Dude, 1989 was the best year for movies, ever.
Batman. Dead Poets Society. The Abyss. The Little Mermaid. Back to the Future, Part II. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. When Harry Met Sally.
This is not an article about any of them. This is about TREK V and how it had influence on me. I know, you’d probably me more satisfied with how “Joe vs. the Volcano” influenced me. The problem is that this is a STAR TREK blog and TREK V is the next movie in this series of articles to explore.
As I write this, even I am unsure of the influence that TREK V had on me.
I do remember seeing it. My parents and I were still living at the apartment on Centinela Avenue in West Los Angeles. We would not be there for much longer. A friend of mine, Donovan Blodgett, stayed the night. It was on a Saturday that me, my Mom and Donovan went to a fancy theatre in Marina Del Rey and saw this flick.
What is remember is that my Mom was really pissed that she spent a fortune to get in. This was our first time to this theatre. When we went to the Mann Theatres across the way, a matinée ran $3.50. A matinee at this place was twice as much. Yep, my Mom spent $21 for the three of us to see TREK V. This was in 1989 dollars… to see a movie directed by William Shatner. That’s like spending $50 now to see a William Shatner movie.
“Maybe it’ll be really good and worth it.” Mom said
It goes without saying that, at the end of the adventure, my Mom was still really upset.
I can recall laughing at Chekov and Sulu being lost in the park. I thought Kirk climbing Half Dome was pretty cool. The Trek Trio of Kirk, Spock and McCoy singing around a camp fire was very amusing. I am relieved that it didn’t take a turn for the “Blazing Saddles”.
I didn’t get a real sense of the story. It wasn’t as straight forward to my twelve year old mind as time travel and needing whales. But I seem to recall liking the movie for what it was.
This was STAR TREK after a three year wait. That was a drought that I filled with comic books, watching TOS and carefully avoiding TNG (more on that later). I was a fan of Classic TREK and the movies were rad to me. While professional reviewers were criticizing TREK V for its lack of scope, I loved it because it had been three years since I saw the crew of my favorite starship.
I also became a thief because of TREK V. When my Mom did laundry at the laundromat on Grandview Boulevard, I would steal quarters out of her Ziploc money bag. I managed to steal enough over the course of a few weeks to go down to the discount book store and by the J. M. Dillard novelization of TREK V.
Donovan and I stopped being friends. I can’t blame TREK V for this, he just changed. The next school year, he’d ally himself with a bully and sic him on me with threats of being beaten up. I have no recollection of why our friendship changed.
Not long after, my parents moved in with my grandparents in Santa Monica. My parents were trying to save money by living rent free to save for a house. Living with my grandparents became difficult when my Mom and Grandma were in conflict. This seemed to happen often and my Dad was put into the middle. I heard things going on in the house, but tried not to be directly involved.
While this should have been a STAR TREK summer, it was not for me. TREK V came and went and I thought of it fondly.
But BATMAN was the balls.
BATMAN became the obsession that replaced STAR TREK.
(SPOILERS: Not forever.)
I started to collect BATMAN newspaper clippings, the novelization, and the comic books. I secretly dreamed of saving up my money and buying a full latex Batman suit. Michael Keaton looked like he walked out of a Dark Knight comic book and I wanted in.
Everything became about BATMAN. I was the Joker for Halloween. I started to find back issues of Batman and read them. I watched KTTV-11, the FOX channel, and watched the 1966 Adam West BATMAN at 4 and 4:30, Monday through Friday. I discovered Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns”, a high water mark for comic books.
My friends and I would take about the miscellaneous BATMAN II rumors that were flying. We all wanted the adventure to continue. We heard things like: Michael J. Fox would play Robin. Robin Williams was cast as The Riddler. Danny DeVito would play the Penguin. Well, that turned out to be true.
As my home life with the grandparents got worse, my parents seemed like they were on the edge of divorce. I started to steal more spare coins from my parents and parley them into comic books. There was a comic book store in Santa Monica where I could get back issues dirt cheap. BATMAN was my everything, even going so far as to buy a life-size Batman cardboard cutout from Sam Goody (it cost me $20, but I had it for the next 15 years).
By the time I got into high school, my love of BACK TO THE FUTURE came out, as did BTTF II. I fell into that as an escape. I started to write a trivia book of BTTF facts and figures. I bought the original movie on VHS and watched it over and over. It made me feel good and I could forget about Parents vs. Grandparents.
By the end of 1990, we moved to Lancaster, California and had a place of our own.
I was left alone during the Summer of 1991 while my parents worked in the Los Angeles area. While I was cleaning up, I turned on the TV. I accidentally came across HBO or Showtime, and I heard Captain Kirk’s voice. The signal was scrambled, but there was no mistaking Shatner’s tone. It was TREK V.
As I heard the vocals, I could imagine the movie in my head. I longed to see the real deal, but this was all right because it was free. I started to learn the dialogue and I was happy to clean the house as long as I was in earshot of the movie. The living room and kitchen got organized that day.
