This Week in Sci-fi History

We’re trying out a new segment from contributor Ed Lee where he gives us a rundown of all the eventful things that happened this week in sci-fi history. Check it out below, and let us know what you think!

MAY 21:

On this day in 1980, Lucasfilm & 20th Century Fox released THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK – still the highwater mark in the entire STAR WARS saga so far as most fans are concerned; and, in 2009, TERMINATOR SALVATION opened, further fracturing that franchise’s fanbase into frenzied fits of of fervent debate.  (Whew!)  This week in television, “Scorpion: Part 1” served as the season finale for UPN’s STAR TREK: VOYAGER, launching a brave new storyline that promised to go boldly where Star Trek had already been before.  Also, on this date in 1925, Canadians finally allowed beer sales.

Famous (or infamous) genre birthdays include:  Richard Hatch (the original Captain Apollo from TV’s BATTLESTAR GALACTICA); Mr. T (ROCKY III’s and the original B.A. Baracus); Richard Libertini (one of the most recognizable ‘bit’ actors of his time, but he’ll always be Irwin Fletcher’s boss from the legendary FLETCH); and freelance writer Lowell Cunningham, the man who created and wrote the comic book series “Men In Black.”

MAY 22:

On May 22, 1906, the Wright Brothers were granted U.S. patent no. 821,393 for their wacky invention, the “Flying-Machine.”  In 1933, John Mackay makes the first reported sighting of the Loch Ness Monster. (though other reports claim earlier dates and other witnesses).  In 1961, the ‘Top of the Space Needle’ Restaurant opened in Seattle.  And, in 1969, Apollo 10 flew within 8.4 nautical miles of the moon’s surface – still no moon cheese recovered.

Famous (or infamous) genre birthdays include:  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (writer of the SHERLOCK HOLMES novels); actor Paul Winfield (Captain Terrell from STAR TREK 2: THE WRATH OF KHAN); Ginnifer Goodwin (most recently seen as Snow White in ABC TV’s ONCE UPON A TIME series); actor Richard Benjamin (Adam Quark from TV’s QUARK series); writer Max Brooks (whose zombie novel WORLD WAR Z is in production as a feature film).

MAY 23:

Our beloved sci-fi TV franchise, STAR TREK, experienced some bittersweet endings attached to May 23.  STAR TREK: VOYAGER aired its finale, “Endgame,” on UPN in 2001; and, in 1994, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION aired “All Good Things …” this week in syndication.  On this day in 1956, American physicist John Bardeen won a Nobel Prize for the earlier development of the transistor.

Famous (or infamous) genre birthdays include:  actor H. Jon Benjamin (the voice of Sterling Archer on FX’s mostly stellar ARCHER series); actress Melissa McBride (Carol Peletier from AMC’s scary THE WALKING DEAD); actor and legendary singer Scatman Crothers (THE SHINING and TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE); and screen diva Joan Collins (Edith Keeler from the always exceptional STAR TREK episode, “City on the Edge of Forvever”).

MAY 24:

On May 24, 1954, IBM made the announcement that the vacuum tube ‘electronic’ brain could perform 10 million operations an hour.  39 years later (1993) on the same day, Microsoft unveiled Windows NT.  Go figure.  On this day in 1989, INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE premiered, and, on this date in the year 2000, “Unimatrix Zero: Part 1” – yet another excursion with that nasty Borg – aired on STAR TREK: VOYAGER.

Famous (or infamous) genre birthdays include:  Alfred Molina (Dr. Otto Octavius, aka ‘Doc Ock,’ in SPIDER-MAN 2); Doug Jones (Abe Sapien in HELLBOY); and Sybil Danning (well, when you look like Sybil Danning, you can be whoever you want in whatever you want, so I’ll leave it at that!).

MAY 25:

May 25th is a day that’ll forever be holy in my house as it bares the distinction of launching two of science fiction’s greatest entertainment franchises: George Lucas’s STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE premiered in 1977, and Ridley Scott’s ALIEN burst from John Hurt’s chest two years later (1979).  However, the universe must’ve been in some kind of awe-inspired galactic synch as on May 25, 1961, then U.S. President John F. Kennedy appeared before a special joint session of Congress where he announced his goal to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade.  Space would never be the same.

Famous (or infamous) genre birthdays include:  Ian McKellan (Gandalf from THE LORD OF THE RINGS); Cillian Murphy (Dr. Jonathan Crane, aka ‘The Scarecrow’ from BATMAN BEGINS and THE DARK KNIGHT); Ray Stevenson (Volstagg from THOR); Frank Oz (the voice of Yoda from the STAR WARS films); Connie Sellecca (the lovely Pam Davidson from TV’s THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO); writer Bob Gale (the BACK TO THE FUTURE films); writer Robert Ludlum.

MAY 26:

Once again, the Time Gods smiled on mankind in blessing all of us with May 26th – for, on this date in 1897, Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula” went on sale in London … and, 16 years later, screen legend Peter Cushing was finally born to play the original vampire hunter, Van Helsing.  Cushing would also find cinema success as Victor Frankenstein and Darth Vader’s honcho, Grand Moff Tarkin, in STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE.  Meanwhile, back in reality, the feral child Kaspar Hauser was found wandering the streets of Nuremberg in 1828; and, in 2002, the Mars Odyssey explorer found signs of ice deposits on the planet Mars.

Famous (or infamous) genre birthdays include:  actress Helena Bonham Carter (just check out anything Tim Burton’s done); screen legend John Wayne (you really don’t need me to tell you who John Wayne is, do you?); actor Doug Hutchison (THE GREEN MILE; THE X FILES; SPACE ABOVE & BEYOND); actor/singer Lenny Kravitz (THE HUNGER GAMES); director Tarsem Singh (IMMORTALS); actor James Arness (THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD); and actor Jay Silverheels (TV’s original ‘Tonto’ from THE LONE RANGER).

MAY 27:

On this day in 1647, the first woman known to be executed as a witch – Achsah Young – died in Massachusetts.  In 1969, Walt Disney World official began construction in Orlando, Florida.  And, in 1995, the world learned the sad, sad news that not only could a man fly but he could also fall when actor Christopher Reeves was paralyzed, the result of an accident from a horse-riding event in Charlottesville, VA.

Famous (or infamous) genre birthdays include:  actor Christopher Lee (Sarumon in THE LORD OF THE RINGS, Count Dooku in the STAR WARS prequel trilogy); screen legend Vincent Price (EDWARD SCISSORHANDS); actor Paul Bettany (PRIEST; A KNIGHT’S TALE); actor Louis Gossett Jr. (alien Jeriba Shigan from ENEMY MINE); Lee Meriwether as Catwoman from the 1966 BATMAN movie; and the horror industry’s reigning ‘scream queen’ Linnea Quigley (Google it, dozens of bloody roles!).

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  1. This is a really cool idea! I think it might be cool to present the information chronologically, unless there’s a direct connection between two factoids. But that may just be the OCD talking.

    It’s also crazy that Christopher Lee was born so close (the day after) to the anniversary of Dracula’s publication, since he played the count in Cushing’s outings as Van Helsing. That’s a real vamp triumvirate happening here in May’s later days.

  2. I’m not sure how much of this is Sci-Fi history. It seems to me that a more apt name for this column would be along the lines of This Week in Nerd (or Geek) History. Love the idea though.

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