Monday, June 10, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Films and/or Other A/V: Star Trek

In the late eighties, India had only one T.V. channel: The government owned and controlled Door Darshan. On weekdays, telecast was limited to a few hours, mostly in the evenings. Sundays were different though. One could watch programmes being beamed almost the entire day. Some of the serials were imported: Old Fox, Different Strokes, and of course, Star Trek.



Of late, I do not know why, but perhaps because the sun is scorching and the afternoons are very long, my thoughts keep returning to those Sunday mornings and especially to Star Trek. To the sensitive, emotional Dr. McCoy; to the emotions-tightly-under-control Mr. Spock; and to the oh-so-suave Captain James T. Kirk. [The way Shatner pronounced his name, you could virtually hear the dot after the T].

There was also the Russian Chekhov, to show that earth was one and the United States and the Soviet Union were pally-pally and part of the great galaxy. And, of course, the nominal Asian presence in Sulu. Though, some would argue that the treacherous Klingons in space were nothing but Russians with Japanese cast of features, these political analogies did not make an iota of difference to our enjoyment of the programme.

There were others too like Scotty, and Lieutenant Uhura, and those poor Red-Shirts who seemed to exist only to die and bring up the body-count. Of course, there were those who snidely remarked that Dr. McCoy too seemed to be there only to declare people dead rather than to save their lives. Incidentally, I did not realise that "He is dead, Jim" had become such an iconic line till my lap-top started showing it whenever google chrome crashed.

 The Vulcan greeting was mandatory in school on Mondays and anybody who could do it with both hands was immediately deemed a Higher being. Furious whispers during classes meant that some point of the previous day's episode was being debated. Phrases like 'the final frontier', 'new worlds', 'where no man has gone before' were used ad nauseam in literary compositions. And invariably, there would be a few Mr. Spocks in fancy dress competitions.





The sparring, the leg-pulling, the quarrels, and the reconciliation between characters, especially the primary three, kept us glued to our T.V. sets. Yes, I know it came almost twenty years late to the Indian shores, but so what? It was still a strange new world for us. And we Indians did crow a lot about former Miss India Persis Khambatta's bald act as Lieutenant Ilia in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.



In the late nineties, when Star Trek was telecast again, this time on Star World, India having acquired a plethora of T.V. channels, a young teenager, fresh out of school, asked me "Who are these weird looking people?" I knew then that a generational shift had taken place.

So many years down the line, some of them have crossed over to the final frontier (Sorry could not resist). DeForest Kelley whose death made it to prime-time News in India and whose obituary did read (yes, you guessed it right) - 'He is dead, Jim'; The, suaver-than- the suave Captain Kirk, Robert Lansing, who played the Space 007, Gary Sevens, in Assignment Earth and whose dialogue: "That, Miss Lincoln, is simply my cat" is unforgettable.
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Gone too is Steve Ihnat, who played the tragically insane Captain Garth, in the melancholy named episode: Whom Gods Destroy. In fact, the wiki entry tells he died very young and had already passed-away by the time Star Trek was telecast in India. Sad.

Faded into oblivion are people like Skip Homeier who played Dr. Sevrin in search of paradise in The Way to Eden. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy hardly look like the same people. The uniforms look tacky and there is hardly anything special about the special-effects now. But so what? That series is still the only Star Trek for me.

And here's a fan's tribute to those years of Enterprise's mission:


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So, do you have fond memories of Star Trek too? Do share.

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Submitted for Tuesday's Overlooked Films and/or Other A/V at Todd Mason's blog Sweet Freedom.

16 comments:

  1. Neeru - The Star Trek series is deeply embedded into the American culture too. I used to watch it a lot, even after it went into syndication. Phrases like 'Beam me up, Scotty' were popular and it always fascinated me that just about everyone knew what you meant when you said things like that The show was a major common point of reference. Gene Roddenberry, who created the show, is said to have created this as a Western for the Space Age and there are certainly elements of that. Mostly I liked the crew interactions.

