THE ORIGINAL SERIES
I have a very early memory of “Star Trek” when it first aired in the mid-1960’s. I would have been seven or eight years old. It’s a hazy memory of watching a terrifying red cloud menace Captain Kirk on a planet’s surface. Many years later, when the episodes came on TV in syndication, I watched for that scene for years, to the point where I wondered if I had imagined it. But finally an episode called “Obsession” came on, and there it was. I think the channel I was watching had only had the rights to Seasons 1 and 3 for awhile, because this was one of many Season 2 episodes I hadn’t seen. I didn’t find it quite as terrifying as an adult, but I could see how it had been scary to younger me.
I loved the original series for a long time. Almost 50 years later (can that be possible?!), many of the episodes look cheesy and corny. The overacting is laughable, even iconic now, for Shatner’s part. The stories are sometimes goofy. And yet, and yet. This was an amazing, groundbreaking show for its time. Gene Roddenberry had the awesome idea of addressing social issues that could not yet be openly spoken about through science fiction stories. Quite a few of the stories still move me. Others make me laugh, sometimes because they meant to. Although the later “Treks” have far surpassed the first in almost every way, original Star Trek will always have a place in my heart.
Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura, was the first original series star to take the stage at the convention. She is still a petite, slender lady, but she is clearly aging. Her hair is grey, and her memory had to be jogged frequently by her interviewer. She told a few stories and talked about her charitable work. (I was impressed by how many of the actors are involved with, and promoted, a wide range of charitable organizations.)
Paul cracked the whip and made me get up early Friday morning to see Grace Lee Whitney onstage. Grace played the sexy, checkerboard-haired Yeoman Rand in the first season of the original series. Captain Kirk’s onboard love interest. That character vanished after the first season, for reasons undisclosed at the time. Rumors swirled, and it was interesting to hear the story from Grace herself. According to her, she was sexually assaulted by an unnamed man related to the show, and found herself without a job the next day. The humiliation and financial loss caused her to spiral into years of drug and alcohol addiction. She proudly announced onstage that she has now been clean and sober for 31 years. Grace is 82, the oldest living member of the original series cast - she has six months on William Shatner. Like Shatner, she certainly doesn’t look her age.
George Takei and Walter Koenig (Sulu and Chekhov) came onstage together. They are clearly old friends, and it was a pleasure hearing them talk and joke together. Walter is currently writing a series of graphic novels, available for pre-order on amazon.com. George will soon appear in a play near to his heart, “Allegiance,” about Japanese-Americans in internment camps during WWII. George spent time in such a camp himself as a child.
I have followed George on Facebook for quite a long time now. He is a smart, funny man. I was excited to have the opportunity to get my picture taken with him. When I walked in for the photo op I was wearing a T-shirt that said “Who’s Your Captain?” George saw it and said “So who IS your captain?” I said “You, of course!” (Sulu became a Captain in one of the Star Trek feature films.) He laughed, and, as you can see, pointed at the question on my shirt in our photo.
Jack got George’s autograph, and he reported the following conversation:
George: Are you enjoying the convention?
Jack: Yes. It’s my first one.
George: Oh myyyyyy!
George: Where are you from?
Jack: St. Louis.
George: Well then, you’ve been on quite a trek yourself!
William Shatner, Captain Kirk, came onstage on the last day of the convention as part of “The Four Captains Live On Stage!” He talked a little bit, answered a few questions, then took part in the four captains’ panel. It’s clear that the love of his life is his horses.
I had signed up for an autograph with William Shatner for one reason: because Paul had given me, some time ago, a little book called “Captain Kirk’s Guide to Women,” and we all thought it would be great to get William Shatner to sign it. So I stood in a very long line (Shane stood in it for me for awhile) and got that (quite illegible) signature. I was told that Shatner signed 800 autographs in one hour’s time. That breaks down to one every four seconds, I believe. So there was no conversation. He signed, I said “thanks,” he smiled. That’s ok. He’s not my Captain.
To be continued ... coming up, The Next Generation.