We're back! Crank it up!

Mar 102015
Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock in 'Star Trek.'
Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock in 'Star Trek.'

Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock in ‘Star Trek.’

Journey where no man has gone before, when UCLA Library Performing Arts Special Collections curator Peggy Alexander presents highlights from UCLA’s Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Collection on Wednesday, March 11, noon-1 p.m. in the Charles E. Young Research Library presentation room.

Donated to the UCLA Library decades ago by “Star Trek” creator and producer Gene Roddenberry, the collection features story outlines, treatments and various drafts of scripts; shooting schedules; cast lists; title sheets; photographic lists; budget reports; and memoranda from the famed TV show. Yet to this day, Alexander noted, very few fans or scholars have delved into this treasure trove of primary sources documenting a series that continues to influence science fiction TV programs and movies.

The contents reveal the personalities of many of those responsible for making the show come to life, including Roddenberry and many of the main characters that viewers have come to know so well, including Mr. Spock, Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura. Fan mail in the collection shows how women in particular reacted to the half-human, half-Vulcan Mr. Spock. Other materials disclose how — in an era that predated digitally enhanced special effects — characters were “beamed” through space to alien planets. And correspondence brings to light how the censors of the day sought to spare contemporary viewers from scenes that they deemed sexually explicit. See a listing of items in the collection on this catalog page at the Online Archive of California.

Seating at the event is limited, so an RSVP is required; email UCLA Library Development at rsvp@library.ucla.edu. You’re welcome to bring your lunch; coffee and cookies will be served.

- 30 -

Feb 232015

220px-Leonard_Nimoy_by_Gage_SkidmoreLegendary Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy has reportedly been hospitalized following complaints of severe chest pains.

Nimoy, who portrayed Mr. Spock on the original Star Trek television series between 1966 and 1969, was admitted to the UCLA Medical Center last Thursday. His hospitalization follows recent prior hospital visits over the past several months, and he has admitted to having chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Nimoy asserts that the disease most likely came from a years-long smoking habit he once held.

The status of Nimoy’s health is currently unknown.

Nimoy starred as Mr. Spock in a series of Star Trek movies, had a continuing role in the television series Fringe in 2009and has done voice work for The Big Bang Theory (as a Spock action figure) and as Kida’s father, King of the Atlanteans in Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

- 30 -


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.


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?