thanks to Howard Weinstein for sharing these and for encouraging me to post them online.

  • CollectingTrek at two years old: the posts readers read the most

    CollectingTrek at two years old: the posts readers read the most

    I launched this site in the early days of 2019 to share my love of Star Trek collectibles, give some background on the items themselves, and tell stories of how I acquired them. I am pleased with the outcome thus far; a lot of people visit this site, a good number follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and I have engaged in lively — and sometimes contentious — discussions with other fans. I am disappointed that the site contains only 49 posts, but work and life keep interfering in my collection obsession and I don’t see that changing in the near future. 

    Presented herein is a countdown of the five posts that generated the most reads, comments and, in one case, outrage. 

    A screencap from The Way to Eden, showing Adam dead on the ground.

    Number five: A defence of The Way to Eden

    This is probably my best piece. The episode is dismissed, as I wrote, by “Viewers dazzled by the way-out costumes, the ‘we reach’ lingo and the quasi flower-power mysticism” but it is actually a warning about messianic figures and the cults they create. Far from being about hippies, “The Way to Eden is closer to Charles Manson than to the summer of love.”


    The Heineken Spock beer ad, signed by Leonard Nimoy.

    Number four: Leonard Nimoy sued Paramount, and won

    I did not know if Nimoy would sign my Heineken poster. The sexual innuendo offended him and it kicked off a long legal battle with Paramount that ended only because he refused to consider appearing in The Motion Picture until the matter was settled. This post has proven to have the most “legs” of any of my content; searches for this topic regularly send people to my site. 


    The Enterprise with flames shooting from the nacelles and shuttle bay, in one of Gold Key's Star Trek comics.

    Number three: Thank you, Doug Drexler, for trying to save the Gold Key comics

    Drexler is Star Trek production royalty and his connection to the show stretches back to its premiere and to the Federation Trading Post in 1970s New York City. He consulted on — and greatly improved — a few issues of Gold Key’s fantastically inaccurate comics. This post kicked off a lengthy correspondence with Doug, who is a great guy and absolutely fascinating. 


    A image of Beckwith, the drug dealer in the graphic novel of Harlan Ellison's The City on the Edge of Forever.

    Number two: Harlan Ellison put a drug dealer on the Enterprise

    Ellison stands in the pantheon of science-fiction writers, but he was and is almost as well known for his outsized personality. He was never reluctant to rain scorn on the televised version of The City on the Edge of Forever, and the gorgeous graphic novel from IDW that exactly follows his script allows you to judge the merits of his vision. I found his take on Star Trek wanting, and readers were happy to agree and disagree with me.


    A line drawing from the Star Fleet Technical Manual, clearly labeling the Enterprise as a Constitution-class ship. Except the Technical Manual was made up.

    Number one: The Enterprise is not a Constitution-class ship

    Want to really annoy a bunch of TOS fans? Write that headline. This piece and its follow-on (Starship class, part two: Gene Roddenberry and Matt Jefferies) pissed off a lot of people because, well, everyone knows the Enterprise is a Constitution-class ship. It is said on screen and all those books and blueprints say it is. Yes, except it is never actually stated on screen and those reference works produced in the ’70s (like the Star Fleet Technical Manual pictured here) were just made up. That first article took the traffic top spot days after its appearance and it is still at number one. As I said repeatedly to irate TOS fans on Twitter and Facebook, if you believe Kirk’s Enterprise is a Constitution-class ship, that’s great. Be happy. But you’re incorrect.  


    A rubber Gorn mask, signed by actor Bobby Clark in silver marker.

    Bonus shout-out: Bobby Clark signed a Gorn mask

    This was my first post. The Gorn mask is still among my favourite collectibles. 



    Thanks for reading. I am always open to feedback.

  • How a high-school story and a DC Fontana letter launched Howard Weinstein’s writing career

    How a high-school story and a DC Fontana letter launched Howard Weinstein’s writing career

    A personal note: Howard Weinstein is a really nice guy. He spent a lot of time corresponding with me and even pulled together detailed notes, shared personal anecdotes, dug through his files, and sent me scans of documents. From one Star Trek fan to another, thank you, Howard.


