Rocket man launches Rocket Lab

Rocket man launches Rocket Lab

It takes a rocket man to launch a rocket lab.

William Shatner, known to millions as Star Trek’s original Captain James T. Kirk, opened Rocket Lab’s new high-volume production facility in Mt Wellington, Auckland, today. (October 12, 2018) The legendary actor was watched by invited guests including myself and Company-X director David Hallett.

William, who performed Elton John’s pop hit Rocket Man at the 1978 Science Fiction Film Awards, was joined at the opening ceremony of the Levene Place, Mt Wellington, facility by Rocket Lab chief executive Peter Beck.

Rocket Lab’s new production facility and expands the company’s global footprint.

The new 7,500 sq/m (80,700 sq/ft) rocket development and production facility adds to Rocket Lab’s existing production facility and headquarters in Huntington Beach, California. The new facility rethinks the way orbital rockets are built and brings Rocket Lab’s manufacturing footprint to more than 4.5 acres and enables the company to build an Electron rocket every week.

“Every detail of the Rocket Lab launch system has been designed to provide small satellites with rapid and reliable access to space. This requires the ability to manufacture launch vehicles at an unprecedented rate, so we’ve expanded our global production capability to build and launch an Electron rocket to orbit every week,” Peter says.

“We have the team, the industry-leading launch vehicle, the global production facilities and the launch sites to liberate the small satellite market. Rocket Lab has opened access to orbit.”

Electron launch vehicles undergo final assembly at the new Auckland facility, where all parts go through a streamlined process for testing and integration into the rocket before launch from Rocket Lab’s private orbital launch pad, Launch Complex 1, on the Māhia Peninsula in Hawke’s Bay.

All Electron launches, including the upcoming It’s Business Time launch in November, will be commanded from the new Mission Control at the Auckland facility. This Mission Control will serve launches from Launch Complex 1 in Māhia, as well as Rocket Lab’s US launch site, which is currently undergoing final selection. The new production facility will house more than 200 of Rocket Lab’s growing team of 330 people. Rocket Lab is actively recruiting for an additional 180 roles across New Zealand and the United States to support monthly launches in 2019, scaling to weekly launches by the end of 2020.

The design of Rocket Lab’s new Auckland facility, including the custom-built Mission Control, was designed by Auckland architects Designgroup Stapleton Elliott, with building and installation carried out by Format.



Out Now: Star Trek Magazine No: 68 Fall 2018

Out Now: Star Trek Magazine No: 68 Fall 2018
Star Trek Magazine #68 features the last part of Chris A Mad Man With A Blog’s Chris Gardner’s History of the Future.

Future History

The Klingon Empire: These Prime Universe Klingons can teach us Terrans nothing!

War and Peace

Star Trek Magazine’s epic, multi-part future history of the Klingon Empire, by A Mad Man With A Blog’s Chris Gardner concludes, as peace breaks out between the Empire and the United Federation of Planets, and the two galactic powers combine forces to take out the might of the Dominion. Meanwhile, in the Delta Quadrant, a half-Klingon/half-human rebel joins the crew of the U.S.S. Voyager. . .

William Shatner returns to New Zealand

William Shatner returns to New Zealand

New Zealand audiences will get another rare chance to see Star Trek actor William Shatner live on Stage in October.

1996-03 Star Trek Monthly Star Prints 1.1
William Shatner, right, as Captain James T. Kirk, alongside Yeoman Janice Rand (Grace Lee Whitney) and Mr Spock (Leonard Nimoy).

Here’s my interview with Shatner which appeared on Stuff on October 4, 2015, ahead of his 2015 show Shatner’s World: You Just Live In It:

The wonderful world of William Shatner

“Why is it Shatner’s World?” asks an ebullient William Shatner. “I would have called it your world, but I didn’t know your name then!”

The 84-year-old Star Trek captain arrives in Auckland this week to give a solo performance that he’s fizzing about. “This one man show is as good as it gets for me,” says Shatner as he prepares to perform Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It, at the Aotea Centre in Auckland on October 10. “I have written it, essentially I’ve directed it, and I am touring in it and it is a joy to perform. It’s the combination of my abilities as an actor.”

Shatner, best known for playing Captain James T. Kirk in the original Star Trek television and film series and lawyer Denny Crane in Boston Legal, loves being back on stage following Kirk, Crane and Beyond which he performed in Auckland in 2011.

“It’s a wonderful evening in the theatre,” he said of his new show. “It’s filled with laughter and tears and the connection between me and the audience is very . . .  unusual.

