My Star Trek

Back in 2007, the current actor playing the Doctor in Doctor Who, David Tennant, appeared alongside one of the classic Doctors, Peter Davison in a short film for charity called “Time Crash.” In the short, Tennant has a moment that’s close to breaking the fourth wall. He glances at Davison with admiration, talks about all the things about him that inspired his interpretation of the character and then declares, “You were my Doctor.” Ever since then Doctor Who fans are fond of proclaiming which Doctor was the one that made them a fan of the series. That Doctor is my Doctor.

It’s possible to do almost the same thing with Star Trek. The show is almost as old and existed in numerous incarnations, much like Doctor Who. What’s more, as I talk to people of different ages, I do find that people do remember different Star Trek series with different amounts of fondness, often related to which one they discovered first and really hooked them. Thanks to having older brothers, I have watched and loved Star Trek as long as I remember, but to some degree, the original series is their Star Trek. For me, the series that hooked me was the one that debuted on Saturday morning TV around the time I started the second grade.

The animated Star Trek produced by Filmation Studios and helmed by D.C. Fontana essentially gave us two more seasons of the original series, completing the original five year mission. What’s more, I’d argue most of the episodes were better than the episodes that appeared in the third live action season. We got to see cool new aliens, such as Arex, a new navigator with three arms and three legs, and a Vendorian shapeshifter with tentacles who no doubt stuck in my mind enough to inspire my Alpha Centaurans when I wrote the first chapter of my novel, The Pirates of Sufiro. We also got to see a return of the tribbles and a return to the planet from the episode “Shore Leave.”

I was pleased to see that someone finally devoted a book to the animated series, Star Trek: The Official Guide to the Animated Series by Aaron Harvey and Rich Schepis with an afterward by Dayton Ward, who co-edited the anthology Maximum Velocity with me. It has nice episode summaries plus behind the scenes information. For instance, I didn’t realize that Lou Scheimer of Filmation had been trying to get rights to do an animated Star Trek since before the original went off the air. What’s more, I learned the animated series the only one to win an Emmy in a non-technical category. It won for “Outstanding Children’s Program” in the second season.

The animated Star Trek often suffers from arguments about the series’ canon. In fact, all canon refers to is the collected body of original work produced by the licensed owners. What people really seem to mean when they argue about “canon” is “the consistent internal history of the show.” It doesn’t help that the series creator, Gene Roddenberry, didn’t want to consider the animated series part of that official history. Despite that, several authors in later series have included references to it. Now, to put this kind of debate into perspective, I have a hard enough time maintaining consistency in a multi-book series that I, alone, create. I can’t imagine being absolutely consistent throughout a series that has lasted over 50 years with multiple creators, where history itself has changed some of the backstory. (We all remember Khan Noonien Singh’s reign in the 1990s, right?) I think the best new creators can do is know what came before, do their best to get it right, and maybe even have a little fun when they find contradictions and anachronisms.

If you haven’t seen the animated series, or it’s been a while, I encourage you to take a look. Bringing Harvey and Schepis’s book along for the journey might just add to your appreciation.

10 comments on “My Star Trek

  1. Mike Weasner says:

    As an original fan of the Original Series, which first aired while I was in college, I totally enjoyed the Animated Series when it first aired. I was thrilled when it came out in a boxed Laser Disc set. I still like to watch those old Laser Discs.

  2. In regard to Doctor Who, I liked “Time Crash.” The “close to breaking the fourth wall” “you were *my* Doctor” moment rather threw me for a bit, especially as Peter Davison is David Tennant’s father-in-law. But I liked it anyway.

    I never went for the “my Doctor,” “my Sherlock Holmes,” “my James Bond” thing, which generally means the first one you watched. Without going into names, the second Doctor I watched was probably my favorite for many years, when the ninth or 10th Doctor I watched became perhaps my favorite.

    As for *Star Trek*, I must confess for years I thought *Star Trek: The Animated Series* was just some silly cartoon–until I learned otherwise. Bjo Trimble, who with husband John and others did the campaign that got *Star Trek* (the original series) renewed for a third season, wrote *The Star Trek Concordance*. The mass-market edition goes into great detail about both those series, and was used a guide by writers for later incarnations of *Star Trek*.

    • If I recall correctly, David Tennant didn’t actually get engaged to Peter Davison’s daughter until after Time Crash was produced, but in whatever order that happened, it’s still a fun bit of trivia that they became father-in-law and son-in-law. As it turns out, Doctor Who had an even bigger “breaking the fourth wall” event back in William Hartnell’s day when he, unscripted, turned to the camera and wished the audience a Merry Christmas in one episode.

      I’m not altogether sure I agree most people think of “my whatever” as the very first one they ever watched. However, I could be convinced it’s often the first one that made them a fan. I speak to many people who talk about not enjoying a particular series until they came to the one that “clicked” for them and then they follow it.

      You make a good point about the Star Trek Concordance. For decades, it was the only source of information about the animated episodes and I’m really grateful Bjo and John included it in their guide to the series. In fact, it’s in part because they included it as part of the series continuity that I consider it years four and five of the original mission!

  3. I think it often is the first incarnation of a character that people see that gets them to being a fan, but I don’t have any evidence other than talking to friends.

    You are correct about the *Doctor Who* father-in-law timeline–thanks for posting that. I saw “Time Crash” years after it was filmed and after Tennant and Moffett married. (My source for the following is Wikipedia.)

    David Tennant married actress Georgia Moffett on 30 December 2011. “Time Crash,” where Tennant acted with Moffett’s father Peter Davison, was broadcast on 16 November 2007, four years earlier.

    Tennant met Moffett on the set of “The Doctor’s Daughter” which first aired 10 May 2008. I didn’t see the dates it was filmed, but while possible it seems somewhat unlikely that Tennant has yet met Moffett before filming “Time Crash.” Ironically, Moffett was cast without those involved knowing she was Davison’s daughter, so that was coincidence. In another odd twist, Moffett, who later became Tennant’s wife, on that episode played his cloned daughter. Tennant, in commenting on Davison and Moffett, said, “We get to see the Doctor’s daughter, played by the Doctor’s daughter.” She later became not only the Doctor’s daughter, but the Doctor’s wife.

    The real story ends up having more twists than a *Doctor Who* episode.

    • My thoughts on the fandom issue partly come from a discussion I had with an astronomer last night. He was nearly my age and had watched Star Trek off and on all his life, but didn’t become a fan until Deep Space Nine. So he seemed to think of DS9 as his Star Trek. For a slightly different take, I often think of Patrick Troughton as my Doctor because I relate to him well, even though Tom Baker was the first Doctor I watched. (I love his performance, too)

      Thanks for looking up the details about Peter Davison, David Tennant and Georgia Moffett. That basically matches what I remember, though I’d forgotten many of the details.

  4. My Star Trek is the original series, that was on when I got home from high school my junior and senior years. I enjoy the others, but that first one with its multi-ethnic crew really set the bar.

    • The original is where I started, too, and I love it. To be honest, I’ve found something to love in all the series so far, but the original and the animated are the ones I’ll drop into the DVD player if I’m just generally in the mood for Star Trek.

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