Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Quite Wonderful Adventure

It sometimes had odd and marvelous results. A member of the costume design staff showed producer Gene Coon a lumpy little creature he’d created with no particular purpose in mind. Coon loved it, and immediately wrote a story for it. The script was about human miners who didn’t realize the round rocks they were destroying were actually the eggs of these lumpy creatures, the Horta. It was called “Devil in the Dark” and became a landmark episode, a prime illustration of Roddenberry’s credo that “to be different is not to be ugly. To be different is not to be wrong.”

Another likely factor in this productive buzz was a shared understanding and commitment to what Star Trek represented and what it was trying to do. Not everyone could be as eloquent as music composer Gerald Fried, who said of Star Trek, “It touches something mythic, a combination of mythic values and human values, in a way that I don’t think anybody else did.” But many knew that they were part of something different, and a TV series with the unusual ambition of exploring dramatically a point of view about the human soul and its future.

A bonded, adrenalin driven creative group can work wonders when it is committed to the same enterprise, and perhaps that’s why even accidents can turn out fortuitously.

Still, the mystery remains…mysterious. Few stories in the Star Trek saga are more fantastic than the saga of how Star Trek was made, how its universe got off the page, out of the brain, and into flesh and blood, concrete and plywood, and finally, onto film. In finite time and with finite resources (and not ever enough of either), it would, over the years, climb hundreds of times onto that stage between dream and reality that is the halfway house of drama. Even if this grand vision was set into motion because two comics, Lucille O’Ball and Desi Arnaz, needed a way to channeling the overflow of revenue from I Love Lucy, and despite the fact that Lucy seemed to think that Star Trek was going to be a series about celebrities and their glamorous travels.

The mystery remains mysterious but clearly the vision and the magic are the product of many hands, working together like body and spirit, emotions and intelligence combine (according to Thomas Moore) to make soul.

In preparing their book, Inside Star Trek, Herb Solow and Robert Justman talked with many of the people who worked on Star Trek from 1964 to 1969. “ There was one overriding emotion, one common thread present in our conversations,” Solow wrote. “Even with the disappointments of impossible schedules and frazzled relationships, every one of us believed—every one of us insisted---that it was, absolutely, the best time of our lives.”

Or as film editor Fabien Tordjmann said years later, “I must say it was all quite a wonderful adventure. “

It was an adventure that drove people to distraction, and a strain that sent some to the hospital. Producers juggling scripts in process and in production, writers miffed at being rewritten, visual effects artists trying to invent strange new sights on no money, set and prop designers haunting hardware stores, sound designers spending countless hours trying to get just the right “whoosh” for a passing spaceship. And there at the center of the storm, the only people the viewers would see: the actors.

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