} .‘ -'-‘ = .. ﬁx :3 On 8 Sep‘iember 1966 the first edition of Star Trek was broadcast in America. At the time, the western was television’s most popular genre and the voyages of the Starship Enterprise, the first science fiction series with continuing characters on US TV, was conceived as a space bound version of Gunsmoke’s Dodge City. Nigel Billen looks back at the early days of the series and talks to James Doohan (Scotty) about his mixed feelings following the fourth film version— The Voyage Home.
Matt Jettries. art director of the medical series Ben Casey. returned from vacationto be told he had been switched to a new programme-Star Trek. His first task wasto
design a space ship. Above right are some of his early sketches.
Above: Too old to man the Enterprise? A scene from an early TV show when Kirk. McCoy and Scotty age prematurely, butwith Scotty and McCoy in their late sixties. are they now too old torthe tilm versions?
Scotty. alias actor James Doohan. hasn‘t day to day access to the Transporter Room any more. On his numerous trips to publicise the film versions of Star Trek or to make personal appearances. he uses the plane — really. travel for the intrepid intergalactic voyager is just like travel for anyone else.
Scotty is in Edinburgh with his wife but minus all his baggage. That disappeared somewhere en route from America to London. All is not lost. however. As we speak. an attentive aide from the film promoter brings the good news that the luggage has been found. and in the meantime not only have he and his wife been bought a new set of clothes but Scotty has discovered the joys of Harrod‘s underpants —‘l‘m going to make sure I have these sent out to the States‘.
Time is fluid. like a river with currents. eddies. backwashes. as Mr Spock one said. Time was when Star Trek looked to the critics like being just a pale imitation of Lost in Space; CBS had already turned down the series in favour ofthe adventuresof The Space Family Robinson and even NBC had its doubts. Unprecedentedly two pilots were made. The first. The Cage. showed promise. the network thought. but was altogether too cerebral for popular taste (judge for yourself: for the first time The Cage has been released on video in this country). Later The Cage was integrated into a special two-part episode of the regular Star Trek and won the Hugo Award for Science Fiction writing— but that is another story. Only Leonard Nimoy went on from that first adventure to star in the eventual series. and even his character was to be radically altered.
In the pilot. the logical. cool calm and collected character was not Spock — the Satanic-looking figure who put the fear ofGod into the NBC Censors - but the then Number One. ‘a glacier-like efficient female.‘ While on all publicity material NBC
airbrushed out Spock‘s pointed ears. there was no cosmetic surgery available to make a woman in a position ofauthority acceptable to Sixties‘ American TV bosses. The actress was ‘busted‘ down to the role of Nurse Chapel where. from the homely safety ofthe sickbay. in the company of father figure ‘Bones‘ McCoy. she could lust after Kirk. if not power. Producer and series creator Gene Roddenberry said at the time ‘I decided to wait for at 23rd century audience‘ before trying a strong woman as second-in- command again. Well as Spock once said. ‘Women are more easily and deeply terrified . . . than the male of the species‘.
James Doohan. while liking Nimoy and respecting the job he did on directing The Voyage Home. doubts that he really ‘explorcd the challenges‘ in the character of Spock. There should have been. he believes. a more obvious battle going on between the Vulcan and the Human halfofSpock. The role of Scotty didn‘t require too much special preparation. Doohan had always been good at accents — a talent which had stood him in good stead ever since he invited himself on to a local radio station believing he couldn‘t do any worse than the actors performing in the radio soaps. Paradoxically. it was the career that the former World War Two pilot left behind that was perhaps most useful in the Star Trek role. ‘I was what you call a straight-A student at Maths.‘ Doohan told me. and Sciences would have been his career ifacting hadn‘t interrupted college after the war. ‘I really wanted to know how the engines of the Enterprise worked and ofcourse no one could tell me.‘ So Doohan went about working it out for himself. even trying out complicated physics on high-ranking scientists who often told him he might have a point. ‘I even wrote a complete technical manual on how the ship worked — I asked Gene Roddenberry to look it out for me
the other day (he‘s kept all the files) but he claimed it would take too long to find.‘
Doohan talks slightly as if he is a man who has been cheated of a rightful claim to his little bit ofStar Trek. It‘s not just the manual: ‘We never know whether we are going to be wanted for the films or not.‘ he told me. and the actors are always the last to know the contents of the scripts. ‘Ooodness knows what is going to happen with the next film.‘ Doohan is not only worrying whether he will be retained but also about the direction on Star Trek thich will be taken by William Shatner. ‘Boy. has that man an ego.‘ he says. According to Doohan. Shatner. who is known to be ambitious and something ofa perfectionist. used even in the old television days to rewrite scripts to the detriment of Doohan or De Forest Kelly. Now Doohan claims that Shatner is jealous of Leonard Nimoy‘s success and quite simply feels both he and Doohan are too old to be members of his crew— ‘How‘s he going to feel in ten years time when he reaches our age?‘ Doohan. 68. doesn‘t seem bitter. Readily he agrees he has made very little money directly from acting Scotty (‘The stars of Dallas get more money for one episode than 1 get for making a Star Trek film‘) but the personal appearances are lucrative enough: shortly he hopes to be going on a Trekky sea cruise with his wife. Jetlagged. with interviews stretching out before him. he doesn‘t attempt to put on a show. ‘lf anyone asks me to do the accent usually I answer what are you paying‘?‘ he says. but immediately drops. albeit briefly into the accent. As Spock once said. ‘This troubled planet is a place of most violent contrasts -~ those who receive the awards are totally separated from those who shoulder the burdens.‘
The new film only marginally interests him and he wishes luck to the team who are making a new series ofStar Trek for television but doesn‘t seem distressed that it won‘t involve him: ‘ lt‘s set a century ahead ofour show but it will be a hard act to follow.‘ But I correctly guess that he has a sense of fun. Tell me about William Shatner‘s hair. I venture. ‘lt was a wig but now he‘s had implants — pretty good ones l must say. But you should have seen him bald. Never has a tnan looked so bad bald: he looked as if a bird had been peeking at his head.‘
Oh well. as Spock says: ‘I lumans are very peculiar. I often find them unfathomable. but an interesting psychological study.‘
Star Trek I V: The Voyage Home opens at Cannon Cinemas in Edinburgh and Glasgow from 1 7 April. See Listings for details.
The Cage. the original pilot programme has been released by Cl C Video and at £9. 99 comes complete with an introduction by Gene Roddenberry.
The Quotes from Spock are taken from Star Trek Speaks by Susan Sackett, Fred Goldstet'n and Stan Goldsteirt, published by Pocket Books. New York. 1979.
8The List 17 — 30 April