Treknobabble is a continuing series of columns written by uber-Trekkie Reed Farrington about Star Trek and how it has influenced his life.
You know when you find something that you like, whether it be a song or book or movie or whatever, and you want to share that something with family and friends? And you really hope that they share the same feeling about that something? Or how about the feeling that you get when you find out that the creators of things you admire are fans of each other? I’ve grown to agree with the familiar saying that you can judge a man by the friends he has. I suppose in trying to understand myself, I’ve been trying to assess the commonality among all my interests by looking at the people behind my interests. Although this may sound self-serving, I agree with Plato in his statement that an unexamined life is a life not worth living. Since this is a column about Star Trek, I thought it would be interesting to find connections between Star Trek and other things I love. In this column, I’ll be looking at the sporadic connections between Star Trek and The Beatles.
I was born in the ’60s, so it might be natural that I appreciate things from the ’60s even though I was too young to enjoy the experience of living through the ’60s. Growing up in a small town in Canada, I was probably sheltered. At the least, the events of the ’60s were filtered by the seclusion. I realize that the ’60s were filled with turmoil, but as is so often noted, great things seem to arise from adversity. I’m a big fan of The Beatles. Not just their music, but as individuals. Part of their appeal was attributed to how each Beatle had his own distinct personality. It’s interesting to see how each of them handled the riches and the fame.
The worlds of Star Trek and The Beatles didn’t seem to mix. From what we saw in the Original Series’ episodes, there was no sign that The Beatles’ music had survived to the 23rd century! Yes, I realize even if anyone at the time had wanted to include Beatles’ music in an episode, the licensing fees would probably have been prohibitive. Also there was a stigma attached to pop culture that Star Trek maintained by dismissing the relevance of television and spectator sports as well.
However, the Beatles’ haircut did survive as could be seen in Spock’s mop-top and Chekov’s early haircut, I mean wig. Gene Roddenberry was not oblivious to the popularity of The Beatles (or should I say The Monkees, who were based on The Beatles) with the younger generation. Here’s a memo that Roddenberry sent to Star Trek’s casting director, Joe D’Agosta:
“Keeping our teenage audience in mind, also keeping aware of current trends, let’s watch for a young, irreverent, English-accent â€œBeatleâ€ type to try on the show, possibly with an eye to him reoccurring. Like the smallish fellow [Davy Jones] who looks to be a hit on The Monkees. Personally I find this type spirited and refreshing and I think our episodes could use that kind of â€œlift.â€ Let’s discuss.”
Walter Koenig was eventually hired as Chekov because of his resemblance to Davy Jones, the lead singer of The Monkees. Chekov became a Russian after Roddenberry had heard that Pravda had published an article noticing the absence of a Russian on the bridge of the USS Enterprise.
There was an Original Series episode, “The Way to Eden”, that did address the hippies and counter-culture of the time. Kirk wasn’t too sympathetic with the hippies, but Spock and the hippies grokked each other. Spock even played a musical instrument! Granted it was a Vulcan harp, but stillâ€¦
I suppose I should mention William Shatner’s rendition of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” that he recorded in 1968. In 2003, it was voted as the worst cover of a Beatles’ song in a poll conducted by the digital TV channel Music Choice in Britain.
In the mid ’70s, I found out about a project that had me totally psyched. Apparently, Gene Roddenberry and Paul McCartney were going to be working on a science fiction musical! I’ve read a source that says Roddenberry had initiated contact with Paul at Abbey Road Studios, but I also remember reading that it was Paul who initiated the idea. Supposedly, they did get together in November of 1976 to work out the story about an invasion from space that would involve Paul’s group, Wings, and Paul as an outer space rock singer. However, when Paramount decided to go ahead with reviving Star Trek, Roddenberry abandoned his plans with McCartney.
Roddenberry had suffered a breakdown from overwork during production of the Original Series, so I can imagine that Roddenberry thought he could only handle Star Trek and nothing else at the same time. A remnant of the project can be seen on the cover of the Wings’ album, “Back to the Egg”, that was released in 1979. The cover shows the group looking through a hatchway at the planet Earth from space. By the way, I find it strange that Roddenberry’s authorized biography (and even an unauthorized biography I have) fails to mention this project. Furthermore, I dug out my copies of the Wings Fun Club fanzine, Club Sandwich, from the time of â€œBack to the Eggâ€ and I couldn’t find any reference to the Roddenberry project. I assume the project is not apocryphal.
