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May 13 2018

The History of Star Trek and Turks

One of the most interesting recent developments in Hollywood has to do with Star Trek. Director J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek film featured the same ship and crew that were in the original TV show.

In the new film, in an effort to avoid the logical flaws among the three seasons of the series and subsequent films, the screenplay is based around two time travellers and an alternate reality. Through this brilliant move, it managed to attract the even most hard-core fans of the original series to the new film and its two sequels.

In early 2018, there was a great deal of  buzz that J.J. Abrams had met with famed director Quentin Tarantino for him to write a Star Trek screenplay.

Tarantino
Quentin Tarantino

 

Paramount Studios liked the pitch, and it was decided that Tarantino would continue to work on his film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, while writing the screenplay for Star Trek. However, there was some confusion at the time because screenwriter Simon Pegg was writing the screenplay for Star Trek Beyond, the third film in the series, without knowing what Tarantino would write, but they also announced that they would be writing a new screenplay.

It was understood that in the rebooted Star Trek crew’s fourth adventure, S.J. Clarkson would be in the director’s chair and this time, we would learn the story of James Kirk’s (Chris Pine) father George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth), who dies in the beginning of the first film.

Star Trek

If I may digress a little bit, if you do some research on the Star Trek series, you’ll come across some really interesting history. The first film, based on the world-famous TV series created by Gene Roddenberry, went through a similar process. In May of 1975, Paramount decided to capitalize on the popularity of the series and bring it to the silver screen.

The first idea they entertained around for the film included the notion that years before, a satellite is sent into space to retrieve some artificial intelligence and search for its creator. The idea was scrapped, and a four-year process began. After the scripts were returned several times, the same team that made the series decided to return to TV screens yet again.

There is even a book about this period—Star Trek Phase II: The Untold Story behind the Star Trek Television Series that Almost Was, written by Judith and Garfield Reese-Stephens. For the second go-around of the series, the writers created two scenarios lasting around an hour long about the first part of the Starship Enterprise’s journey. In the end, the producers decided that a story based on one of the scenarios would make a good movie, and the filming began.

For those who haven’t seen Star Trek: The Motion Picture, I should quickly explain that it’s about a satellite that had been sent into space years before; the satellite retrieves the artificial intelligence and the adventures continue from there.

Star Trek

There are now two new Star Trek scenarios and even though both have been filmed already, there is talk that Tarantino’s film makes a return to the story in the original series. One thing people are most curious about is how can Tarantino, best known for his R-rated movies, or movies that are unsuitable for viewers under the age of 18, make Star Trek? No Star Trek movie has ever received an R-rating.

Among all of these Star Trek tales is an interesting one that is rarely told, and few people outside of Turkey even know it: the first film in the world based on Star Trek was actually made in Turkey. Directed and produced by Hulki Saner and starring Sadri Alışık, Turist Ömer Uzay Yolunda (Tourist Ömer Travels in Space) was made in 1973, five years before Paramount even starting planning their Star Trek movie.

On top of that, there were no hiccups while writing the screenplay. Ferdi Merter, who plays Doctor McCoy in the film, wrote the screenplay quickly. The scenario is based on “The Man Trap,” the first episode of the Star Trek series to go on the air. Merter just added Tourist Ömer into the story, and many of the scenes are taken directly from the series.

turist ömer

A still shot of Tourist Ömer

In an interview he gave years later, Merter claimed that Hulki Saner himself had approached him to make the film. Merter didn’t think it would be a good idea to make an exact adaptation of the series and told Saner that it would be a bit strange and fail to attract a wide audience. After that, he suggested that Sadri Alışık, one of the most popular actors of the time, should play Tourist Ömer, the character he would add into the film.

For those who don’t know much about Tourist Ömer Travels in Space, here is an anecdote: among the choices to cast in the film were Erol Amaç and Ferdi Merter, who had also done the Turkish language voiceovers for the series. And because Oytun Şanal did the voice of Captain Kirk for the series, he was also the voice of Captain Kirk in the film’s final cut even though the actual role of Captain Kirk went to Cemil Şahbaz.

Although it was during the Cold War, there was a Russian and a Japanese character in Star Trek because Gene Roddenberry had the incredible foresight to know that one day, humanity would erase all borders. In fact, it was on Star Trek that American viewers first saw a black person and a white person kissing each other. Even though the sets and special effects aren’t that great, the screenplay and the topics Star Trek dealt with are what have made it so important today.

New Star Trek films and series will continue to be with us in the future. And who knows, perhaps in the years ahead, any books written about Star Trek will include Tourist Ömer Travels in Space, and Tourist Ömer, who so seamlessly became a part of the fearless crew, will become more widely known.

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