Thursday, September 8, 2016

Saeloc Holmes and Chom Omston.

In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the first episode of TV's Star Trek today, I decided to go back and read a story from 1983 about a case one of Holmes's descendants investigated upon the Starship Enterprise. Why not watch Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country, where Spock cites Sherlock Holmes as an ancestor, or one of those Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes where Data dresses up like Sherlock instead of reading this particular story?

Because the story, "The Case of the Scandalous Starship," came first, and because I am both quite fond of the author and the tale's original target audience . . . myself being the writer and the good Carter being its intended reader.

"The Case of the Scandalous Starship," which was published in Holmesian Federation 4, a very pretty little fanzine of the 1980s, of the sort where typesetting was done on typewriter and then decreased in size with a printer's camera to be able to be printed on half of an 8 and 1/2 by 11 inch sheet, then printed with actual ink on paper. (Rather than toner at Kinko's once things got easier to publish.)

The story itself is a light parody mystery in which Janice Rand dies from falling off the starship. It's full of the sort of inside jokes that only those who had watched a TV show over and over and over again would even get, but we were those people back in the 1980s. There was only one three season Star Trek show to watch, and we watched it over and over and over again, as local stations loved to fill late afternoon time slots with it.

Saeloc Holmes and his friend Chon Omston came from the planet Hagbard, which I immediately recognized as the influence of the Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's Illluminatus trilogy. Saeloc Holmes was an old school-mate of Spock's from the Vulcan Science Academy who liked to vex the Vulcan by shooting rubber bands at his nose. What vexed Spock even more was that even though he graduated highest in his class, he was merely the highest Vulcan in his class, falling second to Holmes.

The mystery itself revolves around the starship Enterprise's bowling alley, that odd part of the ship that didn't appear in the show, but showed up on the ship's blueprints which had been published and bought up by eager fans of the day. The idea of a bowling alley on a starship seemed pretty ridiculous to me at the time, which was part of the inspiration for the tale.

At this late date, one might almost think the tale's villain, Otto Bender, was a tribute to Futurama, but no, I'm not nearly that psychic (and Futurama Bender's last name turned out to be "Rodriguez"). Outside of Bender, the tale is populated with minor characters who did appear in in original show, along with a drunken Scotty and a slightly necrophiliac Dr. McCoy, all of whom Saeloc Holmes must deal with to solve the case.

If the fiftieth anniversary of a television show you remember the first episode isn't enough to make one feel the years, looking back on a Holmes parody one wrote in their twenties certainly will. Not because it's a bad little story, but just because it shows influences that have long ago ceased to dominate one's life.

And yet Sherlock Holmes remains. Decades later, Sherlock Holmes remains. As does Star Trek, as well.

And looking back at the revelations of the time in between, I now know that Saeloc Holmes vexed Mr. Spock all the more because they were distant cousins, part of what was apparently a prodigious progeny of our favorite great detective. Because we always knew Sherlock Holmes would carry on into the future, even that of the starship Enterprise. (Thought for a fanfic anthology -- a Holmes in all the various fictional futures, Mad Max, Bladerunner, Battlestar Galactica . . .)

So happy fiftieth anniversary to Star Trek, forever seventy-nine years behind Sherlock Holmes, but having a fandom that had crossed over into ours since at least 1970 on paper (With the publication of Priscilla Pollner's "Holmes Was A Vulcan"? Anything before that?) and surely before that in the minds of many a Sherlockian Trekkie. It's been a good fifty years.

1 comment:

  1. Then there is, "Beam Me Up Sherlock", a look at the performers who were part of both the Star Trek and Sherlock Holmes media franchises: