Gene Roddenberry, Mark Zicree, William Shatner discussed on Coast to Coast AM with George Noory
Years ago, gene, Roddenberry's visionary television series debuted on NBC was not an instant success at all. In fact, it was canceled just three years later, but a famously devoted fan base kept the sci-fi epic alive. And it has since spawned numerous hit television spin offs and over a dozen blockbuster films. That have dominated the box office for thirty five years Star Trek lives long and prospers on its fiftieth anniversary up next, Mark Zicree share some stories with us and memories. And here he is on coast to coast, Mark, Zicree. Marc. Welcome back. Great to be here, George. This is an exciting time fifty years of Star Trek fifteen years incredible. And and and it's amazing that so many wonderful Star Trek stories have been created by so many people over all these decades. And I'm sure we're gonna be talking a lot about it. We sure are what's with you. Give us updates on. My gosh, we'll have land studio. I'm. Shooting space command and do doing tons of stuff. We shot the two hour pilot. We shot thirty minutes of the second to our story. We're now meeting with networks both here. And in England, we're gonna set it up as a show. It's going to be something that everyone's going to be able to see and enjoy it's terrific. And I'm doing books, of course, as you said the new twilight zone companion, I'm pitching trilogy of novels and just on and on tons of stuff. You're happy with all this life is good for you. Oh my God. Yes. It's so it's so fun. When I realized that my audience could basically green light me, thanks to the new models. I that's when I shot space command. This the my audience green with me, they they financed me. And and now we can go to the networks having shot. You know, the two hours and say, this is what we have in mind for the next step is the network says, okay, we we green light is a season. And that's very different from the way it used to be. So I'm thrilled. That would be exciting. Well, hey, you know, what nobody deserves it more than you, Mark. Thanks to it. All right. Let's talk a little bit about the fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek. Let's go back a little bit because you've done some work on Star Trek to. Yeah. Yeah. I wrote for both Star Trek the next generation and the space nine, and then I did a Star Trek episode with George decay that got nominated for Hugo nebula awards and five star Trek's been a part of my life ever since I was a little kid. I debuted back in as you know, nineteen sixty six and before it even aired. They NBC commissioned a a piece of artwork and artists named James Bama, and they would run it for ten seconds is just a still station thing coming in the fall Star Trek, and I would see this planet, and this rocket ship lazing around the spaceship blazing around this planet and two guys. And it went by so quickly. This is before video recorders and had watched the sit right up against the screen waiting for this commercial. And it's like that guy that guy in the in the background have pointed ears what an earn an and I couldn't wait to see the show. And then the first episode aired, and it was an excellent called the Mantrap written by my dear friend, George Clayton Johnson and he'd been a twilight zone writer. He wrote kick the can and nothing. Doc, a wonderful writer, and it was an amazing episode. And from then on I was hooked. It was just that was that was really it for me. Did you ever think that you'd be doing some work on it? We know it's funny. When when I was a kid a book came out called the making of Star Trek, and this is when the show was on the air. It was written by Stephen Whitfield, gene Roddenberry. And and it was the first book I've read about how TV show was made. And that really planted a seed where I started thinking, we know I'd like to be a writer producer in television. And that kind of set me on that path. And and so my dream was to create and run my own space cooling science fiction show. And that was space command. That's exactly what I'm doing. And and so it's just a a dream come true. But it was very much set in motion by what gene Roddenberry created back back then and it only lasted three seasons. Yeah. And it's funny because you know, they were actually gonna cancel it the second season and woman named Joe Trimble started a letter writing campaign and a and a picketing campaign. I was part of that as a kid. I remember holding my little pick. Sign standing outside with a crowd outside NBC and writing my little letter a million letters were sent NBC and that convinced me to renew the show and it got its third season. And if not for that third season, it never would have gone into syndication. It wouldn't have had enough episodes. And no one would have ever heard of it again. And in fact, when Star Trek initially, aired I was so worried it would never air again that I actually recorded on reel to reel audiotape as a kid in case, those episodes never aired. I used to love those machines. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Why didn't it succeed in the ratings? Mark. Well, you know, the funny thing is back then the Nielsen ratings just registered bulk numbers how many millions of people watching an episode the year after Star Trek when off the air. They switched over Sunday called demographics where they will check not only how many people watching it. But what group of people age? Yeah. And the eighteen to thirty five demographic was the perfect buying them. A graphic and the year after started going off the air. They ran the demographics and the top rated show the number one show for that eight. Eighteen to thirty five demographics that they all wanted to start all my God daily freak out the yes. Because if they if they had had demographics the year earlier, they never would've canceled Star Trek. Oh my gosh. I would end they would've made money on that show. That's right. Another funny thing about another faith thing about Star Trek was it was incredibly colorful, you know, with those beautiful red and gold and blue uniforms and the very colorful enterprise bridge. Well, the the network that aired Star Trek was NBC and its parent company was RCA television. And so they wanted to sell color TV's, and one of the reasons they green lit startling was because of those bright primary colors because people would buy