Today’s guest post is brought to us by Jim Black from Science Fiction Times. Jim’s blog is jam packed with all my favorite things – science fiction of the last hundred years, graphic novels and comics, Doctor Who, Convention news, thoughts on the genre, and how his experiences with science fiction have evolved over the years. He and I also share a fondness for the original Star Trek series. Please give a warm welcome to Jim!
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Where No Writer Has Gone Before, by Jim Black
Everyone remembers the first time they hear those magical words These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise… spoken during the opening credits of Star Trek (the original series). Let’s take a short journey back to the time I first discovered this legendary series.
I fondly remember running from the school bus into our house, tossing my books on a chair, and turning on the television to channel 5 out of Washington D.C. My parents had just made the big switch from antenna to cable television. Now we could watch half a dozen channels instead of the old two that we could pick up with the antenna. By accident I had discovered a show that came on at 4PM. This fantastic show dealt with explorers traveling the universe in search of other races. Every weekday, channel 5 would show another episode. Four o’clock became my favorite time to watch television. What made the original series so great? It was a combination of many things (in no particular order).
The Enterprise. I was addicted to reading science fiction by this point in my life but this was the first time I was able to see a spaceship in action. The Enterprise was almost another character on this show. It carried the crew wherever they wanted to go. With Mister Scott in Engineering, it was always able to go a little faster than any other ship in the Federation.
The cast. Between the writers, the directors and the actors these people became your friends. It did not take long to get to know people like Captain Kirk, Mister Spock, Dr. McCoy, Scotty, Uhuru, Sulu, Chekov, and many others. Kirk was the best leader, passionate about his crew, and a reckless devil-may- care never say die attitude. It was balanced by the analytical mind of Spock. McCoy wore his emotions on his sleeve. Scotty was the brilliant engineer who loved his ship. Each contributed to the overall quality of the show.
It is easy to focus on the cast and the technology but I discovered that one of the most important elements of Star Trek’s success was the writers. Many science fiction authors were brought in to contribute to Star Trek.
1. Richard Matheson. The most recent adaptation of his work to the big screen was the movie “I Am Legend”. He is listed as one of the influences of Stephen King and Anne Rice.
2. Robert Bloch. A writer with over 30 novels to his credit. His most famous book that was adapted for a movie was “Psycho”.
3. Theodore Sturgeon. Writer of the classic science fiction novel “More Than Human”. He became famous for “Sturgeon’s Law” (“Ninety percent of science fiction is crud, but then, ninety percent of everything is crud”).
4. Frederic Brown. Best known for his short-short stories (1 to 3 pages in length). He wrote two classic science fiction novels-“What Mad Universe” and “Martians, Go Home”. Considered to be one of the influences of Philip K. Dick.
5. David Gerrold. In the science fiction literature field, he was best known for “When HARLIE Was One” (in which he introduced the term “computer virus”) and the time travel classic “The Man Who Folded Himself”. He is also the writer of a very good movie called “The Martian Child” about his experiences as a single adoptive father.
6. Norman Spinrad. To put it mildly, Spinrad is one of the more controversial sf writers of all time. Best known for his books “Bug Jack Barron” and “The Iron Dream” (in which Adolf Hitler writes a fantasy novel).
7. Jerome Bixby. Well known short story writer. His stories were adapted by “The Twilight Zone” and he co-wrote the story that became the movie “Fantastic Voyage”.
8. Harlan Ellison. Writer of over 1,700 stories. He has become as well known for his controversial behavior as for his writing. Despite his poor behavior, he is still considered one of the best science fiction short story writers of all time.
I believe that Gene Roddenberry made a brilliant move by bringing in so many science fiction writers to work on the scripts. Instead of using the writers of westerns and detective shows, Roddenberry stepped outside the box and wanted to make this a real science fiction show. And I think he succeeded. With another movie being released this year, I think it is time to go back and watch the classic shows that are the foundation of the Star Trek franchise.