As Star Trek Into Darkness opens a week ahead of its international release, Mini Anthikad-Chhibber takes a look at ten aspects of the swashbuckling space odyssey that made a lasting impact on science fiction and popular culture
Gene Roddenberry, who flew combat missions during World War II and was an officer with the Los Angeles police department after the war, proposed a science fiction series in 1964. Though the first pilot was rejected, the first episode of Star Trek was aired on September 8, 1966 after a second pilot was commissioned and approved.
The series, which ran for three seasons is referred to by Trekkies as The Original Series and found devoted fans in engineers and students of Caltech. Incidentally, it was the series that was beamed in the days of black-and-white Doordarshan on Sunday mornings.
These are voyages of the Starship Enterprise
The episodes are the greatest swashbuckling fun. It made very definite statements on peace, racism, feminism and other concerns of the day within the template of a rousing space saga. Each episode delivered on its brand promise of an adventure of intergalactic proportions while revealing details of the characters and addressing the concerns of the day.
I have been and always shall be your friend
The half-human and half-Vulcan science officer Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy, was emblematic of the perfect man — the cool logic of the Vulcans worked in tandem with the human side striving for perfection. The friendship between Spock and Kirk forms the core of Star Trek.
Where no man has gone before
In the 23rd Century, Earth seems to have resolved its issues of race and gender. The Starship USS Enterprise, commanded by James T. Kirk (William Shatner), had a decidedly multi-racial crew. There communications officer Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) who is black, helmsman Sulu (George Takei), who Roddenberry intended to represent all of Asia and not a specific country, Russian navigator Chekov (Walter Koenig) and a Scottish captain of engineering, Scotty (James Doohan).
Ahura and Yeoman Rand (Grace Whitley with an involved basket blonde wig) represent the ladies. The doppelganger theme (Spock/Kirk) continues with Rand being the blonde beauty while Ahura is the brains. The kiss between Kirk and Ahura is mistakenly hailed as the first on screen inter-racial kiss.
Beam me up Scotty
While Trekkies in the know insist that this line is misquoted, it is one of those catch phrases like ‘Elementary My Dear Watson’ which has seeped into the collective unconscious. The production design and narrative of Star Trek set the template for science fiction forever. Real science inspired by Star Trek include cell phones (remember Kirk’s flip top communicator?) and Google Earth among others.
Space, the final frontier
The stories in TOS (The Original Series) like Philip K Dick’s work though set in the future in weird and wonderful worlds was not big on outrageous looking creatures — leave that to George Lucas. The future looks very much like the present save for the little differences. The enemy invariably took over the bodies of friends feeding into the Sixties paranoia of nothing being what it seemed.
Captain, we are being hailed
In spite of a signature campaign to continue the show, Star Trek was discontinued after three seasons in 1969. It was in the reruns that it gained cult following, spawning four series and 12 feature films.
Set your phasers to stun
Seven years after Star Trek Nemesis in 2002, J.J. Abrams unveiled the ultimate reboot in Star Trek. Unlike the unnecessarily ponderous Phantom Menace, Star Trek used a light touch to tip its hat to the source material while tweaking it in interesting ways. Using an alternate time line, to sidestep the canon, the movie was a prequel, the origin story of how Kirk came to command the enterprise and set up his crew. The movie, was young in look and feel and oozed attitude. Chris Pine rocked as Kirk (“at ease gentlemen!”). Zachary Quinto was cool as Spock while Zoe Saldana was hot as Ahura. Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy and Eric Bana as the unhappy Romulan Nero were excellent. Ahura’s first name, Nyota, her relationship with Spock, the reason for Dr. McCoy’s nickname, Bones, and the T in Kirk’s name are revealed in the film. The greatest tribute was having Leonard Nimoy as the older Spock explaining the space-time warp.
Live long and prosper
And now the cast and crew return for the sequel, Into Darkness. Benedict Cumberbatch, who we know as the consulting detective in Sherlock, plays the villain John Harrison. According to unconfirmed reports, he plays Khan from The Wrath of Khan, the second Star Trek feature. Star Trek has features from The Wrath including Kirk cheating in the Kobayashi Maru test and Nero torturing Captain Pike with some sort of space bug that enters through his ear. The Wrath also has Khan saying the famous Klingon proverb, “revenge is a dish best served cold,” a philosophy Quentin Tarantino’s Bride subscribes to in Kill Bill.
Restore full power
In 3D and IMAX, Into Darkness promises to be a stylishly thrilling addition to the canon guaranteed to satisfy Trekkies and newbies. So go forth and explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilisations, and boldly go where no one has gone before.