The Shuttle Pod Crew Discusses Their Fandom In Celebration Of Star Trek Day

(original image credit: twitter/@roddenberry)

Shuttle Pod 71 – Star Trek Day Celebration

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The Shuttle Pod crew celebrates September 8th with reflections on their early fandom. Join Brian, Jared, Kayla and Matt as they discuss a bit of news that’s come out since the last podcast, and then jump into discussing their earliest memories of Star Trek and how they became Trekkies.

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Star Trek was my childhood. I hold two engineering degrees and a management degree pretty much as a result of TOS nurtured love for science, overcoming challenges and a future where today’s humanity, in a democratic market system, will be free to be diverse and different yet going to learn to work together and succeed in the future. Wagon Train to the Stars, warp speed! (That being said pretty sure via the Fermi Paradox there are no aliens and space exploration will be by expensive risky seedships due to general relativity, but we can always hope! And getting to Titan using pulsed pure-fusion devices, totally achievable!).

Okay Cmd.Bremmon…

I’m sincerely going to ask why you find the “wagon train to the stars” thing so compelling…

And I sincerely wonder what the phrase means to you, because it doesn’t resonate with me in any way that’s positive at all.

You’ve referenced the phrase repeatedly, and as much as I love TOS, I’ve never understood what it has to do with the ‘wagon train’ trope. I’m finding it difficult not to react since you keep bringing it up.

For me, it’s an absolutely wincing 1960s sales pitch that I understood that Roddenberry had come up with to close the sale of TOS to NBC when he was told The Cage was “too cerebral” .

As a Canadian, what ‘wagon train’ means to me is the Oregon Trail. From our perspective, this was an American imperialist policy/agenda to send settlers to Oregon (and Washington) to push out the British trappers and indigenous peoples that they had agreed to share these territories with. It was the precursor of ’54-40 or bust’ and the doctrine of manifest destiny that are historically viewed as very offensive on the Canadian side of the border. It was also a deciding factor in the establishment of Canada as a nation state from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

But my sense, is that it means something altogether different to you that I don’t understand. More, your belief that this is what defines Trek is out of step most of what I’ve heard from other Trek fans.

I spent a good portion of my early adult years as a student in the US at a place that is a leader in science and engineering, and attended regional Trek CreationCons while I was there. So, my knowledge of Trek fandom is arguably as much from the US as Canada.

It would be really helpful if you could use other words to describe what it was in TOS that you feel is missing.

Nothing in TOS was missing, that’s the beauty of TOS. Great stories, characters, it was great!
I am a Canadian. The analog though is fair with history repeating itself getting better every time, this was settlers looking for freedom and prosperity in a new land only this time the “new land” is space (unlimited “land” with no one on it). This was the positive stories of settlers on their own having to face all the hardships and all the discoveries yet building something positive without any of the ethical failings you mention. How cool is that for a final “frontier”???
From the Star Trek writers guide why this worked so well was that Roddenbery wanted this to be a western in space, pro-american, pro-freedom, pro-science, positive, today’s humans could succeed and overcome racism and differences. This was ex-cop TV show writer Roddenbery who used analogs like Kirk was a Vietnam destroyer Captain where making everything relatable was important vs. technobabble.
You just don’t get that positivism anymore, I mean look back on your own post – everyone is racist, America is evil (not like Communist China, Iran or Saudi Arabia?!?), we must live in the past forever…
I’ll take the TOS future any day instead.

I love that you love the show but you take the wagon train to the stars things a little too literally. Its a nice catch phrase but Star Trek is really a lot more than that and more of a marketing gimmick, hence why you never heard it much beyond the first season. And TOS future wasn’t always that bright or they wouldn’t be preparing for war with so many other species in the universe as well, which still continued on through the 24th century although they would eventually be friends with the Klingons in Picard’s day, but plenty of enemies are still out there just like we have them today.

See my post above, and check out Ellison’s introduction to his original teleplay for “The City on the Edge of Forever” for confirmation. “Wagon Train to the Stars” was never anything but a marketing ploy to get the series sold. That’s it. Another early catchphrase, “Horatio Hornblower in space,” was actually much more descriptive and accurate in its way, but I’m guessing that Roddenberry had little faith that most network executives were familiar with the Hornblower character.

