Monday, July 22, 2013

Secret Star Trek, Part 9: Levels Above Human



If Star Trek is indeed inextricably linked to the human potential movement and a bizarre flying saucer cult, why is that so? What is the purpose of programming these strange themes into what is one of the most successful sci-fi franchises of our time?

For all its nods to political correctness over the years, Star Trek is about one thing and one thing only: the militarization of space.

Depicting a universe ruled over by a benevolent military dictatorship, Star Trek and the roughly contemporaneous Dune marked a distinct about face in 60s sci-fi, a return to the ethos of Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers. This certainly fit the agenda of the Great Society, which married social largesse at home with unrelenting militarism abroad.

In trying to fit the puzzle pieces together you see how the military of the Cold War era was constantly on the lookout for new weapons or potential weapons, and the weaponization potential of extrasensory perception was something even the most dimwitted colonel could grasp. At the very least the Human Potential Movement offered the promise of better recruits into the military from the get-go.

It's in this context we should look again at Roddenberry's famous "Box" for Star Trek: The Next Generation, forbidding any kind of interpersonal conflict among the crew, even disallowing children to mourn their parents.

Indeed, Roddenberry's idealized Enterprise seems suspiciously inhuman, or a level above human. Perhaps his "New Human Movement" wasn't just a throwaway:
The new Human movement represented a popular advancement of the Human civilization in the 23rd century, a grouping created as an outgrowth of the advantage of potential in Humankind on Earth and other Federation worlds where Human populations lived in total peace and were able to devote themselves entirely to their own betterment. Without conflict and turmoil, education became more advanced and the intelligence of the average individual increased, creating a dynamic of social freedom not before experienced by the species. 
This ethos, which in fact has its roots in old fashioned Puritanism, is the other major thematic strand that ties Esalen to Star Trek, the first of course being The Nine.

From the Esalen website:
(Michael) Murphy’s research on this database led to the groundbreaking books The Future of the Body and The Life We are Given. The central finding stemming from his research is that most human attributes have extraordinary expressions, in which those capacities are taken to new levels of experience and sophistication. This suggests a larger purpose for the continued evolution of human embodiment, which is a central premise in Esalen’s vision and programs.
It shouldn't come as a surprise then that so many of the major players in the Trek franchise would explore this idea of Level Above Human in their later projects, or that the denial of human impulses and needs would have such a powerful effect on some of Star Trek's most fanatical followers....


The best-known and most successful of the post-Trek projects was Ronald Moore's revamp of Leslie Stevens' Battlestar Galactica, which added a fresh coat of Bush-era paranoia to the militarization of space theme. But it also introduced transhumanism into the mix, with the Cylons no longer depicted simply as chrome killbots but as highly sophisticated androids who are essentially indistinguishable from human beings.

Diving deep into a reality resembling your typical Daily Kos/Salon.com commenter's worst nightmare, Moore's BSG depicted his militarized universe as a stylish kulturkampf between monotheists and nominal polytheists, although his Democrats-in-Space theme would be considerably more accurate if the humans were militant atheists.

BSG was beloved by liberal reviewers, despite the military monoculture it helped to reinforce in the public imagination. 

It went unnoticed outside geek circles, but Trek fans were stunned when Moore not only left the fold in 1999 but aired his grievances with Voyager showrunner Brannon Braga in a very public fashion, condemning the UPN flagship as a betrayal of the Trek ethos (and a nightmare to work for).

Moore also dismissed Berman's stewardship of the franchise, observing instead that it was Michael Piller (who we've discussed so much in this series) who was the man who made Star Trek: The Next Generation the cultural juggernaut it became.

Piller later jumped ship as well to develop and produce USA Network's series adaption of Stephen King's psi-themed The Dead Zone (starring former Brat Packer Anthony Michael Hall), which ran a respectable six seasons.


After developing Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda for syndication, Robert Hewitt Wolfe reinvented Jim Butcher's dour Dresden Files as a dramedy for SciFi (who badly dropped the ball with what could have been a major hit).

Wolfe's Files presented sorcerers in the same context that has become dominant in sci-fi franchises such as Twilight, Underworld and True Blood; supernatural beings are a hereditary subset of humanity (or a Level Above Human, more accurately) governed by a parallel, invisible government comprised of councils and elders and so on.

As much a cliche as it's become in pop circles, this basic formula was originally derived from occult sects and secret societies, the same types of organizations who believed they had been contacted by the gods of Egypt beginning in the late 1940s.


Wolfe later joined former Deep Space Nine showrunner Ira Steven Behr over at Syfy's Alphas,  a shortlived superhero-sans-spandex series. However, the Alphas were predominantly psychic superheroes; they didn't leap tall buildings in a single bound or save cheerleaders.

Like Heroes, Alphas was deeply derivative of a series which re-ties the endless links between Star Trek and The Outer Limits: USA's The 4400.


The Levels Above Human here were filled by the titular 4400, ordinary humans who were kidnapped and given superpowers (usually of the psi variety) by future scientists to head off a coming apocalypse. The elevator pitch was essentially X-Men meets X-Files (with liberal doses of Taken) and focused on the travails of the new superheroes and the government agency assigned to deal with them.


What sets the series apart from later clones such as Heroes and Alphas is the 4400 Center, an  urbanized Esalen
run by the mysterious Jordan Collier (played by Bill Campbell). Collier also dies and rises, sets up a Temporary Autonomous Zone within Seattle city limits, isolates the compound which gives the 4400 their powers and begins doling it out to ordinary citizens to recruit them to the 4400 cause.

The series has a distinct Scientological undertow to it as well, reminding one of the popularity of Dianetics among the CIA's remote viewers, not to mention the occultists involved in the first Nine-like eruptions into the culture (despite the grotesque abuses of the Church's leadership- abuses that seem to be a feature, not a glitch-- there's also the inconvenient fact that Scientology actually seems to work).

But most importantly The 4400 embodies the lingering connections between Star Trek and The Outer Limits, since it was created by longtime Trek staff writer René Echevarria and (New) Outer Limits producer Scott Peters. What was long implicit was now explicit.

After several attempts, The Outer Limits was finally rebooted in 1995 by Alliance Atlantis, the prolific Canadian studio that also produced the various Stargate series (with considerable help from the US Air Force).

However, The Outer Limits was markedly different from most Atlantis product, eschewing jokey, fannish LARP-fi for more serious-minded sci-fi. It was a successful anthology (running six seasons on Showtime and a final season on SciFi) at a time when execs has long written anthologies off for dead.

But just as the original series did, the new Outer Limits also served as a venue for a host of faces familiar to Trek fans, most notably Leonard Nimoy in a remake of Otto Binder's 'I, Robot'. The better episodes of the series also featured Mirina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, Dwight Schultz, John De Lancie and Michelle Forbes from TNG, Nicole De Boer, Rene Auberjonois, Nana Visitor and William Sadler from DS9 and Robert Picardo from Voyager.

