Arkansas: The Star Trek State
I know, I know, today is May 4th, as in May the Fourth (Force) Be with You! Each year, this special day reignites, to some extent, the old pop culture debate about which space-based franchise is the best. Apologies to you Star Wars folks trying to celebrate your special day, but it is beyond argument that Arkansas is certainly a Star Trek state.
First off, the original series starred George Takei, who was interned at the Rohwer Relocation Center during World War II but has also made several return visits to Arkansas to promote the preservation of history relating to Japanese American incarceration.
Ena Hartman of Jefferson County, a groundbreaking Black television actress of the 1960s and ’70s, made a brief appearance in the original series episode “The Corbomite Maneuver,” while renowned stuntman Hal Needham, who grew up all around the state and later went on to direct Smokey and the Bandit, did stunts for the original series.
Fort Smith native Laurence Luckinbill, a veteran of stage and screen, starred as Spock’s half-brother Sybok in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Daniel Davis of Little Rock made two noteworthy appearances as Professor Moriarty in Star Trek: The Next Generation, while Malvern native Fran Bennett played Fleet Admiral Shanthi in the Next Generation episode “Redemption II.” (Her later appearance as a Vulcan midwife in the 2009 Star Trek reboot was cut from the theatrical release but restored in the DVD special edition.)
Stuntwoman Monica Staggs of North Little Rock had appearances in both the series Star Trek: Voyager and the movie Star Trek: Insurrection, and Gil Gerard of Little Rock, better known for his role as television’s Buck Rogers, appeared in the fan-created online series Star Trek: Phase II in 2013.
But Arkansas has provided more than just on-screen talent. Before Laurell K. Hamilton, who was born in Heber Springs, became famous for her “Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter” book series, she published the Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Nightshade. Likewise, Melissa Scott, born in Little Rock, also contributed to the Star Trek book series, writing both Deep Space Nine and Voyager novels.
Has Arkansas contributed anything to Star Wars? Nope. In fact, the late Senator Dale Bumpers personally opposed “Star Wars”—that is, the Reagan administration’s plans for a space-based missile defense. So there you have it. We are definitely a Star Trek state. In fact, there is a little community named Enterprise just south of Fort Smith, but I cannot find a Millennium Falcon, Arkansas, anywhere.
So May the Fourth Be with You, Star Wars fans. It’s all you’re going to get out of this state.
By Guy Lancaster, editor of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas