As the latest Star Trek movie beams Kirk, Spock and co back onto British cinema screens, we look at some of the facts, figures and faces associated with five decades of the beloved TV and cinema science fiction franchise.
A IS FOR ANORAK The likely attire of the person who one day decided: “I know, I’ll transcribe onto my website the full scripts for every one of the 80 episodes in the first three series of Star Trek. And when I’m finished, I’ll do the same for the 22 episodes of the animated series which followed.” If you are keen, you will find it.
B IS FOR BEAM ME UP, SCOTTY This was an instruction made to engineer Scotty when Captain Kirk required transportation back to the spaceship. But although the phrase found a place in the heart of popular culture, to be used whenever someone is trying to escape from a sticky situation, the irony is that this exact order of words was never spoken in any Star Trek episode or film.
C IS FOR COMMUNICATOR When the first series aired on television, the hand-held flip-top communicating device did indeed look space age, fit for the 23rd century. But it only took 30 years for the flip-top mobile phone to become a reality. It’s just the transmission of the physical body we need to do a bit of work on.
D IS FOR DR LEONARD MCCOY The chief medical officer is known as “Bones”, short for “sawbones” – slang for a surgeon. His main catchphrase is “He’s dead, Jim”. His other catchphrase is “Dammit Jim! I’m a doctor, not a bricklayer/engineer/mechanic/escalator” etc.
E IS FOR ENTERPRISE Otherwise known as the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 or the Starship Enterprise. This unmistakeable spacescraft was a defining image of Star Trek, until it was destroyed in 1984 movie Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. It is replaced by the near-identical NCC-1701A in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) before its decommission is ordered at the end of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991).
F IS FOR FINAL FRONTIER From the title sequence of the original series. “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.” Dig that split infinitive.
G IS FOR GENE RODDENBERRY The US screenwriter, producer and futurist created the original Star Trek series and sparked the entire Star Trek franchise. Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon have been cited as his inspiration. Prior to TV work, he served in the US army air forces in the Second World War, became a commercial pilot and had a spell with the Los Angeles Police Department. After his death in 1991, he was one of the first people to have his ashes sent into space.
H IS FOR HIKARU SULU The lieutenant is another of the mainstays from the original series. He was born in San Francisco in 2230 of Japanese heritage, but the story goes that his character was supposed to represent all of Asia, so he took his name from the Sulu Sea which touches so many shores. Played by George Takei in the original series and six movies until John Cho took over in 2009.
I IS FOR INTO DARKNESS The 12th Star Trek film, in cinemas now, is the sequel to 2009 release Star Trek. We wouldn’t want to give away the plot, but early reviews are positive, and traditionalists will be happy to find that Captain Kirk, Spock, Bones, Sulu, Uhura and Scotty are all present and correct.
J IS FOR JAMES T KIRK The Captain himself. Or Jim. The central character in the Star Trek series, forever associated with actor William Shatner, who played Kirk from 1966 to 1994. Kirk entered the world on 22 March 2233 in Riverside, Iowa, and a plaque in the town marks his “future birthplace”. He’s a strong leader, but he’s also been described as a womaniser. In 2010, a survey by the Space Foundation to find the world’s most popular space hero saw Kirk ranked sixth alongside Yuri Gagarin. The “T” stands for Tiberius, the name of Kirk’s paternal grandfather.
K IS FOR KLINGONS The bad guys, who in the 1990s, surprisingly, became good guys. At the outset, they were intended to be “darkly coloured humanoids with little honour, intended as an analogy to the Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union”. Extraordinarily, a Klingon language was developed out of gibberish, and according to Guinness World Records, Klingon is the most popular fictional language measured by number of speakers. Be afraid.
L IS FOR LIFE The 1987 parody song Star Trekkin’ immortalised in its lyrics the line: “It’s life Jim, but not as we know it.” But this is another great myth – it was never said in Star Trek. In the first TV season, Spock comes close when he says: “It is not life as we know or understand.”
M IS FOR MONTGOMERIE SCOTT, AKA SCOTTY Possibly the only “Scot” who was better known internationally at the height of Star Trek’s fame was Sean Connery. Engineer Scotty was born in Linlithgow on 3 March, 2222. Apparently, Canadian actor James Doohan chose to use a Scottish accent because he felt Scots were strongly associated with engineering.
N IS FOR NEMESIS The tenth film in the franchise and the last to include the whole cast of the Star Trek: The Next Generation TV series. Starring Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the plot centres on the USS Enterprise crew setting out on a diplomatic mission to initiate peace with the Romulans. But they are faced with a threat which could lead to Earth’s destruction – in the form of a clone of the captain. Features a cameo appearance by Whoopi Goldberg as Enterprise bartender Guinan.
