Turkish Star Trek
After six months and a Telly Award win, Deja View is back for more!
Deja View is a Telly Award-winning series that explores foreign remakes of popular American films.
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Captain’s Log, stardate… 1974. Onboard the Enterprise, Spock is being logical, Captain Kirk’s being smug, the women are in miniskirts, and everybody’s Turkish!
Is it some kind of mirror universe? Or just another case of Deja View?
Gene Roddenberry’s 1966 TV series “Star Trek” might be the most influential science fiction show in history. It’s spawned 5 spin-off series, 11 feature films, hundreds of books, and numerous imitators.
But it wasn’t until 1973 that the show finally made its way to Turkish screens. And that’s when filmmaker Hulki Saner decided to go where no Turk had gone before.
“Turist Ömer Uzay Yolunda” is a nearly beat-for-beat remake of the “Star Trek” episode “The Man Trap” — the first to air on NBC in 1966. The Enterprise is sent to a remote planet, home to archaeologist Dr. Crater and a murderous, shapeshifting alien.
Not a single character name has been changed for the Turkish film, although the some of the pronunciations differ slightly. But everything else is almost exactly the same: the look of the Enterprise, the uniforms, the greenhouse, the monster — they even do the classic “Star Trek” screen shake.
The changes there are, are almost exclusively minor — for example Spock wears a yellow uniform, Scotty wears green, Yeoman Rand is now a lieutenant, and Spock replaces Kirk on the away team. But otherwise it’s virtually identical.
Well, except for one thing… the Enterprise gets a new crew member: a Turkish tramp named Ömer the Tourist.
Ömer was a popular character from a number of Turkish comedies. A lower class fish-out-of-water who traveled in Turkey and abroad, he offered humorous observations about the people and customs around him. Here, his travels have taken him all the way to space.
Dr. Crater, in order to protect the alien, transports a very confused Ömer from contemporary Turkey and presents him to the Enterprise crew as the murderer. Once onboard the ship, Ömer’s hijinks cause all manner of trouble. He particularly gets on the nerves of Mr. Spock, whose pointed ears and logical outlook Ömer simply can’t understand.
Through Ömer, this Turkish “Star Trek” transforms from a straight-forward imitation into a playful commentary on the material.
Ömer (to Spock): Come on, give me your hand.
Spock, confused, offers his hand to Ömer who immediately pulls his away.
Ömer: Zzzzzzt! Come to my office.
To fill out a feature length run time, the film also borrows elements from other “Star Trek” episodes, including androids from “What Are Little Girls Made Of” and “I, Mudd”; and the fight between Kirk and Spock from “Amok Time.”
But what’s striking about the Turkish remake is just how similar its production values are to the original. The reason is that unlike major Hollywood productions, both American television and Turkish features were forced to be shot quickly and cheaply.
American TV budgets were small. Therefore to save time and manpower, shows like “Star Trek” were often shot on sound stages. This gave the crew greater control over the environment, but the sets were relatively small and artificial. In Turkey, where there were no major studio facilities, the best way to contain costs was to shoot on location. It avoided the need to build sets, and since Turkish films at that time were shot without sound and dubbed over later, ambient noise was not a concern.
Therefore much of “Turist Ömer Uzay Yolunda” was shot among actual ruins — specifically, Ephesus, site of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. This gives the film a much grander scale than an American TV budget would have allowed. And although the visual effects are not as impressive, it averages out to looking about as expensive as its American counterpart.
Another method employed by Turkish filmmakers to shoot cheaply and quickly was the use of front shots for dialogue scenes. In American television, it’s customary to use a technique called shot/reverse shot, in which a closeup of one actor is filmed, and then the camera is repositioned to shoot a closeup of the other actor. A front shot, on the other hand, contains both actors and positions them facing the camera rather than each other. This way, the entire sequence can be recorded in one take.
“Turist Ömer Uzay Yolunda” is zany, fun, and absolutely “Star Trek”. It’s swingin’ ’60s sci-fi with a Turkish sense of humor.
If you’re interested in learning more about the film, I highly recommend my colleague Iain Robert Smith’s essay “Beam Me Up Ömer”, which was a major influence during the writing of this episode.
Thanks so much for watching, and until next time: live long, and… well, y’know.
If you’d like to read Iain Robert Smith’s essay “‘Beam Me Up, Ömer’: Transnational Media Flow and the Cultural Politics of the Turkish Star Trek Remake”, it can be found in issue #61 of The Velvet Light Trap, published by the University of Texas Press.
This is the first of two new episodes. The second goes up in a week, and I promise you’ve never seen anything like it! Well, except that this is Deja View so you probably have seen something like it…