Based on the Carl Sagan novel, Contact is a favorite science fiction film of mine released 25 years ago. This film turned out to be unlike any other from Hollywood before or since. Read more here: https://www.vulture.com/2022/06/an-oral-history-of-contact-the-movie.html
Star Trek Memories
This is a companion web page for my Amazon Kindle eBook.
Star Trek Radio Documentary in Hollywood
When I worked in the radio broadcasting industry in the number two market, Los Angeles, I produced a documentary series about the original Star Trek on the occasion of the 1973 debut of the Saturday morning animated spinoff. Read more and listen to the voice of Gene Roddenberry, who created Star Trek.
I first met Gene Roddenberry in 1973. I somehow persuaded him to agree to an interview for the radio documentary that I was producing.
At first, he did not want to talk with me. He told me that he had been “burned” by the media previously. So, I came up with the idea of using two tape recorders simultaneously while interviewing him at his office in Burbank. I assured him that if I used those two tape recorders, I could then hand him his own copy of the taped interview before I even left his office. And so he agreed to talk with me! Only small portions of the recordings I made of Roddenberry’s comments in his own words were ever broadcast.
By listening to the Roddenberry interview that I did, you will go deep inside the series and learn from its creator what was done and why. Experience Roddenberry’s soothing voice, his intense personality, and his passion for Star Trek.
One significant (if unusual) aspect of Roddenberry was that even though he was a television producer, he much preferred books.
And he was certain that his appetite for reading directly influenced his writing and producing Star Trek
He credits starting out at Lucille Ball’s studio, Desilu (later sold to Paramount Pictures) because the studio was willing to spend “more than an ordinary amount of money” to make Star Trek work.
When he was writing the original format for Star Trek, when he did not have science fact to rely upon, he improvised.
Roddenberry created the basic concept of Star Trek from the ground up, but wanted to share credit with others, including Shatner, Nimoy, Kelley, and others, saying it was “ a creation of many people.”
A woman was second in command in the first version of Star Trek, Mr. Spock was fourth in line, and none of that survived the development of the series because of NBC demands for changes.
The economics of mid-sixties television production today seem more implausible than faster-than-light space travel. But the original Star Trek pilot—the one that didn’t sell–cost a little over $600,000.
He explained how he worked as a producer, fostering joint contributions from everyone on Star Trek.
And he gave a clear picture of how the writing on Star Trek was carefully crafted to give the storytelling a high degree of believability.
Because of censorship restrictions, Star Trek producers and writers hid intended messages within stories of action and adventure in space.
He explained that he promoted an atmosphere of practical joking to relieve the pressures of production on Star Trek.
He declined naming his favorite episodes.
In what would be the final season of the original series, Roddenberry’s world changed. Roddenberry backed out of producing the third season (but for legal reasons he was given screen credit as executive producer) after failing to convince NBC not to schedule Star Trek in an unfavorable time slot.
Roddenberry says NBC made a business decision to cancel the marginally-rated series in 1969 and noted it was ironic that the network discovered too late the demographic power of Star Trek.
And he insisted on maintaining the quality of the original Star Trek series when he produced the 1973 animated series for NBC because he did not want to insult viewers.
He did not think Star Trek necessarily had long-term value in predicting how life may actually be in the future. But, he pointed to the exceptional value of the idea content of the storytelling that persuaded people “there is a tomorrow.”
Roddenberry said he would hate for mankind to go “barging around and getting involved in other societies and civilizations” in the cosmos because humanity does not, in his view, yet have the wisdom to handle extraterrestial contact. But he did not “hate mankind” and believed our species is “beginning to reach out of childhood now.”
Listen to 4 episodes of
“The Universe of Star Trek” radio documentary
originally broadcast on KIQQ-FM (“K100”) in Hollywood in 1973
featuring: DC Fontana MP3 (2:51) 1342 K
D.C. Fontana: She was very forthcoming about her passion for Star Trek and interviewing her at her office at Filmation was engaging. She was a proponent of women’s rights and relished in telling me about a forthcoming episode on the animated series in which Uhura takes over control of the starship Enterprise.