Interesting perspective.

I was actually asking what it is in TOS that you believe to be missing in the other Trek series.

For my part, as beloved as TOS was when I saw it in first run, or as a teen on UHF, by the time I was an adult watching TNG, it’s weak points leapt out at me.

Adding another 3 decades of perspective, I can and do appreciate TOS again, with a tinge of nostalgia.

Where we do agree is that the forward joy in exploration and belief in a positive future is where Trek is strongest.

I never found TOS settlers that credible – many of the stories of colony planets were intended to reflect a problem or utopia gone wrong. And the TNG episodes using the same trope were among its weakest.

I would have loved to see more of the positives of Federation outposts, colonies and stations to motivate humans to move out to space.

Oh sorry that’s what TNG was missing for me – the challenges and adventure of heading out into an unexplored untamed frontier despite danger and the unknown being around every corner, far from home. If your in trouble no one can save you but your mates but for the sake of adventure, learning and prosperity they do it anyway. Energy may not be free, everyone else maybe smarter and more advanced but warp speed anyway.
TNG in retrospect was space travel is routine, energy is free, calling Starfleet is like picking up the phone, starships are a dime a dozen, we are sooooo progressive nothing to learn from anyone, all the aliens will learn from us we’re so advanced. Boring (and I’d argue ignorant and self serving).
(Note so desperate for Trek I watched every episode of TNG, only now do I appreciate what a boring waste of time that was. How I wish Nick Meyer got Trek after II, I think we had a better future in Saavik and David Marcus).

I will say that my takeaway from TNG was that Humans were the greatest and most wonderful beings in the entire galaxy. Sure some were smarter, some were stronger, some were omnipotent… But it was Humans who outshone everyone when looking at the complete picture. Humans were more accepting. More progressive. More of every virtue one could possibly think off. And to be honest, I always felt that to be a bit on the arrogant side. In fact, the TNG crew even had the subtext of smugness quite often it seemed to me. I honestly did not see nearly as much of that in the other spinoffs.

Interesting that you feel that way, because Meyer doesn’t really buy into Trek’s concept of a positive future at all, which is probably why his depiction of the Enterprise crew as very flawed and contemporary (if well-intentioned) people, and Starfleet as military organization, appeals to you.

I’d say he doesn’t buy into a utopian future but a future where well-intentioned and flawed people can still succeed. You are right, I find stories with perfect people boring, self-serving and complete unrelatable – good summary.

That was one of the things that disappointed me about Discovery (among many) is that they never stopped in a human outpost which was a staple in TOS and TNG and even done in DS9 and ENT every so often. But in Discovery, it was zip IIRC. I guess that is the problem when the show is so serialized and you only have so many episodes.

I agree with you though about TOS, it was usually the same thing in those stories where something had gone wrong, but I guess that was just the times and obviously you need conflict. I think they just did it too much on TOS.

My friends also (after 10 years I think since it was cancelled) convinced me to watch Firefly, watching that felt like TOS again (crew, danger, the frontier) that totally and instantaneously changed my perspective on post TOS Trek. That and realizing in ENT the writers couldn’t go one hour without peace with the Klingons, phasers on stun and transporters…

I watched Firefly when it aired and even saw Serenity (the movie) in theaters (me and 13 other people lol). I definitely liked it. That felt like more of a true mix of a western in space vibe. I still preferred Star Trek of course but its a shame it never got a bigger audience to go longer than a dozen episodes.

Try watching Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. It isn’t TOS but set it in space and you’d have the best Trek movie ever. Nick Meyer realized that decades earlier (Horacio Hornblower I’m space I think he used) which resulted in ST II.

Seen it several times.

Saw it, and read the books.

Actually felt uncomfortable how hapless the heroic captain was in coping with life on land…

… But it gives insight as to why a character like Kirk’s struggled with relationships away from his ship.

