Fun Trek Facts I Learned While Looking Up Other Things



The journalist Sydney J. Harris used to write a syndicated column that I always read on the back page of The Charlotte Observer when I was a teenager. Occasionally, he would write a column he called “Things I Learned While Looking Up Other Things,” in which he included bits of trivia that just didn’t fit into any other column he was writing.

This is a similar post, with a Trek theme. In order to maintain my nerd cred, I write a lot about the various Star Trek shows. In doing so, I occasionally stumble across certain bits of Trek info and lore (or, data and lore, if we want to go there) that just don’t make it into whatever I’m writing.

You can’t keep bottling all that stuff inside, or you just explode one day. So, instead, I’m going to list a few factoids here, with a tip of my hat to the late Sydney J. Harris.

  • The PADD (Personal Access Display Device) made its first appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation more than 20 years before the Apple iPad made its first appearance. The design and usage of both are remarkably similar. Young viewers watching TNG for the first time now may not realize that iPads didn’t exist yet when the PADD was being used by Starfleet officers. And, they are probably less impressed by this fact than I am.
  • In the fourth season Voyager episode 4.22 “Unforgettable” I saw a tea kettle in Neelix’s kitchen that seemed suspiciously familiar. I used to work for Target, and we carried a line of exclusive Michael Graves-designed kitchen appliances and accessories. This tea kettle was one of them. It may have been slightly modified, but not by much. I wonder if Graves or Target were credited in the episode. Or even paid. The stuff never sold in the stores, if memory serves.
  • William Shatner claims to have never watched the original Star Trek series. Not even once.
  • The famous first interracial kiss was originally supposed to have been between Mr. Spock and Uhura, which makes sense to me having just watched the first two aired episodes, in which there seems to be a burgeoning romance between Spock and Uhura (which I always thought was just a creation of J.J. Abrams). Rumor has it that Shatner demanded to be a part of television history himself, instead of Leonard Nimoy. This seems consistent with other Shatner stories from the time.
  • Jack Lord and Lloyd Bridges were both offered the role of James T. Kirk prior to William Shatner. Funny thing is, I can imagine both men in the role. It would have been a different series, but not necessarily a worse one.
  • After hearing the words “tractor beam” used in both the original Star Wars and in an early episode of Star Trek (as well as many later ones), I wondered where the concept of the tractor beam originated. Turns out it was the creation of science-fiction author E.E. “Doc” Smith in a 1931 novel. Feel free to have your own fictional characters use tractor beams as well. They are not owned by Paramount or Disney.
  • Much of the original Star Trek episodes “Miri” and “The City on the Edge of Forever” were shot on the Mayberry set of The Andy Griffith Show. You can clearly see the courthouse and Walker drugstore in “Miri,” an episode I just watched. What’s funny is that the buildings never seem that tall on Andy.
  • This last one is more of a stupid observation than genuine trivia. It occurs to me that the Voyager character name “Neelix” is only a couple of letters away from being “Netflix.” Star Trek: Voyager began its run in 1995. Netflix started in 1997. I wonder if Reed Hastings or Marc Randolph were Trekkies.

That’s it for now. I’ll keep accumulating bits and scraps going forward, saving them to perhaps share with you in a similar fashion in the future. Until then, live long and . . .eh, you know the rest.

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