Star Trek’s Jewish riffs in Brett Spiner’s “Fan Fiction” – The Forward


A Mem-Noir: inspired by real events

By Brent Spiner

St. Martin’s Press, 256 pages, $ 27.99

What is it with “Star Trek and the Jews?” Leonard Nimoy has imbued Mr. Spock with Jewishness since his Orthodox upbringing, and William Shatner attended a Jewish summer camp. Some mistakenly believe that “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry was also Jewish, but his first two co-writers, Bob Justman and Herb Solow, were.

Oddly, the Jewish actors embodied three different stereotypes about the franchise. First, the Russians – Commander Worf’s adoptive parents, the Rozhenkos, were played by Georgia Brown (née Lilian Klot) and the legendary Theodore Bikel while Walter Koenig and the late Anton Yelchin played two generations of Pavel “Mr. “. Chekhov.

Second – more disturbingly due to the similarity to lingering anti-Semitic stereotypes – Jewish actors Armin Shimerman, Aron Eisenberg, and Max Grodénchik played the greedy über-capitalist ferengi characters Quark, Nog, and Rom, respectively, in “Star Trek: Deep Space 9 ”. Shimerman himself played three separate Ferengi on three separate series, as well as DS9, he played Quark on “Star Trek: Voyager” and, before that, played Letek and then DaiMon Bractor in separate episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation “.

Finally, as I just learned from reading “Fan Fiction” – Brent Spiner’s new genre of autobiographical novel – the two hyperlogical pillars of “Star Trek” – Mr. Spock and Data – were played by members of the tribe.

The hero of Spiner’s novel is an actor called Brent Spiner who is filming the third series of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” in 1989 when a dangerous stalking fan sends him a bloody pig penis in the mail.

The protagonist, like the author, was a close friend of Donald “Trey” Yearnsley Wilson III, who tragically died in the middle of that year. The real and fictional Spiners are from Houston and Jewish enough that their heritage is mentioned repeatedly throughout the novel. The treyfness disgusting fanmail isn’t addressed directly, but it adds spice to the story.

Shortly after the arrival of the premiere of a number of Menacing Letters and Weird Events adjacent to “Star Trek,” Spiner puts on makeup alongside Michael Dorn – who plays the role of Worf.

The “great artist Michael Westmore,” writes Spiner. “Ends up wrapping a pound of phosphorescent powder on my punim… I doubt it’s really exciting for him to turn a Texas Jew into an Omicron Theta android, but I get goosebumps every day doing simply part of its history. “

Later, inspired by a TV movie and raised on Percodan (matzo dumpling soup ended up curing kidney stones, although prescription drugs helped ease the pain), Spiner copes with his stalker and memories. of her intimidating stepfather. He imagines the arrival of Christmas ghosts, including Patrick Stewart, his friend from “The Next Generation”, as the ghost of the Christmas gift.

Stewart teaches Spiner empathy and they strike up a discussion:

“’When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I understood like a child, I thought like a child; but when I became a man, I put childish things aside.

“” It comes from the early Corinthians, isn’t it? You know I’m Jewish, don’t you?

“So let me put it another way. Cultivate “beytsim”, as we say in Yiddish. “

So, while the extent of the gap between the fictional and the historical Spiner is unclear, Spiner joins Kinky Friedman and David Wilensky in my top three living Jewish Texans when he recounts how he lost his virginity by resorting to to the services of a prostitute called “Petite Tinker Toy.”

“[She] looked me straight in the eye and said, “kid, if you have 10 dollars, I have the keys to the kingdom of heaven,” Spiner writes.

Although he notes that “if my memory serves me right … [she] looked strangely like Ed McMahon, ”he pays for an evening (“ walk in and out the door in 15 minutes ”) of love. “Since I had the rest of my bar mitzvah money in my pocket, I did a few more laps at the Tinker Toy School of Love. She was amazing.

In addition to an introduction to carnal pleasures – the “kingdom of heaven” – Tinker Toy gave Spiner a clue as to his future profession. “Star Trek” may not have given him the whole kingdom, but he certainly gave him the keys to heaven.

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