Fifty years into its journey, the Star Trek universe has expanded to include 13 movies (Star Trek Beyond comes out in July) and six TV series. The cultural impact is bigger than a Klingon Negh’Var. Last week thousands of fans gathered to hear Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage, an evening of orchestral music from the shows, live at the Pantages Theatre. Original composers Dennis McCarthy, Jay Chattaway, and Mark McKenzie guest conducted 80 musicians under flickering images of Kirk and the gang. Promoter Cineconcerts has done similar events with The Godfather, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and It’s a Wonderful Life.
I was squealing with joy when I recognized Gerald Fried’s iconic score from Amok Time. I was moved by the intensity of the music, but as I watched Shatner and Nimoy attacking each other on the big screen it seemed ludicrous. Sure, superhero movies dominate the box office but Sci-fi culture, something we were long told was frivolous and lowbrow, was captivating a roomful of elites dressed up to hear a Vulcan fanfare performed by a formal ensemble. It’s impossible to tell what will enter the canon.
The loudest applause of the evening was a standing ovation for Nichelle Nichols, the actress who played Lieutenant Uhura on the original series. When she stood up to wave in her elegant black gown (complete with Starfleet insignia), the crowd went wild. I was seated just behind her and almost had a panic attack as the crush of photographers and well-wishers grew overwhelming: “Remember me? I worked at Paramount!” “I first saw you when I was seven and you changed my life!” “I like you better than Star Wars because you talk out your problems!”
Of course none of this sympathy kept me from introducing myself to the star, ablaze in gold and sapphire jewelry. When she heard my name she gave me a big smile and said we were family.
The elegant older society lady seated next to me, who was raving about Mozart and the L.A. Opera during intermission, mentioned that this was her grandson’s first classical music concert. In this era where Juxtapoz is the most popular art magazine in the country, and it takes both the Getty and LACMA to exhibit Robert Mapplethorpe’s sexy pictures, it appears that, as Rebecca Keegan put it in her review of the new Pee-wee Herman movie: “The weirdos…have won.”
The 50th anniversary concert tour comes back to Southern California on May 2 with a stop at Segerstrom Hall in Orange County.