Witch House Contest!
Sep 082014
 

ST Transporterby Laura Davis, managing editor

On this date in 1966, the television world and, indeed, the science fiction world, changed dramatically with the television premiere of Star Trek. For those of us who were either small children or not-yet-born at the time of this auspicious occasion, it’s hard to grasp the full perspective. If you’re too young to remember the Star Trek premiere, you’ve grown up in a world where science fiction television programs and movies have “always” been there, and, really, there’s nothing new under the sun. Sure, sometimes, someone comes up with some really amazing special effects or a particularly compelling story, and we all appreciate those things, but nothing since Star Trek premiered has had the same impact.

Although I grew up on the original series of Star Trek, I saw it all in re-runs and in an age where it had peers like Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and the miniseries made from The Martian Chronicles. I wondered about the perspective of people who saw the premiere and lived through the time when science fiction became a staple in television and movies.

One fan-from-day-one, Jim Menotti, told me, “Back then, television was mostly westerns, and a few corny shows like Lost in Space. Star Trek was fascinating because it had well thought-out plots, and things you could really see happening on a star ship. It was pretty well set up in a military manner and it was somewhat factual [in that sense], like how things would work on an ocean ship.

'Plato's Stepchildren'

‘Plato’s Stepchildren’

“There wasn’t a lot of publicity about the premiere, just a few ads, and of course, it was in TV Guide. I wasn’t expecting much; I thought it would be dumb, but Star Trek was fresh and plausible. It wasn’t corny, and it didn’t have corny lines like, ‘Danger, Will Robinson!’ It was aimed at adults, it wasn’t a kid thing; it was realistic. The special effects seemed good at the time, the sounds and the visuals met up with what we could imagine, and the parts that weren’t excellent weren’t bad enough to be a distraction.

“A lot of other shows of the time, you couldn’t follow the plot. Of course there were also the short skirts. I liked that they were using actual technology, but in a future version.”

Bjo Trimble, best known in fandom as “The Woman Who Saved Star Trek” and author of The Star Trek Concordance, said in a 2011 interview with StarTrek.com she appreciated, “the grown-up approach to the stories, instead of the standard ‘there’s an ugly alien, let’s kill it!’ story that was so common. Star Trek presented the ugly alien as a loving mother, an amazing twist. We also liked the sense of wonder presented in an adult manner, plus the three-dimensional characters.”

Another long-time fan I spoke to, Jay Mayer, told me why he missed the premiere. “I was working at McDonnell Douglas in Long Beach at the time, and we had a bowling league. We’d been playing for a while, and were coming down to the league finals, and this one night [the night of the Star Trek premiere] about half of the people didn’t show up! We had to re-group the stragglers so we could even play.

“We worked in this huge room, kind of like a cubicle farm, only there were no walls. Just desks lined up, and I swear there were like a hundred feet of desks in a row. The next morning, the whole room was buzzing with everyone talking about Star Trek!

“Color television programs were still a pretty new thing at that time, so the color and the special effects were a big deal!”

Menotti added, “The audience at that time were people who’d been through WWII and Korea; they expected that fight scene in every episode. There would be a problem, the hero would solve it, and shoot ‘em up a little, too. It kind of was a western in space. They rescued someone and there was a shoot-out.

“The play between the characters was great, like Scotty with his ‘you guys are dispensable, my ship is not’ attitude. Spock was one of my favorite characters immediately. He was all about logic, like Sherlock. I always figured Spock was the real star of the show, because he’d just sit there and watch all the B.S. fly, then suggest a rational solution.”

Aw! A Tribble isn't it adorable? Remind me to send Mr. Jones a thank-you note!

Aw! A tribble! Isn’t it adorable? Remind me to send Mr. Jones a thank-you note!

Star Trek already has three generations of fans, and a fourth generation is coming up now. How is it that this 1960s show with special effects, props, sets, and makeup that are risible by today’s standards continues to gain new fans? The series forever changed the expectations of audiences. We’re no longer satisfied with a neat little package that pits black against white and wraps up neatly in the span of an hour. And though today’s production technology is light years beyond what was available in 1966, the effects in Star Trek were a giant step above its contemporaries. The show set the bar far above what was common and accepted in its own time, and established a standard to which future shows would aspire.

The original series was written well, and in a way that’s held up to the test of time. It was also grounded in imagined technology that was just above the surface of reality, yet it was so forward-thinking that today, 48 years later, much of that foundational technology is still just out of reach; the original series still piques our curiosity and imagination, and still turns our eyes toward the stars and the future.