In other words, the Star Trek-Outer Limits feedback loop had now entered a new generation...

Then there is 'The Deprogrammers', an episode starring Brent "Data" Spiner playing way against type as a resistance fighter who kidnaps the human slave (played by Erich Anderson) of an alien overlord in order to reverse his mind control programming. It's a fantastic bit of sci-fi with a vital message for these times so I won't spoil the shock ending.

I will strongly advise you to watch it, however.

But here's where the sweater begins to unravel: Anderson previously appeared in another mind control themed drama, this time on ST:TNG, proving that the Outer Limits producers were paying very close attention to what Trek was doing:
After the crew's memories are mysteriously erased, the computer records indicate that the Federation is at war with the Lysians, and that the Enterprise has been ordered to attack their command center.
Anderson plays a spy who poses as the Enterprise's first officer. His goal is to commandeer the ship to destroy an space station and drag the Enterprise into war with his people's enemies. A classic false flag using mind control, in other words. Go figure.


But there are two curious details here that deepen the weirdness. First of all this episode is one of Michelle Forbes' few guest appearances as Ensign Ro, connecting us to Bajor. And the space station is a repurposed Godship all the way back from 'Justice', the very Esalen-flavored episode from the first season of TNG.

So in other words, the episode in which the Outer Limits' producers chose to reference Star Trek has very distinct yet clandestine links back to The Nine; through Ensign Ro to the Prophets and through 'Justice' to the non-corporeal machine intelligence.


I should add that Leslie Stevens was listed as program consultant and/or consulting producer in the first four seasons of the new Outer Limits (he died in 1998). The Leslie Stevens Enigma may be why there seems to be so many tales being told out of school in the new Outer Limits as well as the old. It also should be noted that nearly all of the Trek guest slots on TNOL came while Stevens was still alive.

And so another episode featuring another familiar Trek face also brings us straight back to that West Coast corridor connecting the Stanford Research Institute to Esalen with its remote influencing and shadowy military men.

The fourth season episode 'Monster' has long been a mystery to me. Like so many other resonant TNOL eps it features a Star Trek alumnus, Nicole de Boer in this case. And just as we saw in the Trek-related film Wavelength, 'Monster' seems to dramatize an extremely bizarre and terrifying episode in which military remote viewers were killed during an exercise in a deep underground bunker:
Nick Redfern's book Final Events begins with a story told by a priest named Ray Boeche, who was also involved in the murky world of UFOlogy. He claims he was approached by two men who worked for the Department of Defense in 1991, who were concerned about the work being done in the field of psychotronic warfare. They claimed that black project groups were getting involved in heavy occult activity and seeking to contact NHEs, or non-human entities, which they intended to weaponize...Boeche was shown a series of photographs of the catastrophic results of one of these experiments.
Information given, but not allowed to note during meeting: Discussion of individuals killed during psychotronic weapons experiments.
1. Male, white, 25-30 yrs., allegedly death by remotely induced cardiac arrest.
2. Female, white, 20-25 yr., allegedly death by remotely transmitting and creating head trauma equivalent to crushing of right anterior portion of the skull. 
3. Male, white, 30-40 yrs., allegedly death by remotely controlled suffocation. 
Setting was in a laboratory environment. Alleged victims were wired for EEG EKG, seated in reclining chair, somewhat similar to dentist's chair.
 

What's even more fascinating is that the petite, pixieish deBoer is very much an idealized version of the woman who was at that time one of America's most notorious remote viewers, Prudence Calabrese, who was.... 
 (the) second-most prominent figure at the controversial Farsight Institute, a remote viewer trained by Farsight founder Courtney Brown ...Calabrese was a key participant in the infamous "Hale-Bopp Companion" fiasco in the spring of 1997, in which she and Brown claimed on national radio that a planet-sized object of apparent alien origin was following close behind the huge comet...
Normally this kind of thing wouldn't attract much attention outside Coast to Coast fan circles. But that night a desperate man was tuned in, awaiting a message of deliverance for himself and his flock of the ultimate Star Trek: The Next Generation fans:
When 39 members of the Heaven's Gate cult committed suicide last March in the apparent belief that they could thereby gain entry to a UFO trailing Hale-Bopp, more than a few horrified onlookers directed a share of the blame at Farsight.


For some reason, very few people have bothered to notice that even if Hale Bopp didn't bring a planet sized UFO in its wake, it most certainly heralded one of the most remarkable UFO flaps of recent times. We have no evidence that the Heaven's Gate cult were aware of the Phoenix Lights but there's no doubt that they would surely have believed their prayers had been answered:
Marshall Applewhite heard an alleged "remote viewer" claim on Art Bell's show that a ginormous UFO was trailing Comet Hale-Bopp and saw this as the great signal that it was time to beam up. The UFO meme was soon debunked but as he and his followers were wrapping up their affairs, the Phoenix Lights were causing panic just a few hours drive away from their Rancho Santa Fe stronghold.

Did the Gate hear about the event? I haven't found any evidence yet that they did but the timing of the event- whatever you may think of the exact nature of the sightings themselves- is bone-chilling.

The Gate were awaiting a giant UFO to come pick them up. And just as they were preparing for its arrival thousands of people were reporting a giant UFO in the skies over Phoenix, a hop, skip and jump away.
But we've been there before. The story actually gets a lot stranger...

Way too much Star Trek

Heaven's Gate-- America's most notorious Trekkies-- were a lot more isolated than the cache of video and text released postmortem would lead you to believe (they were able to support themselves as web designers without tipping off their clients as to how extreme they were). They were also a lot angrier and paranoid than the impression given in their happy-face "exit interviews."
Applewhite required his "class" to give up virtually everything. This included families, friends and sex, five of his male followers had themselves surgically castrated like their leader. They also surrendered and/or renounced all their worldly possessions. His "crew" was told they must overcome and do battle spiritually with dark forces known as the "Luciferians" and those they influenced. This became a negative label that could be applied to anyone or anything outside the group.

It was through a process of rigid regimentation that Marshall Applewhite was able to purge his "class" of their individuality and program their minds to accept his doctrines.

A lot of their literature isn't much different than typical Fundamentalist conspiracy literature and they held to a deeply apocalyptic worldview. Contact with outsiders was closely monitored and Applewhite's suicidal tendencies were exacerbated by a deep persecution complex. However, they did maintain a website and post various manifestos on USENET so they weren't exactly invisible. It's simply that there wasn't much to distinguish them from a number of similar cults until their mass suicide.
According to Marshall Applewhite the world was merely a "stepping stone" to "the true Kingdom of God." And this world was about to be "recycled" or "spaded under" because its inhabitants had refused to evolve. Only those who were bound together through his teachings could survive by traveling to the next level.