    Sometimes you get really lucky on eBay. A seller in Alberta recently put a big lot of Star Trek paper up for auction, mostly old fanzines, but the description was vague and it drew no interest. But I spotted one critical photo in the auction’s jumble: the cover page of a script with Howard Weinstein’s autograph.

    A photo of Howard Weinstein

    I knew of his work, of course. Weinstein sold The Pirates of Orion to Filmation at the age of 19, and it became the first episode of season two of The Animated Series. Weinstein then built an impressive career: he is a New York Times bestselling author and has produced 17 books, including novels (seven of them Star Trek tales), non-fiction, and graphic novels, plus 65 Star Trek comics. 

    This is the story of how Weinstein became a very young professional writer, of the kindness of DC Fontana, and of what Filmation co-founder Lou Scheimer taught him about writing for animation. 

    First, the eBay script

    I have been collecting for a long time, and I have shelves, walls, and boxes full of Star Trek memorabilia. Recently, my focus has narrowed to the 15 years that stretch from the making of The Cage to the premiere of The Motion Picture

    The eBay auction promised: “Star Trek Memorabilia, 76/77 Year Books, Issues Of News Letters All In Pictures! Condition is Very Good.” The seller did not mention the Pirates script, and I won the lot for the ridiculous price of $0.99. Some of the other stuff is good but the gem is clearly the signed script.

    The cover of The Pirates of Orion script. it is old and a little beat up, and is signed by Howard Weinstein with the inscription "Never trust a pirate"

    My goal with Collecting Trek is to tell the stories behind my collectibles, so I launched into research mode. The wonderful Fanlore site informed me that “The Bi-Centenntial-10 Star Trek convention was held at the Statler Hilton on September 3-6, 1976. Approximately 5,000 fans attended.” The also wonderful Trekker Scrapbook offered up program scans that confirmed Weinstein was indeed at the convention, participating in a series of “Animation techniques” panels. 

    A scan of the program from the Bi-Centennial-10 Star Trek convention from 1976, listing a number of panel discussions.

    My next stop was a StarTrek.com interview with Weinstein and then on to the contact page of his web site. I sent him a brief email:

    I recently acquired a script for your The Pirates of Orion episode. It is on old paper, stapled in the corner, and typed on both sides. The cover has been signed by you: Bicentennial-10. Never trust a “Pirate.”  Best Wishes, Howard Weinstein.

    That would be the 1976 convention in New York. I have a Star Trek collectibles site and I am working on an article on the script, and I am writing to ask if you can tell me anything about it. Were these copies that you sold at conventions? Please let me know, if you can. 

    Weinstein replied promptly. And thus began a lengthy correspondence.

    Not a real script

    I own a few outlines and scripts that came from the actual typewriters of the authors (including Ted Sturgeon’s Amok Time outline) but this is clearly not that. Although it is on old paper, it is not the original that Weinstein typed out in his college dorm room. Nor is it an actual Filmation script. For one thing, it has text on both sides of the paper; real scripts are printed on one side only. Weinstein told me:

    I remember those Pirates script copies being sold, but I wasn’t the one selling them. One of the dealers got hold of a script and then photocopied and sold them for a while. I have a vague recollection that the dealer asked me to sign a bunch of them, which I did. 

    Which means that Weinstein agreed to sign pirated copies of his own work. As I said, he’s a nice guy.

    Page 2 of The Pirates of Orion script.

    Episode specifics

    Weinstein then answered a bunch of my queries about the episode itself.

    Extrapolated stardate. The Pirates of Orion is essentially a sequel to Journey to Babel. In Pirates, Spock is struck down by the illness choriocytosis, which is deadly to Vulcans. Kirk arranges to rendezvous with the freighter SS Huron to receive a shipment of the antidote but it is hijacked by pirates from the planet Orion and Kirk has to outwit the other captain to retrieve the medication.  

    As Weinstein said to me: “Pirates was definitely inspired by Journey —  what other mischief might the Orions be up to?” He continued: 

    My main inspiration was the Kirk/Spock/McCoy friendship; by putting Spock in lethal jeopardy via the rare disease I cooked up (choriocytosis), I got to explore Kirk and McCoy’s shared determination to save their friend. I’m happy to say I still think it’s a pretty decent little story.

