In this continuing series examining the music of the franchise, we make a slight detour, with the 1976 release of ‘Inside Star Trek’ featuring Gene Roddenberry.
In the mid-70s, when the original series had been off the air for a few years and there were early rumblings of a return to television, Columbia Records put together ‘Inside Star Trek’ and, because of its rather novel format, I’m going to look at each track individually.
I first became aware of this album in late 1979, when I was just 8 years old. In those days, my father owned and managed a good ol’ fashioned record store and he was renowned locally for his music knowledge and the variation of vinyl, tape cassettes and 8-tracks he used to stock. It was where I discovered my love for music and for gaining a pretty eclectic taste.
Anyway, one evening he brought home for me, knowing I loved ‘space stuff’, four vinyl LPs for my growing collection: ‘Moonshot’ by a man with a weird-sounding name (Ed Welch), Moonraker by some Barry guy, Star Trek – The Motion Picture by someone called Jerry Goldsmith and ‘Inside Star Trek’ featuring Gene Roddenberry, whoever he was. I knew that ‘Moonshot’ had something to do with going to the moon (in fact, it was a specially-composed 10th anniversary celebration of the first moon landing – it’s a great tribute, never re-released since and if you can find a copy it’s absolutely worth it) and that Moonraker was cool because it was a James Bond movie! But these other two LPs?
Well, I knew of Star Trek because I watched reruns on the BBC before bed and my mom had taken me to see The Motion Picture in the cinema. Other than that, I had no knowledge of any legacy and definitely no foresight to know that the series would remain with me, enduringly and in all its formats and interpretations, for the whole of my life.
Where was I? Ah, yes – Inside Star Trek.
So here was this LP based on a show I didn’t know much about. I eagerly spun it, assuming it would be music I’d heard on TV, with that great theme and all those exciting tunes that would play whenever Captain Kirk and his spaceship did something brave.
But it wasn’t. It wasn’t like that at all.
It was something intriguingly…better.
In the prevailing years, Columbia Records became a premier subsidiary label of Sony Music Entertainment and so, in 1999, Sony released an expanded version of ‘Inside Star Trek’, with a sprinkling of added Nichelle, as a bonus disc to their (also expanded) 20th Anniversary release of Jerry Goldsmith’s score for The Motion Picture. Most of the tracks were recorded as live at a mid-70s convention (no, I don’t know which one, but if somebody does, please tell us in the comments below!).
The original vinyl release went as follows:
The USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A
Track 1 – ‘Inside Star Trek’
A short introduction to the album from the Great Bird of the Galaxy himself, the creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry. He asked us to question who was behind the series (at the time the album was first released only a mere 10 years old), what drove the cast and crew to produce what they did and why, who we would hear from on the record…to get inside the series.
Track 2 – ‘Theme from Star Trek’
There had never been an original version of the theme made available until GNP Crescendo came along and so the version here was at that point pretty authentic and (dare I say it) superior to the TV arrangement. Charles Callelo was the man responsible behind it and it still is a great approach, lots of bell tones, percussion and sweeping strings. Beautiful.
It was an awful shame that Sony butchered it so uncaringly for the CD and so the LP is the place to go to hear it in all it’s glory. Callelo, incidentally, also worked with the greats, including Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Frank’s daughter Nancy Sinatra, Neil Diamond, Ray Charles, Dean Martin‘s daughter Deana and Barry Manilow.
Track 3 – ‘William Shatner Meets Captain Kirk’
Roddenberry and Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, discussed the series and Kirk’s approach to his female guest stars. It was actually quite frank – clearly both men recognized the pitfalls of the show but both spoke with such respect for each other and what they had created a decade before.
Shatner in turn asked why Roddenberry left the production on the eve of Season 3 and also talked about what makes a good story great. He didn’t say much of his career beyond the show. Amusingly, Roddenberry played Shatner some original series sound effects to see if his star would remember them!
Track 4 – ‘The Origin of Spock’
This is an amusing, if light on detail, anecdote about how Spock came about. We all know the ‘too cerebral’ line about ‘The Cage’ and why it was remounted as ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’ and that Number One was rejected, giving Spock her intelligence and logic, but Roddenberry raised a chuckle here when he said he went on to marry the actress (Majel Barrett) but legally couldn’t have married the actor (Leonard Nimoy)!
Track 5 – ‘Sarek’s Son, Spock’
Now we get all post-modern with a bizarre discussion about Vulcan mating techniques. Mark Lenard reprised his role as Sarek and is an absolute delight to listen to here. He remained stoically in character as Roddenberry quizzed him about his fictional son’s upbringing. It’s background material to a character and a species that we take for granted now but back in ’76 this was relatively new ground. Try and work this into canon if you dare.
Track 6 – ‘The Questor Affair’
Roddenberry moved away from talking about Star Trek for this second track taken from a convention appearance. In it, he spoke about his creation of the 1974 TV movie The Questor Tapes, starring Robert Foxworth as an android seeking a human existence.