The group's suicide was almost logical within this mindset, since Applewhite insisted that "the Truth can be retained only as one is physically connected with the Next Level, through an Older Member" (i.e. Marshall Applewhite). Thus, without Applewhite there was no hope of transition to the next "Evolutionary Level."

A typical apocalyptic cult, right? Well, aside from the Phoenix Lights synchronicity I'm trying to figure out why --or how, more accurately-- The Outer Limits aired a strange parallel world version of the Heaven's Gate story, a kind of wish-fulfillment lucid dream for the cult and their leader.

That aired the same week of their suicides.

Bringing us back to the realm of the ancient astronauts, the episode in question aired March 28, 1997 and was written by Stargate SG-1 producer Jonathan Glassner and was entitled 'Double Helix'. Here's the pitch from the Wiki:
A geneticist, Dr Martin Nodel, is a researcher looking into introns, mysterious sections of DNA that he believes hold the secret to future evolution. He develops a formula that he believes will activate them, and ...tests it on himself, and begins experiencing strange symptoms, including a sort of map that grows on his back and a pattern that grows on his hand.

Shortly after he begins looking for students that are suitable candidates. They have to have a high IQ, never had surgery, and are free from imperfections such as tattoos or glasses.
 
After finding the needed candidates, he reveals the map. The area is discovered to be a hidden military area not on any normal map and, along with Nodel's son and his girlfriend, the group travels to the area.

Inside that area is a spaceship-type device with symbols that match the ones on the Doctor's hands. It activates, and a message from an apparent alien race is played back. The Doctor and the students decide to enter the ship on a journey to the home planet.
Applewhite believed he was Christ reincarnated

So what we have here is an idealized version of Heaven's Gate;
like Nodel, Applewhite was a college professor and looked upon his cult as his students. He creates a serum which elevates him to level above human, discovers the spaceship and takes his class with him to visit the alien creators.

Exactly as Applewhite spent a quarter century dreaming about.


It's as if Heaven's Gate's wildest dreams had come true, at least onscreen. Seriously- if you watch the episode the parallels will simply smack you upside the head. It's like Heaven's Gate's own Hollywood movie of itself.  Even more so than The Mysterious Two, which is in fact based on Heaven's Gate.


The retreat into the woods is an exact parallel of Applewhite leading an early version of his cult into the forests of Oregon in 1975, where he and Bonnie Nettles hoped they would find exactly what we see in this episode. What's more the Nodel character is drawn into the aliens' orbit because of a health crisis, just as what happened with Applewhite. One student even identifies his class as being like a "cult."


And did I mention this first aired two days after Marshall Applewhite's death?

The language is all remarkably similar to Applewhite's as well: evolution and the scholastic lexicon colliding with nakedly religious iconography. In many ways it plays like a Stargate episode (lost alien artifact, curiously benevolent military men, creator gods), which of course isn't surprising.

What's more, a sequel would run the following season in which the earth had indeed been "spaded over."

Some interesting details about this episode though- there aren't 39 people who enter the ancient spaceship, there are only nine. One of them- Martin Nodel's son- is played by Ryan Reynolds*, star of...


...The Nines.

You know, about the noncorporeal space gods who inhabit human form.

 Note that Reynolds' girlfriend in 'Double Helix' is named Hope† and Hope Davis plays a similar role in The Nines. But more importantly note that Martin Nodell is also the creator of...

Green Lantern.


Portrayed on film by...Ryan Reynolds.

The Green Lantern Corps is controlled by the cosmic space gods known as the Guardians of the Universe. How many of those were there originally?

Nine.


And just to make this all completely insane, here is Ryan Reynolds as Hannibal King watching William Shatner in Leslie Stevens' Incubus for absolutely no reason at all. The film is Blade: Trinity which presents Dracula as a Sumerian god, unearthed during the Iraq War.


Hannibal King later receives the stigmata.


Incidentally, a few days before the Heaven's Gate suicides began an episode of Voyager aired in which one of the crew mysteriously began to manifest the Stigmata.

Why is all of this significant?

Because at the very same time all of this was happening Michael Piller was hired to begin work on Star Trek 9 aka Star Trek:Insurrection. Aka Star Trek: The War for Esalen....




*Reynolds co-starred in the same first season episode that Dwight Schultz appeared in.
† The same actress also played Neith in Stargate SG-1.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Secret Star Trek, Part 8: Daystar Trek and the Majestic Nine


This series has taken us from the connections between Star Trek, the flying saucer cult known as the Council of Nine and Esalen, the New Age resort in Big Sur to the dizzying array of connections between Star Trek and the short-lived sci-fi anthology series The Outer Limits.

This is no detour. This cuts right to the core of what Star Trek is really all about. 


Gene Roddenberry had only the barest shred of an idea for Star Trekº in the spring of 1964, and only the barest sketches of characters (none of which would make it to screen) and little else but one sentence pitches for storylines. Yet somehow he was able to wrangle an almost unprecedented budget for his pilot from a major TV studio, and would begin production by year's end.

How is it that such a vague glimmer of a concept would be in production within a matter of weeks, a feat almost unheard in TV history?

What happened is that Gene Roddenberry met Leslie Stevens, a man who spent his life developing ideas into TV series,
from Stoney Burke (starring Jack Lord) to the The Outer Limits to CIA-themed comedy-thriller It Takes a Thief to The Name of the Game (starring Robert Stack) to prescient cyber-thriller Search to McCloud (a major hit that lasted seven seasons) to The Invisible Man to Battlestar Galactica to Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

Stevens was also a man who had no problem letting other people sign their name to his work. According to BSG director Alan Levi, Stevens was the true creator of that franchise. Stevens also script-doctored a number of features, including a Shirley MacLaine vehicle shot shortly before her famous conversion to New Age religion. Perhaps not coincidentally, Stevens was knee-deep in esotericism his entire life.

Ikar, the role model for the emotion-free Vulcans
Spock was originally meant to be hot-tempered

The connections between Star Trek and Outer Limits are well-documented, but less well-known (and intentionally obscured on sources such as Wikipedia) is how these connections came to be. There's no paper trail spelling out an agreement between Stevens' production studio and Roddenberry, which itself adds a touch of mystery-- if not a bit of the old cloak and dagger-- to this observation by former TOL production assistant Tom Selden:
"Star Trek was in fact an outgrowth of The Outer Limits. Gene Roddenberry watched our dailies all the time and took a lot of phone calls from our screening room. He was spurring his imagination and checking on the incredible quality control we had. I wondered why he was there but he was there more often than not during the time he was coming up with Star Trek."-- The Outer Limits The Official Companion, pg 361
What Selden is saying is remarkable and speaks to an arrangement between Stevens and Roddenberry that goes way beyond the kind of professional courtesy one producer might extend to another. What Stevens is doing is allowing Roddenberry to work on Star Trek in the Daystar studios, and as Selden accounts, Roddenberry "was there more often than not."