    Indeed, and Weinstein drew a clear connection to Journey to Babel by having Kirk reference the episode, saying at one point: “Orion’s neutrality has been in dispute ever since the affair regarding the Coridan planets and the Babel Conference of stardate 3850.3.” 

    3850.3. Including that number jumped out at me, because it is not really required. So I checked. In Babel, Kirk states three stardates: 3842.3, 3842.4 and 3843.4, and the reference to 3850.3 was too close to be a coincidence. I asked Weinstein “Did you actually use the Journey to Babel dates as a starting point?” and the answer is impressive for those days before the Internet, DVDs and Netflix.

    I had Kirk refer to the actual Babel conference, not the Enterprise voyage that delivered the ambassadors to the conference. So I guesstimated a stardate for the conference itself.

    The SS Huron. The script has the USS Potemkin (a nice callback to The Ultimate Computer) handing the medication off to the SS Huron — not the USS Huron. I asked: Was not going with “USS” intentional, as it was a freighter instead of a starship? And indeed it was: “I’m guessing my thinking was that the Huron would’ve been a merchant ship, not a Starfleet ship.”

    Filmation, however, depicted the ship on screen as the USS Huron, even though Kirk states “SS” in dialogue, but the studio did add one nice detail: its serial number is NCC-F1913, with the F indicating freighter. 

    A screen cap of the USS Huron freighter from The Pirates of Orion

    The pirates of OR-ee-on. I knew this must be a perennial question but I could not ignore the odd way every character says the word “Orion.” I asked: “Orion is pronounced on screen as “OR-ee-on” and by multiple actors recording in different locations, which means someone decided on that pronunciation. Do you have any insight into why that pronunciation was used? 

    Yes, I got asked about that a LOT in the old days. Here’s what some of the actors told me: For the first few episodes of TAS, they got together at Filmation and recorded the dialog like a radio play. After a while, that became harder to arrange, so Filmation would send the actors their scripts and they’d tape their own lines at home, or wherever they happened to be. In order to make sure the cast all pronounced certain words the same way, they were given a phonetic guide to certain words, like planet and alien names. For some reason lost in the mists of time, someone at Filmation decided the well-known word Orion would not be pronounced the way the rest of the universe says it — Or-EYE-an — but would be spoken as OR-ee-on. And nobody ever caught or corrected that before the scripts were sent to the cast. 

    It’s impossible to watch the episode without the pronunciation really standing out, but this was also the show that had pink tribbles and purple uniforms on the Klingons. 

    The story of the sale

    “As a 19-year-old rookie writer, it was all pretty exciting,” Weinstein says of selling the script to Filmation. Here is that story. 

    The Pirates of Orion was originally a short story I’d written at age 16, for East Meadow, NY, high school’s annual one-shot science/sci-fi magazine in 1971, when I was co-editor with my friend Mark Greenstein. 

    I also did something I’d often do later when I wrote 65 Star Trek comic books for DC, Marvel, Malibu, and WildStorm – I dug up a tidbit from past Star Trek continuity and explored it in more depth. In the case of Pirates, it was the Orions. Other than Vina in her guise as a green Orion slave girl in The Cage and The Menagerie, what little we knew about them came from off-screen participation of Orion pirates in the excellent episode Journey to Babel (by D.C. Fontana).

    After watching the first few animated episodes in the fall of 1973 (my junior year at the University of Connecticut), I was very eager to try submitting a script (as yet unwritten). So, in October ’73, I wrote a letter to Dorothy Fontana, known to Star Trek fans as D.C. Fontana, writer of some of the best TOS scripts. She was listed as script consultant on the animated series, so I asked about the proper time and procedure for sending in a script for season 2.

    The fact that Dorothy replied within two weeks shows her kindness, courtesy and professionalism. Her letter told me several important facts: 1) they only accepted scripts through agents; 2) they’d bought none of their first 16 stories from outside writers; 3) they’d only be buying 6-8 additional scripts for season 2; 4) they expected word from NBC about renewal in early 1974; and 5) Dorothy herself wouldn’t be working on the show after season 1. 

    Dorothy’s letter made it clear that my quest to sell a script to the animated series had a very small window of opportunity, and the odds were very much against me. Thank goodness 19-year-olds are boldly clueless enough to think the rules don’t apply to them, and that merit and gumption count. We’re really idiots at that age, but idiocy can have its virtues in certain limited circumstances – such as believing I could do the near-impossible. 