This was the first time in two years that I had experienced STAR TREK. Sort of.
Remember that crack I made about avoiding TNG? Okay, this is the story:
When “Encounter at Farpoint” aired in 1987, I only needed a few minutes to make my mind about it. When the Klaxons rang at Red Alert and Picard ordered, “Shut off that damn noise!” I instantly knew I hated the show. This guy wasn’t Kirk, so it wouldn’t be STAR TREK.
Despite that attitude, I did catch a few episodes of TNG from time to time, and my reactions were mixed. I was creeped out during “Time Squared” because of the eerie music. I was sad when I saw Tasha Yar die after a day at the Wax Museum.
Living with my grandparents, I saw a few TNGs and I tried to focus on them instead of my living conditions. It was a distraction, not a love affair.
When we moved to Lancaster, I was into the “Dick Tracy” movie and had moved on from TREK. I was thirteen, of course I had outgrown it and would never look back. After a handful of years as a fan, I’d never watch TREK again.
And I didn’t watch it, I listened like it was TREK radio.
Hearing Kirk, Spock and McCoy brought back good memories. When I loved these guys in the Centinela Apartment, it was a safe and comfortable time. That day in the house, I started to re-experience that. In the garage, I found some unpacked moving boxes and pulled out the few TREK items I owned. It consisted of my trusty “STAR TREK Compendium”, some comic books and TV clippings that I had saved since the mid-80s/
I have admitted to being a Trekoholic. I don’t deny it now. Now, -holics of all kinds share one thing in common: Whatever the addiction is, after a dry spell, it is dangerous to go back, even in small doses. The flood gates open and you’re caught up again. And then you’re heading towards overdose… or, in my case, liking TNG and trying to catch up.
I have mentioned in part articles about the Magical Night of 1, 3 & 5. My parents weren’t doing so well financially and they sold a slate pool table they had gotten at a garage sale for $25. They sold it for much more as a way to pay the mortgage, Because money had been so tight, my Mom promised me something fun. I got $30 worth of fun, as I got STAR TREKs 1, 3 & 5. I watched them in order. It was the first time I saw all of THE MOTION PICTURE. I watched THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK for the first time since 1984 and liked it without book-ending it with WRATH and VOYAGE. And, around 1:30 in the morning, I put on THE FINAL FRONTIER. Again, the first time I saw it since the theatre.
Before I got to the movie, there was a trailer for TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY. It was fantastic. You know the one. With clips of the old episodes and the movies mixed together and projected on the Enterprise. “At the end of history lies, the Undiscovered Country.” I was astounded at how final it all sounded. I was excited that there was another TREK flick and, by the time I saw this movie, it was less than six months away.
When I watched TREK V, and stayed up until 3:30 am, I was on cloud nine about TREK.
This re-energized me as a fan and things have not been the same since.
When I got up the next morning, I craved more TREK.
I had TREK VI to look forward to.
I could watch THE NEXT GENERATION if I wanted. I had all the movies up to that time. I could tape KCOP-13 to get the original series. I had a book and knew a place I could get more.
Before I knew it, I was checking out the James Blish adaptations of TOS and craving more. Not more stories, but to be a part of TREK is some greater way.
The Blish adaptations had a strange effect on me as well. I knew the volumes I checked out were old. I didn’t think I could find them, so I propped open the book and used my parents Brother typewriter to transcribe them. That way I could keep them for my own. I started to think, “Writing is easy.” I fell more in love with Blish in 1991 when all of his adaptations were released in three volumes, according to the seasons they aired. I could afford those and I bought them up and devoured them. No mare raiding the Lancaster Public Library, hoping to find all the books on the shelf. Besides, they only had the readers.
Maybe I could write a STAR TREK book or story one day. Nah. Or maybe…
I went back to the comic books and started to create scripts from the finished story arcs. And I’d add more material. My apologies to Peter David for adding material to his “You’re Dead, Jim” story line for DC in the last 80s. But it gave me a sense of storytelling, of beats and a sense of humor. Peter David is good for that. For the next year, I’d transcribe TNG episodes and create scripts that I would then turn into short stories. But I still wanted more.
I’ll get into all of the writing later. But by the summer of 1992, I knew I wanted to devote my life to being a STAR TREK writer.
TREK V awoke what lay dormant for the years we lived with my grandparents. It was like life had been put on hold. But the pause button was off and I was running.
I still look at TREK V fondly. Not the best movie, not the worst. Just a little piece of film that didn’t quite live up to its expectations. It got my engine revving, but it was a slow burn. Two years of slow burn to get me excited about the beloved STAR TREK I kind of left behind.
Someone once made the case that TREK V was like a vintage TOS ep we never saw. There’s even an edited version that makes it more like an episode and less of a movie, and it works. It’s one of those episodes that explores the human soul, but winks at the audience while doing it.
Thank you, William Shatner. Your movie made me think I could write better.
NEXT TIME: taH pagh taHbe’