featuring: David Gerrold MP3 (1:28) 691K
David Gerrold: Especially famous for writing “The Trouble With Tribbles,” this Los Angeles writer allowed me to interview him in his home. When I arrived at his front door, I was surprised to be greeted by a Vulcan female. The young girl had the obligatory pointed ears and a Spock-like costume. No, I never asked David Gerrold who she was and what she was doing in his home.
featuring: Walter Koenig MP3 (3:13) 1510K
Walter Koenig: We all remember him as Pavel Chekov from the original series. Walter Koenig was a very young man when I interviewed him. He demonstrated a strong comfort level about his celebrity from Star Trek that I was not expecting from someone so young.
featuring: Bjo Trimble MP3 (2:17) 1077K
Bjo Trimble: It was a trip to visit the home of this campaigner who campaigned to save Star Trek from cancellation. Her living room was filled with Star Trek memorabilia and she had boundless energy.
How did Roddenberry feel about my work? He wrote to me in response to my radio documentary, telling me how pleased he was with it. You can read his comments in the letter (pdf) he sent me.
Recommending “Star Trek: Picard”
What motivated me at long last to get the streaming video service CBS All Access (rebranded in March 2021 as Paramount+) was a simple life upended due to an international health crisis. Staying put in an apartment for longer than 30 consecutive days thus far has prevented me from getting the infectious virus. Yet the pressing sense of confinement started to affect my dreams, my moods, and my eating–not necessarily in that order. So it seemed the natural thing for me to do. I got this streaming service essentially as a distraction from real life.
I enthusiastically recommend that you also get this streaming service so you can watch Star Trek: Picard and other Star Trek shows.You may smile when you see the return of Sir Patrick Stewart in the cherished role as Picard in a science fiction series featuring richly developed characters. I hold a very high standard for critiquing any and all Strek Trek television shows and motion pictures. Why? I earned my doctoral degree in part because I wrote a lengthy study examining television producer Gene Roddenberry and a certain television series of his that you may have heard of. Learn more about my Roddenberry research findings and listen to rare MP3 recordings elsewhere at this website.
I consider myself fortunate to have interacted face-to-face with Roddenberry during the 1970s and 1980s leading to my publishing my research to share my findings. I examined his storytelling on Star Trek: The Original Series seeking to determine whether there were “secret powers” of audience persuasion embedded in the episodes. Spoiler alert: Yes, there were. These narrative persuasion devices in storytelling are, of course, not truly “secret” and they also show up in Star Trek: Picard.
Had Roddenberry lived to see Star Trek: Picard, I suspect he would not have been completely happy with how it turned out. But in fairness, it probably is accurate to the writer’s opinion that Roddenberry was not a man who could easily attain complete happiness regarding anything.
Rodenberry was very demanding and displayed a challenging personality (even by Hollywood standards) that directly led to entanglements with showbusiness people regarding the development of the Star Trek franchise through the 1970s until his death in 1991.He lived long enough to play a key part in Star Trek: The Next Generation bringing Patrick Stewart into the crucial role of the now-famous Jean Luc Picard. That financially successful series continued until 1994 for a total of seven seasons. Star Trek: Picard arrived on CBS All Access in January 2020 to show us ten episodes focused on the fate of the legendary captain of the USS Enterprise in his so-called “retirement.”
The character of Jean Luc Picard became well-known for his challenging personality, too, across 178 television episodes and four major motion pictures . That aspect of the character’s essence is sharply defined in Star Trek: Picard with great care and respect by the producers and writers. It is wildly surprising, therefore, when a superior Star Fleet officer actually says to Picard, “Shut the fuck up.” I have quoted the exact phrase here because no previous Star Trek film or television show ever dared to depict anyone speaking with such course language directly to the living legend known as Picard.
I found it very enjoyable to binge watch all ten episodes of Star Trek: Picard over the Easter weekend in an attempt to ease my cabin fever. The story spanning the entire first season is smart and entertaining in its coverage of existential conflicts between organic human life and synthetic humanoids who were created by humans. I already mentioned how the characters are one of the strongest features of this series. The performances of all the main cast members are generously full of energy.
