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Isaac Asimov

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For the in-universe article on the author, please see Isaac Asimov (author).
"There are other science-fiction shows, no names please, in which it is quite clear that the writers and the producer know nothing about science, and don't care, and that shows too. And it is impossible to be a self-respecting viewer and accept it."
– Isaac Asimov, Scientist and Science Fiction Author, on the redeeming qualities of Star Trek: The Original Series in contrast to its contemporary television counterparts, 1976 (Inside Star Trek-audio recording)

Isaac Asimov (2 January 19206 April 1992; age 72), born Isaak Yudovich Ozimov, was a scientist in the field of biochemistry, noted science fiction author, a well-respected voice within the scientific community, an outspoken supporter of cybernetics and creator of the "Three Laws of Robotics," intended to protect Humans from androids, or 'robots' as they were called then. As stated in "Datalore", he did in fact coin the term "positronic brain". He was also a good friend of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and scientific adviser for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Asimov had first seen Star Trek at the 1–5 September 1966 "Tricon World Science Fiction Convention" in Cleveland, Ohio, when Roddenberry screened "Where No Man Has Gone Before" to the audience. [1] The first encounter between the two men was less than auspicious; when Asimov and his retinue entered the screening room, they did so in a bit too rambunctious manner, and a nervous, but still unknown, Roddenberry had the gall to shush the famed author up, enticing an audience member to call out, "You're dead, you just insulted Isaac Asimov!" Asimov however, took no offense and conceded he was being rude. (Star Trek - Where No One Has Gone Before, pp. 21-22)

His collaboration with the series started in earnest with his "What Are a Few Galaxies Among Friends?"-article he wrote for TV Guide in November the same year, in which he criticized the series for its scientific inaccuracy. More successfully rebooting their first acquaintance, Roddenberry wrote a courteous letter to Asimov, explaining how hard they tried to keep the show remaining in the realm of serious science fiction, by trying as much as possible to adhere to sound scientific principles within the restrictive framework of a television production, which made him change his opinion and become a loud supporter of Star Trek, and unlike the run-of-the-mill fan, a voice to be reckoned with. He and Roddenberry soon became friends and often shared letters in which Asimov gave advice concerning the series. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story)

Asimov's first affirmative input on behalf of Star Trek was already requested in early 1967, when he was approached by "The Committee" to speak out favorably of the series in public. When the first season production was nearing its end, studio and Roddenberry were led to believe that Star Trek was not doing well in the ratings by a chagrined NBC, and Roddenberry sensed the possibility of a cancellation in the air. He discussed the matter with science fiction writer Harlan Ellison and together, both men decided upon a campaign to save Star Trek. Ellison organized "The Committee", an advisory group of the foremost science fiction writers of the time through which a letter-campaign was organized. Science fiction fans (general, not specifically Trekkies alone) started to write in, and a veritable contemporary who's who of science fiction made their favorable opinions known in numerous publications, chief amongst them, Isaac Asimov. On 9 March 1967, a NBC announcer broadcast over the closing titles of "The Devil in the Dark" that, "Star Trek will be back in the fall. And please don't write any more letters." Thus was born the myth in Star Trek-lore that a letter campaign had saved the series for the first time. Actually, NBC had already decided to continue with the series before the campaign had even gathered steam, and Desilu Studios Executive Herb Solow has always been doubtful that the letter campaign had anything to do with this, as he strongly suspected that there had been other, entirely unrelated business considerations in play, i.e. the promotion of color television sets sold by NBC's mother company. He was informed by his former NBC colleagues that the network was fully aware that the relatively modest campaign was organized and artificial – merely considered a nuisance as the network had a standing policy to answer each and every letter sent to them – , and was reassured by some network executives, sincerely or not, that NBC was proud to air Star Trek. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, 1997, pp. 299-307)

And indeed, Asimov's contribution, the "Mr. Spock is Dreamy!"-article, was only published in TV Guide one month after the public renewal announcement. In the article Asimov described how he conceived the title after overhearing his young teenage daughter make the comment when watching an episode, and how the realization struck him that, apparently, "smart is sexy"; already appreciative of the series for its attempts to adhere to scientific accuracy, Asimov now fully realized that Star Trek also appealed to other, deeper human levels as well, making it stand out from the juvenile standard fare that was hitherto presented to American television audiences.

"And then, then, came this blinding revelation. Here I had been watching Star Trek since its inception because I like it, because it is well-done, because it is exciting, because it says things (subtly and neatly) that are difficult to say in "straight" drama, and because science fiction, properly presented, is the type of literature most appropriate to our generation.

"But it hadn't occurred to me that Mr. Spock was sexy. I had never realized that such a thing was possible; that girls palpitate over the way one eyebrow goes up a fraction; that they squeal with passion when a little smile quirks his lip. And all because he's smart!"