Cmd. Bremmon,

Re: Horatio Hornblower

Actually, Meyer was just picking up on what Roddenberry had already sewed in. Gene often described TOS as “Horatio Hornblower in space.” But I thought you already knew that??

Yes even Patrick Stewart said when he got the part of Picard the first thing Roddenberry gave him was a set of Horatio Hornblower books to follow as part of his character. Roddenberry clearly saw that type of adventurer in TOS and TNG even if less so in TNG.

Yes, I know 60s Roddenbery talked “Horatio Hornblower in space” but feel that was lost by 90s Roddenberry who often then fought with Nick Meyer and Harve Bennett who seemed to embrace it. They then I think out-did Roddenbery. Some of the best scenes you can see are a direct result of Meyer embracing it… I want to see crew members rushing to man the torpedo tubes, I want crews in uniforms with ranks, I want to see tactical maps, etc. I actually think Trek hit the peak with the Genesis Arc… sometimes I think had Spock stayed dead and Meyer did III where would it have gone? Saavik and David Marcus I think were opening the door for new stories, we got to read some of that in the DC comics.

There were actually very, very few TOS stories set on colony planets. I wish there had been more, frankly.

Funny how ‘Wagon Train to the stars’ has become better remembered than the actual show Wagon Train.

Haha Yes, the only reason why I know about that awesome show (I was born in 81) is due to the Star Trek writers guide (I have some book on the writing of TOS, highly recommend it even if I can’t remember the name) and being like “what is wagon train??!?!” Why is everyone so excited with it being like Wagon train but in space???

TG47… This is not meant to be argumentative and the intent here is not provoking in any way. (But here comes the part that might feel like it is being just that) I feel compelled to say that what you wrote is such an amazingly negative way to put the sales pitch for TOS. The “Wagon Train to the stars” thing is referring to entertainment and excitement on a TV show. Not the deep seeded social implications or even the real life atrocities associated with the settling of the American western frontier. I thought that was pretty obvious just based on the context of how the phrase is used and am really surprised at your reaction.

Hi ML31…

I get that the wagon train idea is a resonant part of the American myth…

But I never could see how it connected in any way to what TOS was about. Not exciting at all. Nothing to do with exploring new space and civilizations.

As I said, it just sounded like a pitch for the network execs, and by all reports that is precisely what it was.

So, I really have been taken aback how often Cmd. Bremmon has tried to say that all would be well if Trek could get back to this concept.

And I think that Kurtzman (who’s generally sensitive to things) referenced the wagon train in one of the interviews or featurettes, recently.

The thing is that it’s an unfortunate choice of sales pitch and it would, in my view best be forgotten. If it doesn’t convey what TOS is, and offends people, why revive it?

It’s hard for anyone to know how a myth or trope will come across outside your nation or culture. All the more reason, to be cautious in employing one.

Canadians usually shrug about the American take on our shared history, but some of these touch points of American culture are very negative here. In the case of the Oregon Trail, the loss of the two territories was a sufficient lesson to have the British colony of Victoria join the mainland to create British Columbia, and subsequently the colony of British Columbia join Confederation and then for Canada to build a transcontinental railway. It’s a fundamental cornerstone of our history that most of us get in high school. It’s interesting that Cmd. Bremmon doesn’t have the same reaction.

Even Harlan Ellison, no fan of the Great Bird, recalled Roddenberry and himself laughing over the “Wagon Train” trope. It was a shuck and jive to get Roddenberry’s concept past the suits, who knew from nothing but westerns and cop shows. That’s all it ever was, and nothing more.

With all due respect: we all appreciate and share your love of Trek, but could live without the political diatribes, comrade.

The book I referenced somewhere above was “The Making of Star Trek” by Stephen E Whitfield. I totally recommend it. Has sooo much history, so much of what makes TOS so special comes out in that book.

Star Trek inspired me as a young boy! It definitely motivated me to explore as much as I could and understand all the various cultures that live on this planet today and why I managed to live in five countries and traveled in nearly 50 of them now. I always loved Trek’s sense of exploration and wondering what the future would be like. While I think some Trek is better than others (like my favorites TNG and DS9) end of the day I consider them all my children, some just better behaved than others! I’m really excited for the future of Trek and can’t wait until Picard comes around, easily the most excited I been about Trek in decades! But honestly it all excites me and can’t wait to see how Trek boldly goes again (first time since Voyager) in 2020 and beyond.

