Today marks the fifth year anniversary that "Star Trek: Enterprise," the final series in the Gene Roddenberry-sparked franchise, broadcast its final episode. At one point we also had the original "Star Trek," "The Next Generation," "Deep Space Nine" and "Voyager" all playing over broadcast TV. There were lots of Vulcans, Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, Ferengi, Bajorans and Changelings to keep us occupied. Today we have the reality stars on "The Hills," "The Real Housewives of ___ ," and "Keeping Up with the Kardashians." See? We still have lots of aliens on the airwaves!
It seems so long ago that as an impressionable teenager I watched the original series with William Shatner cast as James Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Spock. The writing positively captured my imagination and I recall getting very involved with the characters. The original series broadcast around the time I was preparing for my Bar Mitzvah and was off the airwaves the following year in 1968. When Paramount recognized the interest generated (especially by young men like me), they put the original "Star Trek" series into syndication. It was one of the most profitable moves the studio ever made. During this period anxious local TV stations looking to fill their slots adjacent to evening and late night news broadcasts found "Star Trek" a great lure for men 18-49 years of age, but especially the 18-25 set. That demographic has always been highly sought after by companies looking to establish branding with that segment of the market. In any event the local broadcast of "Star Trek" was seen at 10:00 p.m. over a television station that lacked a newsroom. Every night at 9:59:30 a lone trumpeter in one of the Tulane dorms would open his dorm door and play the final theme of "Star Trek" as a friendly reminder that the program was about to start. (♬ Da, da, da, da, da da dum...♬) I'm sure the neighbors were not pleased. In 1975 my "Star Trek" brush-with-greatness moment came when the Tulane University programming committee (TUCP) arranged to have series stars Deforrest Kelly (Leonard "Bones" McCoy) and Nimoy appear as guests. While a crowd packed McAlister Auditorium watching "Amok Time," the episode that showed Spock returning to his home planet of Vulcan to "marry" his chosen mate, several lucky planners and I had the sheer luck to have dinner with the two actors in a private upstairs room at world famous Antoine's Restaurant. Nimoy wanted filet mignon; Kelly wanted seafood. The headwaiter suggested they have both. Other waiters kept interrupting the dinner to ask for autographs. It was very exciting and, as it turns out, expensive when we all were forced to repay the entertainment fund for what the dinner cost a few weeks later. Just prior to dinner, when we picked up Kelly and Nimoy at the Pontchartrain Hotel to bring them to the restaurant, they filled us in on what was then a new animated Filmation and Paramount Television series being run on Saturday mornings. Basically, it was the original actors doing voiceovers, so production costs were relatively low except for what the animation cost. Paramount didn't want to release a movie just yet because the studio was concerned about recouping costs from the original series and wanted to squeeze out as much of the syndication money as they could. Paramount did give in to public pressure, releasing the first of the Star Trek films about four years later in 1979. That meeting with Nimoy was also the time I learned about the Vulcan salute. Nimoy, an Orthodox Jew (Shatner is also Jewish, albeit less observant), used the priestly blessing of the Kohanim he had learned as a youth at his Hebrew school as the sign of peace. The picture seen here shows Kelly and Nimoy with a baked Alaska from Antoine's that bears the names "Dr. McCoy & Mr. Spock."
As you might imagine, it was delicious, but not as delectable as the company we all kept. With the release of the eleventh film in the franchise - last year's "Star Trek" - a new set of possibilities exists for Paramount Studios and for lucky, addicted fans like yours truly. In a sense I hope that I may live long so that Paramount may prosper.