Why the Klingons from the 1960s were the best of all | Street Jazz

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Why the Klingons from the 1960s were the best of all

Posted By on Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 11:07 AM

I am Klingon
Hear me roar
I now have honor
I’m such a bore

With apologies to Helen Reddy and co-writer Ray Burton.

When Star Trek introduced the new model of Klingons in the 1980s, I was as enthralled as anyone. These guys were really tough! And they had such an incredibly rich culture, to boot!

Okay, they had that hideous Klingon opera, but you have to take the bad with the good, I suppose.

But lately, upon watching episodes of the original Star Trek, I have come to the conclusion that the first Klingons were the best of all.

Sneaky.

Conniving.

Violent. As Science fiction writer David Gerrold once wrote of them, the Klingons were great people to invite to a murder, especially if it was your own.

Okay, they’re still violent, hacking away at each other with medival weapons.

There is one element in particular that the original Klingons had in abundance that the new “improved” Klingons lack in abundance though, and that is wit.

Sarcasm.

These guys didn’t just cross swords with the Federation with phasers, they did it with words, as well. Ah, to see James T. Kirk fumble for words after he has just been verbally dispatched by a Klingon commander is a moment of beauty, indeed.

They were, in short, the Noel Cowards of the galaxy.

Alas, the Noel Cowards have been replaced by the whiners, the howlers, the chest beaters and the “My House has more honor than your House” crowd.

On Star Trek: Enterprise (the show that actually reused a Rod Stewart song as its opener!) it was explained that some sort of “virus” had wiped out the original chest-beater Klingons, and turned them all into the human-like Klingons we saw on the 1960s Star Trek.

It was probably during this brief period that all that Klingon opera was written. A sort of grim practical joke on the generations to follow, who would once again look like “real” Klingons.

******

Okay, I also have to get this out of my system about The Next Generation

Maybe my eyes wander too far astray while watching Next Generation, but I’ve noticed a certain sad sameness about the “art” hanging on the walls of most the officers aboard ship.

While some might be said to be “modern art,” most seem to be pictures of . . . space. And Planets as seen from space. In a few cases this “art” is on the wall right next to the window, or porthole, or whatever it is called on a starship.

It’s as though someone just went down to the local Space-Mart and bought a bunch of pictures by the truckload and sent them off to decorate starships.

Not one Van Gogh?

Dogs playing cards?

No posters of the Beatles?

*****

Boldly going where no cartoon had gone before

I reference the 1970s a great deal when writing about science fiction and television, a time before many of my readers were born, I suppose.

But it's important when you write about certain shows, especially a cultural phenomenon like Star Trek, which originally lived and died in the 1960s. But the decade following Trek's cancellation was when the series really started to become the marketing behemoth that began with fan fiction, comic books, novels, audio plays (on Peter Pan records) and ultimately the cartoon series.

And all this before the first movie even made its premiere, in 1979.

In 1974 Filmation, the studio which had brought us Lassie's Rescue Rangers, brought forth the animated Star Trek to Saturday morning viewers.

Star Trek: The Animated Series, while certainly groundbreaking in many regards, was also very much a throwback to the shows of the early 1960s, when programs like Fireball XL-5, Fury, and Sky King dominated Saturday morning.

These were shows that were plot-driven, but were driven out by the super-hero cartoon craze in the later part of the decade. They weren't Shakespeare, but they were good, solid entertainment.

The five-year mission of the U.S.S. Enterprise was cut short after only three years, so this was an opportunity to carry the voyages forward. Along the way came most of the cast, with the exception of Walter Koenig, who played Ensign Chekov.

And with the with actors, came several of the writers, who approached the series as if it were the same old Star Trek - no dumbing down of anything here. True, Saturday morning meant that Kirk couldn't go around trying to get into the pants of every alien woman he laid eyes on, but that was getting kind of old anyway.

Well, getting old for the viewer - probably not for Kirk.

As a result of which, Star Trek pretty much maintained its generally high level of story-telling. And as the producers and writers have often said, animation would allow the show to go places where current special effects technology just couldn't take them.

A couple of shows you might not expect to see on Saturday morning - on one episode they meet the Devil, and in one episode, "Yesteryear," Spock travels back in time to meet his younger self on the planet Vulcan. There, the young Spock must face the difficult decision over whether or not to have his beloved pet - who has just saved his life but been badly wounded - put to sleep.

It's a small part of a much larger story, but not something you'd usually expect to see dealt with on Saturday morning. In fact, "Yesteryear" ranks up with the best of the Trek episodes, animated or not.

The series is livened by having special guests like mark Lenard (Sarek) and Roger C. Carmel (Harry Mudd) return to the series to do their voices.

As for the regulars, the voice work is sometimes spotty. Where once an actor might come across right on target, in the next episode they might seem a little off. It is well-known that most of the actors mailed in tapes of their performances, and they were edited into the program.

But whenever James Doohan (Scotty) and Leonard Nimoy (Spock) begin to speak, it is a moment of beauty. They are never anything but perfect in their roles.

Many Star Trek fans turn their noses up at the animated series, feeling it is not "canon." But that silly thinking seems to have eased over the years, with many Trek novels and subsequent TV episodes making references to animated characters and episodes.

True, not all of the stories may stand up to what many consider to be Trek's high standard of storytelling, but hey, look at the infamous third season of the original series. I'd gladly swap some of these stories for some on that season.

If you're looking for a good book to read, Alan Dean Foster did wonderful work adapting the episodes into novel form. They may be out of print, but that's why God made used bookstores.

Trivia note: If you look very closely at the episode, "More Tribbles, More Troubles," you can see a lanky, longish haired ensign in the transporter room. This is meant to be writer David Gerrold, who had hoped for a walk-on part on the original Tribbles episode, but was disappointed.

All things come to him who waits.

****

Quote of the Day

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction... The chain reaction of evil-hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars-must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the darkness of annihilation. — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


rsdrake@cox.net

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