The Star Trek Reference In David Fincher’s Zodiac, Explained

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Written By Sedoso Feb

In the words of Philip J. Fry, the original “Star Trek” had “79 episodes, about 30 good ones.” One not among those 30 is season 3, episode 4: “And The Children Shall Lead.” The Enterprise rescues a quintet of orphaned children from the planet Triacus. However, the rescued turn hostile when they summon Gorgan, a malevolent entity with a green glow. Who played Gorgan? Melvin Belli.

Belli was a minor celebrity at the time; he’d never worked in Hollywood before “Star Trek,” but many of his legal clients had. By the time he played Gorgan in 1968, he’d also made headlines a few years back by defending Jack Ruby, the murderer of Lee Harvey Oswald. The behind-the-scenes of “And The Children Shall Lead,” including Belli’s casting, is covered in  “Captains’ Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages” by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman.

Belli was brought on as a publicity stunt by producer Fred Freiberger; “Star Trek” was in pretty dire straits (season 3 would be its last) and Belli as Gorgan was an ill-conceived Hail Mary to boost the ratings. It didn’t work, as Freiberger admits in “Captains’ Logs.” Walter Koenig (who played Pavel Chekov on “Star Trek” ) was upset by Belli’s casting and how it cost a working actor a job. He called it “the most heinous violation [Freiberger] perpetuated” on the show. “It’s one thing to cast friends who are actors and another to cast friends who are not actors,” Koenig said. “I was really upset about [Belli’s casting]. It was very unfair.” 

Indeed, Belli’s performance leaves a lot to be desired; performing in the courtroom is a different animal entirely than performing in front of a camera. As Gorgan, he sounds like he’s reading his lines off cue cards, and so fails to counterbalance the villain’s silliness with any air of menace.

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