Page last updated at 11:48 GMT, Tuesday, 2 June 2009 12:48 UK

Star Trek's ex-chief movie praise

Star Trek cast
The film shows the young crew on the verge of graduation from the Starfleet Academy

The new Star Trek movie has become the highest-grossing film in the US so far this year, taking $209.5m (£127.8m). This makes it the first film to take more than $200m (£122m) in 2009.

But does the new movie prequel live up to the hopes and aspirations of the people behind the original television series?

In the 1960s as head of a film studio in California Herb Solow commissioned the Star Trek TV show, so BBC Online asked him for his opinion.

Mr Solow once lived in Lampeter, Ceredigion, and his wife, Harrison, lectured at the town's university where she was also writer in residence.

In the years 1964 and 1965, the Star Trek world consisted of but two people: Gene Roddenberry and myself. It was a very small world.

Herb Solow

I had seen the past and it worked. The production looked flawless. The photography, graphics and sound effects were brilliant. But, was it our Star Trek? I had some reservations

Herb Solow

For the first time in 45 years I entered the fictional prequel of that world - that Star Trek world I developed, sold, executive-produced, oversaw and kept alive as long as I could.

I was Head of Desilu Studios (later bought by Paramount), charged with creating and developing successful television series for the struggling studio owned by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz of I Love Lucy fame (hence Desi-Lu).

Star Trek was the first project I commissioned. Mission:Impossible was the second. Happily, lightening struck twice.

When Gene Roddenberry made an appointment with me 45 years ago, he came into my office with one sheet of paper.

From this unlikely source, the entire franchise was born. In the two years that followed, I made a lot of changes to that piece of paper - and added to it considerably.

I changed Spock from a red-skinned fairly sinister alien with a pointed tail into the intellectually superior, green-blooded Vulcan he is today.

I named characters, developed Starfleet, talked with Gene about the need to infuse the series with a purpose. I created the idea of the Captain's log, to set up each episode, and a thousand other things. Gene had a great idea. He didn't have a saleable idea until we developed the pilot.

We made the Star Trek pilot and created our Star Trek universe for £509,000 ($825,000.) Paramount has spent a reported £92,486,000 ($150,000,000) to create theirs. We eventually found success with our universe.

As I walked into the silent theatre to preview the new Star Trek film, I wondered if Paramount would be successful with its costly endeavour.

I knew that Paramount could not go too far afield with Star Trek if for no other reason than the vocal and box office strength of the largest, most loyal and concentrated fan base in television history. But, nonetheless, I was concerned.

I entered the theatre and the Star Trek world with a mission: to determine if this new Star Trek beginning had done justice to the future we invented.

I was joined by my wife, Harrison, who, as many fans know, is the author (under a different name) of Gene Roddenberry: The Last Conversation and is well versed in the later Star Trek world as well as an authority on its philosophy and science-fiction in general which she teaches at a British university.


I really enjoyed finally meeting the young Kirk, the young McCoy, the young Scotty and the young Uhura, though I found the young Chekov a bit more hyper than we envisioned him to be

Herb Solow

Many questions were foremost in my mind. In this 'prequel' would I find a world that could have existed before we created and developed it? Would I meet our real characters before we invented them? Would they grow into the characters I 'hired?'

Happily, the screen was bright and large, the sound system was state of the art - producing a full, balanced and plentiful resonance.

127 minutes later and the deed was done. I had seen the past and it worked. Still, I had a few questions.

The production looked flawless. The photography, graphics and sound effects were brilliant. But, was it our Star Trek? I had some reservations.

The assembling of the new team was interesting and, for the most part set a genuine tone for the characters. Most of the characters rang true.

I really enjoyed finally meeting the young Kirk, the young McCoy, the young Scotty and the young Uhura, though I found the young Chekov a bit more hyper than we envisioned him to be.

He was originally to be a rather plodding Russian astronaut with no sense of humour. But this young Chekov was much more lively and a bit of a caricature.

The young Sulu was of particular interest. Sulu was my namesake. Gene Roddenberry wanted to call him Solo - long before Han Solo made an appearance on screen, but we later changed it (my request!) to Sulu.

I was a little disappointed in this performance. The original actor, George Takei, played the character with more grace and charm infused into his austerity.

All this said, our original characters grew and developed as we produced more and more television episodes.

Given the new talent and ability at the Enterprise helm, I have to believe the characters will grow in range and depth as their movie and/or television adventures continue and the actors develop in their roles. I have to applaud them all.

I was impressed and taken with the obvious concern to honour our original series.

Leonard Nimoy as Mr Spock
I missed the depth of Leonard's Spock, and the centuries of knowledge that always lurked in his eyes
Herb Solow

Not only in dealing with a familiar vengeful antagonist similar to the original series, but the little touches: the phasers, McCoy's electronic medical scanner (originally a battery-operated salt grinder from a Hollywood department store,) the weaving of the original Enterprise captain, Captain Pike, into the story and (discounting the first series pilot with Jeffrey Hunter playing Captain Pike) setting a precedent for his appearing in our original series in a wheelchair.

The set up for Sulu's fencing prowess was a very nice touch. The director and writers certainly did their homework.

I missed Sandy Courage's theme. It was saved for the very end of the film as the now complete young Enterprise crew looked toward their future.

I've saved my Spock reaction for the final comment. The Mr Spock character was 20% created by Gene Roddenberry, 20% created by me and 60% created by Leonard Nimoy.

The young Mr Spock was certainly commendable. But I missed the depth of Leonard's Spock, and the centuries of knowledge that always lurked in his eyes.

The single most emblematic phrase of our original series is 'Live Long and Prosper'.

I hope the new series of movies will have that long life, and that Star Trek will continue to prosper.




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