Another bit of juvenalia for you. This is an A3 pencil drawing I did back in my youth (1988 to be precise).
It’s the companion piece to the Star Trek movie piece here. In accordance with the source material that one was 16:9 format, while this one was 4:3! I think pretty much all the photo reference was taken from my well-thumbed copy of the Star Trek Compendium, and I’ve reproduced the lack of resolution perfectly!
Back in 1979, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was the Next Big Thing. And then it wasn’t. Although contrary to popular opinion it did just fine at the box office.
I still have a sneaking affection for it, but at the time it was quite definitely the most exciting thing ever — since the last most exciting thing ever, which was probably Star Wars or a particularly scary bit of Doctor Who. The complete lack of action in the film didn’t faze the 10 year old me in the least. And why should it? In my head the Enterprise and the Klingons were having exciting space battles just outside the frame, and that was enough.
Just in case it wasn’t enough, there was also plenty of merchandise to enjoy, including these lovely survivals I recently came across in the loft…
I can’t remember where I got this one. It looks like the kind of thing that used to come in weetabix promotional boxes, and perfectly characterises the slightly staid, proper, naval approach to Star Trek that the movie embodies. (“Starship Enterprise”.) I don’t remember where all the more interesting characters went, but this is the one I have left. Here’s to Mr. Scott.
Meanwhile, here in the UK 45p would buy you this fine poster magazine from the time of the movie’s release. Here are the front and back. The poster inside is a huge, grainy version of the small, grainy front cover.
And here are some interior pages, complete with wildly gushing write-up, and of course that bird guy. Who can forget that bird guy? For me, he was the most poignant character in the film.
Nostalgia time again. I’ve had this tatty old poster since childhood.
As may be apparent if you read my blog waxing lyrical about the movie version of the USS Enterprise, I have a huge affection for this spaceship in its various forms. This is a massive(ish) A2 pull-out poster of the original TV U.S.S. Enterprise, painted by by one Joe Petagno, and it’s lovely: just painterly enough to be beautiful without sacrificing accuracy.
Judging from the small print it comes from a magazine called “TV Sci-Fi Monthly”. I have no memory of the publication or how it came into my possession, but I do remember owning the poster because it graced the wall of my bedroom for several years back in the 1970s.
I also remember thinking the nacelle caps looked a *bit* too much like a pair of eyes staring at me when I was lying in bed, which might explain why the corners are torn from when I nervously ripped it from the wall one night… It’s well-loved, in every sense.
It must date to around 1976, because on the reverse is an article that talks about Space 1999 as if it’s a current show, alongside a really quite eccentric illustration by Malcolm Pointer of a young Spock in his bedroom, which definitely did not grace my wall except by association.
More from my short-lived spell of keeping newspaper clippings back in the 1980s, something I’ve never done before or since. Teenagers, eh?
These are all Doctor Who-related, spanning from the announcement of Colin Baker as the Doctor through to the announcement of Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor. They mainly concern the 18 month hiatus taken by the show, about which I was understandably obsessed.
First up, the announcement of Baker the Second taking the role, and our local paper’s very ringing endorsement of him after the “wet” Peter Davison. Harsh. The Hull Daily Mail was something of a staunch Who supporter , but they were perhaps an outlier in their complete adoration of Colin Baker. Commendably, they remained staunch supporters of his through thick and thin, as we’ll see.
The national press were clearly not so enamoured. Here’s a lovely (i.e. typical) bit from the Daily Express combining moral outrage about violence with mild salaciousness all in one story. The word “nubile” really doesn’t see the light of day much these days. Does include the quite amazing quote “I trust Dr Who rapidly makes it clear that people eating is wrong.” (Pedantically I do feel that sentence needs a hyphen, otherwise they’re taking a controversial stance against restaurants.)
I can only apologise for the poor preservation of this clipping. My Time-Space Visualiser is in need of tuning.
On or around the same date (my filing not being what it should be) the Daily Express also announced, perhaps slightly prematurely, that the show had been axed. Naturally they saw this in terms of the licence fee. I do think they deserve some kudos for a) bothering to interview fans and b) listing the Doctors in the right order and spelling all their names correctly.
At least there was some consolation! (Did they actually air these repeats, I can’t remember?)
The Hull Daily Mail also went with the Licence Fee theory (with the factually questionable observation that “Even The Master wouldn’t stoop so low just to make a point“) and joined the Express letching at Peri being “scantily-clad“, while continuing to big up Colin Baker as “the best yet“.
All together now, “Doctor in Distress!” I remember finding this single painfully embarrassing even at the time.
