Visions of a Better World

You don’t have to be a Trekkie to like Star Trek Memories by William Shatner with Chris Kreski. I know, I know, books that have a ‘with’ are usually stupid junk, but I think here Shatner was just acknowledging his collaborator who clearly did a lot of leg work collecting material and organizing the story.

It’s not Shatner’s personal story at all. He sees himself as a comparatively minor player, even though he played the captain. The central character is Gene Roddenberry and his vision and the amazingly intricate battles he fought to put it on the screen. He was driven.

And once he got the show on national television, he was driven to use it as a bully platform to create a vision of a cooperative egalitarian world, aligned with other cooperative egalitarian worlds. Besides the Vulcan in the control room, and Roddenberry had to fight tooth and nail to keep him there, there’s a Russian.

It’s hard to describe how shocking that was at the time. The Masters of War had somehow convinced us that the Russians wished to destroy us, and would like nothing better than to blow us all to smithereens. Preposterous as it may sound, nevertheless it was true. I was there.

Can anyone else back me up on this? It sounds like I’m making it up.

Roddenberry’s vision of a better world also included equality for everyone, regardless of race or gender. The original pilot had a female character called Number One who outranked even Captain Kirk who had the icy commitment to locic later assumed by Mister Spock.

In the focus groups, men hated her and women hated her even more!

The network told Roddenberry he had to get rid of Number One AND Spock. They wanted Captain Kirk to go around the galaxy blsting thinds. Roddenberry saw that he could save only one, and in a Sophie’s Choice kind of situation, he picked Spock. He alone understood how important those ears were, to exemplify the cooperative nature of the Federation.

It turns our there was one other American who understood the importance of the Enterprise and its five-year mission, and since Gene Roddenberry was being bold, strong unseen forces worked in his favor.

When Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) got completely fed up with having her lines cut every week to where she had nothing to do except keep the hailing frequencies, and then a visiting actress was brought in to explore a planet while Uhura stayed at her post doing nothing for an hour, she told Roddenberry she was quitting the show.

“Don’t do this,” he said.

“I have to,” she replied.

That night she went to a benefit for the NAACP, and she was told a big fan of hers really wanted to meet her. It was Martin Luther King, Jr. He told her how much he enjoyed the series. She told him she was quitting.

“Don’t do this, Nichelle,” he said, “You can’t do this. Your character has gone into space on a five-year mission. She’s intelligent, strong, capable and a wonderful role model, not just for black people but for all people. What you’re doing is very, very important.”

So of course she stayed, and they wound up expanding her part right up to the historic interracial smooch.

Martin Luther King understood the importance of Star Trek because he wrote the book on creative visualization. He visualized a nation where his four little children would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

In fact the best way to illustrate the power of visualization is just to say, “I have a dream.”

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed.”