    Luckily, Weinstein had an agent. His father’s childhood friend Bill Cooper was a Writers Guild of America agent and took Weinstein on as a favour to an old chum. 

    Here is Fontana’s letter. It chronicles her decision to distance herself from Star Trek, a separation that would last for many years, and it is a piece of history that I greatly covet. 

    DC Fontana's first letter to Weinstein, explaining she will no longer be associated with Star Trek. It is signed by her in pen.

    Weinstein had purchased an I, Mudd script from Lincoln Enterprises to learn how to write for TV, and typed out Pirates over the Christmas holiday break. 

    Following the info in Dorothy’s letter to me, Cooper sent my script to Filmation in January ’74 – but addressed to “D.C. Fontana” – who by then had left the show. Filmation then forwarded the envelope (unopened) to Dorothy, who mailed it back to Cooper (still unopened, and unread).

    So the script traveled coast to coast and back again – without anybody reading it. Talk about frustrating!

    And here is the considerate letter Fontana sent when she returned the script. 

    DC Fontana's second letter, to agent William Cooper, explaining she did not read Weinstein's The Pirates of Orion script.

    Weinstein resubmitted the script to Filmation co-founder Norm Prescott once the renewal for season two was announced. He was in the shower at his dorm when his mother called with good news.

    So I wrap myself in a towel and pad drippingly back to our room, pick up the phone, and my mother yells: “You sold your script!!” Filmation co-honcho Lou Scheimer had called my agent, my agent (not having my college phone number) called my parents, told my mother the news, and she called me.

    A telegram and a cheque followed.

    A telegram from Lou Scheimer of Filmation, confirming the sale of the script, and a cheque for $1,400.

    The network had ordered six episodes for season two of the series, and Filmation had only five months to get them ready. The studio didn’t ask for many changes to the Pirates script but one was important:

    The main thing Lou Scheimer wanted me to do was get them off the ship.

    Digging through my files, I see I wrote three alternate endings within a couple of weeks. As in the high school short story, the first draft script had the climactic confrontation between Captain Kirk and the Orion pirate captain taking place mostly on the Enterprise bridge and viewscreen. I’d initially been influenced by the live-action show, where getting them off the ship was expensive – requiring new sets or location shooting. Lou taught me a valuable lesson I had to relearn 20 years later when I wrote Star Trek comics: when anything a writer can imagine can simply be drawn by artists, you’re freed from live-action budget restraints. A planet surface, alien city, or interior of an exotic alien ship costs the same as drawing the bridge of the Enterprise.

    Lou challenged me to be more visually creative, so I wrote a couple of new endings with Kirk and the Orion captain (voiced by Jimmy Doohan) duking it out on the colorful surface of an asteroid. We settled on the climax that was most streamlined and least talky.

    Here is the original ship-bound ending, before the rewrite. 

    That original version then closes with the same last few seconds that we saw on screen.

    The watch party

    The story of that sale ends in a university dorm room, with a group of friends and a second date with a cute young woman.

    I didn’t know until mid-August that Pirates would be the first show of the new season, airing September 7, 1974. That would be at the end of my first week back at school – and a week before my 20th birthday. I immediately passed the news along to as many friends as I could, and when I got back to UConn I told college buddies and invited them over to my dorm room to watch on my little 11-inch black and white TV. Somehow, we crammed 30 kids and one dog into the room – sort of a Star Trek mini-con.

    A couple of friends had brought along a bottle of sparkling wine and plastic champagne glasses, so when the show started and my name appeared, everyone raised plastic glasses in a toast. 

    I’d also met a cute freshman that first week at the local pizza joint, and when we went out on our first date the Friday night before Pirates would be on, I shyly asked if she’d like to come over the next morning to watch my TV episode. Although she wasn’t a big Star Trek fan, and didn’t know anybody else, she did join the party. We’re still friends all these years later, and she still remembers.

    The title card from the episide The Pirates of Orion

    Selling that episode launched Weinstein on a lifelong career as a writer, culminating in a long string of professional sales and more than one appearance on the New York Times bestseller list. (See his web site for details.) It also helped him sell his first Star Trek novel — The Covenant of the Crown — and prompted Leonard Nimoy to consult with him on the development of Star Trek IV. But that is a story for another blog post. 

