The GullCottage  / sandlot
                            Online Film Magazine / Library / Network 
       

                        Celebrating the Art of Cinema, ... and Cinema as Art


                                                                                         

Your Subtitle text
pg. 3

THE INHERENT POWER OF GENRE - PT. 2
GROWING PAINS - THE 1960S, "TWILIGHT ZONE" AND "STAR TREK"

Site Search Index:

 Chapel and Spock
     Similarly Spock and Nurse Chapel (who always had the hots for Spock) are forced to kiss as well, and she expresses a similar sentiment to the Vulcan First Officer upon their lip locking.  It also has to be noted that not enough has been said about Shatner’s contribution to the inter-racial kiss scene even existing at all.  Shatner would get a lot of flack from critics (and even TREK fans) for the more clichéd aspects of his Kirk persona, but not enough praise for the sense of “every man-ness” which helped bring TREK down out of the stars of it’s lofty expectations and into the hearts of an every-day populace who simply "enjoyed being around these characters".  A consummate actor of stage and screen, Shatner well knows the particular medium in which he happens to be performing.  And with this knowledge he’s always managed to  manipulate said medium (sometimes subtly; some times not so subtly) to achieve a desired result.  Never was this innate knowledge and manipulation more evident than in the famous “kiss” scene.  Upon first filming it, episode director DAVID ALEXANDER knew from the get-go it could prove problematic in America’s conservative Deep South.  NBC execs (already reeling from protests when PETULA CLARK touched the arm of HARRY BELEFONTE in a music special earlier that year, and remembering the uproar when SAMMY DAVIS, JR. gave NANCY SINATRA a small peck during her 1967 Christmas broadcast) were summoned to the set.  They ordered the scene to be re-shot without the kiss.  Shatner was incensed but acquiesced … at least on the surface.  Without even the director noticing, Shatner did the scene as ordered, but at the end glanced into the camera and crossed his eyes, ruining the shot.  It wasn’t till after the crew had moved on to other set ups that the ruined footage was viewed in dailies.  With television’s quick turnaround shooting-then-almost-immediately-broadcasting schedule, there was no choice but to use the un-ruined footage containing the (to some) infamous kiss. 

 
     Nichelle Nichols was glad to have stayed on the series long enough to be a participant in this piece of cultural history.  It very much fulfilled the prediction of one of STAR TREK’s biggest fans, the REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.  As related in this month’s companion article, THE DESILU STORY,  Nichols, already an accomplished vocalist lauded for her work with DUKE ELLINGTON and LIONAL HAMPTON, earlier in the series run had felt the Uhura character was being under used, so she penned a resignation letter.  It was then Dr. King revealed to her that the show was a favorite of his


                                                                                                                                                                Nichols circa 1967
                     Uhura
and his family for numerous reasons, not the least of which was that by Nichols merely being seen as an intelligent woman of color in a position of authority (during a time most barely had acting roles above maids and nannies) she and the show were effecting change which could never be reversed.  By simply showing this in the context of an entertaining adventure format and not preaching it, this positive image was one step closer towards becoming the norm accepted by popular culture … which was Roddenberry’s intent from inception.


THE ONCE AND FUTURE “TREK”:


STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT
     As did THE TWILIGHT ZONE, so would STAR TREK also see numerous future incarnations:  four television series with different casts,  two series of feature films (one with the cast of the original TREK and one featuring the “NEXT GENERATION” crew headed by PATRICK STEWART) and a 2010 re-boot from ALIAS and LOST creator J.J. Abrams which cleverly (or sacrilegiously … depending on one’s view) shifted younger versions of the original series characters into an alternate timeline.  Amongst the TV TREKs, certainly the most maligned by die-hard fans was STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE, which ran on UPN (United Paramount Network) from Sept. 2001 - May '05.  Detailing the adventures of human kind’s first Warp 5 Starship - the first Enterprise,  ten years before the formation of the iconic United Federation of Planets (a peaceful intergalactic U.N.-like assemblage), it starred QUANTUM LEAP’s SCOTT BAKULA as the wide-eyed, gung-ho, eager-to-plunge-into-the-vast-expanse-of-the-universe Capt. Jonathan Archer, son of the engineer who created the ship’s legendary engines.  While perhaps justifiably dissed as Paramount’s “last ditch attempt to wring a few more bucks out it’s staple franchise”,  the series did briefly recapture that Roddenberry/Serling-like “magic of social relevance” with season three’s opening episode “THE XINDI”.