I was born in 1974, so TNG was on when I was in high school and early college. I realized I was a big time Trekkie in my senior year of high school, mostly through TNG. I had watched the animated series on Nickelodeon back in the 1980s and I watched the Voyage Home a few times, but TNG made me a Trekkie. Not only that, but Star Trek was on ALL THE TIME in the 1990s! I remember watching a TNG rerun at 5:00, TOS at 6:00, new TNG at 8:00, then a TNG rerun at 9:00, and TOS again at 11:00 every Tuesday! And then a similar schedule on Thursdays except it was DS9 on at 8:00. I majored in physics and almost every student in the program was a Star Trek fan. I really miss the amount of Star Trek that was on in the 1990s.

After I got married I talked my new wife to go to Las Vegas to visit the Experience. And I am so glad I got to go.

Star Trek is awesome.

VZX you’ve made a good point on why streaming isn’t enough to build the fan-base.

Our kids first got into Trek with the TAS dvd set, but as soon we introduced them to all the TV series which are on Monday through Friday on Space channel in Canada (recently renamed CTV Sci-fi Channel).

With 5 hours of Trek broadcast daily (and recorded by the PVR) our middle-graders have become pretty serious fans.

We were born the same year! :)

And I always said TOS is what made me a fan from the beginning but TNG made me a fanatic. It was new and it was when I was still a kid myself and talked about it at school with all my other friends. Every week we would watch an episode and then come to school an hour early just to talk about it lol. Great times! Thats what got me to my first convention in the 90s and remember meeting Patrick Stewart and William Shatner. When DS9 came on I was already in college but I had a new set of friends I would watch that with in university together. It wasn’t as popular as TNG but plenty of people definitely watched it.

And yes a few of us did the Star Trek Experience as well together. Its sad that didn’t last too long but it was almost a Mecca for Trek fans everywhere.

I’m envious of fans who remember the exact moment and exact episode they became a Trekkie. It was always just playing in our house. TNG was on a constant loop almost. And if it wasn’t playing on a local station, I would pop in a VHS. I taped every episode from TV – and labeled them all. Had them stacked in a cabinet, making them look like big isolinear chips, hehe.

My first “exact moment” was when, at 5 or 6 years old, I was watching Desilu’s FIRST RUN of TOS on NBC, and it was the episode “Mudd’s Women.” My parents had always instilled in me, from a very early age, to believe in myself and the world would be mine (or words to that effect), so when — after Mudd and the 3 women taking the Venus Drug (steroids for women, we presume) nearly killed the crew aboard the Enterprise with no working “lithium” crystals in a decaying orbit — Kirk found a way to save the day, and the ladies traveling with Harry Mudd…. Eve took the fake drug and still had her transformation; Kirk then showed tremendous compassion and love, as he then said to her, There’s only one kind of woman (–with Mudd interjecting “…Or man, for that matter…” –) – you either believe in yourself, or you don’t.” That single statement, said in love for WHO she really was, satisfied the entire storyline, and I instantly whipped around to see my parents smiling and pointing to the TV set: remember that, son, they said. Gene Roddenberry hooked me that evening: that single line spoken by Shatner made me a fan, and I tuned in every week afterwards to see what Kirk and his crew would do next for those they encountered! And I have loved every moment of ALL the ‘Trek series since!

Rhett it sounds like we’re of an age.

For me it was Devil in the Dark.

I was frightened of the Horta, and thought the story would be just another like the 1950s monster movies that ran on border stations after school hours.

But when Spock mind-melded with the Horta and came to understand her perspective, that her eggs were being removed and destroyed, I was delighted and awed.

That message of reaching out to understand beings far different from ourselves, to solve problems with communication rather than force, struck me profoundly. I don’t think it’s to much to say that it became part of my moral centre.

Devil in the Dark is one of my favorites too.