    To this day, he is proud that he impressed Star Trek’s creator.

    While I didn’t have any interactions with Gene Roddenberry, Lou told me that Gene had read and liked the script, and said it was one of the better first-draft Star Trek scripts he’d seen. Naturally, that praise made me feel pretty good.

    Thank you again, Howard, for your time and generosity.

  • Inside Star Trek 10: Visiting the sound stages, meeting the music editor

    Inside Star Trek 10: Visiting the sound stages, meeting the music editor

    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 10, published in the spring of 1969.

    The cover of Inside Star Trek issue 10, with a drawing of the Enterprise from below, done by Andrew Probert in 1969.

    I hate to say it, but issue 10 is a letdown. It offers only two articles: a one-pager penned by the series’ music editor and a partial reprint from the fanzine ST-Philes. It’s possible that little work went into the issue because the writing was already on the bulkhead about the series’ cancellation; that certainly feels true when reading this issue.

    The newsletter opens well with a pithy response from editor Ruth Berman to a fan question: “Does Mr. Spock have any brothers or sisters?” Berman’s response: “No.”

    Take that, Sybok!

    Season 3’s unknown music editor

    Page 3 is an article written by music editor Richard Lapham — and I was intrigued. I had never heard of Lapham, and it turns out that is hardly surprising. He has no entry on StarTrek.com or Memory Alpha, is not mentioned in The Fifty-Year Mission (Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman), and the only reference to him in These are the Voyages, Season Three (Marc Cushman) is a quote taken from this newsletter. 

    However, he had a busy career. In addition to being the music editor for all of TOS season 3, he filled the same role on 24 episodes of The Brady Bunch, 53 episodes of The Odd Couple, 83 episodes of Knight Rider, and he was the uncredited supervising music editor on the cinema classic Airplane!

    So, this looks exciting. A production person who is largely unknown today, writing about the original series. Sadly, Lapham really has nothing to say, although his piece does start off with promise:

    As Music Editor on such an intellectually appealing and entertaining show as Star Trek, I was granted the opportunity to help add a stimulating and creative sensitivity to the mood already established by Gene Roddenberry and his staff.

    Okay, again, I am intrigued. How do you do that? 

    I run the picture with the producer, after it is edited to the satisfaction of Gene Roddenberry, and get an overall feel of the picture and its mood. The next step for me is to run this picture again, analytically, in a moviola (a machine that contains a small picture screen and a sound head) and decide which scenes should have music and the mood of the music to be played for the particular scene… The first six or seven episodes are composed by specially hired composers, and it is from this music that I choose the musical moods for the subsequent episodes. Once the mood is chosen, I must edit, in detail, this music with other musical pieces to create a new and original score to match the atmosphere and action of each individual story. 

    And that’s all Lapham shares with us. Music is critical to the drama, emotion or comedy of countless scenes, so this leaves many great questions unanswered. How challenging is it to make scenes feel fresh when working with recycled music? What was the toughest scene for you? Which piece of music is the most versatile? Are there any scores that are so specific to a moment that you really can’t use them again? Did you have any influence on the commissioned music? What music did you bring in that had not been written for Star Trek?

    Editor Ruth Berman didn’t get Lapham to answer any of those questions. He remains entirely unknown to fandom, so it is unfortunate she did not do more to highlight Lapham’s work. 


    This great little film shows the workings of a Moviola editing machine.

    A still from a short Moviola documentary, showing a person threading film into the machine.

    Touring the TOS stages 

    The last entry is a rambling article detailing a set tour. The article has no headline or byline, and reading the issue you first wonder why the sound editor is suddenly wandering the studio. At the end of the piece, a small notice informs the reader “This article reprinted from ST-Phils by permission of the author.” (Yes, “ST-Phils.” Again, this issue feels like it was thrown together with little effort.)

    Some digging reveals the article originally appeared in ST-Philes issue 2, and was titled Where It’s At, written by K. Anderson. It was first published in November 1968 and therefore retains the Desilu numbering system, detailing a visit to Stages 10 and 9, later renamed by Paramount to Stage 32 and Stage 31 after it bought Desilu in 1968. 

