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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Tombs, Pete. “Dracula in Istanbul.” Mondo Macabro: Weird & Wonderful Cinema Around the World. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1998. 103-15. Print.
Captain’s Log, stardate… 1974. Onboard the Enterprise, Spock is being logical, Captain Kirk is 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 6 spin-off series, 13 feature films, hundreds of books, and countless imitators.
But it wasn’t until 1973 that the show finally made its way to Turkish television. And that’s when filmmaker Hulki Saner decided to boldly 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. And the look of the Enterprise, the uniforms, the greenhouse, the monster — even the classic “Star Trek” screen shake — are all slavishly duplicated.
What changes there are, are almost exclusively minor — Spock wears a yellow uniform, Scotty wears green, Yeoman Rand is now a lieutenant, and Spock replaces Kirk on the away team. Otherwise it’s virtually identical.
Well, except for one thing… the Enterprise has a new crew member: a Turkish tramp named Ömer the Tourist.
Ömer was a popular character from a series of Turkish comedies. A lower class fish-out-of-water and vagabond, he offered humorous observations about the people and customs he encountered. But he’s never encountered anything as strange as this.
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 unknown 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 cannot understand.
Through Ömer, this Turkish “Star Trek” is transformed from a straight-forward imitation into a playful commentary on the material.
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 comparable 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 were shot without sound and dubbed over later, there was no need to worry about ambient noise.
Therefore much of “Turist Ömer Uzay Yolunda” was shot among actual ruins — specifically, Ephesus, home to 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.
The Turks also had a secret weapon for saving time and valuable film stock: the front shot. Unlike the way Hollywood typically shoots dialogue scenes — film one side of a conversation, then reposition the camera and shoot it again from the opposite angle — a front shot contains both actors and positions them facing the camera rather than each other. That way the entire sequence can be recorded in one take, with half the amount of film.
The net result of all of this is that, with the exception of its somewhat crude optical effects, the film looks nearly as expensive as its American counterpart.
Indeed, “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… 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…