Bearing in mind that Roddenberry was contracted to a rival studio and a rival network, the odds are essentially slim to none that the two men didn't have some kind of business arrangement, whether in writing or not. And considering that the Star Trek pilot "The Cage" is essentially two separate Outer Limits episodes folded into one, Roddenberry was obviously picking up more than special effects tips.

Given Stevens' deep connections to the intelligence world (which we'll get to in a moment) and his lifetime interest in mysticism and esotericism, it's almost certain that he was the source of Roddenberry's rather prescient use of then-unpublished Gnostic doctrines in early Trek episodes (including "The Cage") and it's entirely possible that Stevens contributed a lot more besides.

If he was willing to not only forego creator credit on Battlestar Galactica but to never discuss the matter at all (though in reality he never seemed to discuss much at all), it seems he was a reliable confidant as well as a creative kick-starter.

SOME CHANGES AROUND HERE



The shift from Outer Limits, with its maverick neo-Alchemists and angry young men, to Star Trek, an old-fashioned naval drama set in space, might have not been a random fluke.

The Outer Limits was a major hit so it seemed bizarre that ABC would work so hard to sabotage it, until you look at Stevens' rebellious streak, both offscreen (running away from home to work for Orson Welles, foregoing Annapolis to join Army Intelligence) and on (Stoney Burke was filled with government corruption yarns and Outer Limits tattled on MK-ULTRA, Paperclip and other dirty doings).

Aside from those troubling allegories, Stevens' connections are so deep that as author/researcher Bruce Rux has argued, connections within the intelligence community could have been feeding him classified material and/or speculative briefings about UFOs and abduction reports to sound out before the public in a highly-charged dramatic context. Many of these accounts wouldn't be declassified until the 1970s and beyond.

Stevens only wrote four episodes himself but the scripts his producer Joseph Stefano wrote are absolutely nothing at all like anything he would before or after his time on the show (or even his rather bizarre and convoluted season final, "The Form of Things Unknown"). And unlike Stefano or any of his other writers, Stevens had a hotline straight to the highest echelons of the technocratic military establishment.


He called it "Daddy."
(Admiral Leslie) Stevens was naval attache in Moscow for three years, 1947-50, after a varied and  distinguished career in naval aeronautics, in which, to quote the jacket, he “had a hand in the design or conception of all naval aircraft, aircraft carriers and carrier landing apparatus.” 
Stevens, Sr. (a three star Admiral) was also on the National Security Council under Eisenhower and was instrumental in the formation of NASA ( he was US Navy Representative on the Governing Committee its immediate predecessor) and other, more exotic projects. His resume is such that he was a very likely candidate for membership on Majestic 12 or a similar working group.*

Stevens, Sr. died in 1956 but his son was himself an intelligence agent during the Big One and almost certainly maintained his connections after the war. In fact, some believe he remained on the payroll throughout his Hollywood career.

A number of interesting possibilities arise from this connection from the Daystar offices to the seat of American military power. What's particularly interesting is that Stevens's aliens didn't come to Earth in flying saucers, they came here through considerably more unsettling forms of transportation (all the more unsettling given that they parallel classified projects his father would have worked on).

In fact, some of the aliens in Outer Limits simply seem to be here, and don't need to travel here at all. Other stories detail alien abductions, which were documented but kept from the public and studiously ignored by the UFOlogy groups (we might now know how the unpublished until 1969 Villas Boas story ended up in "The Cage") until 1966 when the Betty and Barney Hill story went public.

Could the fact that leaked material from classified UFO briefing papers was finding its way to prime time television be another factor in the premature death/murder of The Outer Limits?




Before you answer, remember that The Outer Limits aired during a regime change in this country and a conservative Texan with deep ties to the military-industrial complex ascended to the Oval Office.
Remember also the inconvenient fact --inconvenient for the skeptics, I mean-- that John Kennedy ordered a UFO briefing ten days before someone not named Lee Harvey Oswald blew his brains out in Dallas:

An uncovered letter written by John F Kennedy to the head of the CIA shows that the president demanded to be shown highly confidential documents about UFOs 10 days before his assassination.
The secret memo is one of two letters written by JFK asking for information about the paranormal on November 12 1963, which have been released by the CIA for the first time.
Author William Lester said the CIA released the documents to him under the Freedom of Information Act after he made a request while researching his new book 'A Celebration of Freedom: JFK and the New Frontier.'
How interesting that another Texan would find his pro-military sci-fi drama fast-tracked around the same time Lyndon Johnson was ginnin' up the American war machine in Southeast Asia, and that the Starship Enterprise would duke it out with cosmic cousins of the Soviets (Klingons) and Red Chinese (Romulans)
Another interesting fact to note is that although Stevens's successful franchise was murdered in its cradle as soon as LBJ took office, he'd soon begin a long and very successful act with Universal, the Hollywood giant controlled by kingmaker Lew Wasserman. Notably, Wasserman would pluck Jack Valenti out of the White House in 1966 and install him as head of the MPAA, a post Valenti would hold for decades.

Wasserman's crowning creation was Ronald Reagan, a steadfast believer in the reality of UFOs.


Stevens's Magonian vision of aliens
- not so much UFOs, mind you-- is particularly salient in light of his Keelian Incubus, shot on the shores of Big Sur (with Trek money?).

While the fountain of youth theme is particularly fascinating in light of the presence of a Starship captain and the connection to Star Trek: Insurrection, one can't help but wonder if a dramatic episode alleged to have taken place at Vandenberg Air Base might not have also inspired Stevens to film there, since it occurred while he was in preproduction for Incubus:
The 1369th Photographic Squadron dispatched from Vandenberg Air Force Base unwittingly filmed the UFO while tracking the missile some 60 miles above the Pacific Ocean. Two days later, Chief Science Officer at Vandenberg AFB, Major Florenz J. Mansmann, summoned Jacobs to his office to view the film. Among those present in Mansmann's office were two CIA agents from Washington, D.C.

As the men watched the rocket soar high in the sky, an unidentified light swims into the picture and encircles the rocket, emitting brilliant, strobe-like flashes, around the missile Upon closer inspection of the film, Mansmann confirmed later the light was definitely "saucer-shaped". According to Jacobs, the warhead malfunctioned while in flight, and fell several hundred miles short of its intended target. Mansmann tells Jacobs to keep quiet about the incident, and the two CIA agents leave with the film, which has never been seen again.
Fascinating indeed. But just as we saw with the paranormal history of Hunter Liggett, Big Sur and the land around Esalen has a long and storied history of being not just another chunk of real estate:
There the Esselen danced, conducted ceremonies and planted prayer sticks. They re-enacted creation times, balanced the good and malicious spirits of the universe and commemorated the dead. The springs were where the divine powers of land and water, normally divided, came together. “To them it was magical,” says Esselen ethno-historian Alan Leventhal.
Sounds like the plot of Incubus. And there are the waters again, which seem to link Leslie Stevens and William Shatner back to the beginning of our story, back to Michael Piller and his version of Star Trek.

