Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Secret Star Trek: "An Outgrowth of The Outer Limits"

Daystar Trek: From Project Vulcan to a projecting Vulcan

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.


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.


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.