    Anderson tells us Stage 10 is where “some of the episodes taking place on the surface of the planet are filmed indoors.” Memory Alpha confirms it was used for planet exteriors, non-Enterprise locations, and the shuttlecraft interior set. Reportedly, Citizen Kane and Chinatown were also shot there.

    Anderson then walks over to Stage 9. It housed all the Enterprise interior sets, and is therefore a sacred site for TOS fans. Paramount’s page dedicated to Stage 31 offers a floor plan and the information that it was also the site for Forrest Gump, Wayne’s World 2 and the series Little House on the Prairie and Becker (which starred Terry Farrell.)

    The article ends with a depiction of the silence that drops over the huge space when filming begins. Here are the sentences that close out the piece, plus scans of the entire article. (Clicking the images below will open a new tab with a large file.) The reprinted article will continue in issue 11 of Inside Star Trek.

    With the one long ring of the distant-sounding bell [to signal filming is starting], all the noisy confusion of talking, paper rattling, squeaking of chairs, and thrumming of air conditioner fans ceases. There is abruptly the sort of intense, ringing silence that is encountered in caves. It seems incredible that a huge room full of forty to sixty people and all sorts of mechanical equipment could be so quiet. They’re not only is no talking by people off the set, no one moves at all. The operation of the camera is noiseless; there is no sound of film moving and the only indication that it is in operation is a small blinking light. The boom mike swoops about as silently as an owl. In the consuming silence the sound of the actors’ dialogue and actions seem curiously lost. It all seems a bit spooky, and it is a relief when the two short rings signal all-clear.

    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.

  • There were no resurrections in Obsession

    There were no resurrections in Obsession

    Lieutenant Leslie died in the opening moments of Obsession, attacked by a cloud creature which sucked all the red blood cells from his body. And then the character is seen on screen in a bunch of episodes that follow. Eddie Paskey, who played Leslie, told an interesting story about that on his now-defunct web site:

    [Leslie] can be seen in nearly every episode from the first two seasons as well as a few from the third. He played many scenes as a “red shirt,” usually the first to die when exploring a planet. He is the only one though, to have died in one episode (“Obsession”) and returned in the next! This was due to the fact that a scene from the script that was never shot indicated that the victims were brought back to life! 

    (Paskey’s site, eddiepaskey.com, has since fallen out of his control and is now registered in Pakistan. At time of writing, it contained 17 seemingly random posts. However, Paskey’s original site can be accessed through web.archive.org. He told the return-of-Leslie story here and here.)

    The resurrection bit is a great story and it appears in many other places, including StarTrek.com, Memory Alpha and Wikipedia, but, as far as I can tell, it is not true.

    Paskey was a regular on the Star Trek sets until health problems pushed him to quit the business, following Is There In Truth No Beauty? He was in 57 episodes, mostly as a background actor, and had a line or two in four episodes. His best bit was probably in This Side of Paradise: waiting outside the transporter room to beam down, Leslie refuses Kirk’s order to return to his station and replies to the captain’s “This is mutiny, mister” with “Yes sir, it is.” Paskey also served as Shatner’s lighting stand-in and body double and as the hand double for James Doohan when Scotty testified in Wolf in the Fold

    Back to Obsession. I own the Revised Final Draft script from Oct. 4, 1967. It contains pages dated between Oct. 4 and Oct. 12. Shooting on the episode began Oct. 9.

    In that script, there is no resurrection scene for any of the poor redshirts lost during the teaser. Two are killed outright and Rizzo lives for a while before succumbing. None is brought back. 

    The director of the episode, Ralph Senensky, confirmed to StarTrek.com that no scene was shot in which a character came back. Senensky also addressed this phantom segment on his own web site. Instead of Leslie, he tells a story about Rizzo, who was played by Jerry Ayres. Ayres had earlier played O’Herlihy in Arena, another redshirt who died early on. About the reappearance of the actor in Obsession, Senensky wrote:

    I have read an interview Jerry gave in which he said there was a scene filmed that explained that, but that scene ended up on the cutting room floor. I don’t think so; at least I didn’t direct that deleted scene, and…that scene was not in the script. 

    Serensky seems to be mixing up Ayres and Paskey here but, for the purposes of this article, the important point is that he says there was no resurrection scene in the script. 

