The Horror Out of Space: How “Star Trek: The Original Series” Was Also an Influential Horror Show

When Star Trek premiered in September 1966, it immediately revolutionized science fiction television. The series was launched by Gene Roddenberry as a fantastic riff in a popular series as Wagon Train at the time. It was the first non-antological genre programme for adults, and it quickly evolved from a cult to a phenomenon in itself.

The growing popularity of the series has led fans to save it from cancellation and then played an important role at Paramount by deciding in 1979 to continue the franchise as a film series. The Track brand quickly became known, not only for its key figures, but also for the themes of optimism, scientific and technological progress and social harmony, with the various crews of Starship Entrepreneurship, who are looking for a new life and new civilizations with the aim of study and training, not conquest. It was not easy to arrive at this revolutionary approach because, as you know, Track was written and filmed not one but two pilot episodes; they had different sounds and actors, but both were undeniably fantastic, and the co-pilot, in which there was no one before, understood better that the series aimed to imitate the pulp-fiction genre of the time, with an emphasis on adventure, as the television directors insisted.

However, none of these pilots went to 8. September 1966, the night of Star Trek’s premiere on NBC. Instead, an episode of the human trap was shown – the story of the Enterprise crew’s collision with an alien that kills its victims by removing salt from their bodies. We have already seen more human aspects of the series – Captain Kirk (William Shatner) regrets that the crew must destroy a creature that only kills to survive, but the episode is an excellent example of the fantastic horror of the 50s and 60s. The episode was written by George Clayton Johnson, who had had a successful career in television a few years earlier, and who wrote for Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, and who was clearly still in that mode when Star Trek called. With this unusual but promising first episode, which is at the top of its time, Star Trek has begun to walk, allowing viewers to see their passage and use the horror more often, proving that the series can explore dark corners of the universe, and also tell more about them.

Where there’s never been a single person

In a way, it had to be, because Roddenberry and his editors John D.F. Black and Dorothy Fontana tried to hire as many fiction, horror and genre writers as possible for the first few seasons of the series, hoping that it would be an easy transition to find people who were already familiar with the genre (because the concept of the series was so new). Where no man has ever been written by Samuel Peples, a veteran of many western novels and television programmes, Peples’ concept is that a crew member on the edge of the galaxy would be captured by a mysterious divine psychic force not only Lovecrafts in its connotations, but also anticipates a group of cinematic psychic horror stories such as The Force (1968), Rage (1978) and Scanners (1981).

In addition to Johnson and Pepel, other well-known genre writers with experience in horror and screenplay writing were hired, such as Richard Matheson, Harlan Allison, Art Wallace and Robert Block. The block known as the author of the novel Psycho, which Alfred Hitchcock edited for the film, and which will soon appear in several Amicus portmanteau horror films, has written a trio of episodes for Star Trek. These episodes played openly with horror trophies and told the story of a mad scientist who created double androids (What are little girls made of?), a herd of universal horror hammers/films in a ghost castle (Cat Shovel) and the story of Scotty (James Duhan) who was imprisoned to kill the immortal ghost of a Jack the Ripper (Wolf in the herd). With these authors and their episodes, Star Trek has more than proved its good faith in horror.

The shoulder blade of the cat

Some of the most intriguing episodes (not intended as puns) of the series are, even more than the horror stories, directly related to the genre. In addition to Bloch’s triptych, the show was dedicated to the apocalyptic invasion of vermin (Operation – Exterminate!), the I.A. (The Final Computer) rogue states in the style of the 1990s, aliens possessed by dominant children (And Children Must Lead) and deadly aliens (The Devil in the Dark) in a way very similar to the horror films of the time. Despite the science fiction premise, the Light of Zetar episode is in every way a story of demonic possession. In this episode (written at least in collaboration with the creator of Lamb Chop, Shari Lewis), a crew member (Yang Sutan) is hit by a mysterious storm that the Enterprise is going through, after which it turns out that his body has been captured by the noncorporeal remains of a dying alien race that plans to use it for their future lives. The image of this joker and director Herb Kenwitz, when the actress makes sinister expressions while Kenwit manipulates his voice to force the character to make unnatural and painful sounds, is truly disturbing. If you exchange your science fiction knowledge for religious mythology, you made one of the films about demonic possession in the 1970s, including Exorcist (1973).

This episode can be seen as one of the many influences of the series on the comedy genre – even the famous Trouble with Slices episode, which is a very clear comedy, anticipates Joe Dante’s film about the little fluffy creatures that suppress the group of unsuspecting people, the Gremlins (1984), for several decades.

The gun problem…

After three seasons, Star Trek was cancelled and won’t be reborn for another ten years, this time as a high-budget film concession. Meanwhile, Roddenberry and a legion of fans who got the series saw the franchise as a less cellulosic genre adventure and more like an intoxicating and positive universe, more interested in exploring diverse alien cultures than too many alien, fantastic/scary villains. In the feature films, however, Star Trek was a remnant of the original propensity to make horror films: The film (1979) was directed by Robert Weiss, who brought a terrifying approach to certain scenes of V’Ger’s invasion of the Enterprise and all those who saw Star Trek II, reminiscent of his work in Ghosts (1963): Khan’s (1982) anger is undoubtedly traumatized by the eel ears of the net.

The split/sequence shows sometimes plunge their toes into a world of horror, and the techno-terror of the Borg was a special highlight. However, the franchise has never penetrated deeper into the classic horror than the few episodes of the original series, and although this is a disappointment for us horror fans, we can only hope that the continued popularity of Trek can bring some surprises for the future – Spock Vs. Dracula, anyone?

What’s more, at least one Star Trek character still evokes fear in his own way: We all know where the Halloween filmmakers found Michael Myers’ mask again.

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