The Daily Telegraph weighed in, comparing the BBC to an unscrupulous drugs pusher. Sorry, “pusher”. Hard to tell if they’re outraged at the hiatus or just happy to have an excuse to cheerfully bash the BBC, but despite casting Doctor Who fans as junkies it’s quite supportive overall.
Moving on 18 months, and the Hull Daily Mail manages to announce the show’s return with the most negative slant possible (“doomed“!), and features some lovely disingenous quotes from Michael Grade where he makes out that it was all just about the violence. I think he reads the Daily Express. Congratulations however to this article for mentioning Peri without using the words “nubile” or “scantily“.
Okay, wait, they’ve sacked Colin Baker! Maybe it’s doomed after all… I remember hugely enjoying ‘Trial of a Timelord’ when it aired. That opening shot of the space station clearly went straight to my teenage fanboy head, just as it was supposed to, but even beyond that it felt very much like an old-fashioned season to me. The Vervoids story in particular hit me with nostalgia for the Tom Baker era quite strongly. I was outraged when I learned that Colin Baker was leaving without so much as a proper regeneration.
And so in comes Sylvester McCoy. Mercifully no-one feels inclined to letch over Bonnie Langford, who only merits the adjective “squeaky“. Michael Grade is quoted again on violence but also wants to see if “the stories are better“. Now he’s just being unreasonable.
Besides, with a “snow dragon” and a “berserk bunch of robotic charladies“, this will clearly be the best season yet.
I’ll confess to being quite underwhelmed by McCoy at the time. I didn’t “get” the rather ‘Indie’ take on the show that ‘Paradise Towers’ represented, I hated the new theme and opening credits, I felt the storytelling was amateurish, I was embarassed by the Kandyman, and I was baffled by the comedy of ‘Delta and the Bannermen’. I still don’t entirely disown those opinions, but I did warm to the remainder of McCoy’s run and there are some genuine classics among the last couple of years. I can even summon up some nostalgia for the credits sequence. Some.
And there my clippings go quiet, probably because I was suddenly far more interested in the arrival of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Teenagers, eh?
I’m not much of a hoarder (except when it comes to books, obviously) and I’ve never kept a diary, but I have in my youth been known to compile obsessive episode lists for Star Trek:The Next Generation or detailed records of my Doctor Who collection. And, during the 1980s, I went through a phase of keeping newspaper cuttings from my favourite obsessions. Which were, as ever, Doctor Who,Star Trek and a side order of Star Wars.
These are all from the local news rag, the Hull Daily Mail, but they may as well be from anywhere.
They’re also not in very good condition, having been callously Pritt Stick-ed into a scrapbook, and being yellowed and foxed by the passage of time. That I still have them at all is something of a minor miracle given my various spates of Chucking Things Out over the years. For a long while nostalgia for my childhood was antipathy to me. I just didn’t have the urge to hang onto things. (Fortunately my parents are not so callous).
These days, more ‘mature’ and sentimental as I am, I’m happy to have a few reminders, and these mini-posters positively glow with nostalgia. I think the tattiness and discolouration only makes them more evocative.
I’m particularly thrilled to find “A triple Trek to the Stars”, a marathon of the first three Star Trek movies to promote Star Trek III. These movie marathons used to be a staple of my childhood. Do they still do things like this? I never seem to see them advertised. In my time I’ve not only done three Trek films in a row, I’ve also done five (count ’em) Star Trek Movies in a row. Then there was the marathon of 3 Mad Max movies and two Alien movies. Or was it Evil Dead? I definitely saw three Evil Dead movies at one of these. Movie marathons always seem like such a good idea going in, and then by film #4 your eyelids are drooping and only teeth-gritting stubbornness is keeping you going. I particularly remember watching the three Trek movies in one sitting because the third one had the extra “Captain’s log” bit at the start where Kirk pointlessly recapped the movie we’d just finished watching.
Seeing Aliens at the cinema is another strong memory. Along with Cronenberg’s The Fly this was one of the first two 18-rated films I watched at the cinema. I remember an almost palpable sense of dread at what I might witness on that 18-rated movie screen. (When I was much younger my friend had us over to his house to – transgressively – watch the original Alien which his family had video-taped the night before. Sadly — or, perhaps, fortunately for my tender brain — the tape ran out halfway through so I never got to the really gruesome bits. The age of video. See, kids nowadays don’t know about this stuff…)
In contrast, I have no memory whatsoever of seeing Treks IV and V at the cinema, although the (in reality quite bland) poster art for The Final Frontier is hugely redolent of that time period for me. I remember excitedly staying up late to watch an American programme called “Cinemattractions” on ITV where they would run down the US movie box office chart, and I could glimpse a clip from the upcoming movie. (The silly Turbolift scene, as I recall.)