    Also, These Are The Voyages, Season Two, goes into detail on the evolution of the script and there is no mention of Leslie returning from the dead.

    Furthermore, the nature of the creature’s attack makes a miracle cure improbable. When Kirk asks for the autopsy report on the first two dead crewmembers, McCoy replies: “You saw their color. There wasn’t a red corpuscle left in their bodies.” McCoy is good but even he can’t save someone in that condition and already dead.

    It is just possible, of course, that someone on the production staff ran into Paskey on set and said “Hey, you die in the next episode, but don’t worry because they bring you back to life.” Paskey was in A Private Little War, produced just before Obsession, so maybe that happened. 

    But it is more likely that the resurrection tale is a good story that did not actually happen. 

    Postscript

    The character’s name should, arguably, be spelled “Lesley.” The only time the name appeared in the credits was in The Alternative Factor, and that spelling was used.

    However, Leslie was supposedly named for William Shatner’s eldest daughter, Leslie Carol Shatner, and for that reason and because fandom has settled on the “Leslie” spelling, I went with that here.

  • Hauling garbage: the best trash can in half a quadrant

    Hauling garbage: the best trash can in half a quadrant

    In a corner of my Star Trek room sits a small metal trash can. It often goes unnoticed by visitors, and that’s too bad. It’s more than 40 years old, it’s in really good condition, and it’s a great example of Star Trek in the ’70s, when fans would buy almost anything that sported those magic words. It is also cool that a small US novelty company lavished such quality artwork and attention to detail on a tin receptacle destined for apple cores and used tissues.

    The can was manufactured by J. Chein & Co. and, sadly, by the time it rolled off the production line in Burlington, New Jersey, that company’s best days were already years behind it. Its doors opened in 1903 and it stayed in business for more than 75 years. The first products made by founder Julius Chein were tin toys dropped into boxes of Cracker Jacks and the company soon became known as a source of wind-up Ferris wheels and spinning tops, mostly sold in five and dimes. Chein died in a horse-riding accident in 1926 and his widow asked her brother, Samuel Hoffman, to take over. The company switched to manufacturing parts for airplanes and weapons during World War II and then got back to tin toys, but the slow decline of F.W. Woolworth Company, its main retail client, and the rising popularity of plastic eventually forced it out of that business. 

    The company moved into lithographed housewares such as wastebaskets and canisters, produced under the Cheinco brand. And that’s where my trash can comes in. It’s dated 1977, stands 33 cm/13 inches tall, sports colourful and reasonably accurate artwork, and even offers up interesting facts about the ship and its crew.

    The Enterprise stats are seemingly drawn from the Star Fleet Technical Manual by Franz Joseph, published in 1975. The measurements — length of 288.6 meters and breadth of 127.1 meters — are essentially identical, albeit expressed in feet by Chein. However, the can’s “190,000 tons” is not quite the same as the manual’s measurement of “Deadweight tonnage-metric 190,000.” 

    The back of the Cheinco trash can contains stats for the USS Enterprise: length, width, and height; number of crew; and a list of senior and bridge officers.

    One odd bit: Cheinco stated Christine Chapel’s rank as Lieutenant. There was no rank braid on Chapel’s uniform and I believe — and correct me if I am wrong — that her rank is never stated on screen during TOS, although she is promoted to Lieutenant in the animated episode Mudd’s Passion.

    In a screen cap from What Are Little Girls Made Of?, we can see Christine Chapel clearly has not rank braid on her uniform sleeves.
    From What Are Little Girls Made Of?

    Those details, plus the mostly accurate artwork, means either someone at Cheinco knew Star Trek or Paramount was consulted to get the details right. 

    The company made many licensed trash cans for properties including Peanuts, GI Joe, The Wizard of Oz, and Disney, and also produced a Star Trek: The Motion Picture can, which I do not own.

    I got my Cheinco at a Toronto Trek convention many years ago, and I have never seen another in person. I don’t remember how much I paid, but I do recall debating the purchase, as I had very little money with me. I am glad I bought it. It is quirky and rare and in far better shape than ones I have seen in online auctions. A TMP can sold at VintageToys.com in 2013 for US$30; I wish I had bought it.