News Column

Star Trek's ongoing mission ... [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA)]

May 16, 2013

YellowBrix

No, a wormhole hasn't collapsed. As "Star Trek Into Darkness" opens wide May 16, you might feel as though no time at all has passed since the previous Trek movie came out in 2009. But don't blame it on a space-time anomaly. Credit, instead, those fanboys over at "The Big Bang Theory," the popular CBS sitcom where love for Trek is anything but alien.

And, real-life Trekkers and Trekkies are everywhere. Oscars host Seth MacFarlane "beamed" William Shatner, reprising his role of James T. Kirk, into the opening monologue of the Academy Awards in February. Late-night talk-show hosts work Trek references into their jokes. Writers of dramas from "Castle" to "CSI" to "Psych" to "Supernatural" find clever ways to script their homages.

So, it's not just cable TV reruns that keep Star Trek from ever going away. It's because, after nearly 47 years, there's a galaxy of accumulated Trek lore swirling in that expanse we call pop culture.

-- Catherine Artman,"Trek" talk

Even if you're not a fan of the Star Trek shows and movies, you've probably heard phrases and terminology from them that have become part of our culture. Here are just some:

Red alert!

Warp speed

Shields up

Set phasers on stun

Prime Directive

Transporter

Tricorder and communicator

Holodeck

Cloaking device

Away team

Redshirts

Starfleet Academy

Vulcan nerve pinch

Vulcan mind meld

Klingons, Romulans

Tribble

"Beam me up, Scotty."

"Scotty, I need more power!" (Capt. Kirk)

"Live long and prosper." (Spock)

"I'm a doctor, not a ... (fill in the blank)"

"I donnah think she'll take much more!"

"Hailing on all frequencies."

"We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile."

"Make it so.",Join the Federation

You can create a personalized Star Trek figurine at www.cubify.com/startrek.

You pick one of four poses for your gender, then select shirt color, rank, height and weight. You submit a photo of yourself, and then for $69.99, Cubify will create a 3-D figurine in your likeness.

For a variety of other gear, go to shop.startrek.com. Items range from a Star Trek: The Next Generation Communicator Badge Replica ($19.95) to a Captain Kirk Tunic ($199.95) to Tribble Slippers ($29.95) and Red Shirt Fragrance ($39.50). There also are bobbleheads of the four main characters in "The Big Bang Theory" in Star Trek uniforms ($19.95 each).,Still on TV

While it has become harder to find the original "Star Trek" series on TV, in some areas, it's on Saturday at 9 p.m. on Me-TV, WPXI's digital channel 11.2 that's carried by most cable providers. And "Star Trek: The Next Generation" can been seen regularly on the Syfy channel and BBC America.

And, of course, the movies pop up on various cable channels regularly.

Syfy is showing a marathon of five of the movies (II, III, IV, VI and "First Contact") starting at 9:30 a.m. May 16. The 2009 reboot "Star Trek" will air at 8 and 10:30 p.m. May 19. And a new History channel show, "Star Trek: Secrets of the Universe," which looks at the science behind the 2013 film, debuted May 15 and will be repeated at 1 p.m. May 19.,Commercials

- The original Spock, Leonard Nimoy, has done his fair share of product endorsements over the years, but in his latest outing he is paired with the new Spock, Zachary Quinto, in an Audi ad titled, "The Challenge." The two are racing separately to the club for golf and lunch, with Quinto in an Audi and Nimoy in a Mercedes. Not surprisingly, the Audi wins, although Nimoy makes it into the building first using his Vulcan nerve pinch on Quinto. There are several nods to Trek, but the best is an obvious reference to Spock's death scene in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan."

- Hasbro has a new KRE-O Star Trek building set, out last week, but it's the digital short created by Bad Robot using the building set that adult fans will really enjoy. After the ship is sucked into a black hole, the captain responds, "Nobody else is seeing that we're all made of plastic. Nobody wants to talk about that?" www.youtube.com/kreo

- Esurance, the online car insurance company, has teamed with "Star Trek Into Darkness" for some ticket contests and a new commercial. John C. Reilly stars as an alien who has a fender bender with a Federation spaceship. You can see the commercial and some making of videos on the Esurance Facebook page.