-30-

Sep 082014
 

by Michael Brown, staff writer

On September 8, 1966, NBC launched the first episode of a new science-fiction series. This series, called Star Trek, would be seen by viewers across the country, causing wide-eyed wonder at some of the technology that creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future would bring us. Now, in 2014, 48 years later, some of that far-fetched tech is actually being used, or at least in development. In honor of the anniversary of the airing of the first Star Trek episode, we present some of that technology. And while it’s true that we still don’t have transporter technology, or have figured out warp drive, some of what we do have may surprise you.

download (3)1) Communicators: Anytime Captain Kirk and his shore party left the Enterprise, their life-lines were their communicators: handheld, flip-open units that allowed the crew to talk back and forth, either to each other or the ship. They always worked perfectly as long as there was no real emergency in the offing, but wee often jammed of plagued with static in the middle of a crisis situation. Now, 48 years later, we’re all carrying communicators. We just call them cell phones. And the still have a habit of working perfectly in non-critical situations. In reality, the push-to-talk models made by Nextel in the ’90s were the closest that cell phones had gotten to communicators. The flip phones just gave them the look. But how many of us hung onto that flip phone for as long as we could because it resembled a communicator? [Editor's note: I know at least one college student who stubbornly holds onto a flip phone to the present day. Perhaps this is the real reason?]

ST Whales2) Transparent Aluminum: Transparent Aluminum?! Are you serious? We now have that thin, plexiglass-like stuff that’s impervious to just about anything? That same transparent aluminum that Scotty introduced in Star Trek IV  to house the humpback whales? Yep. Sort of. While transparent aluminum sounds ridiculous, there is such a thing called transparent aluminum armor, or aluminum oxynitride, (ALON) as it’s more commonly known. ALON is a ceramic-like powder that turns to a glass-like crystalline form after it’s superheated. Once in its crystalline form, this stuff can stop a round from an anti-aircraft gun, and it’s half as heavy and thick as bullet-resistant glass. The Air Force has tested it to use in their aircraft canopies. How awesome is that?!

oaa_hypospray3) Hypospray: You get sick on the Enterprise, you head down to Dr. McCoy’s sickbay. You lie down on a bed and he injects you with something to make you feel better. But wait! There’s no needle! Just a puff of air and you’re as good as new. I think as a kid, this was the thing I wanted to see above all others. A needle-less shot. Called a hypospray, it would deliver the antidote du jour deep underneath the skin with high air pressure. The real-world application is called a jet injector, and we’ve actually had them long before Star Trek. They’re mostly used in mass vaccinations and look an awful lot like automotive paint guns.

TOS2x05h4) Tractor Beams: When astronauts used to fly up in a space shuttle and fix the International Space Station, or repair the Hubble telescope, they’d have to get out of the shuttle and perform a terrifying and problematic spacewalk to fix the thing. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to bring the broken object to you, like the Enterprise and other spacecraft could do? We sort of can. The best we’re able to do right now is a device called optical tweezers. Optical tweezers are small, focused lasers that capture and trap microscopic particles. Scientists use them to trap and remove bacteria and cells, mostly in the study of DNA. And while it’s not strong enough to pull in the Hubble to fix a broken lens, you have to start somewhere.

herophaser5) Phasers: Along with their communicators, the Enterprise crew relied on their phasers, sidearms that discharged an energy blast instead of bullets. More often than not, Captain Kirk would order them set on stun, so as not to kill the fiend being shot. Modern day tasers are the closest thing we have to phaser technology right this minute, but a company called Applied Energetic is developing Laser Induced Plasma Energy technology that is said to transmit high voltage bursts of energy to a single source. Stun your target, limit collateral damage. A real phaser could soon be a reality.

6) Telepresence: In 1966, the very idea of being able to interact with someone across the void of space was insane. But telepresence is more than mere video conferencing. It’s being in the room when you’re not in the room, and this is the one thing we have created that surpasses Trek tech. In 2008, AT&T and Cisco created the industry’s first in-depth telepresence experience. Users in Boardroom A, for example, will see the people and surroundings, and even the ambient light is mimicked, in Boardroom B. Crazy.

a6eb_star_trek_tricorder7) Tricorders: Spock would always carry one of these instruments over his shoulder when surveying a planet. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, tricorders got a little smaller. And there was always one for engineering, medical, or science. NASA has developed something similar called a LOCAD, a handheld device that detects microorganisms in the air onboard the International Space Station. Beyond that, two handheld medical devices are being developed to help doctors examine blood flow, and check for cancer, diabetes, or bacterial infection.

 

And more things are being developed every day. The pieces are even there for universal translators, with voice recognition. All we need is a smarter computer. Gene Roddenberry’s — and Star Trek‘s — future was the betterment of the human condition. Through Gene Roddenberry’s imagination, and the vehicle that carried it, that world is happening. 48 years ago our mothers and fathers scoffed at cell phones. Given another 48, what kind of Star Trek magic will scientists give us to wonder over?

