Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Space Cadets And The Starship Enterprise

James T. Kirk, captain of the USS Starship Enterprise, and his team drop in on the planet Mythra, a world settled eons ago by humans who fled the planet Earth. Beaming down via transporter, Kirk & Co. materialize in a public square but the inhabitants are unimpressed. The Mythrans just walk by, a "silly happy look on their faces."

This scene seems typical of any Star Trek adventure during the original run of the TV series. Except this adventure takes place in the pages of the book, Mission to Horatius, a novel for young readers by Mack Reynolds with illustrations by Sparky Moore (1968, Western Publishing Company). Not a bad story; it's in the same style of the TV show. Nothing unusual until I find out why Mythrans have silly happy expressions. They've been dosed with anodyne, a local form of LSD.

Let Dr. McCoy, the Enterprise's doctor, explain:

"I would have to analyze it further in my laboratory on the ship; however, this drink contains a very effective hallucinogen, related, I suspect, to was one called lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD-twenty-five, on Earth. Its use in the Federation has long been discontinued, even by medical authorities."

The anodyne is described as poison. OK, this is a book for young readers back in the days where weirdo hippies wanted to be put LSD in your breakfast cereal (or so claimed the right-wing conservatives of the day). What's interesting in light of the CIA and its MK-Ultra experiments -- unknown by the public at large back in 1968 -- the anodyne is used as a form of mind control by the ruling Mythran priesthood.

And one of the away team, Ensign Chekov, drank some. He's happy to hand over his weapon to the enemy. A Sparky Moore illustration shows Chekov tripping away, unlike the rest of Kirk & Co.

There's a medical subplot in Mission to Horatius: Doctor McCoy is very concerned about the Enterprise crew being in space too long, confined within the ship. He's worried that a condition called cafard is starting to grip the crew. According to Science Officer Spock, cafard results from "the instinctive dread of a species, born on a planet surface, of living outside its native environment" compounded with claustrophobia and boredom.

I think to myself: Hey, why not give the crew some anodyne? Not a daily dose that the Mythran priesthood requires of its followers. Oops, that won't fly, not in this story. Drugs are bad, always bad. (Later in the Star Trek franchise, a device called the holodeck is introduced, a virtual reality created by realistic holograms. Tripping not chemically but through high tech.)

At this point in the book I'm reminded of the great blow up between the producers of the first Star Trek TV series and Hardon Ellison over the script for the episode, City on the Edge of Forever.

In this story the Enterprise discovers a space-time portal on the surface of a barren planet. McCoy is accidentally injected with a drug, becomes delusional, and he ends up going through the portal into Earth's past. Kirk and Spock have to go after him because he's somehow screwed up the timeline; the Enterprise no longer exists.

The producers had a number of issues with Ellison's first and second treatments for City of the Edge of Forever, mainly budgetary constraints and the script being delivered so late. One point the producers wanted changed was the involvement of "two drug-crazed, deranged characters." In the original treatment the person who causes the chronal screw-up isn't McCoy but a drug-dealer aboard the Enterprise who flees into the portal. The producers didn't want any such deviants among the clean cut starship crew.

This incident is recounted in the book Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, coauthored by the producers Herbert S. Solow and Robert H. Justman (1996, Pocket Books). Even though Ellison revised his script, the producers found it still to expensive to shoot and it was eventually re-written by four other writers, including Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek.

Of course, egocentric Hardon Ellison -- a man hard on himself and everyone else -- ended up in a serious dispute with Roddenberry. Maybe Ellison needed a dose of anodyne to put a silly happy face on his mug.

But despite its difficult birth City of the Edge of Forever is a ST classic, even with the deletion of two deranged druggie characters.

While the onscreen side of Star Trek remained drug-free, it wasn't the same off screen, at least for the series creator.

On pages 374-375 of Inside Star Trek it's mentioned that Roddenberry took pills to stay awake while doing rewrites and later he graduated to "the use of other mood-altering substances." Roddenberry liked to roll his own funny cigarettes.

Producer Justman had a problem with Roddenberry's drug use, especially in light of the fact was Roddenberry was an ex-cop.

But what's so surprising that a cop or an ex-cop feels entitled to break the law? Isn't such cutting corners one of the benefits of being a law-enforcement officer?

One time I read an letter to the editor in a local newspaper from a ST fan who was upset that a writer portrayed Trekkies/Trekkers as space cadets. That was a smear, said the fan, not true. There was no real connection between drug use and being a ST fan.

And while most of the people involved in Star Trek don't fit the stoner stereotype, it's ironical that its creator -- a man who wanted no drug-dealers on his starship -- fell far short of the ideal Starfleet hero.

Or maybe Roddenberry should be forgiven. He could've been suffering from a severe bout of space cafard.


Marvin the Martian said...


X. Dell said...

Yeah, I like everything you post, but this is special--probably because it's about ST and drugs. Given Kirk's conquer and divide method of romance, you have a sexual component to the show in general, and probably this story. Now all you need is rock and roll.

If Roddenberry lit a bowl every now and then, or even if he did something stronger, I think that's really between him, and those who have to deal with him. That he's in violation of the law--which he once had sworn to protect--is a bit of an issue, with me. But it's not as though he's still walking the beat, or stoned making arrests against blue collar citizens.

That there appears to have been a bit of hypocrisy on Roddenberry, well, Hollywood is the city of illusions. Then again, the whole attack on drug culture by the mainstream often ventured into hypocrisy. After all, tobacco and alcohol kill more people every year than all other drugs combined. And they were very much a part of the culture.

Doug said...

Always kind of figured there were two types of Star Trek fans: Those who did drugs and those who wished they knew where to get some. I mean, isn't the whole premise a metaphor for a "trip"?

Or maybe the network only let them get away with that interracial kiss, and the drug thing was out of the question.

Ray said...



X. Dell:

I don't really care if someone uses drugs and he isn't harming anyone (except maybe himself). I've never been one for using street drugs. My post is about perceptions and hypocrisy. of course, when it comes to Hollywood, as you mention, it's an easy target.


Man, what an uproar that Kirk - Uhura lip lock caused, especially with viewers in the deep south. One theory why it got by the TV network is that Kirk and Uhura were under mind control, being forced to kiss to entertain godlike beings. Maybe the south would've started another civil war if Kirk and Uhura weren't forced to osculate, they just wanted to smooch.

Man, how bad things were back then, strict societal norms. Then again, they're still bad.