Star Trek; The Final Frontier Essay, Research Paper
Space the final frontier… , these words could not be more true about television in the nineteen sixties. Television sets were lit up by such old western shows like Gunsmoke , Bonanza , and The Long Ranger . However, all this changed when a man named Gene Roddenberry first pitched the idea of Star Trek to MGM. The idea was so radical, that he was shunned by the network executives. They told him that a television series based in space would never really be popular. Time would prove them to be very wrong.
Producers did not have an idea of what to think about the pitch for the show. Roddenberry had perfected it into a producer s dream. It was a cost-effective,bright new idea for a series. However, that is what scared MGM producers who. backed away for fear that producing a weekly hour long science fiction series would prove so prohibitively expensive that even if it were to become a runaway hit, the profit potential would be hazy. (Star Trek Memories) His idea was so new, and innovative among his contemporaries that CBS studios called him in for a presentation, that turned into a, hours long interrogation about the series that ended with them telling him they wouldn t pick up Star Trek , they were making their own science fiction series. (Star Trek Memories) They invited him in to pick his brain to make their own show better.
Eventually though, Roddenberry did get his idea accepted by Desilu and the show got its start. One of the first things that he did with his television series was begin casting the crew for his futuristic space vessel, The Enterprise . His idea for the crew were truly liberal in the time he lived in. In The Pilot the first televised Star Trek special ever, the first officer was a strong female character. There was also another woman on the cast, one who would, according to Roddenberry s notes be, Stripper like in physique. However, after The Pilot aired. The network interceded, asking Roddenberry to change the cast of the series.
No matter what the network ordered him to do, Roddenberry still managed to come up with more ideas to diversify his show from any other on television. He would make the new cast multi-cultural, a true sign of the peace the future would bring. No other television series at that time had stars from different ethnicities all over the place. Captain James T. Kirk was performed by William Shatner, and Doctor McCoy played by DeForrest Kelley were both white males. The helmsman Sulu was played by Asian, George Takei, the engineer Scotty was played by the Scottish, James Doohan, communications officer Uhura was played by the African-American Nichelle Nichols, and the Russian, ironically the weapons officer, Chekov was played by Walter Koeing. Last, but not least the alien vulcan was played by Leonard Nimoy.
The network was slightly disturbed about Roddenberry s idea for the multicultural cast, prompting Nichelle Nichols to quote, I didn t know for years the Gene had a great battle over me and George Takei, but mostly me. The network could swallow George because he was male. But female and black they just could not handle. ( Nichelle Nichols from Star Trek; The official fan club ) They were bothered mostly by the fact the Uhura was such a strong female character. There were other black television stars, but all of them were strong male characters. At the time a strong white female was pushing the agenda, but Roddenberry refused to give into the network and Uhura made it onto the series.
The series first episode The Man Trap aired on September ninth, nineteen sixty six.(Star Trek Catalog) It would be the first of only three seasons of episodes. The series had many message episodes. They had episodes speaking out against Vietnam, racism, and many other social issues. No other television series had ever been risky enough or smart enough for that matter to attempt to make statements against these things. However, Star Trek with its futuristic setting was able to pull it off, as well as get the message across to its many viewers.
The series did a few things that no other had done, but the one thing that many people really remember it for is the first interracial kiss. It was supposed to be between Captain Kirk, and Uhura, in their most desperate hour, it would be a final act of passion. The kiss was so controversial that the studio ordered them to cut it out of the script. Gene Roddenberry refused, stating that it was integral to the script. A compromise was reached, they would shoot the take twice. One time, they would kiss in the full view of the camera. The second time, they would turn their bodies as they embraced so Kirk s back was to the camera long before they actually kissed. The network made them air the no kiss shot of the scene. So, technically they did not air the first interracial kiss on Star Trek , but they were the first to ever push for it to be involved in their show.
Due to low ratings, Star Trek would be canceled after a mere three seasons. However, due to its popularity in syndication, Paramount decided to make a Star Trek motion picture. Unlike the television series, the movie would not be constrained by the low budget that Roddenberry was forced to work with. He would have a big money budget, and he would use that money.
In the television series, money constraints never allowed Roddenberry the liberty of making the optical effects for the series much better then a simple airplane model. Roddenberry went out and hired Doug Trumbull to do the work on the film s optical special effects( The Making of Star Trek the Motion Picture). Between the two of them, they came up with many special effect innovations that would be used in the film. They remodeled the actual Enterprise using the state-of-the-art techniques, including newer lightweight plastics instead of the standard Fiberglas making the model weigh a much easier eighty-five pounds. They also created a few new lighting techniques. One interesting one was the idea of self-illumination. Sticking small lights all over the model of the ship like an ocean liner would have.
They also made several innovations in special effects. They took the effects that we saw for the first time in Star Wars , and turned it up a few notches. They made the fights between star vessels more realistic in the film. Instead of the squiggly illustrated lines that were seen in the film, we saw things that actually resembled a laser in this film. In the film, the Enterprise was forced to travel through a wormhole, in the most expensive scene in the film, the makers of the film made space seem to tear open, suck the ship in and spit it out again. That in and of itself would have been easy, but it was the visual as they traveled through the wormhole that was so impressive to viewers. The effects for the film were good enough to earn in an Oscar in the technical division of the awards.
Gene Roddenberry was truly a visionary. His ideas for Star Trek were fresh and new in a stale industry full of cowboys and Indians. The mixing of ethnicities perhaps kick started the practice of doing that sort of casting for all sorts of television series. His color blindness also opened up the doors for many African-American women to start up their own careers, without being forced to play any type of stereotypical role. He did truly travel to the final frontier.
The Final Frontier