Friday, March 10, 2006

The USS Enterprise -- In The Sky! With Diamonds!!!

Our house is still recovering from germs of several varieties, so I remain mired in a nostalgic mood. Today I'll visit Star Trek -- or my perception of it as a child.

I was a Trekkie two years before I saw a single episode. When I was nine, a friend asked me if I'd ever seen Star Trek, "The coolest show in the world," by his estimation. Nope. Hadn't even heard of it. My friend told me about this spaceship that flew around the universe and visited weird places and did weird stuff. His older brother -- the coolest, toughest dude on the face of the planet (Earth, that is) -- had seen the entire series, and said the last episode was the very best of the bunch: they came back to earth, landed and died from an interstellar poison gas that blanketed the planet (and just how cool was that?)

A show that ends with everyone dying? Talk about edgy! I was all for it, and kept my eyes peeled for anything in magazines or newspapers about this bizarre and amazing show. The first picture I saw was of the Enterprise -- visually, it was a startling departure from the bomb-shaped rockets I saw in the old Robert Heinlein books I borrowed from the library. If these people travelled in a ship like this, my friend's analysis was right on the money.

One year later there was some talk about an animated series. Our town was not connected to Cable, so I went out and bought the ViewMaster discs. Book stores in Winnipeg carried a number of Star Trek titles, most of them written by Alan Dean Foster. I bought one such book -- the first adventure involved an evil god-like being taking possession of the Enterprise. Kirk rids his ship of this demon by charting a slingshot course around a medium-sized star. He has to do this manually, literally grabbing hold of the control panel and steering the ship toward the star. The panel erupts in flames -- Kirk's hands get burned so badly, his palms peel away when he's removed from the panel. Edgy!

The only other Star Trek material available to me was the line of Gold Key comics, sold at a local drug store. I'm not going to bother with any plot summaries: this cover pretty much says it all. Any connection the comics had with the actual series was practically unintentional.

It's funny to consider just what a big deal continuity is to today's Trekkers (even I get snippy about it - over here!). Continuity was a completely (ahem) alien concept to the franchise when I was first introduced to it. A glance back at my introduction to the Star Trek universe reveals a patchwork, dodgy, near-occultic (and, if my friend was to be believed, downright nihilistic) narrative. Which was just what the doctor ordered -- had I been exposed to anything as predictable as the actual television series, my interest would probably have peaked and waned as quickly as it did over The Six Million Dollar Man. So here's to the acid casualty who hooked me on Star Trek.

This guy devotes an entire site to the Gold Key Star Trek Comics -- all 61 of 'em. That number seems small to me, but when I looked over the covers I was surprised to recognize a mere dozen. Talk about influential! Here is a site devoted solely to the animated series. I read several of the Foster books, but only saw one episode. What I saw didn't do much for me, but it's a surprise to register a profound nostalgic tug when I glance over the flat-looking animation cels. Where an adult from another (more reasonable) dimension might see "Crappy production values", I still see, "Tremendous potential for the weird!"


Cowtown Pattie said...

I, too, loved Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scotty, O'Houra, and all the gang.

But, then I got hooked on Next Generation Trek - no comparison. Definitely the best Trek series in my estimation.

Live long and prosper, dude!

Whisky Prajer said...

CP - I attended religiously to the Next Generation, and probably would have agreed with your sentiment at the time. But have you seen the last three seasons of DS9? It took them a long time to get to that point of "what do we have to lose?", but when they did, they cranked out the best Trek, hands down. It tickles me to see some of DS9s alumni are working for the new Battlestar: Galactica, my current SF TV fave. Have you seen any of it, CP? Highly recommended.

Cowtown Pattie said...

Oh, you can't keep a good trekkie down...

Of course, I watch Battlestar Galactica!