O IS FOR ODO, HEAD OF SECURITY IN STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE A changeling from the shapeshifting race called The Founders, his working day involves a relentless war on Quark, the bartender at a Deep Space Nine emporium, for illegal activites. But the pair secretly respect for one another. As a changeling who chooses to retain solid form most of the time, he must return to his gelatinous natural state for 16 hours of every 26-hour Bajoran day to regenerate.
P IS FOR PHYSICS As in: “Ah cannae change the law of physics”. Uttered to Captain Kirk by Scotty, usually along with a request for 30 more minutes to allow the engineer to achieve the impossible.
Q IS FOR QUARK A FERENGI BARTENDER AND OWNER OF QUARK’S BAR IN DEEP SPACE NINE His race was known for being motivated only by profit. Played by Armin Shimerman, Quark ran a bar that was a hub for scams and illegal dealings. Had a softer side – catered for the Starfleet crew and named a souffle after Kai Winn when the Bajor-Cardassian peace treaty was signed.
R IS FOR ROMULANS, AN ALIEN HUMANOID RACE FROM THE PLANET ROMULUS IN THE ALPHA QUADRANT They are antagonistic, and always at war with the United Federation of Planets, of which Earth is a founding member. In a move similar to the Vulcans, the Romulans gave up unrestrained violence as a lifestyle. However, they then adopted a regime of controlled deviousness. With their passionate, opportunistic, cunning nature they are a counterpoint for the logical Vulcans, whom they resemble due to sharing biological origins.
S IS FOR SPOCK Or more usually, Mr Spock (although commonly referred to as Dr Spock – mistakenly). One of the three central characters of the original series and resulting movies. The first officer is part human, part Vulcan – an extraterrestrial humanoid species. Spock’s pointy ears nearly didn’t make the big time. Broadcaster NBC was reported to have objected to Spock’s inclusion in the original series because the “guy with the ears would scare the shit out of every kid in America”.
T IS FOR TREKKIES Also known as Trekkers. These Star Trek devotees can range from your average fanatic who would clean up on Mastermind on their specialist subject, to those whose reason for being appears to be centred on the chance to dress up as a Star Trek character at the next Star Trek convention. The name is a contentious issue: Trekkie is considered derogatory, with Trekkers the term of reference preferred by hardcore fans.
U IS FOR UHURA Lieutenant Nyota Uhura was one of the main characters of the original series, and is described as one of the first characters of African descent to be featured in a non-menial role on an American TV series. She was played by Nichelle Nichols from the very start up until the 2009 film Star Trek, when she was portrayed by Zoe Saldana, who returns in the current sequel, Star Trek: Into Darkness.
V IS FOR VULCANS. The majority of this species can suppress emotion, allowing them to be purely logical – hence the Spock catchphrase “Logical, Captain”. They have green blood, and are vegetarian. Possessed of the highly desirable “Vulcan neck pinch” technique, whereby pressure on a certain area of the neck renders the victim unconscious, usually with immediate effect. Vulcans appear in all six series of Star Trek.
W IS FOR WRATH OF KHAN The second Star Trek feature film, released in 1982. After the first Star Trek movie failed to wow the critics, the follow-up – starring Ricardo Montalban as evil Khan Noonien Singh – set a world record for first-day box office gross receipts. It is considered one of the finest films of the franchise and is perhaps best known for the death of Spock. A space burial aboard the Enterprise culminates in Spock’s coffin being pinged into orbit, before coming to land gently on a planet surface, leaving endless possibilities for future plotlines – even though Leonard Nimoy apparently only agreed to play the part on the understanding that it was the end of the road for his character.
X IS FOR XINDI The collective term for six fictional races from the planet Xindus in 2003 TV series Star Trek: Enterprise. In 2153 they launched a probe that attacked Earth and killed seven million people from Florida to Venezuela. Better get that holiday to Walt Disney World booked before it’s too late.
Y IS FOR YAR Natasha “Tasha” Yar, played by Denise Crosby – granddaughter of Bing – is chief of security aboard the Enterprise in Star Trek: the Next Generation. Her unusual surname is said to have come from the Babi Yar atrocities in Ukraine during the Second World War – Yar is of Ukrainian descent.
Z IS FOR ZORA FEL Ancient enemies of the Klingons who were conquered by the great Klingon warrior Rurik the Damned in “Apocalypse Rising”. And if you knew this already, you’ve probably not learned much new from this A-Z guide. Live long and prosper.