What also links Stevens and Piller is the latter's work on Isaac Asimov's short-lived series Probe which bore a nearly actionable similarity to Stevens' TV movie of the same name, all the more remarkable given Roddenberry's relationship to all three men.

But it's Piller who seems to be the torch-bearer for whatever strange contagion is being carried through this franchise in a sub rosa fashion.


Piller lucked into his job as head writer since the man chosen to replace Roddenberry's handpicked showrunner washed out before the third season of Next Generation got its feet wet.

But it was under Piller that Star Trek started getting truly weird again, and as we saw before Esalen re-enters the picture as Risa (or Risa-len, as I like to call it) complete with that bizarre forehead mark and the time-traveling aliens, standing for real aliens the way Trek 'aliens' stand in for non-Americans.


And it's under Piller that future Battlestar Galactica re-creator Ronald Moore (another military vet, like Stevens and Roddenberry) comes aboard with 'The Bonding', which also brings The Nine back to the forefront of Trek.

This was the episode that Piller spoke of in the documentary on the making of Star Trek: Insurrection, the story that Roddenberry rejected because his future didn't allow for children mourning their mother's deaths.

Moore's original script had the boy recreate his mother on the holodeck but Piller's rewrite had a race of noncorporeal aliens (the Nine, basically) recreate not only the mother but the boy's home on Earth. Strangely enough all of this is presaged by a Klingon ritual, a favorite riff of Moore's.

Both Piller and Moore would do a lot to flesh out the Prophets on Star Trek: Deep Space the Nine and the religion based around them. The religion that would come to dominate the entire Federation if this universe was based in any kind of reality.

Incidentally, the dead woman's surname is Aster, reminding us that one of the original group that summoned the Council of Nine in the first place was an Astor. Funny coincidence, no?


But this is even "funnier." The 25th episode of the third season is "Transfigurations", which has the crew find a crashed shuttle and a lone survivor they call Dick Price John Doe. He's pretty messed up and needs to be whatever the hell linked to transport him so Geordie volunteers and gets zapped with a PKD 2/3/74 type beam to, you guessed it, the forehead.

This gives him some instant gestalt and he then has the courage to ask the girl he's crushing on to the Arboretum (this is a bottle show so there's no agrarian world handy; the Arboretum has to do).


John's not so lucky, he's got the Stigmata all right. A pretty nasty case of it.  Luckily he gets fixed up and begins charming everyone, but especially Dr. Crusher.

 “Dick was very focused on healing one person at a time.-- source

Soon we find out that John has the healing touch, which is a good thing because his people are coming for him and they have the power to kill with their minds. Luckily John's got such a heal-on going that he can heal the entire ship now. It all leads to his pursuer beaming aboard the Enterprise to witness John's apotheosis into well, a Nine-like being...

JOHN: You could learn from these people, Sunad. They do not fear me.

SUNAD: They don't know how dangerous you are, you and the others like you.

JOHN: That is what you and the other leaders have maintained for generations, but it is not true. Captain, my species is on the verge of a wondrous evolutionary change. A transmutation beyond our physical being. I am the first of my kind to approach this metamorphosis. They tried to convince us it was a sickness we would never survive, that the pain and energy pulses would kill us. They claimed we were dangerous so they destroyed anyone who exhibited the signs of the transfiguration.

SUNAD: We were protecting our society.

JOHN: By murdering us? You saw the mutations as a threat to your authority. You were terrified of something you couldn't understand. Some suspected that what was happening to them was not evil. Four of us decided to flee Zalkon and let the metamorphosis take its course. 

Watching Ryker, Picard and Crusher see John off into the stars through the skylight of the saucer section is remarkably similar to the theories that the so-called "airshafts" of the Great Pyramid were meant to shoot the Ka of the dead pharaohs off to Orion or Sirius to be with the gods of Egypt, the very same gods that the Council of Nine claimed to be incarnations of in the first place.

Theories that wouldn't be published until several years after this episode aired, by the way.

But this idea of sudden evolutionary change wouldn't be unique to an episode of Star Trek, of course. In fact, some Trek producers would explore this theme from various angles in their post-Trek projects. Then there's this: 


“We (Murphy and Price) both had been inspired by a vision that the human potential is far greater than people had realized,” Murphy says. “We did not want to start a religious cult, a new church. We wanted it to be a center where we could explore conceptually the ideas that we were interested in.

Namely that the cosmos, the universe itself, the whole evolutionary unfoldment is what a lot of philosophers call slumbering spirit. The divine is incarnate in the world and is present in us and is trying to manifest.”


Incidentally, if you're searching for semiotics this was the 25th episode of this season and Dick Price died on the 25th of November. The woman that John's mind-linked friend Geordie hooked up with was name Christy; Dick Price's widow was named Christine. I'm almost certain there's more there but I haven't caught it yet.

Either way, I won't think you're crazy if you see this as a secret tribute to Price.



TO BE CONTINUED



º His main innovation was the parallel worlds concept; namely that alien worlds would have followed similar courses of development as Earth, allowing for cost-cutting use of pre-existing props and costumes. That's the idea Irwin Allen stole from his pitch meeting with Roddenberry.

I know a lot of you might think MJ12 is/was a hoax and I certainly understand that; I did too for many, many, many years. But before you make up your minds on the subject I strongly recommend you read Stanton Friedman's exhaustive, point by point rebuttal to the various debunkings. It may well change your mind.

† When MGM were discussing a possible Outer Limits movie in the 1980s, Stevens pitched them a treatment titled
Earth Tapes, which would act as a framing sequence for the anthology format of the film (similar to the Twilight Zone film of the 80s)


In Earth Tapes, aliens were not from outer space but from "inner space" and came into our world by way of a cyclotron, or particle accelerator. Like the succubi in Incubus, the inner space aliens come to our dimension, judge us and find us wanting. They decide to test our worthiness by subjecting us to various stories and seeing how human beings react to it.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Secret Star Trek, Part 7: Playground of the Elementals

Back row: Should've been played by Jasika Nicole,
James van der Kirk, Sylar. Front: Englebert Humperpatch
PREFACE: That the team that brought us Fringe also brought us the revised Star Trek is no accident. In fact it was inevitable. Fringe took huge chunks of storyline from The X-Files but it also drew inspiration from a bizarre period in American history when Cold War budgets were financing fringe scientists at Stanford Research Institute, Xerox PARC and other locales in north-central California.