     The subsequent plotline (deliberately referencing the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center) forced "ultimate Boy Scout" Archer (who even brought his dog along during the first two seasons) to re-evaluate his belief in “the basic good of the universe” after the extraterrestrial Xindi attack Earth in the year 2153, killing 7 million innocents, and his Enterprise is charged with entering enemy territory to prevent another such strike.  The action was ramped up considerably with the addition of the Navy Seal-like MACOs (Military Assault Command Operations) special forces unit.  And in one (still controversial among fans) sequence Archer, on the verge of going Clint Eastwood “Dirty Harry”-style, shoves a Xindi into an airlock,  threatening to blow him into decompression lest he give up the info Archer requires.  In this genre parallel to the real life debate over waterboarding torture in particular and the U.S. Guantanamo Bay facility in general, ENTERPRISE emerged as one of the medium’s best examples of Stephen King’s “’B’ Move as Tabloid Editorial” in quite some time.  And as such the much dumped-upon series deserves at least a few well earned props.   
    

Archer contemplates "The Xindi" (Sept. '03)
Archer

     Of similar mind, Gene Roddenberry and Rod Serling became friends and admirers of one another’s iconic series.  Upon Serling’s death Roddenberry would say:


     “No one could  know Serling, or view or read his work, without recognizing his deep affection for humanity, his sympathetically enthusiastic curiosity about us, and his determination to enlarge our horizons by giving us a better understanding of ourselves . He dreamed of much for us, and demanded much of himself, perhaps more than was possible for either in this time and place. But it is that quality of dreams and demands that makes the ones like Rod Serling rare . . . and always irreplaceable”.  

     In 1972, Serling (his own worst critic) would say:


     “I’ve pretty much spewed out everything I have to say, none of which has been particularly monumental.  I’ve written articulate stuff, reasonably bright stuff over the years, but nothing that will stand the test of time.  The good writing - like wine - has to age well with the years and my stuff is momentarily adequate”.  


     Thankfully, in this respect time has proven Serling wrong, as his and Roddenberry’s contributions to culture have proven a delight to not only legions of genre fans, but to any and all proponents and practitioners of social relevancy through the arts. 


     As the decade of the 1960s closed, two major upheavals would influence cinema throughout the 70s.  First - a breakdown in the Hollywood studio system would allow a number of radical filmmakers to realize projects which (as STAR WARS creator GEORGE LUCAS would say) “they never would have gotten the chance to do otherwise”.  Partially inspired by the barrier breaking socio-political success of material like TWILIGHT ZONE and STAR TREK, non genre films such as EASY RIDER, THE GRADUATE, GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER, MIDNIGHT COWBOY and BILLY JACK would bring their similar themes “back to earth” for a young generation dissatisfied with their parent’s social status quo.  However when some of these “important and serious” films encountered protests and attempted censorship, a new slate of genre projects would once again step up, take up the mantle and bring the same messages incognito to middle America.  But it was a different America ...


Two outcasts running from fate unravel the truth of Earth's tragic past in LOGAN'S RUN (1976)


       More cynical, as corporate and Watergate-like political corruption had robbed the populace of it's once trusting nature.   More aware as religious revival movements and the infusion of Eastern philosophy began to supplant the previous decade's drug culture.  And more environmentally conscious as fears of over population, energy shortages, nuclear contamination and the depletion of natural resources forced their way to the forefront of media debate.   Movies like 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, PLANET OF THE APES, SOYLENT GREEN, ROLLERBALL, ZARDOZ, SILENT RUNNING and LOGAN'S RUN would become the first environmentally conscious "Green" cinema epics.  And their influence would reverberate for the next 40 years.   


To Be Continued ...
   
Pg. 1, 2, 3
Website Builder