color TV's just to see Star Trek, and they actually run ran RCA color TV advertisements for Star Trek, so showing them on color TV's, and they ran them in all the national magazines. I have I have some of those ads I save since then. We've had on the program here William Shatner, you brought us George Takei. Yes. And I think that was it just those two. Yeah. Well, they're they're they're great. I mean, they're unforgettable their distinctive actors and wonderful. And again, that's speaks the diversity of Star Trek. Because again when Star Trek debuted in nineteen sixty six you didn't have African American actress in the lead like Michelle Nichols or Asian American actors in the lead like George decay. These were characters who were dynamic. They were going on adventures. They were they were treated with respect by captain Kirk and Mr. Spock doctrine with quite it was like a surrogate family of people all getting along all reaching out across boundaries of race and ethnicity to each other. And when you think about it Star Trek aired during the nineteen sixties. This is the height of the civil rights era. It was the Vietnam war was going on the moon landings were happening. I mean, it was an incredibly politically active time, very fulfilled, the political and social turmoil and upheaval and change. It was just the perfect time for that show today view. What a tragedy a few months ago when Anton Yeltsin the Star Trek actor died in that freak accident when his Jeep roll down and crushed him. I know crazy, and and yet at least he works in a medium where we get to see his work and enjoy it, and and he was a wonderful actor, and again these starts at characters, and he starts like actors are so distinctive in so memorable. And and the fact that the Walter candid capacity torch to Anton Yeltsin, and he could do, you know, the checkup so memorably he'll definitely be remember, I think we had Walter onto. Yes. And he's and he's another very distinctive guy, and a wonderful actor, and and again, each starts a character is so distinctive when I wrote when I world enough and time it was Kirk Spock McCoy Sulu all of the characters and they all speak differently from each other. They all have to viewpoints a Spock line will not work for Kirk will not work from Koi. No vice versa. They all very distinct himself, and that's why they've lasted and the didn't we have James Doohan deci ashes sent off into space. It will roddenbury's where to I went to so major Barrett. Roddenbury's a house when I recorded her for the computer voice in world enough and time and Roddenberry's ashes where they've they've been sent up in the state shuttle and then brought back and so a very fitting testament. So again, what was it like being on that Star Trek set when you were a kid? Well, you know, I was given a Christmas present of a trip to the star Trek's when I was a kid gray the greatest Christmas present ever. And it was the last episode of the original Star Trek ever shot if I'd gone a week later that show would have been gone, and it was an episode called turnabout intruder in which kirks personality is swapped with a woman a woman scientists, and and it was a William Shatner there that day in Mitchell bears who played there's chapel and and the force Kelly who played Dr McCoy, and it was amazing walking those since they were so phenomenal. And and and it was fascinating. Because one of the stagehands said Lascaux the season and under her breath. Major Garrett said last show ever. And the irony was the decades later, I recorded her as a computer voice for the Star Trek gets that I did thirty years later. And so so she was not only wrong about last show ever on on Star Trek. She was wrong. Even herself said she would continue on Star Trek in later incarnations on Star Trek the next generation, and then the features and so forth. So just phenomenal. You and George went to Japan at a convention in you, we did. Yes. Well, when when we did world enough and time, and and that's what I did with him. And. You can actually watch it on my my website, Mark Zicree dot com in its entirety. And after we shot that up. So we went to the world science fiction convention in Japan, we screened to an audience of three thousand people we got a standing ovation with the crowd with with with tears streaming down their faces. And then the next year we were nominated for the top award and science fiction, the Hugo award, which is given out of the world science fiction convention. So it was just an amazing honor. And to be there in Japan with George he's fluent in Japanese. And so we ran Seraing questions would be fielding questions in English, and he would be answering Japanese and I just saw him the other day. There was a big Star Trek convention in Las Vegas to celebrate. The fifty fifty then I went to it. And and George, and I were able to reconnect, and I very much want him in command. So we've been talking about a role. He'll be playing in space. Command was Shatner there. Yes. Shannon with. I mean, it's amazing because he's eighty five years old, and you could never tell. Yes, doesn't look that not not at all. And and his energy level. You seems like a much younger, man. He's phenomenal as George decay. George doesn't seem like a guy pushing eighty either these are amazingly vital and vibrant people in in phenomenal actors and the Star Trek just wouldn't have been the same without that group. No, it was a very special group. It was it was lightning in a bottle. You know, it's amazing because you know, twilight zone ended in nineteen sixty four and then to two years later Star Trek debuted, and gene Roddenberry was very much a friend and protege of rod sterling's. In fact, he gave a eulogy at Rod's funeral and and Roddenberry was very aware of if not for twilight zone, you couldn't have had Star Trek, and and he cast it's funny because the first pilot either a pilot for Star Trek called the cage there was actually shot in nineteen sixty four star Jeffrey hunter as captain pike. And it didn't sell the show. And so they ordered a second pie with. And that's when they got Shatner, and and the chemistry between William Shatner, and Leonard nimoy and to force Kelly and the rest of the cast, it just was magical and. And you could see it from the beginning from that first episode that aired you just know knew that these people were unforgettable. And and they stayed unforgettable..