From Marin County down to Silicon Valley down to Big Sur you had the cream of the weird crop, scientists with 180+ IQs dropping megadoses of designer hallucinogens, consulting with UFOs and communing with dolphins for the CIA. Not since the glory days of the Alchemists was so much money poured into such strange pursuits.º

Star Trek inspired another generation of science geeks to dream of taking to the stars, not realizing how weird that warp drive really looks once you look under the hood. You can forget all of Gene Roddenberry's pretensions to rationalism, because it's not entirely clear he was ever steering the ship. Even before Star Trek actually existed.

Hardcore fans have long seen writers like Gene Coon and DC Fontana as refining the basic formula that Roddenberry brought to the airwaves, but reading the various pitches and treatments- some written a matter of weeks before Trek would go into production leads one to seriously question if other hands were not more deeply involved than Trek mythology would have you believe.

Star Wars fans have long credited producer Gary Kurtz for helping hammer George Lucas' wild flights of fancy into a coherent product, and Battlestar Galactica fans have done the same for Outer Limits creator Leslie Stevens and the original 1978 BSG pilot.

Looking at the mind-boggling spiderweb of continuity between The Outer Limits and Star Trek, it's very likely Stevens did the same in the 1960s and beyond.
And given Stevens' pedigree in military intelligence and his long noted interest in fringe science and the occult, his role in the creation of Star Trek is no minor detail. It's pivotal in the unfolding drama of Star Trek, Esalen and the Nine...

The behind the scenes story of The Outer Limits (
which Stephen King famously stated was "the best program of its type ever to run on network TV") and its spiderweb of connections to Star Trek is nearly as bizarre and inexplicable as the stories it presented every week. Largely forgotten now, The Outer Limits was in its first season was Star Trek was most definitely not; a major hit.

Over 30 million people tuned in every week and the show was shaping to be a licensing bonanza with a successful line of trading cards, comic books, toys and other merchandise. Yet for reasons never made clear, the ABC network began putting enormous pressure on its executive producer Leslie Stevens, even though he was delivering a successful product at a cut-rate budget.


It could very well be that ABC was facing outside pressures itself, since the program was subversive at a time when that word actually meant something (and carried with it actual consequences).

Coincidentally or not, The Outer Limits' stories closely paralleled real-life government programs such as MK-ULTRA ('Nightmare', 'Controlled Experiment'), Project Paperclip ('It Crawled In From the Woodwork'), NSA surveillance ('OBIT') and the NASA youth training program ('The Special One'), all of which were still very much classified.

Other stories dealt with nuclear accidents ('Production and Decay of Strange Particles'), secret societies within the military ('The Invisibles'), the assassination of an American President ('One Hundred Days of the Dragon') and any manner of alien abductions and human experimentations, again skirting the frontiers of the Top Secret world.

In other words, The Outer Limits was sticking its nose deep into the doings of the National Security State during a hotting-up period in the Cold War, namely the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of JFK, and the growing escalation in Vietnam.

That deep resonance probably accounted for much of its initial success, but with a conservative Southerner in the White House and tensions growing over civil rights and other issues, it was no time for a monster show to be kicking up dust best left alone.

There's a logo for you

And so ABC broke the first rule of show business- don't mess with a successful formula.
They moved the show from Monday nights to Saturdays (opposite UFO enthusiast Jackie Gleason), a kiss of death slot that Star Trek itself would be saddled with four years later.

That prompted producer Joseph Stefano to quit and put exec Leslie Stevens in a box. That box was nailed shut when ABC installed one of their own in Stefano's place, ensuring that the show would run according to their own dictates and not Stevens's.

But while the show was humming along, a tall, genial Texan began hanging around the Daystar studios. Gene Roddenberry had his own science fiction concept he was shopping around and since The Outer Limits was the success story of the '63/'64 season, he wanted to get some of that magic to rub off on Star Trek. That's normal enough, but then things begin to get very strange, leading one to wonder what was really going on between the two camps...

Roddenberry's focus was always on character and dialog and he had only the barest scraps of story lines in his original Star Trek pitch. The pitch for what became the treatment for 'The Cage' (which itself is only distantly related to the version that was eventually produced) is a fairly obvious takeoff of the Twilight Zone episode, 'People Are Alike All Over'. But the pilot as it was produced has two more obvious antecedents, both of them straight out of the Daystar camp.


The first is The Outer Limits episode 'The Guests', about a stereotypical angry young man that wanders into a old mansion that has become an alien laboratory occupied by abductees. From Wikipedia:
Trying to leave through the front door, Norton is forced backward and upstairs by a mysterious compulsion to discover that the house is the lair of an amorphous, gelatinous alien being who is keeping the group of desperate humans suspended in time until it can comprehend the disposition of humanity.
So here we see the hothead trapped in the human zoo/laboratory, with the omnipotent/omniscient alien overlord. Of course, he meets a young girl and falls in love and tries to cajole her in to escaping the trap with him:
The young woman, knowing the potential fate of the drifter, leads Norton to escape. However, she discloses to him that she cannot accompany him through the cemetery gate....As she realizes he will be trapped among them for eternity, she departs through the gate herself and...withers and turns to dust. The observing alien has found the factors missing in its equation: love and self-sacrifice.
This corresponds quite directly with the same theme in 'The Cage', as the captors are willing to sacrifice themselves to overcome their captivity: Pike offers himself as a captive for the freedom of the others and the Enterprise, but Number One begins a "force-chamber" overload of her laser pistol, intending to destroy herself and her shipmates to thwart the Talosians' plans.

And just as we saw the girl in 'The Guests' revert to her normal state as soon as she leaves the boundaries of the alien environment, so too we see the same repeat itself in 'The Cage'.
The crew members are free to go, but Vina says she cannot join them. After the others transport aboard, the Talosians show Pike Vina's true appearance: underneath the Talosian illusions, she is badly deformed from the crash of the Columbia. 
But the basic storyline isn't the only pilfering from The Outer Limits.

'The Cage' also lifts a vital plot point-- namely, big-headed aliens inducing manipulative hallucinations in prisoners-- from 'Nightmare', Stefano's dark mind-control set piece, almost certainly itself written with heavy input from Stevens, since he came from that world of military intelligence and retained deep connections to it through his powerful Admiral father. 

Then there's the feature that Stevens was prepping while Roddenberry was working on his various Trek pitches. Leslie Stevens had intended to film his art horror film Incubus before 'The Cage' was produced at Desilu, using his lieutenant Robert Justman as assistant director but got postponed. The future Trek producer was able to work on 'The Cage' because of the delay.

