Star Trek, of course–what kind of question is that? Actually, if I’m going to write an essay, I should have more to say….
Star Trek, in its original incarnation (which I will henceforth refer to by the standard fan abbreviation TOS for “The Original Series”) began its prime-time network run on NBC in 1966, at which time I was three years old. Its last season ended in 1969, at which time I was six, and about to begin the first grade. I know Mom and Dad watched it, so I no doubt did, as well. I’ve seen every episode multiple times since, and given that, it’s hard to sort out any genuine memories of the series’s original airing.
It doesn’t really matter, though. Throughout my childhood and young adulthood, TOS was more or less constantly in syndication somewhere on one channel or another. Every time it was available on any of the channels we got, I always watched it. For reasons that are obscure, certain episodes (e.g. “The City on the Edge of Forever” and “A Piece of the Action”) were in very heavy rotation, whereas others (such as “Errand of Mercy” and the insanely elusive “The Mark of Gideon”) were rarely if ever aired. I made it my goal to watch every one of the original seventy-nine episodes at least once. I set this goal at the age of around twelve or thirteen, and it took into my mid-twenties to complete it, but complete it I did. In the meantime, my involvement with Star Trek was expanding far beyond watching reruns.
Continuing in my long-on-hiatus series of essays about Star Trek: The Motion Picture, I’d like to discuss the cast very briefly before I go on to interpretation.
As I pointed out last time, there are major problems with the script. To their credit, the cast make the best of what they’re given. I can’t really single out one bad performance. The returning supporting members of the original TV cast–Grace Lee Whitney as Janice Rand, Nichelle Nichols as Uhura, James Doohan as Scotty, Walter Koenig as Chekov, George Takei as Sulu, and Majel Barrett Roddenberry as Nurse (now Doctor) Chapel–are all good, turning in professional performances in character, as if it had been only the previous season and not a decade previously that they’d last played their roles. It is most unfortunate that they were given so little to do. Doohan gets the most screen time, given the long sequence where he ferries Kirk to the refurbished Enterprise, and he makes the most of every second. Star Trek lore has it that Doohan was particularly resentful of William Shatner for his supposed jockeying for screen time at the expense of everyone else. Indeed, Doohan is said to have nursed a grudge against Shatner until shortly before Doohan’s death. I can’t help but think that Doohan was getting a kick out of upstaging Shatner in this sequence! None of the other supporting cast is given more than a line or two, but they do what they can with them. At least Uhura doesn’t have to say, “Captain, I’m frightened!”