A curious film entitled, The Beatles Meet Star Trek, was shown in the mid-to-late ’70s at least in the New York tri-state area. There is speculation that this film was an edited compilation of clips from the Star Trek and Beatles animated shows that got shown in theatres that had cult films, revivals, and midnight showings. If anyone has actually seen this film, please tell us about it in the blog post comments.
There is a popular Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) episode called, “The Inner Light”, in which Picard lives the lifetime of an alien in less than half an hour as a result of contact with an alien probe. Now unless you happened to purchase the Lady Madonna 45 rpm single or The Beatles â€“ Past Masters â€“ Volume 2 CD, you might not be familiar with the George Harrison penned tune, “The Inner Light”. I had assumed that the writer of the Star Trek episode had been referencing the same Indian mystic text that George Harrison had, but apparently, the Star Trek episode was named after Harrison’s tune.
In the TNG episode, “Redemption, Part II”, during the Klingon civil war, Data commands the U.S.S. Sutherland. The motto on that starship’s dedication plaque reads, “There will be an answer, let it be.” For Star Trek: Voyager fans, there is a YouTube video of Tim Russ aka Tuvok helping to sing “Let It Be” at a Star Trek convention in Germany from 1998.
At Gene Roddenberry’s funeral, Nichelle Nichols aka Uhura sang “Yesterday”. She introduced the song with, “This song was co-written by a dear friend of Gene’s: Paul McCartney.”
In The Hippie Dictionary compiled by John Bassett McCleary, Gene Roddenberry and John Lennon are listed among the thirty-six most influential people of the hippie era. If you listen to Lennon’s song, “Imagine”, you can hear how this could be an anthem for Star Trek’s future on Earth:
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
Much has been said about the bromance between Kirk and Spock in the latest Star Trek movie. To my surprise, co-writer Robert Orci states that inspiration came from the bromance between John and Paul! Let me allow Orci to explain in the following paragraphs:
“We looked at John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s friendship as part of our model for Kirk and Spock. They were opposites and they bonded very young because they both lost their mothers when they were teens. They might not have actually gotten along at the time had it not been for that kind of a bond. They were the only ones who kind of understood each other’s pain about having lost their mother, so they were definitely an influence on Kirk and Spock. You know, Star Trek and the Beatles were products of the ’60s, so sometimes you have to tie it all together.
“The more you read about them, the more you realize how they each had elements of the other. The Yin and Yang each have elements of the other color within their spot. I think it depends on the day. On the one hand you can say that Lennon was the intellectual like Spock, but on the other hand he was also kind of the leader of the band, so you can say he was Kirk in that way. And certainly Paul had more of the Spock haircut and the eyebrows. I guess we’ll be able to answer that one later, when we see how Kirk and Spock develop.
“You know what? Spock is Lennon, because Paul is the optimist who can kind of see through the pain and still keep his chin up. That’s Kirk. Spock is a little more fatalistic with his logic, as John Lennon was.”
In the Star Trek movie, recall that Kirk loses his father and Spock loses his mother as a direct result of Nero’s actions. I think I agree with Orci’s assessment that Spock is more like Lennon. Lennon wrote the song, “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”, which is a sentiment that Spock would agree with.
In a story last year that’s not directly related to Star Trek, The Beatles’ song “Across the Universe” was the first song beamed directly at light speed into deep space. Appropriately enough, the song was beamed through NASA’s Deep Space Network that was founded shortly before The Beatles invaded America. The Deep Space Network is â€œan international network of antennas that supports missions to explore the universe.â€ With his typical flippancy, McCartney notified NASA with the message, â€œAmazing! Well done, NASA! Send my love to the aliens. All the best, Paul.â€ And with her typical optimistic dreams, Yoko commented, â€œI see that this is the beginning of the new age in which we will communicate with billions of planets across the universe.â€ I imagine Uhura should have picked up the broadcast at least once during the Enterprise’s adventures.