In April 2017 I sat down, having planned for many years to do so, to systematically rewatch Star Trek, the original series, that ran from 1966 to 1969. I was 10 years old when the series debuted, and I saw most of the episodes when they were first broadcast (albeit in black and white), and the show had a great and lasting influence on me. When the show went into syndication (that is, reruns shown by local TV stations typically five nights a week) in 1969, I became obsessed with the show, catching up on episodes I’d missed, and compiling notes on each episode, e.g. the stardate(s), names of any guest crew members, names of planets, and so on, as my own personal concordance. I read James Blish’s adaptations and Stephen Whitfield’s THE MAKING OF STAR TREK over and over.
This obsession lasted only a few years; by the time I was in college, at UCLA, I’d discovered literary SF, both in magazines and books. While my fondness for Trek never wavered, it was no longer the focus of my attention. (For a more detailed account of my personal history… see this post: http://www.markrkelly.com/Blog/2017/04/03/about-to-re-watch-star-trek/)
And so decades later I decided to revisit the show, with an eye both nostalgic and critical. So I acquired the recent Blu-Ray set of 2009 remastered episodes put out by CBS. And I discovered the set of three books by Marc Cushman, THESE ARE THE VOYAGES, just published beginning in 2013, that document, in exhaustive detail, the history of the production of all three seasons of Trek. Furthermore, as a fan of musical scores, I was pleased to discover the exhaustive CD boxed set of the complete Trek music, from La La Lands, just released in 2013, as well as an earlier 1999 book by Jeff Bond, THE MUSIC OF STAR TREK. The Cushman books especially, and the CD set of Trek music, made this revisit of Trek’s episode far more rewarding than a revisit only five years ago would have been.
So in this revisit of Trek TOS, I’m writing detailed comments about each and every episode – so far, just of the first season. My comments run along several general themes:
- Considering the episodes at face value, to what extent do they make sense, or not?
- Considering my slightly dicey history of seeing the original series, mostly in syndication when I was a teenager, would there be scenes in the complete episodes that I would not recognize, because they had always been cut from the syndicated reruns that were the only versions I ever saw?
- Considering Cushman’s books, what insights into the production process, especially how early drafts of the stories changed, or how the results were affected by post-production, might influence my understanding of the final episodes?
- Considering James Blish’s ‘novelizations’ (or ‘episode short story adaptations’ to be more accurate), how do they reveal changes in stories from earlier scripts, or did Blish in some cases make improvements on the original scripts?
- Considering what I call ‘intuitive physics’ (or ‘Trek physics’ and ‘Trek astronomy’), how did Trek’s portrayal of the physical and astronomical universe reveal the protocols of storytelling, or simply sloppiness by the producers and writers, in ways that betrayed actual scientific understanding? (The prime if almost trivial example being why the Enterprise makes a swooshing noise as it flies by, in the opening credits.)
- Considering the era in which Trek was made, how did cultural values of the time, especially the roles of the sexes, and also the presence of physical violence, justify what we see in those episodes that would not be considered appropriate today?
- Considering Trek’s music, with so many themes that became familiar without always identifying themselves to any particular episodes, how would study of the ultimate CD soundtrack set, and Jeff Bond’s book, inform understanding of how those themes were created and developed?
- Considering the remastered episodes – in which the special effects of the 1960s were updated to the special effects of 2009 or so – would they truly be improvements, in the sense of correcting the astronomical and physics errors of the original productions?
Above is a photo showing my legacy Trek books by Blish, Whitfield, and Gerrold, with the new resources used for these posts. Here are links for the new resources:
- Star Trek: The Complete Original Series -Seasons 1-3, on Blu-ray: https://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Complete-Original-Seasons/dp/B002PQ7JQK/
- Marc Cushman, THESE ARE THE VOYAGES: TOS: SEASON ONE https://www.amazon.com/These-Are-Voyages-TOS-Season/dp/0989238105/
- Star Trek: The Original Series Soundtrack Collection (Seasons 1-3) https://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Original-Soundtrack-Collection/dp/B00AMRKLLY/
- La-La Land Records order page and description: http://www.lalalandrecords.com/Site/STTOS.html (this page includes complete track listings, with a few audio samples)
- Jeff Bond, THE MUSIC OF STAR TREK, https://www.amazon.com/Music-Star-Trek-Jeff-Bond/dp/1580650120/