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    1. Oh, I loved the interaction between the crew members, Margot. You are spot-on about Star Trek being a major common point of reference. One can only thank Gene Roddenberry.

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  2. neer, Star Trek has played a huge role in my life. I watched the original series in reruns with my first husband, then watched Star Trek: Next Generation with my son in the early 1990's (2nd marriage). We all now like to rewatch the Star Trek movies II, III, and IV (and later ones too). I still like Shatner in just about anything. And Patrick Stewart too. I even like the new actors playing James Kirk, Spock, Bones, and McCoy in the latest movies. Overall I think I have been attracted to the optimistic vision that Roddenberry had in this franchise.

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    1. I don't think I have seen the actors in any other roles but at that time Shatner was the epitome of a commander. I haven't seen TNG series since I cannot imagine other actors playing those roles. :)

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  3. Excellent post, Neer. I don't think I missed even a single episode of STAR TREK in the 80s. I looked forward to listening to the opening lines and the music score as the credits rolled. The early episodes were really good, though, I thought the series lacked good stories later on. The precursor to STAR TREK for Indian television viewers was FIREBALL XL5 whose music was enough to keep one glued to this sf puppet show.

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    1. Thanks Prashant. Somehow I cannot remember FIREBALL XL5 at all. The late 80s were defined to us by this show, weren't they? I remember there was an Indian SF show SIGMA modelled on STAR TREK.

      The wiki entry tells me that in season 3, there was a step-motherly treatment meted out to the show by the channel which led to a financial crunch, and a partial withdrawal of Gene Roddenberry which might be the reason for the lack of good stories. But one episode 'Whom Gods Destroy' was telecast at the fag end, and to me it is one of the best, so I really can't comment.

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    2. Neer, you'll find FIREBALL XL5 on YouTube.

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    3. Thanks Prashant. I'll have a look.

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  4. Great post, Neere. Your memory is so much better than mine.

    - Nitu

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    1. Thank you Nitu di. Glad you liked it. As I said, the summers always make me nostalgic.

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    2. For sure, summers are filled with nostalgia - the long, empty days, the fun and frolic in Lajpat Nagar, no cares, no stress, ...

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    3. The eating of mangoes kept submerged in a bucket of water, the sleeping on the roof, the playing all day-long, the reading late in the night. No fridge, no cooler, occasional T.V... and yet life was bliss.

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    4. I really wish for a time before T.V. We could do so much, be so inventive and imaginative - remember gufa-gufa, Kabul-Kabul, red & black?

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    5. I have stopped watching T.V. Nitu di. And yes those games were real fun. Kids, of course, prefer play-station nowadays.

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  5. I love STAR TREK and I'm not ashamed to say that I'm a Trekkie. Loved the original series, most especially the 'tackiness' of it all. :) Like Prashant, I think I've seen every single episode of the 'old' series.

    I remember especially the episode with France Nuyen in which her tears made Kirk love mad. Ha. As if he needed prompting.

    I remember the episode with the rock babies in the cave. I think that's one of my faves.

    I loved the episode with Gary Seven - I am a big fan of Robert Lansing.

    I loved the Captain Pike episodes with Jeffrey Hunter who was originally pegged to play the lead in the show. (Or so I've heard somewhere.)

    I also loved STAR TREK The New Generation series, especially the later episodes. Patrick Stewart - hubba, hubba. :)

    AND I LOVE THE NEW MOVIE PREQUELS!!! Haven't seen the latest, but I'm planning to. Don't miss these, Neer. :)

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    1. Yvette, I don't think I remember the episode where Spock is love-mad. Is it the same where the girl Spock is engaged to falls in love with Kirk and the two have to duel it out?

      The wiki entry tells me that Robert Lansing was the only guest star who got top-billing during the credits. Well, he deserved it. :)

      The episodes I remember most vividly besides the Gary Seven and Captain Garth ones are the ones where they have trouble with tribbles; where Kirk visits his brother and finds him dead; where Kirk has to decide whether to send Spock or Bones to his death; and one in which Bones is dying.

      I haven't seem TNG or the movies but now after your recommendation, I think I will.

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