“I talk about love and death as well, I talk about children, I talk about music, I talk about gorillas, I talk about motorcycles, I talk about a variety of subjects, and all of it having to do with the awe of saying yes to the energy of life, the relish of saying yes to the energy of life, and that’s what I’m about.”

Footage of previous performances show a man with the energy of some half his age. What’s his secret?

“Well, I’d like to say it was the purity of my living, but it’s obviously genetic and one of these days I’ll just fall down and won’t get up . . . I’ll delay that for as long as possible.”

In the meantime Shatner is working on a couple of books, one being a tribute to Star Trek co-star Leonard Nimoy who died in February told through the context of Shatner’s 50 year friendship with the Spock actor.

“I’m in the middle of writing it now,” Shatner said.

“You know, when you have a friend, which is not unlike having a partner in life like a wife or husband, and they leave what leaves with them is the validation of those memories that you shared. So if something major happened between the two of you it begins to fade from your memory if you don’t say ‘remember that laugh we had?’ So the memories of the event fade and the event might as well not have happened. That’s how sad it is.”

Shatner confessed to not having seen the remastered versions of his television series, a kind of special edition released in 2009 with updated special effects.

“I haven’t seen that, no. I’ll have to take a look. Are the special effects good?”

Come September next year it’s 50 years since the broadcast of the first episode of Star Trek and the cast of J. J. Abrams rebooted Star Trek films are marking it with a new film called Star Trek Beyond.

“I would love for them to come up with a way of using me, I’ve told them that,” Shatner said.

“J. J. Abrams has solved the mystery of how to get more audience into a Star Trek movie . . . It’s a big hurrah, it’s a tour de force of the CGI effects, and J. J. Abrams is a master at that. So, yes I’m delighted that they are a success and that J. J. is a great director.

“It’s a little different, they do things that I don’t think (the late Star Trek creator) Gene Roddenberry would have okayed, but it’s a new reality. Knowing Gene, he’d have been paid quite well and I think he’d be very happy.”

Shatner described the show as modern mythology.

“The stories had a meaning to them, and those are the best of any story, and certainly the best of Star Trek.”

Boston Legal creator David E. Kelley famously wrote the part of Denny Crane with Shatner in mind. The actor said there was quite a bit of himself in Crane, and vice versa.

“Well there’s a great deal in that as you get older the big fears, the senility of one kind or another that you will lose your mind and won’t know who you are. We’ve all seen these terrible, terrible, examples of that, and so my identification of this character who verged on the edge of being a little silly, and sometimes wasn’t and sometimes was, I felt a great depth of sympathy for him.

“There’s a great deal of me in Denny Crane, but that’s the same me that 50 years younger was another character, so it’s all me.”

Shatner is also known for the way he turns popular songs into soliloquies. The one he is most proud of is his interpretation of Pulp’s Common People which appears on Shatner’s 2004 album Has Been.

“I sang it with a rock and roll guy and I had to match his energy, but I was doing the lyric and he was screaming the song but we met somewhere in the middle and it works,” he said.

So is there anything he wished he’d done?

“Well, that list is endless, I’m thinking of ladies in the past,” and I imagine him winking down the phone before he gets serious.

“My life is so, so loved, by me and the people around me. I love what I’m doing. I’ve got my health, I’m gainfully employed. I’m talking to you about a one man show . . . I’m going to have the joy of performing it in front of the audiences that are there to enjoy it . . . How can I want for anything else?”

1996-04 Star Trek Monthly Star Prints 1.5
William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek.


Without doubt, one of the most popular and recognisable cultural icons in the world today.

“He has gone where no man has gone before, chased down criminals in an unnamed city strangely resembling Los Angeles and fought off demons while speaking Esperanto. And a half-century into his Hollywood career, he still has the. Most. Recognizable. Cadence. In Showbiz. At 87, William Shatner has no plans to slow down.” Washington Post

William Shatner, pop culture icon, television superstar and raconteur extraordinaire, is returning to NZ with SHATNER’S WORLD – THE RETURN DOWN UNDER this October in Auckland, and for the very first time, Christchurch and Wellington.

Sharing more stories, songs, jokes and musings Shatner’s World, THE RETURN DOWN UNDER takes audiences on a 100 minute theatrical voyage through his life and career, from Shakespearean stage actor to internationally acclaimed icon and raconteur, known as much for his unique persona as his expansive body of work including Star Trek, Boston Legal, the publication of 30 books and the release of several spoken word albums, his latest, a soon to be released country music album and Christmas album!

“I’ve done this one-man show on Broadway and in many cities across the United States,” said William Shatner. “At the curtain call, the audiences’ reaction, their love and appreciation, moved me to tears. This show has been one of the highlights of my life.”

