Friday, March 28, 2008

Star Trek: The Dallas Connection…and Beyond

Despite the recent writer’s strike and economic slowdown, can the Star Trek franchise survive such challenges or is it trapped by delusions of a past “Golden Age”?

By: Vanessa Uy

Ever since the Star Trek original series aired in the 1960’s, many have questioned – especially the network executives – about the TV series’ economic viability. Science fiction stories that tackle high brow philosophical debates is the last thing market researchers of the 1960’s will call as “salable” and popular. And yet the series bucked the trend even though it gained fame posthumously through syndicated reruns. Nonetheless, the actors who worked in the original Star Trek series seem to have no trouble in getting lucrative roles once it became part and parcel of their respective CV’s.

Then came the soap opera “Dallas” whose then very famous catchphrase “Who shot JR?” referring to the unexplained crime that concluded the show’s 1979 – 1980 season immortalized the soap in the record books as one of the most watched soap opera of the 20th Century. Coincidentally, quite a number of actors working in “Dallas” first appeared in the original 1960’s Star Trek. And also, a number of actors developed their acting chops in “Dallas” before moving on to more challenging roles in the new generation of Star Trek series like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager. And later the pre-United Federation of Planets era Star Trek: Enterprise TV series.

On the original Star Trek series, four would later play important roles in “Dallas”. Like Glenn Corbett who portrayed the warp-drive pioneer Zefram Cochrane on the original Star Trek series will later cater to a different audience when he appears as Paul Morgan on “Dallas”. Morgan Woodward, who appears as Captain Tracey and Dr. Van Gelder on the original Star Trek series would later give life to the character of Marvin "Punk” Anderson on “Dallas”. Barbara Babcock who made Philana and Mea 3 unforgettable in the original Star Trek TV series was the star behind Liz Craig of “Dallas”. And who can forget Susan Howard who played Mara on the original Star Trek series showed her versatility when she later played Donna Krebbs’ character in “Dallas”.

Interestingly, a number of actors that appeared in newfangled incarnations of the Star Trek TV series franchise first developed there respective acting chops on the famous soap opera “Dallas”. Most famous of the “Dallas” alumnus is Kate Mulgrew who played the country singer Garnet McGee before she played Captain Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager which brought out her now famous trademark "Irish Passion" of her acting roles. Kate Mulgrew later appears in Star Trek Nemesis playing the same role. Her latest appearance is in the TV mini-series “The Black Donnelys”.

James Cromwell is probably the most prolific actor of the “Dallas” alumnus. As the actor behind Dallas’ Gerald Kane, James Cromwell later became the actor of choice when it comes to portraying the warp-drive pioneer Zefram Cochrane in the Star Trek: The Next Generation movie “First Contact” and the Enterprise TV series. Plus various other Star Trek: The Next Generation characters like Nayrock, Jaglom Shrek, and the “Dominion” business representative Hano in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Not content with his Star Trek roles, James Cromwell seems to like scripts with “conspiracies” involved like his starring role on the movie “Babe”, “The People Versus Larry Flynt” as the Reagan-era Savings & Loan chairman Charles Keating, and Jack Bauer’s dad on the latest season of 24.

Chris Demetral who played the role of Christopher Ewing in “Dallas” would later appear as Jean-Luc Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Mary Crosby who gave life to Dallas’ Kristin Shepherd would later play the character of Natima Lang in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Leigh McCloskey who played as Mitch Cooper in “Dallas” would later give life to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Joran Belar and Tieran of Star Trek: Voyager. And almost as prolific as James Cromwell, Lance Le Gault who appears as Al Halliday in “Dallas” would later don Klingon make-up and prosthetics when he plays Captain K’Temoc in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Plus, Lance Le Gault also plays Col. Decker in the famous 1980’s TV series “The A-Team”.

This just goes to show that “old time” Trekkies and newbies should be forever thankful to the soap opera “Dallas” despite the soap’s rather tenuous connection to succeeding Star Trek franchise that began in the late 1980’s. Because without “Dallas” the casting of actors for The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager would be much harder without the actors exposure on “Dallas”. The two are more common than you think if you are familiar with the drama behind “Shakespearean Power Politics”. These two TV series remind us of an “Golden Age” of the American entertainment industry that is now undermined primarily by on-line media piracy.

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