“Data, sometimes a cake is just a cake.”
-- Deanna Troi, “Phantasms


One of the ways that the creators of Star Trek help modern audiences identify with 23rd and 24th century characters is to show familiar celebrations and customs that have survived into the future. The use of cakes to celebrate various occasions dates back to at least classic Roman and ancient Greek eras, so it makes sense that the desert would survive into the era of Starfleet. Malcom Reed had an affinity for pineapples, for example, and to help celebrate his birthday, Hoshi Sato had a pineapple cake prepared in his honor. Of course, arguably, the most interesting (and disturbing?) use of the sweet may very well be Data’s dream-state Deanna Troi living cake from “Phantasms.”

Cakes are also a part of the behind-the-scenes world of the production of Star Trek, where they are used to celebrate various milestones and rites of passage. Sometimes cakes are used to celebrate the filming of special episodes. The occasion of the filming of Star Trek: Voyager’s 100th episode, “Timeless,” in August 1998 was marked with a giant cake in the shape of the number. It is a rare feat for any show to achieve the 100-episode milestone (even more rare today with the general Star Trek practice of 26 episodes of season being unheard of today), and as such, an appropriate celebration was had for the actors, writers, past directors, behind the scene artists, and executives. When Star Trek: The Next Generation filmed its 100th episode, “Redemption, Part I,” in April 1991, Gene Roddenberry helped celebrate the occasion with a cake.
Other times, cake on the set celebrated the birthday of one of the talent crew or actors who helped make Star Trek so great. During the filming of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan there were several birthdays celebrated with cake, including marking the special day for director and writer Nicholas Meyer and DeForest Kelley. The cake for Kelley, appropriately, had a skull on it in reference to his character “Bones.” During the filming of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, the official fan club newsletter, published by Dan Madsen, ran a great picture of the talented cinematopher Charles Correll (who has a cameo in The Search for Spock as a dry dock worker when the U.S.S. Enterprise stolen), actor Christopher Lloyd, and director Leonard Nimoy. What makes the picture special is that Christopher Lloyd, in his Kruge costume, is wearing his glasses!
The tradition of cakes being used to celebrate behind-the-scene events continues with the production of the newest round of Star Trek films. In April 2009, actors Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, and Eric Bana, along with producer Bryan Burk and director J.J. Abrams visited troops at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. In addition to taking pictures with the troops, signing autographs and talking, everyone enjoyed cake during the day’s events.
Food is used by nearly all world cultures to help bring people together. Both in front of, and behind, the camera, Star Trek reflects this tradition.

Special Thanks to: Nicholas Meyer, The University of Iowa Libraries "Nicholas Meyer Papers Collection" and Dan Madsen.

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Maria Jose and John Tenuto are both sociology professors at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois, specializing in popular culture and subculture studies. The Tenutos have conducted extensive research on the history of Star Trek, and have presented at venues such as Creation Conventions and the St. Louis Science Center. They have written for the official Star Trek Magazine and their extensive collection of Star Trek items has been featured in SFX Magazine. Their theory about the “20-Year Nostalgia Cycle” and research on Star Trek fans has been featured on WGN News, BBC Radio, and in the documentary The Force Among Us. They recently researched all known paperwork from the making of the classic episode "Space Seed" and are excited to be sharing some previously unreported information about Khan's first adventure with fellow fans. Contact the Tenutos at jtenuto@clcillinois.edu or mjtenuto@clcillinois.edu.
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