Unveiling of 'Trek' episode that was 20 years in making

July 10, 2008|By John Coffren | John Coffren,Sun reporter

Star Trek fans have been waiting more than 20 years for this premiere.

David Gerrold, who at age 19 wrote the famed "The Trouble with Tribbles" episode of the original Star Trek TV show in 1967, wrote an episode for Sta r Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) called "Blood and Fire." It was so controversial that the script was not produced. It dealt with two hot topics: the AIDS crisis and homosexuality.

James Cawley, a big Star Trek fan, decided to go where no fan had gone before and produced "Blood and Fire" as part of his Web series, Star Trek Phase II (startreknewvoyages.com).

Fans can watch a smooth cut - the first clear assembly of the episode, minus the final special effects - at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Shore Leave 30 science-fiction convention. Over the years, fans were so eager for the episode that they sought copies of its script online and at similar conventions.

Phase II depicts the latter part of the five-year mission of the Starship Enterprise, nearly 40 years after the cancellation of the original Star Trek in 1969. Using official blueprints, Cawley built a replica of the U.S.S. Enterprise set in his Port Henry, N.Y., studio. For the past four years, he has released episodes with the help of a volunteer cast and crew.

The Web site averages 5 million page views a month, he says, and this year, Phase II was named best online show by TV Guide. Also, his efforts have drawn such Star Trek alumni as writers Gerrold and Dorothy "D.C." Fontana and actors Walter Koenig, George Takei and Denise Crosby.

"Blood and Fire," a two-parter from a 112-page script, took 12 days to shoot and cost $113,000. Its premise - "a plague so horrible that Starfleet had issued standing orders not to attempt rescue of any infected ship but to destroy it immediately," Gerrold said - hasn't changed, but some details have; most notably, the gay crew.

Cawley knew higher-ups told Gerrold to cut the two gay crew members from the Next Generation script; instead, for Phase II, Cawley imposed one condition on keeping them.

"If you're going to show them as a couple, it has to be real," Cawley said. "There was one line in the Next Generation episode, 'So, how long have you two been together?' and that was as much as there was in 1987. There's a lot more now."

However, Cawley says he still played down the story element.

"It's not a big deal to anybody on the Enterprise. There is no bias in the 23rd century," he said. "It's not about AIDS or homosexuality. The true message is to give blood, and that's always going to be relevant."

The episode as originally planned was going to include a plea for blood donors, Gerrold said.

"Star Trek works best when it takes these kinds of chances," Cawley said. "And it's high time [homosexuality] was talked about on Star Trek."

john.coffren@baltsun.com

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