Friday, September 08, 2006

40 years ago today...


Captain Kirk, Mr Spock and Dr McCoy - and the starship USS Enterprise - were introduced to US audiences in the first "Star Trek" episode to air on television, "The Man Trap".

Since I was born in December 1958, I am certainly old enough to have seen the first episode to air Down Under (and I certainly saw the first ever episodes of "Batman", "Captain Nice", "Mister Terrific", "Please Don't Eat the Daisies", "The Flying Nun", "Julia", and other shows of that era, on their premiere nights), but my paternal grandmother owned the household's b/w TV - and she kept it in a separate lounge room. We had to be on our best behaviour to watch TV. Unfortunately for me, Nanny wasn't interested in watching "Star Trek" that night, and the phenomenon slipped past me for almost a decade.

Here in Sydney, I believe the premiere episode was the second pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before". Although NBC in the US wanted to kick off the series with a B.E.M. ("bug-eyed monster") show, supposedly the Salt Vampire was declared too scary for the children of New South Wales. "The Man Trap" didn't end up getting aired at all in that first prime time run in Sydney - and a friend (Karen Lewis and her then-husband, John) capitalized on this a decade later by screening a 16mm colour print of "The Man Trap" to Sydney-based "Star Trek" fans, to raise funds for the running of "Aussietrek", the first big Australian "Star Trek" convention.

A few months after the premiere of "Star Trek" in Australia, everyone seemed to know that Mr Spock existed, of course. Kids at school collected the bubblegum cards, fired pretend phasers at each other in the playground - and our Year 5 teacher (in 1969) ran a "Star Trek Chart" to record our weekly dictation and spelling results with gummed paper stars. Metallic gold star = no mistakes; coloured star = one mistake.

My first strong Kirk, Spock, McCoy (and Arex) memories are of TAS - the animated version of "Star Trek" by Filmation, which aired on Saturday mornings in the 70s. And the DVDs for that show are due at the end of the year. (Not so coincidentally, TAS premiered in the USA on this same day in 1973. Although not in Los Angeles - poor ol' George Takei was running as a candidate in a local government election, and had TAS ran as the intended episode that morning, featuring the distinctive voice of Mr Sulu at the helm of the animated Enterprise, his political opponents could have demanded "equal time"!)

Tomorrow night, I'm having a small get-together with a handful of "Star Trek" friends, most met quite recently via the Internet. We'll move on from a bar in Darling Harbour, to a restaurant for dinner, and then on to one member's inner city abode to watch "Star Trek" DVDs in an all-night vigil (or until some of us end up snoring off...)

A far cry from my days with ASTREX (1980 to the early 1990s), when we could rely on many of our several hundred club members to turn up to anniversary functions.

"Happy Anniversary!" "Live long and prosper." And "Thiptho lapth!"

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