-30-

Aug 192014
 

by Michael Brown, staff writer

roddenberry newThe man who took us all to a place where no man has gone before would have celebrated a birthday today. Gene Roddenberry was born August 19, 1921 in El Paso, Texas, but grew up in Los Angeles, and actually shares his birthday with two other Star Trek alumni, Jonathan Frakes and Diana Muldaur. The son of a police officer, Roddenberry was an American hero, having flown 89 combat missions in the United States Army Air Force during World War II, decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. He also worked as a commercial pilot after returning home in 1945. Roddenberry followed in his father’s footsteps and wore a badge himself for a time, as a means to provide for his family, but began to write scripts for television.

Before giving fans a glimpse at the final frontier, Roddenberry wrote scripts for Highway Patrol, Have Gun-Will Travel, and other series of the time, and eventually created and produced his own series, The Lieutenant, which was set inside the United States Marine Corps, and starred Nichelle Nichols in the first episode. It would only last one season.

In 1964, Roddenberry developed his “wagon train to the stars,” Star Trek, and sold it to NBC and Desilu Studios, after being rejected by CBS. Star Trek received modest approval from NBC, despite constant production issues and Roddenberry’s fight with producers to keep his vision the way he wanted it. Star Trek premiered on September 8, 1966 and ran for three seasons until viewers lost interest. Star Trek would live on in syndication, however, and his vision would eventually become a media juggernaut, with nine films, four spinoff series, an animated series, countless novels, and video games.

In the late 1980s, as the revival series Star Trek: The Next Generation was in full swing, Roddenberry was afflicted by the early stages of cerebral vascular disease, said to be a result of his longtime abuse of recreational and prescription drugs. Following a stroke in 1989, which would only cause further health problems, Roddenberry passed away on October 24, 1991. A portion of Roddenberry’s cremated remains were launched into space in 1997 by Celestis, a company that performs “space burials,” as a tribute for his contributions, but in 2002 the spacecraft that orbited fell back to Earth. Another launch is planned for 2015, this time for deep space, and carrying the remains of wife and Star Trek co-star Majel Barrett-Roddenberry.

After Roddenberry’s death, Andromeda and Earth: Final Conflict, which were based on unused stories that he had written, were released into syndication.  Andromeda, starring Kevin Sorbo of Hercules fame in the lead role as Captain Dylan Hunt, was the more successful of the two.

Gene Roddenberry’s vision lives on long after his death, with much of the technology he predicted for Star Trek in use today, or being developed. And we can all certainly get behind his dream of a future where we are at peace, with no wants or needs, free to focus on what lies ahead, forging a better life for all.

Gene Roddenberry would have been 93 today.

We at Krypton Radio celebrate Mr. Roddenberry’s life and mourn his passing, yet content with the knowledge that the man who brought us the stars is now in peace among them.

-30-

Aug 192014
 

Jonathan_Frakes_cropped1by Michael Brown, staff writer

Jonathan Frakes, better known as Commander William T. Riker of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D, turns 62 today! Frakes was born August 19, 1952 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.

Before signing on as First Officer of a Federation flagship, Frakes’ acting career was long and varied. He was Marvel Comics’ official Captain America, appearing at conventions throughout the 1970s before moving onto television acting, where he played Charles Lindbergh in an episode of the 1983 time-travel adventure Voyagers!  He would also appear on such classics as The Waltons, Eight is Enough, The Dukes of Hazzard, Matlock, and Hill Street Blues.

Frakes is also well known for his work in voice acting, most notably starring as the villainous David Xanatos in the animated cult Disney-produced series, Gargoyles; an episode of Futurama, where he voiced his head in a jar; and cutaways on two episodes of Family Guy where he reprised his role as Riker, along with co-stars Patrick Stewart, Michael Dorn, Denise Crosby, and Wil Wheaton. He also voiced Finn’s adult self in two episodes of Adventure Time.

Frakes also has the distinct honor of being one of only two Star Trek regulars to appear on four different Trek series, the other being Gene Roddenberry’s wife Majel Barrett, who appeared in all five. Frakes also reprised his role, along with other Trek series actors, for the video game Star Trek: Captain’s Chair.

These days, the busiest man in Trekdom has taken to commanding behind the camera as a director. In addition to directing the Trek films First Contact and Insurrection, you can find Mr. Frakes’ name on the credits of such series as Burn Notice, Castle, NCIS: Los AngelesLeverageFalling Skies, and more recently, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

And when our birthday boy isn’t acting and directing? He and wife Genie Francis live in Maine, where Frakes teaches classes on film direction.

Krypton Radio would like to wish Jonathan Frakes a very happy birthday, and many more to follow!

-30-