Pixies and picnics: The Cage and Incubus

One wonders what was really going on behind the scenes because the character of Vina took on a new air: the cool, sophisticated seductress of Roddenberry's original treatment soon became a pursuing, pleading sylph, very much like Stevens's female demon Kia in Incubus.

What's more, the basic plot of Incubus is the same: a beautiful blonde seeks to seduce a valiant man on behalf of her inhuman masters in the underworld. When you consider that that man is played by the future Captain of the friggin' Starship Enterprise you really have to wonder what the hell was going on behind the scenes between Leslie Stevens and whoever was actually steering the Star Trek ship.*


Another salient connection: Stevens' Outer Limits pilot depicts teleportation long before it ever appeared on Star Trek, as do Stefano's quasi-sequel 'The Bellero Shield' and 'Controlled Experiment'. Given the endless connections between Trek and TOL, it's safe to assume that Stevens was the immediate source for this most iconic form of travel.º

Remarkably, the second Trek pilot "Where No Man Has Gone Before," itself has a direct Outer Limits precedent:
"The Man with the Power," a thriller about a psychotic telepath who works for the space program. Stevens was directly involved with the latter, leaving one to wonder about the former.

The connections deepen: the two actors offered to replace Jeffrey Hunter in the lead role were straight out of Daystar's orbit: William Shatner (who also starred in an episode of Outer Limits) and Jack Lord, who starred in Stevens' pre-TOL drama Stoney Burke. Shatner was Stevens' first choice as star for his project but was Roddenberry's third

Add to that all the prominent roles shared by Trek actors on TOL: Leonard Nimoy starred in two TOL episodes (including Stevens's 'Production and Decay'), James Doohan and Grace Lee Whitney each starred in one, the second Trek pilot co-starred Sally Kellerman (who made such an impression in 'The Bellero Shield') and the first aired episode of Trek feature Alfred Ryder (from Stevens's 'The Borderlands') and several others ('Menagerie' guest star Malachi Throne co-starred on Shatner's TOL ep in much the same role as he did on Trek) and the connections lead you to seriously question what was going on behind the scenes: was Outer Limits cancelled to make way for Star Trek?

In other words, was another agenda being put in play?


This is no small question, given that we're talking about two different production houses and two different networks. Collusion here would be unprecedented-- unimaginable, perhaps. But was someone else outside Hollywood calling the shots here? If so, who?

The connections get to be so dizzying and the events weaving in and out of this get to be so weird that question might not be so easily answered.

PLAYING WITH FIRE


Stevens would drop the scientific trappings for Incubus, his first post-Outer Limits feature. Drawing the art house offerings imported from Europe, Stevens went straight for the occult. The use of Esperanto- the invented language cobbled out of several different European tongues- was chosen to deepen the sense of dislocation and disorientation so important to TOL. He couldn't have chosen better locations towards that end. Or worse.
Principal photography took place over 18 days in May 1965. Location shooting took place at Big Sur (Pfieffer) Beach and at the Mission San Antonio de Padua near Fort Hunter Liggett in Monterey County.

Concerned that the authorities would not grant permission to shoot a horror film in these places, especially the Mission, Stevens concocted a cover story that the film was actually called Religious Leaders of Old Monterey, and showed the script, in Esperanto, but with stage directions and descriptions about monks and farmers.

Here we are again. Hunter Liggett brings us into the Star Trek orbit via Mike Gray, whose detour through the base from Big Sur inspired his feature film Wavelength, his first crack at sci-fi before developing Starman for television and joining Star Trek: The Next Generation in its second season (Gray always denied Wavelength ever had anything to do with a UFO event but I'm seriously beginning to have my doubts).

And of course Pfieffer Beach leads us right into Esalen's literal back yard.

This is no small thing, because I'm wondering if Stevens may have been inspired by a trip to Esalen, since the same language and symbolism that kicked this off in Star Trek 9 hits us in Incubus. Or perhaps Michael Piller had been watching Incubus while developing the Star Trek 9 script. He'd surely notice a disturbing bit of prophecy within it...


The story begins telling of a famous well which like the rings of the Ba'ku homeworld in Star Trek 9 is said to be a "fountain of youth" and restores not only health but youth.
But since the well's power are so potent- and this detail absolutely floors me for some reason-- it attracts a race of demons in human form, who wander the surrounding countryside and shoreline looking for souls to send to hell. 


Given the inconvenient weirdness that weaves in and out of this story like a spider, it should be noted that we see a bizarre foreshadowing of the death of Dick Price- a rich, influential but intoxicated man standing at the source of the healing waters, accompanied by a young woman who channels supernatural powers. The scene is complete with the stigmata we've already seen so much of and which we will see more of.

Remember now that this was all filmed some twenty years before Price's death but in walking distance of Esalen. I would be astonished by this if it wasn't par for the course in all of this weirdness.


And remember also that we saw the Stigmata again and again in Star Trek 9, which again was about a literal fountain of youth as well.


There's a further parallel between Star Trek 9 and Incubus-- the Starship Captain initiated into the mysteries of the Nine by Anij/Jenny, who treats John the Light Picard to a low-dose phosphene hallucination.

Captain "To Supplant the Roman Church" Shatner (remember Roddenberry's captain had the meh name of "Robert April") would get the heroic dose in Incubus...


During this trip, Shatner sees --you guessed it-- disembodied elemental spirits hovering over him. They seem to induce a kind of dementia in him along with apocalyptic hallucinations, since he delivers his lines with every bit of 'Mr. Tambourine Man' gusto he can muster.

Given the history of the area Stevens was shooting all this, I'm almost given to wonder if these were in fact not special effects.


Either way, this point cannot be possibly stressed enough:

• In Incubus, we has William Shatner  playing a military man, enacting a narrative closely related to 'The Cage.'


• We see him having a distinctly psychedelic experience with a woman channeling supernatural entities.

• We see him interact with disembodied entities exactly like those we would see on Star Trek.

All of this was being filmed within walking distance of Esalen.
So, in other words the Nine and Esalen were encoded into Star Trek before there ever was a Star Trek. If all that weren't crazy enough, there was some more crazy to come.


Bad, scary crazy. Manson kind of crazy.

THE CURSE OF INCUBUS



Incubus is one of the films that seem less a work of fiction and more a Working. The tableau of gorgeous Nordic succubi wandering the windswept beaches of Big Sur and the sun-bleached hills of California and the summoning of noncorporeal entities would be potent anywhere, but a more experienced occultist would have advised the more scientifically-leaning Stevens to choose another spot to stage it.