Thanks for sharing, TG47 and Rhett.

I cannot recall exactly when I first saw an episode. As far as I can recall I was watching the show in syndication for as far back as I can remember. It was on KTVU at varying times on weekday afternoons between 3:30 and 6pm. All I remember is being amazed by what I saw. By the time my memory is solid I recall watching it every afternoon. And I do recall watching TAS first run Saturday mornings. Which I absolutely ate up as they were on when I was 8 years old.

I recall starting to read the Star Trek logs, not knowing they were adaptions of TAS and being amazingly disappointed that it was just the novelization of the episodes that I had already saw.

Regarding conventions, I recall being very excited to see that one was coming to my home town of Santa Cruz. This was like 1978 I think because TMP was already announced and being worked on at the time. Alan Dean Foster was there and Walter Koenig. But overall my feeling was it was mainly a bunch of vendors selling what I deemed to be mostly garbage. So I had a negative feeling towards these things for quite some time. It was many years before I went to another. But still have yet to get to Vegas. Maybe next year…

I recall KTVU usually had it on at 6, because KNTV 11 had it on at 4, and I’d have to kill time watching BONANZA till round 2. And then MISSION IMPOSSIBLE was on at 7. No wonder I never got any homework done!

I honestly do not recall it being on other stations until much later, Kmart. But it was quite some time ago and I very well could just not be recalling.

Thanks for mentioning TAS ML31!

It seems like a lot of us who are longtime fans saw TAS in it’s brief on season run of Saturday mornings.

I’m not up on the story of its cancellation, but it’s Emmy shows that it was well received in the industry.

The way our kids took to it as primary graders 40 years later, shows a level of transcendence over time and fashion that few children’s series have reached.

So, I’d really like to put to be the notion that it’s not real Trek or not canon.

I’m really pleased that Kurtzman has successfully sold CBS on Trek for a younger audience. However, I’d really like to see Kurtzman, and the official Trek site give more credit to TAS.

And a shout out to Mike McMahon for respecting TAS, and bringing back Caitians.

To this day I’ve never seen a single episode of TAS lol. Just never caught my attention. But yes I know I should give a watch and probably will in time.

TAS is a genuine continuation of TOS. The stories are the same depth as TOS written by several of the same people. The Dorothy Fontana episode “Yesteryear” is a masterpiece. David Gerrold wrote a satisfying tribble episode. Roger Carmel returns for another appearance of Harry Mudd (his voice at least).

Uhura is an essential character is several of the episodes and gets more to do than in many TOS episodes. With the exception of Chekov the main original cast is back playing themselves, and their characters are served very well by the stories.

Some people are put off by the animation. Some of it IS shoddy, but some of it is really fun. The characters really look like the actors, and there are some cool new characters like Arex the Edosian helmsman and M’ress the Catian communications officer. The designers and special effects crews of some of the later Trek series used some of the designs from TAS in the live action shows.

I’ve always felt that a number of TAS episodes would have made excellent live action shows. Sure, the animation was cheap. I even noticed it when I was 8. But many of the stories were awfully compelling.

BTW… Koenig even wrote the episode “The Infinite Vulcan.” To this day I do not know why Chekov was not in TAS. Anyone?

Budget. At first they weren’t going to bring back Nichelle Nichols or George Takei either, but Nimoy said that he would not make the show without them. Unfortunately Koenig got the short end of the budget stick. He got to write an episode as a consolation prize.

I do recall the story that the plan was for Doohan to voice most of the other male roles but Nimoy said he wouldn’t do it if the others weren’t involved. Doohan ended up voicing the bulk of the recurring characters and Takei even did a few besides Sulu. Ted Knight did a guest voice once, too. Odd that Nimoy’s ultimatum did not include Koenig.

The Chekov character was an Ivan come lately addition which I believe they only got the budget for the hire because Takei was going to be absent for THE GREEN BERETS filming. So Walter lacked seniority, especially compared to Leonard.

Had a longer post, but I think the site ate it. Tl;can’t read, TMP was my first Trek, saw it in the theatre again this week, wow. Now if only the projectionist weren’t deaf…