The story dealing with organics versus synthetics, itself, should seem familiar to everyone (perhaps too familiar.) In the original Battlestar Galactica television series (1978 to 1979) and Galactica 1980, the concept of human-created war robots was at the core of the storytelling. In 1979 Ridley Scott introduced us to synthetic beings in his film Alien and that storyline continued into five major motion pictures that followed from 1986 through 2017. In The Terminator (1984) James Cameron gave us an indelible cybernetic organism created by human beings and portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987 to 1994) gave us the beloved character of Data, a synthetic lifeform created by humans, struggles to be accepted by his human crewmates aboard the USS Enterprise. In the Ronald D. Moore reboot of Battlestar Galactica (2004 to 2009) the Cylons were reimagined to be indistinguishable from human beings and empowered with many superiorities over humans.
The question needs to be asked: Will audiences year after year continue to financially support science fiction storytelling on television and in movies that revisit the by now well-worn struggle between human beings and created being who merely look like us. While watching Star Trek: Picard you may not feel too sorry about the ill fortune humans suffer at the hands of the synthetics because it is crystal clear that the human race brought this entire mess upon itself.
But let me get back to Ronald D. Moore. He is a respected member of the Star Trek family from his work as a noteworthy producer and writer on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Perhaps out of respect, the Star Trek: Picard producers snuck in (for a few precious seconds only) a framed portrait of Moore on one of the walls of Jean Luc Picard’s chateau.
There is one glaring storytelling element in Star Trek: Picard. I felt a deju-vu across many episodes that made me wish the Star Trek: Picard producers and writers would have invested more time and money to get stronger storytelling originality. Instead, there are narrative aspects and character types from Frank Herbert’s Dune instead of freshly genuine originality. To be specific, the Bene Gesserit religious sisterhood from Dune seems to have been the inspiration for the Qowat MIlat order of warrior nuns so crucial to the plot in Star Trek: Picard. Similarly, the Dune central character of Paul Atreides—raised since his boyhood in Bene Gesserit skills of observation and military arts—seems to have been the inspiration for the Star Trek: Picard Romulan character of Elnore—raised since his boyhood in Qowat Milat warrior nuns’ teachings and military arts.
However, the skills and talents of Sir Patrick Stewart in the title role, of course, are arguably the best attributes on display for anyone to see. I feel there should be nobody out there who would choose to avoid watching the second season of Star Trek: Picard once it finally is released somewhere out there in the far-off future.
Kubrick Warned Us, But We Did Not Believe Him
American film director Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999) created unforgettable and challenging ideas in his storytelling such as the recurring theme that technology is a curse for mankind rather than a blessing. Kubrick warned us, be we did not believe him. Just 14 years after Kubrick passed, technology is taking away jobs that we humans will likely never regain. This is not science fiction. This is real.
A sobering article entitled “After Your Job Is Gone” is a must-read for everyone who is employed right now. The central point of the article is that computerized automation already has made many Americans unable to keep jobs that they have held for years. This is not a future prediction This is now.
What would you do if technology destroyed your relevance as a worker? For us avid science fiction fans, such a question is as old as I, Robot, the classic speculative science fiction story from 1950 written by Isaac Asimov. Of course, many Americans tend to ignore science fiction as mere entertainment. That is, of course, a big mistake.
The most practical response you and I can have to technology destroying more jobs than it creates is to work in technology businesses. You will not be able to beat technology. So, you will have to join technology if you want to adapt and survive. This crucial need to adapt and survive is already especially challenging for people who have the false belief that technology is only for young people.
I will repeat here today what I posted earlier this year at this website:
When you live in the 21st century, you need to embrace and use the tools of the 21st century or you will become as relevant as dinosaurs. If you scoff at this, you are choosing to be a scoffing dinosaur.
How many birthdays you have had doesn’t matter one bit. Whether you like using computers or smart phones doesn’t matter either.
If you are in a career search in the wake of the Great Recession, you want to stand out. You definitely do not want to be a scoffing dinosaur. The choice is very simple and it is your choice alone: Relevant. Irrelevant.
You must embrace and use the tools of the 21st century if you are in a career search in the wake of the Great Recession or you will likely not succeed in your career search.
Genres duke it out in 'Cowboys & Aliens'
Genres duke it out in ‘Cowboys & Aliens’
Genres duke it out in ‘Cowboys & Aliens’
(AP Photo/Universal Pictures, Timothy White) By David Mermelstein, When the movie “Cowboys & Aliens,” starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, opens in theaters Friday it will aim for more than just stellar grosses at the box office. It will attempt to merge two genres that are essentially …
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