Why? Because Hunter Liggett sits on an ancient piece of haunted real estate:
Two apparitions have been documented in and around this National Register of Historic Places site, including a candle-carrying monk who walks the mission grounds and Cleora, the ghost of the Headless Horsewoman.  Soldiers stationed at Ft. Hunter Liggett have reported the vision of a headless woman on horseback riding the crest of the hills near the mission.  Local Indians claim her husband caught her with another man who was prospecting the area and, in a rage, killed her.  To ensure her misery and shame, he buried her body and head separately and her spirit rides the countryside in search of her remains.  The best time to spot Cleora is in front of the mission church at sunrise and sunset.
Local indigenous tribes-- such as the Essalen-- "told stories of visits of flying people in long robes." To this day, "multicolored clouds" and "ghostlike presences" have been reported around Hunter Liggett. One professor at California Polytechnic says of the Mission, "it has the aura of the paranormal about it. I think there is truth in the ghost stories. It's a very haunted place."

Typical folklore? Maybe. But it turns out that filming such a highly-charged narrative on such troubled ground may well have had terrible consequences for many of the people involved. Here we see the fabled Curse of Incubus, and it's nothing at all to scoff at:
The Incubus — a lumbering, craggy-faced giant — was played by Milos Milos...(a)t the time, he was dating Barbara Ann Thompson Rooney, Mickey Rooney s estranged fifth wife. In 1966, Milos murdered her, and then shot himself.

In the film, Shatner’s virginal sister...was played by Ann Atmar...(s)he committed suicide a few weeks after the film wrapped up.

A few years (later) the daughter of...Eloise Hardt, was kidnapped from her Los Angeles driveway and murdered. 

Even the film’s premiere at the San Francisco Film Festival turned into a disaster. The brand-new print of the film turned out to be missing its soundtrack. 

Special guests of that premiere were director Roman Polanski and his date, actress Sharon Tate, who would be killed in the Manson “family” rampage in 1969.
Let this be a lesson to any aspiring ritual magicians. Do your homework and be prepared to face the consequences of your actions.**

Although he gives the ultimate victory to the "God of Light" (aka Horus, there is fragmentary but interesting evidence that Stevens was himself loosely affiliated with the Nine) over the Succubi, this all seemed to put Stevens' magickal interest to a dead stop. His next project was the "Electronic Social Transformation" manifesto.
 

SON OF STEVENS

If Leslie Stevens was involved in the development of Star Trek, why isn't there more documented (as opposed to the volumes of circumstantial) evidence? Well, for the same reason you don't see Quentin Tarantino or M. Night Shyamalan's names in the credits of the movies they essentially ghost-wrote.

From the start, Gene Roddenberry was chosen as the figurehead of Star Trek, even though most hardcore fans realize it was people such as Dorothy Fontana, Robert Justman, John Black and Gene Coon who were doing most of the heavy lifting.

Roddenberry has no track record as a producer to speak of; he handed over control to Coon halfway through the first season, the movie franchise was given to Harve Bennett after the first picture, and Rick Berman, Justman and Maurice Hurley were running ST:TNG from the very start. Roddenberry certainly had a vision, it's simply that he didn't seem to have the skills to execute it by himself.

Leslie Stevens created The Outer Limits and appointed Joseph Stefano as showrunner so he could focus on developing new projects, but was unmistakably still the man in charge. He later developed Buck Rogers for Glen Larson and according to many fans, he is the actual creator of Battlestar Galactica (Both BR and BSG were released as feature films as well). Stevens seems to be what you call an "idea man," and specialized in creating show concepts and setting up infrastructure for other producers to work within before moving on to another project.

While Gene Roddenberry's career was foundering (a good share of his income came from Star Trek conventions), Stevens was exec-producing big mainstream hits such as McCloud and The Virginian. He had enough juice to gather an all-star cast for his Probe pilot, an avant-garde high-tech detective series. From the Amazon product description:
That hipster ring special agent Hugh Lockwood wears? It's a camera, transmitting image and sound of his surroundings. It's also a scanner, detecting telltale changes in pulse or other biometric readings of himself and the people around him. The ring and more electronic devices - some embedded - keep Lockwood linked with Probe Control, where experts and banks of computers provide instant mission-critical warnings, intel, even language translations. 
Probe became Search, which lasted only a single season. The critics were harsh, claiming the premise of ubiquitous high-tech espionage was unrealistic (oh, the good old days).

Considering what a bunch of shills the news media are, one wonders if the fact that the series aired at the exact time that the Watergate scandal was beginning to break didn't have something to do with the bad press the series got...


But then a funny thing happened- some 15 years after Leslie Stevens' Probe went off the air, a new Probe aired, ostensibly "created" by Gene Roddenberry's close friend Isaac Asimov and starring Parker Stevenson. It only lasted a few episodes, but was essentially an 80s spin on Stevens's original premise:
Writer Issac Asimov co-created this literate series. Austin James was a brilliant young scientist who operated out of a warehouse laboratory nicknamed the "batcave"; his secretary and helper was the ever-amazed Mickey. With cocky self-confidence, the ability to anaylize physical clues in his high-tech lab, and deductive reasoning worthy of Sherlock Holmes, Austin managed to unravel crimes perpetrated by the world's most clever criminals.

The most distinctive aspect of this series was the plots, all based on scientific principles -- a computer whose artificial intelligence program had run amok, a murder-plot utilizing genetic engineering, a super-intelligent ape accused of murder (in an episode titled "Metamorphic Anthropoidic Prototype Over You"). 
Given Asimov's relationship with Roddenberry and the fact that the two Probes are variations on the same theme (read: blatantly actionable plagiarism), we see-- yet again-- Leslie Stevens hovering like a ghost over yet another sci-fi series that doesn't have his name on the masthead.

Kind of a pattern here. You wonder if casting "Parker Stevens'-son" wasn't some kind of inside joke.

Another funny thing about this new "Probe" - Star Trek: Insurrection author and Deep Space Nine co-creator Michael Piller was a writer/producer there during its brief life.

Of course. 



† So potent was this mix that an entire movement of government underlings, corporate shills and various sideshow geeks and card sharps was assembled at the State University of New York to put the lid back on Pandora's Box. The name they gave themselves is a cipher of "Thought Police."

º Teleportation was used in earlier sci-fi sources, none of which were as well-known as TOL.

* Creators are left to do the work but are never actually in charge of their creations once they sell them to a studio. The studio executives are, unless the creator has the juice to retain creative rights.


** Given that the curse effected a specific set of individuals and not the crew as a whole (Stevens, Ames and Shatner themselves didn't seem effected one way or the other), I wonder if the actors involved were part of a coven or circle using the site to do workings after hours.


NOTE: This story keeps growing. I had intended this to be the final installment but I am continually finding huge sources of new data that need to be collated and processed. To be honest I'm not quite sure where this story will end now.

Like so many recent pieces here this was going to be a single post possibly on The Solar Satellite about the connections between the Star Trek: Insurrection and Esalen. But sometimes when you pull at a thread the whole tapestry unravels.


SECRET SUN TOP TEN