Lost in Space
Even the most ardent Trekker hasn’t seen all the “Star Trek” that was conceived: Many ideas never made it past the drawing board.
In the ‘70s, a variety of incarnations were broached then aborted. “Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry concocted a couple of movie ideas, one titled “The God Thing,” in which the Enterprise crew took on God, who turned out to be something of a bad guy. Sulu was killed and Spock maimed or worse; the core of this idea was tinkered with and eventually became “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.”
Another film script was a wild time-travel adventure, with the Enterprise heroes trying to keep the fabric of time from unraveling and meeting Einstein, Hitler and Churchill along the way. One version reportedly had Spock responsible for the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
An abandoned TV series, “Star Trek: Phase II,” was considered briefly in the ‘70s, as well. The cast would be reunited except for Leonard Nimoy as Spock, as Roddenberry and Nimoy had not gotten along too famously during the first series and Roddenberry had reneged on a promise to cast the actor in a pilot for a series he was trying to get off the ground. Moreover, Nimoy was suing Paramount for using his image for merchandising purposes without his permission.
Spock would appear in but two of the projected 13 episodes, to be replaced by an actor named David Gautreaux as a Vulcan named Xon--Gautreaux had been introduced to the press, and a party was even thrown in anticipation of the series. But William Shatner theorized that other characters were being brought in so that Kirk would be eased out, and Nimoy’s firm refusal prevented the series from becoming a reality.
Harve Bennett, who produced the second through fifth “Trek” films, was developing for the studio “Star Trek VI: The Early Years,” focusing on Kirk and Spock’s days as teens enrolled in the Starfleet Academy. Dr. McCoy joins the academy to forget his past and venture into space; Kirk lost his true love, revealing why he would become such an inveterate, commitment-shy womanizer. Shatner and Nimoy would have provided wraparound narration, and Bennett had even extended offers to John Cusack to play the young Spock and Ethan Hawke to play the tousle-haired Kirk.
The project was scrapped when it was decided that, for “Trek’s” 25th anniversary, the original cast would be reunited one last time in the sixth film. Still, the idea has not completely died: “I’d make it in a minute if I had a chance,” Bennett says today.
Pain in the Masks
Makeup is a fact of life, however unpleasant, for many in “Star Trek” casts.
“I would have spent approximately 4,000 hours of my life under latex rubber,” says Robert Picardo, who auditioned for the role of Neelix on “Star Trek: Voyager.” Instead, he was cast as the holographic Doctor. “It’s that hairbreadth of fate that has given me back 4,000 hours of my life,” he says now, clearly relieved.
Fate has not been so kind to others, though. Michael Dorn almost had to quit the series because his Klingon makeup raised welts on his skin, and Armin Shimerman, who plays Quark, the Ferengi with ears that rival Ross Perot’s, reports, “Inside the head of almost 95% of all generic Ferengi masks, there are no ear pockets, so your ears are pinned to the sides of your head for 12 to 16 hours. That gets excruciating after about eight hours, really excruciating.
“When I got the job, I said, ‘You’ve got to do something about this,’ and they sculpted ear pockets into the head. . . . But the makeup has been tenfold more hard than I thought it would be.”
Language Barrier I
Another challenge for the performers, though less physically taxing, is managing to speak all the “techno-babble” the writers conceive for the programs.
“This is the biggest mouthful I’ve had in perhaps three seasons,” Kate Mulgrew, who stars as Capt. Kathryn Janeway on “Star Trek: Voyager,” says while paging through her script. “See if you can wrap your head around this one: ‘Tuvok, lock phasers on their nearest ship. If we can destroy one of them, there’s every chance the interferometric pulse that links them will cause a chain reaction. Modulate our shield frequency to an inverse harmonic of the pulse. That should allow the phasers to hit the ship.’ You know what I mean?
“I’ve asked for physics lessons. It’s imperative. It’s absolutely key to me and to the core group of the bridge that we understand the rudiments of this language, which is all based in science. The only way to endow these scenes and lift them up is to understand these lines. Even if you don’t get it as an audience, the fact that you know I do makes you relax and embrace what’s going on. The techno-babble is key to the success of ‘Star Trek.’ Because most of these science-fiction minds out there love it, so it’s a real hook.”
A Real Brew-haha
Leonard Nimoy’s lawsuit with Paramount began over a Heineken beer ad that appeared on billboards in England. Henry Fonda pointed out the ubiquitous ads to him while they were visiting London. On the billboard, there were three images of Spock: The first showed his famous pointy ears drooping; the second had Spock sipping a beer, his ears at half-mast; and the third featured Spock with an empty mug and fully erect ears.
Upon returning to Los Angeles, Nimoy discovered that Paramount had actually nixed the ad campaign but that the advertiser had gone ahead anyway. Nonetheless, Nimoy’s attorney discovered that his contract with the series forbade the studio to use his image after the show had been canceled, an agreement that had been ignored many times over with sundry products.
Today, one of a scant few pieces of “Trek” memorabilia in Nimoy’s home is a reproduction of that Heineken ad.
Language Barrier II
In the original series, Klingons looked pretty much like regular guys with burnt-sienna makeup rubbed on their faces. In the films and later series, their vertebrae extended over the tops of their skulls. Was a reason ever given? Michael Dorn, who plays the Klingon Worf on the “Next Generation” series and films, responds: “No, they just had more money in the budget for makeup.”
Other Klingon factoids: Dorn bought a “Star Trek” English-to-Klingon translation dictionary to figure out what was going on. “I got an idea what they were about, but that was it,” he says. “After the first year, I threw the book out and said, ‘Whatever they put in front of me, that’s what I say.’ On ‘Next Generation,’ we had a rule--whoever says the Klingon word first, that’s how you pronounce it through the whole series.”
How much Klingon does Dorn know? “Hardly any. I don’t know people versed in it. [Fans] used to have a Klingon Language Camp. Where they spoke Klingon, played baseball in Klingon, did the whole thing in Klingon. Of course, I steered clear of the entire state they held it in.”
--Compiled by David Kronke