Henceforth, Asimov became a "Trekkie" himself. (Star Trek - Where No One Has Gone Before, 1994, pp. 36-37) A decade later, Asimov reviewed a new promising science fiction show, the British Space 1999 series (featuring former Mission: Impossible co-stars Barbara Bain and Martin Landau), and compared it to the Original Series, still deeming it the superior one; as for the reasons why, he summarized as follows,

  1. Young people of intelligence who are concerned with our world and with their own lives are naturally interested in science fiction, since this is the only form of fiction that deals wit the future and with change- and it is in a changed future that the youngsters will mature.
  2. There was enough respect for science in the program to give it the support of the more sophisticated portion of the science fiction audience- who are the opinion-makers.
  3. Many Star Trek episodes dealt with ethical problems that were resolved in humane fashion. Even a "monster" was viewed sympathetically when she turned out to be a mother protecting her child.
  4. There were interesting, idiosyncratic and sympathetic characters about whom one's feelings could crystallise. [2]

How influential Asimov's words were was evidenced by the deluge of critique from Americans that befell Space 1999, using Asimov's words as arguments. [3]

In 1972, Asimov also attended the first Star Trek convention, organized by the fan organization "The Committee" – not to be confused with the 1967 science fiction writer's one. (The Star Trek Compendium) Like Roddenberry, Asimov was a frequent convention attendant and, again like Roddenberry, genuinely reveled in interacting with fans, making himself as accessible as possible to them. Aside from the general science fiction conventions, he has made several additional appearances on the Star Trek convention circuit in the 1970s alongside Roddenberry, and has written several articles on the phenomenon, among others for Starlog magazine. Specialized Star Trek conventions Asimov attended included the second and third ones in 1973 and 1974 respectively, complemented with two convention attendances each in 1975 and 1976. [4]

While invited in 1966 by Roddenberry to write for Star Trek: The Original Series, Asimov did not do so, not able to find the time (These Are the Voyages: TOS Season One, 1st ed., p. 3), yet chalked up one later official franchise contribution nonetheless: that of "Special Science Consultant" for The Motion Picture. Actually, that production was already served by Jesco von Puttkamer in that capacity, but Roddenberry needed an additional "heavier weight" to win over some of the highest and more conservative corporate executives, who started to increasingly voice concerns about the theme of a sentient robot, for religious as well as scientific believability reasons, resisting the theme for well over a year. Despite Asimov's reassurances, and even though by that time it had been too late to alter the story, their fears were only allayed when Penthouse magazine published an interview (in its October 1978 issue) in which the director of NASA's Institute of Space Studies, Robert Jastrow, broached the subject favorably. (Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 193; Star Trek: The Complete Unauthorized History, p. 101)

In July 1987, Roddenberry wrote a letter to both Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, asking the two noted authors to support his response – which was a negative opinion – to the story outline of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, against Producer Harve Bennett and star/Director/Co-Writer William Shatner. Asimov replied with a supporting letter to Roddenberry, sharing his views on the un-scientific "the center of the Galaxy" concept and the "un-Trek-like" notion of the crew falling in for a charismatic preacher. [5] This was not the first time Roddenberry sought out support from the famed authors, as he had done so on several occasions previously, when things did not go his way, and it was scoffingly met with increasing derision from some, but not all, Star Trek production staffers, as was evidenced by a later remark from Bennett; "He would cite everybody from Arthur C. Clarke to Isaac Asimov, who he would always run to, and they would always say, 'Yes, Gene, you're right'." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 22, No. 5, p. 41)

Captain Amasov was named for him. Within the Star Trek universe, he was named in dialogue in TNG: "Datalore" and in production art seen in DS9: "Far Beyond the Stars". Albert Macklin was based on Asimov.

On the subject of his own birthdate, Asimov said, in In Memory Yet Green, "The date of my birth, as I celebrate it, was January 2, 1920. It could not have been later than that. It might, however, have been earlier. Allowing for the uncertainties of the times, of the lack of records, of the Jewish and Julian calendars, it might have been as early as October 4, 1919. There is, however, no way of finding out. My parents were always uncertain and it really doesn't matter. I celebrate January 2, 1920, so let it be."

Star Trek bibliographyEdit

note: this list is currently incomplete
  • "What Are a Few Galaxies Among Friends?", TV Guide, 26 November 1966, pp. 6-9
  • "Mr. Spock is Dreamy!", TV Guide, 29 April 1967, pp. 9-11 (reprinted in Star Trek - Where No One Has Gone Before, 1994, pp. 36-37)
  • "An Expert's Verdict: 'Trek' Wins" (comparing Space 1999 to Star Trek), Cue magazine, Vol. 44 issue 47, 20 December 1975, p. 63
  • "The Conventions as Asimov Sees Them", Starlog, issue 1, August 1976, p. 43

Star Trek interviewsEdit

External links Edit

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