One Trek Mind #61: Make Way For M'Ress
On the Internet you are only a few clicks away from pictures of cats or somebody yammering about Star Trek. We figured today we'd save you the trip and put both in the same place.
We've talked about so many of my favorite, classic characters here at One Trek Mind (heck, just last week we listed Bones' best zingers; click HERE) that the time has come to discuss a character I love for no real good reason. That character is M'Ress.
Fair-weather fans and noobs may not even be aware that, yes, there was an animated Star Trek series that ran on Saturday mornings from late 1973 through 1974. It was a time when there was almost no other Star Trek material being produced. The Trek novels had yet to get into full swing (though there were collected short story versions of episodes written by James Blish) and the only comics were the horrid Gold Key strips that had almost no connection to the actual characters. (They're fun comics, don't get me wrong – they just aren't good Star Trek.)
The cartoon… isn't bad. Some of the episodes (“Yesteryear,” “The Slaver Weapon,” “The Counter-Clock Incident”) are stone-cold good. Some are just doofy fun (“More Troubles, More Tribbles”) and others are so whacked-out and bizarre they need to be seen to be believed (“The Magicks of Megas-Tu,” “Beyond the Farthest Star”). While even the best episodes can get annoying with the repetitive music and recycled animation cels, at the end of the day it is a great joy to see our heroes engage in some additional adventures.
Well... most of our heroes. For whatever reason, Pavel Chekov never made it aboard this version of the Enterprise (however, Walter Koenig does have a writer's credit for one episode), but two new bridge officers pop up in his place. Taking the Navigator's seat is the lanky tripedal Edosian Arex (voiced by James Doohan) and, the frequent focus of my one Trek mind, the operations division officer Lieutenant M'Ress.
M'Ress is a Caitian, but you'd be forgiven if you called her a Furry. She is a feline-humanoid, which manifests itself in a mane, a tail and the tendency to end her sentences with purrrs. Since Majel Barrett-Roddenberry did the voice, they were sexy purrs.
In some episodes M'Ress may have only had one line, but there were occasions where she actually had some key moments. In “Once Upon A Planet” she acted as a makeshift First Officer to Scotty when the rest of the crew was on an away mission. (During the Harry Mudd episode, “Mudd's Passion,” when an airborne aphrodisiac hit the ventilation system, she was quick to put the paws to our beloved Chief Engineer. (Strangely, the animated adventure meant to be something of a feminist episode, “The Lorelei Signal,” is M'Ress-free, although it does feature lots of Nurse Chapel and Uhura in the center seat!)
With not a lot of screen time during these 22 half-hour episodes, M'Ress left canonical Star Trek, but stayed close to our hearts.
I don't know about you and your Star Trek friends, but whenever I get together with some of my fellow goofballs it is only a matter of time before talk turns to M'Ress. It's almost like Star Wars fans and their fetish for the Mandalorian bounty hunter Boba Fett. The guy had about three lines and everyone's obsessed with him. At least M'Ress purred!
For the true obsessives, M'Ress did pop-up in some other places. David Gerrold gave her a brief cameo in the 1980 book “The Galactic Whirlpool.” Peter David brought her through a time portal to make her something of a semi-regular for three of the New Frontier novels starting in 2001, “Cold War,” “Gods Above” and “Stone and Anvil.” Also, she appears in the fourth issue of the New Frontier graphic novel “Turnaround” (which, if you've ever heard Peter David speak of it, he considers just another chapter in the ongoing saga, but one with pictures.)
In 2006 M'Ress showed up (but back in the 23rd Century) in the McCoy-centric book “Provenance of Shadows.” Get this all down because there is going to be a quiz.
Lastly, M'Ress also appeared in two terrific, fairly recent comics. One was D.C. Fontana's “Year Four: The Enterprise Experiment,” which is a sequel to the TOS episode “The Enterprise Incident.” The other, and arguably the most hardcore, was when she appeared in a parallel universe in the recent Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes crossover.
In this nerdiest of all nerd comics in this or any other timeline (seriously), we meet an evil M'Ress (note: this is not the Mirror Universe, just one of the myriad universes) and she's henchman to a baddie who reveals himself to be both Flint (from TOS' “Requiem for Methuselah”) and DC Comics' Vandal Savage!
If that weren't enough to make your head explode, they live in a secret HQ that is home to every single awesome time machine from science fiction: a Tardis, the time machine from the 1960 movie The Time Machine, the DeLorean, Barry Allen's cosmic treadmill, Bill and Ted's phone booth, heck, even the hot tub from Hot Tub Time Machine, plus a whole bunch more. It is, indeed, the greatest splash page in sequential art and the fact that just off screen is Myriad Universe M'Ress makes it my favorite funnybook of all time. (Take that, Star Trek/X-Men crossover from 1998!)
There are some who think Caitians show up in “that book where Uhura has to rescue a planet by singing,” but this is false. Cat-like creatures called Sivaoans star in Janet Kagen's 1985 book “Uhura's Song,” but they were not actually Caitians. Accept no substitute, I say!
Caitians did finally ready to make their live action closeup in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Right before Kirk's court martial proceedings (where they give the Admiral back the Enterprise, hell yeah!) you may recall some quick shots of other Federation aliens. The creature talking to the Andorian looks very much like he or she would be drinking from a bowl of milk at a reception later.
The cult of M'Ress is certainly felt today. I did a quick search of Ebay and found a Majel Barrett-Roddenberry signed M'Ress card going for well over $100 bucks. At the 2012 Las Vegas convention there was a M'Ress walking the halls of the Rio Hotel and nobody would leave her alone.
Okay, one of those people who wouldn't leave her alone was me.
I can't be the only one who finds M'Ress entertaining. I'm hardly buying a ticket to FurrieCon (not that there's anything wrong with that) but I find the purring operations officer endearing. Let me know if there's a fondness for M'Ress in your heart, too.
Jordan Hoffman is a writer, critic and lapsed filmmaker living in New York City. His work can also be seen on Film.com, ScreenCrush and Badass Digest. On his BLOG, Jordan has reviewed all 727 Trek episodes and films, most of the comics and some of the novels.