It was a pilot for a commissioned 13-episode series for NBC but Roddenberry objected to the changes the network wanted. The series was ultimately abandoned and Roddenberry’s side of the story makes for amusing listening. Questor himself would find immortality 13 years later, reborn (rebuilt?) in the form of Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The USS Enterprise B from Star Trek Generations Copyright Paramount
Track 1 – ‘The Enterprise Runs Aground’
A somewhat misleading title: this focuses on the equality of women and men in Star Trek and in Roddenberry’s outlook. He acknowledges in this further recording from a convention that women were used as sex objects both in his TV production era and in Star Trek but is very quick to point out that he also used men as sex objects, too.
Track 2 – ‘McCoy’s RX for Life’
Deforest Kelley was, judging by his appearance here, quite an opinionated guy. While his conversation with Roddenberry about medical advances, the staving off of diseases and how we could better ourselves was a positive outlook (even with it’s negativity toward a 1970s world), it all sounded just too scripted, as if Kelley was reading from pre-prepared statement. Still, it’s great to hear our irascible country doctor telling us how it was.
Track 3 – ‘The Star Trek Philosophy’
Roddenberry was frustrated with the world, hence I guess why he considered Star Trek to be inhabiting the utopia he longed for. His outlook then was to seek a new way of living, to offer equality where there was none. He never saw his dreams come to fruition while he was alive and they may not truly arrive during ours, but his philosophy presented here to his captive (and captivated) convention audience is an intriguing insight into what was his psyche.
Track 4 – ‘Asimov’s World of Science Fiction’
Isaac Asimov was a leader in the science fiction prose community. With innumerable short and long-form stories to his name, he was (and still is, even after his death in 1992) a much respected figure, easily standing alongside his peers such as Arthur C Clarke and Robert Heinlein.
‘I, Robot’ and ‘Foundation’ are amongst his best known works. Friends with Roddenberry (who once told him at the 24th World Science Fiction Convention (aka Tricon) to stop talking because ‘The Cage’ was showing), he appeared on the album to talk about writing sci-fi and that even the most fantastical stories need to be grounded in some element of science fact.
Track 5 – ‘A Letter From A Network Censor’
Columbia asked Roddenberry to provide a typical rejection letter from a production company and so created a fictional network response to a fictional proposal to film a best-selling book called ‘The Bible’. Listening between the lines, it’s obvious he’d been here many times before and his liberal views may have contributed to his lack of success in getting other shows off the ground. The final convention-recorded track on the album.
Track 6 – ‘The Star Trek Dream (Ballads I-III)’
Roddenberry’s approach became autobiographical for his coda to ‘Inside Star Trek’, recounting his relationship with his father, his childhood upbringing, his own pre-pubescent illnesses (and how they made him feel worthless) and his discovery of science fiction as a way to cope with the world he simply either didn’t like, didn’t understand and couldn’t change.
He loved the fantastical and loved creating the fantastical and wanted to express his disheartened world view through the positive Vulcan ideal of IDIC and using Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura et al as his mouthpieces.
The CD release seemed to throw the original LP’s tracks up in the air and see where they landed, editing some of the original tracks to feature as new on their own or to form introductions to other ones.
More from Star Trek
- Has Star Trek Technology gotten out of control?
- Playmate Toys ends Star Trek action figure development
- Majel Barrett Roddenberry thought Nurse Chapel was a “loser”
- Should Star Trek producers consider a Mirror Universe TV series?
- Patrick Stewart continues the trend of learning from his Star Trek character
Previously unreleased additions included a chat about the Genesis II pilot and talk of cyborgs and alien life forms. Nichelle Nichols recorded new pieces in 1998 but didn’t add much to the content.
Instead, her contribution was in essence to top and tail the new compilation. Again, like Kelley and Shatner, it was lovely to hear these people that we have followed and admired for so many years talking candidly – although Nichols did seem to want to make the unnecessary point that her and Shatner never had any form of intimate relationship.
The person who comes across best in this production is (apart from Lenard as Sarek) is the man himself, Gene Roddenberry. There’s very little animosity from him here regarding his time on the show and much has been written and spoken about him since regarding his attitudes towards the network, his colleagues and his treatment of them and them of him.
Whether sensibilities at the time didn’t allow him to speak out (although his exasperation of network censors and their inability to forward-think are certainly on display here) or that Columbia wanted to remain conservative could be questioned. He was dryly funny, was tongue-in-cheek about the crazy notions of TV execs and was quick to tell people what he thought.
He had opinions about the world and liked to air them, but in any case and no matter what you think of him (or even whether you agree with his philosophy or not), ‘Inside Star Trek’ remains as a permanent mouthpiece for Roddenberry’s original vision and producers of modern Trek could do no worse than to give this a listen occasionally.
Star Trek may have been his only true success but what a legacy he left us and what a sand-pit he let us all play in.
Thank you, Gene.
Next time: Cliff Eidelman’s Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country