Next time… clippings from when Doctor Who went on an 18 month hiatus. Unthinkable…
And just as a follow-on to my appreciation of the movie USS Enterprise, here’s an old bit of fan art of Star Trek Movies II to IV that I did way back in 1989 at the tender age of 19. How time flies. Not that my viewing habits have significantly changed…
It’s a weird shape because it follows a roughly cinematic film ratio across the middle, then blossoms out at the sides. I think it still looks okay, but I’d hope to do a much better job of it these days. The eagle-eyed reader may notice that Lt. Saavik is drawn in a very different style from everyone else, which is because I did the bulk of the drawing many months earlier, and even by the time I went back to it I was in a different mood artistically.
If I said that the sight of the Starship Enterprise calms me down you’d think I was bonkers, right?
Not any USS Enterprise, you understand. Certainly not the version from the recent JJ Abrams movies with its squashed toothpaste-tube proportions1. Not the eccentric Next Generation version, though I am fond of it. Not even the original 1960s design classic. The one that I love is the refit design from the first six Star Trek movies, from The Motion Picture through to The Undiscovered Country. The very sight of it is food for my soul: its grace, its curves, its balance. Its rightness.
There are very few designs that can do this to me, and they all share deep roots in my childhood and adolescence. Another is Doctor Who’s Tardis (about which I’ll eulogise another time). Maybe the Dalek too. Iconography embedded in my psyche at a tender age from endless VHS videotape viewings, cinema magazines, spin-off novels. I look at these things and sometimes I can’t even tell any more if they have an intrinsic merit or if it’s just my childhood speaking to me across the decades.
Since I’m Really Old, I first encountered this spaceship (AKA nicely-lit fibreglass model) at the cinema in 1979 when I saw Star Trek: The Motion Picture on its original release. If ever a film fetishised a piece of hardware it’s that one, all lingering pans over structural curves, somewhere between asexual porn and a 2 hour car commercial. But this was also the dawn of movie merchandising as we now (shudder to) experience it, and so I probably didn’t first encounter the design at the cinema at all. Instead I probably inhaled it through magazines like Starlog, and trading cards, and promotions on the back of weetabix packets, and white chocolate bars with weird multi-coloured bits in them. Given that my main memory of the film is coming home afterwards and drawing Klingon spaceships going ‘pew pew’ I think that the content of the film (such as it was) was always secondary to the spaceships in my ten year old brain. And in that supporting merchandise the spaceship has a mythic beauty that even the film’s Male Gaze For Spaceships doesn’t quite capture.
Take this old, scanned promotional photo for example, which not only emphasises the ship’s graceful proportions but a pearlescent, self-illuminated, polychromatic quality that the film only glimpses (and later movies largely dispensed with):
Blinded as I am by the hardwiring of my brain, I do think that as a spacecraft design it has few equals. The original sixties version is all rectangles and cylinders. In fact it’s easy to forget just how odd that design is, like a Forbidden Planet flying saucer mated with something much more functional and Naval in character. Even so it has a certain sense of balance and proportion, particularly when shot from a nice angle. The movie version keeps only the basic morphology of saucer, secondary hull and engine nacelles joined by struts, but it pushes and pulls each of those elements into something rounded, tapered and elegant. From the swell of the secondary hull to the angles and fins and neon stripes of the engines, it creates the sense of a unified whole rather than parts bolted inelegantly together. In many ways it looks completely different from the original, and yet you could never mistake it for anything else.
Ageing Spaceship baffles engineers with this one weird trick
In the subsequent movies the design remains the same (it is after all the same model even when technically a different ship) but the iridescent paint job that would catch the light in interesting ways is replaced with a matt chalky white finish, and it’s lit more brightly with less reliance on the ship’s own running lights. The quality of the effects and cinematography varies hugely too. But it’s hard to completely screw up a design this beautiful. In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan2, a film I’ve probably seen even more often than the original Star Wars, it’s treated like a classic tall ship in a Hornblower movie: trading ponderous broadsides with its sister ship in a Naval game of cat and mouse. Its a big, majestic vessel not nippy a little X-wing fighter or a barrel-rolling Millennium Falcon, and that’s reflected in its shape and size. Slow to turn, crewed to the nines, wind in its sails.
When I catch one of the original Trek films on repeat, or actually moreso when I stumble across images of it on the web, it’s like looking at a great landscape painting or a classic Lake District view, perfect in every proportion. It fills me with inner peace.
Bonkers, I know.
— 1If you didn’t even know there was a difference this is maybe not the post for you… 2Out on Blu-ray in its Director’s Edition soon. And its Director (and script doctor) Nicholas Meyer is working on the new Star Trek TV Show. What goes around comes around.