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COVER STORY | Trek Bits

Lost in Space

September 08, 1996

Even the most ardent Trekker hasn't seen all the "Star Trek" that was conceived: Many ideas never made it past the drawing board.

In the '70s, a variety of incarnations were broached then aborted. "Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry concocted a couple of movie ideas, one titled "The God Thing," in which the Enterprise crew took on God, who turned out to be something of a bad guy. Sulu was killed and Spock maimed or worse; the core of this idea was tinkered with and eventually became "Star Trek: The Motion Picture."

Another film script was a wild time-travel adventure, with the Enterprise heroes trying to keep the fabric of time from unraveling and meeting Einstein, Hitler and Churchill along the way. One version reportedly had Spock responsible for the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

An abandoned TV series, "Star Trek: Phase II," was considered briefly in the '70s, as well. The cast would be reunited except for Leonard Nimoy as Spock, as Roddenberry and Nimoy had not gotten along too famously during the first series and Roddenberry had reneged on a promise to cast the actor in a pilot for a series he was trying to get off the ground. Moreover, Nimoy was suing Paramount for using his image for merchandising purposes without his permission.

Spock would appear in but two of the projected 13 episodes, to be replaced by an actor named David Gautreaux as a Vulcan named Xon--Gautreaux had been introduced to the press, and a party was even thrown in anticipation of the series. But William Shatner theorized that other characters were being brought in so that Kirk would be eased out, and Nimoy's firm refusal prevented the series from becoming a reality.

Harve Bennett, who produced the second through fifth "Trek" films, was developing for the studio "Star Trek VI: The Early Years," focusing on Kirk and Spock's days as teens enrolled in the Starfleet Academy. Dr. McCoy joins the academy to forget his past and venture into space; Kirk lost his true love, revealing why he would become such an inveterate, commitment-shy womanizer. Shatner and Nimoy would have provided wraparound narration, and Bennett had even extended offers to John Cusack to play the young Spock and Ethan Hawke to play the tousle-haired Kirk.

The project was scrapped when it was decided that, for "Trek's" 25th anniversary, the original cast would be reunited one last time in the sixth film. Still, the idea has not completely died: "I'd make it in a minute if I had a chance," Bennett says today.

Pain in the Masks

Makeup is a fact of life, however unpleasant, for many in "Star Trek" casts.

"I would have spent approximately 4,000 hours of my life under latex rubber," says Robert Picardo, who auditioned for the role of Neelix on "Star Trek: Voyager." Instead, he was cast as the holographic Doctor. "It's that hairbreadth of fate that has given me back 4,000 hours of my life," he says now, clearly relieved.

Fate has not been so kind to others, though. Michael Dorn almost had to quit the series because his Klingon makeup raised welts on his skin, and Armin Shimerman, who plays Quark, the Ferengi with ears that rival Ross Perot's, reports, "Inside the head of almost 95% of all generic Ferengi masks, there are no ear pockets, so your ears are pinned to the sides of your head for 12 to 16 hours. That gets excruciating after about eight hours, really excruciating.

"When I got the job, I said, 'You've got to do something about this,' and they sculpted ear pockets into the head. . . . But the makeup has been tenfold more hard than I thought it would be."

Language Barrier I

Another challenge for the performers, though less physically taxing, is managing to speak all the "techno-babble" the writers conceive for the programs.

"This is the biggest mouthful I've had in perhaps three seasons," Kate Mulgrew, who stars as Capt. Kathryn Janeway on "Star Trek: Voyager," says while paging through her script. "See if you can wrap your head around this one: 'Tuvok, lock phasers on their nearest ship. If we can destroy one of them, there's every chance the interferometric pulse that links them will cause a chain reaction. Modulate our shield frequency to an inverse harmonic of the pulse. That should allow the phasers to hit the ship.' You know what I mean?

"I've asked for physics lessons. It's imperative. It's absolutely key to me and to the core group of the bridge that we understand the rudiments of this language, which is all based in science. The only way to endow these scenes and lift them up is to understand these lines. Even if you don't get it as an audience, the fact that you know I do makes you relax and embrace what's going on. The techno-babble is key to the success of 'Star Trek.' Because most of these science-fiction minds out there love it, so it's a real hook."

A Real Brew-haha

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