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.
Posted by Ray Palm (Ray X) at 5:25 AM