- Although the new Star Trek video game, which was released in April, isn't getting very good reviews, the commercial for it was a hit. In it, William Shatner and one of the nemesis from the original series, the Gorn, play the game and then fight a seriously staged battle over who is getting whom killed on the screen.,Mr. Sulu conquers social media

Who would have thought that the biggest Star Trek star in 2013 -- aside from the ubiquitous Shatner -- would be George Takei?

However, the actor best known as Mr. Sulu on the original "Star Trek" does have a certain talent, perfect for the current moment: he can say witty, pithy things in bite-sized 140-character increments, which just happen to fit perfectly into Twitter tweets (twitter.com/ georgetakei) and Facebook posts. In particular, he's known for his comments on the subjects of gay rights and marriage.

Takei has had a long and unusual acting career and life. Along with virtually all Japanese-Americans during World War II, his family was herded into an internment camp, where he spent a major portion of his childhood surrounded by armed guards and barbed-wire fences. He recently starred in "Allegiance," a stage musical set in the internment camps that is making its way to Broadway.

Takei is a regular on Howard Stern's talk show and has had many, many television guest appearances -- including the original "Hawaii Five-O" in 1968 and the new version in 2010. He had a recurring role on NBC's "Heroes." Recently, he had a regular role in Nickelodeon's "Supah Ninjas," an action-comedy show that shot two seasons in Pittsburgh (but was recently canceled).

-- Michael Machosky,Oscar-worthy

Capt. Kirk is as good a guardian of morals and good taste as he is a defender of the Federation. At least the production crew of the 2013 Oscars telecast saw him that way.

As the show began, comic Seth MacFarlane had to deal with a visit from Kirk, who came back from the 23rd century to help him. Looking at it from the future, Kirk could see the "show's a disaster."

In the 11-minute encounter, Kirk helped MacFarlane piece together some new bits that Kirk was able to judge by looking at newspaper headlines that changed just as MacFarlane's show did.

Finally, the captain got the show up to speed -- warp speed, we suppose -- and his video screen disappeared.

-- Bob Karlovits,Salutes from crime shows

Many TV dramas give shout-outs to Star Trek. In a "Supernatural" episode, Dean (Jensen Ackles) explains how his team's scheme is similar to "Star Trek IV," the movie about saving the whales. "Psych" often works in jokes and gags; in one episode, Gus (Dule Hill) wears Geordi's visor from "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

In 2009, a sci-fi convention was the scene for an episode of CBS's "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." In "A Space Oddity," two CSI scientists, Hodges (Wallace Langham) and Wendy (Liz Vassey), attend the convention wearing uniforms clearly patterned after Star Trek uniforms.

Last year, the ABC crime series "Castle" went to a Comic-Con. The episode "The Final Frontier" was directed by Jonathan Frakes, who played Cmdr. Will Riker in "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and who appears on-screen in the first minute of the show. One of the guest stars is Armin Shimerman, who played Quark in "Next Generation" and "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine."

The episode's murder-mystery plays out while poking a little fun at Trek and its ilk and their rabid fans. One scene, in which such fans are part of a simulation, is a reminder of the Kobayashi Maru, a Starfleet training exercise depicted in the second Trek movie, "The Wrath of Khan."

-- Catherine Artman,'Big Bang' love

"Rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock!"

Any fan of CBS's hit comedy "The Big Bang Theory" will recognize Dr. Sheldon Cooper's preferred version of the game. The show never shies away from cleverly playing homage to the characters' love for their favorite series, "Star Trek."

Episodes have featured the gang dressed in full Star Trek costumes and a tiny toy Mr. Spock dispensing advice to Sheldon. And who can forget a popular holiday episode in which the Sheldon and Leonard's street-smart, albeit ditzy, neighbor Penny gives Sheldon the ultimate gift -- a napkin Nimoy used at the restaurant where she waitresses? The gesture made Sheldon's Grinch heart swell three sizes that day.

Trek icons have made frequent guest appearances on the show. Other than Nimoy -- who lent his voice to the mini plastic version of himself -- the show has featured Wil Wheaton in a recurring role and a quick visit from LeVar Burton, both stars of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." George Takei (Mr. Sulu) shows up in Howard's imagination, and Data, a.k.a. Brent Spiner, appears in one episode.

Whether they're arguing over which film was best, playing a round of Klingon Boggle, or quoting the series directly, the "Big Bang" gang makes no apologies about its love for all things Star Trek. But don't worry -- you don't need to be a Trekkie to be in on the jokes.

Just remember: Paper disproves Spock.

-- Rachel Weaver

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