Sun Tm Smut.
Taking a giant step for man, woman
and Trekkie, Star Trek is about to bridge the generation gap. Thom Dibdin speaks to HERMAN ZIMMERMAN. the man who has visualised the transition to television and cinema screens. and designed the forthcoming exhibition.
n [961. President Kennedy promised America a
rocket to the moon by the end of the decade. At the
same time airline pilot Gene Roddenberry was in the process of devising a television series for NBC. to be described by him as: ‘a bit like lllreon Train to the stars.‘ On Thursday 8 September blob. three years before a man stepped onto the moon. Star Trek was born.
Twenty-eight years. seven feature lilnts. almost 280 episodes and live lclcy ision series later. Star Trek is a truly worldwide phenomenon. We all know about beaming up. warp factors and Vulcan death grips. "l'o boldly go' is not only a cliche: it is a trade mark.
lt is typical of Star Truk‘s enduring. uniyersal appeal that its production designer llerman Zitmnerman talks about joining the Star Trek family ~ not its team. ile started work on the series in the mid-80s. but the designer ofthe last three tnovies and the Star Trek: The Next Generation. Deep Space Nine and lirvttger television series could be said to have joined this fatnily in the ()(ls'. It was then that Zimmerman. like so many others. became entranced by ’l‘rekkiedom.
‘I rushed hotne every 'l'hursday night to turn Star Trek on. just like millions of other people.‘ he says. Little did he realise he would one day be responsible for the programme‘s look. frorn the shape of \"ulcans‘ ears to the architecture of the alien space station in Deep Space Mite.
The family of fans have always been important to Star Trek. Disappointed with its ratings. NBC threatened to pull the programme at the end of its first season. bttt recanted dtte to a massive write—in campaign by fans. Similar threats were withdrawn during the second season but the third season was consigned to the ltlpm on l’ridays slot. practically guaranteeing low ratings. The final episode was aired in June l()(l().
Although there were only 7‘) episodes in the three seasons of the first series. most people recall these w hen they think of Star Trek. Kirk and Spock occupied the bridge of the Enterprise. the miniskirt was revolutionising fashion. the Black Panthers were
openly demonstrating their arms and the Vietnam war
rumbled on. "fire 60s was a very dynamic time in American and
world history.‘ says Zimmerman. ‘We had a lot of
x iolent things happen and. of course. the Space Race and (‘oltl \Var were in evet'ybody‘s mind on a daily basis. Star Trek examined those things without having to have the censors say: “No. no. no, no. you can‘t talk about that. we won't be able to sell our soap or our beer or our automobiles." Gene didn't care about cl’fending people. he wanted to tell a good story.’
The stories Roddenberry told were so culturally ..ignilicant they have been documented by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. There was the first ever interracial kiss on American television — between Kirk and Uhut'a m and the Cold War was rellected in the fictional conflict between the Federation. the Klingons and the Romulans.
Star Trek was the only dramatic series to deal explicitly with the Vietnam war. In a l968 episode The Omega (ilory. the Enterprise visited ()rnega IV where the Yangs and the Kohms -— the Yanks and Communists —- were locked in an unthinking. suicidal conflict.
in the Otis. the series has continued to boldy go where no other series has gone before. ‘We just did a two-hour story on homelessness which is a worldwide problem.‘ says Zimmerman. ‘I believe it is entirely due
Take it to the bridge, Captain!
to the world economic situation. We have said if you can‘t produce in this culture. you can't be a part of it. it‘s very sad we have arrived at that. Drama holds a mirror up to life. It always has, from the Greeks onwards. and Star Trek is no different.‘
The most ardent. nit-picking Trekkies should remember this when criticising Zimmerman’s vision of space as it might be in some 300 years. When challenged with the rather improbable notion that two starships would always meet head on after warping halfway across the galaxy, he admits: ‘We have not seen ships upside down to each other. which ofcourse they could be in space. but that is strictly a matter of keeping the audience following the story without imposing unnecessary demands on their scientific knowledge.
‘We don‘t use seat belts either and yet you know damn well that you have to have a seat belt if you are going to be buffeted about during a battle. We never do that. because it is just too much trouble for the actors to get in and out of them. There are conventions: we have to remember it is entertainment. not the real future. Star 'l'rek's value is in its examination of the present by couching it in the future.‘
If Zimmerman has to remind himself he is dealing
with fact rather than ﬁction. a vast. international army of Trekkies is happy to let him blur the division — into the next generation. Star Trek: The [Exhibition is at tlte City Art Centre. Edinburgh front Saturday 4 February—7 May. Star Trek: Generations is on general release front 10 l'ehruary. Star Trek: The Next Generation is on BBC2 on Wednesdays at 6pm.
Hot-blooded DeForest Kelley (Dr
McCoy) was originally approached by Roddenberry to play, of all people, Spock - McCoy’s polar opposite. Kelley declined after hearing a quick thumbnail sketch of the Vulcan’s character.
Early in the development of the i TV show, Spock was conceived of l as a red-skinned alien who never ate 1 but absorbed energy through a metal : plate in his stomach. Another idea : was to have him played by a dwarf. :
When Michelle (Uhura) Nichols
turned up for her audition for a then-unnamed character, she was carrying a book entitled Uhuru. Coincidence? Similarly, James (Montgomery Scott) Doohan’s middle name actually is Montgomery. It was also Doohan, a master of accents, who decided the Enterprise’s chief
engineer should be Scottish. recovered.
Those watching the director’s cut % of Star Trek IV were left in no doubt that Spock, that paragon of stoical self-control, had got his Vulcan protégé Saavik in the family way in the course of the previous film. Even in the trimmed-down version, enough hints were dropped to put observant Trekkies in the picture. Spock, though, remained blissfully unaware of his impending fatherhood - he had, after all, been locked away in Dr McCoy’s brain while his body was having all the fun.
After a bit of digging around, the
notorious ‘blooper reels’ (Trek’s very own It’ll Be Alright On The flight) were found not to have emanated from a sneaky studio employee but from Gene Roddenberry himself. Leonard Ilimoy was enraged, and filed an injunction with the Screen Actors Guild. Their relationship never
considered a priority.
James Doohan is missing the end
of the middle finger of his right hand, a fact that the makers of the original series went to extraordinary lengths to hide. By the time the movies rolled round, disguising Mr Scott’s missing digit was no longer
- ﬂ Spock gets hot behind the ears : The plot of one early episode : required a salt shaker, and a I goter was despatched to trawl [as i Angeles for suitably futuristic i
examples. When they were brought back to the studio, it quickly became apparent that their space-age design completely obscured their simple E
The List 27 Jan-9 Feb 1995 9