Bringing it back to where it all started is very special. With “The Return Down Under” I’ll be bringing more stories and songs. When you have been around and have worked in this business for as long as I have, there’s a heck of a lot to share. New Zealand audiences will also be able to hear some of my latest musical endeavours performed live for the very first time. It’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun.

Shatner’s World has been described as a, “chatty, digressive, and often amusing tour of his [Shatner’s] unusual acting career,” by the New York Times, “a fun evening of personal reminiscence, gossip, video clips and old-fashioned humor,” by AM New York and “equal parts endearing and funny – a mixture of two worlds, really: every day and rarefied,” by The Philadelphia Enquirer. Shatner himself has been praised as, “the most confident of performers,” by The Record and “a personality of galactic proportions,” by the New York Post. Shatner’s humour and ability to poke fun at himself, make this show a must-see memoir of a Hollywood veteran’s life.

Shatner is an award-winning actor, director, producer, writer, recording artist, philanthropist and horseman. In 1966, he introduced the character of Captain James T. Kirk in the television series “Star Trek.” The series became a film franchise with Shatner as Kirk in seven movies, one of which he directed. He also played the title role in the hit series “T. J. Hooker” before hosting TV’s first reality-based series “Rescue 911.” Shatner won two Emmys and his first Golden Globe for his portrayal of Denny Crane on “The Practice” and “Boston Legal” and received four additional Emmy nominations as well as Golden Globes and SAG Awards.

Off screen, Shatner has authored over 30 bestsellers in both the fiction and non-fiction genres. His autobiography “Up Till Now” was a New York Times bestseller and in 2011 he released “Shatner Rules,” a collection of rules illustrated with stories from his personal life and career. In 2016 Shatner released “Leonard: My Fifty Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man” about his enduring friendship with the late Leonard Nimoy.

He has also been successful in another area—horse breeding. A dedicated breeder of American Quarter horses, he has had enormous success with the American Saddlebred, developing and riding world champions and has won numerous world championships in several events.

Read more.

1997-05 Star Trek Monthly Star Prints 2.5
Captain Kirk was the beating heart at the centre of science fiction’s most famous triumvirate.

Review – Star Trek Discovery: Desperate Hours

Review – Star Trek Discovery: Desperate Hours


By David Mack

(Gallery Books)

Desperate_Hours_coverLieutenants Michael Burnham and Saru compete for Captain Philippa Georgiou’s attention and the role of first officer aboard the U.S.S. Shenzhou.

A year before The Battle At The Binary Stars, Burnham finds herself temporarily promoted to the role as the starship investigates the attack of an ancient alien vessel on a human colony world.

Soon the U.S.S. Enterprise, under the command of Captain Christopher Pike, is ordered to join the Shenzhou. Then Burnham is forced to work with Lieutenant Spock, the son of her surrogate Vulcan father, Sarek.

Mack’s unpredictable story rips along at a cracking page, delivering plot twists and turns left, right and centre. At the same time he does a great job of getting inside the minds of Burnham and Saru.

At times he guilds the lily, overemphasising the diversity of the human Starfleet crew by explaining where they are from in throwaway lines. At times it feels like Mack is trying to conform with a more adult approach to Star Trek by using occasional “colourful metaphors” in his writing.

Read this during Discovery’s mid-season break and you’ll come to appreciate Burnham and Saru that much more.

Chris Gardner


Star Trek Magazine #63 is out

When the original Star Trek series was threatened with cancellation by NBC, it was Bjo Trimble and her husband John that organized the unprecedented letter-writing campaign that saved the show.

The success of that campaign should never be underestimated, as without it Star Trek would be but a dim-and-distant memory.

In the first part of a two-part interview with me (Chris Gardner) in Issue 63 of Star Trek Magazine, Bjo remembers the highs and lows of campaigning to keep Trek on TV. (Pages 48 to 53)


In the world of entertainment, success breeds sequels, and with Star Trek guaranteeing big audiences in both cinemas and on TV with The Next Generation, it was only a matter of time before commissioners came looking for another Trek TV series.

So, it was that Deep Space Nine stepped into the limelight, and with it a myriad of opportunities for make-up supervisor Michael Westmore to create countess new aliens.

Michael remembers Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise in the conclusion of his two-part interview with me on pages 54 to 61.

Review: Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock Bluetooth Speakers by Fametek

Set phasers on fun!

For that’s exactly the feeling this pair of Bluetooth speakers from Fametek evoke.

It feels like the American manufacturer have gone for a Pop! Vinyl sort of feel with this pair of speakers inspired by William Shatner’s portrayal of Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek: The Original Series. Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock is at Kirk’s side, as if he’s always been there and always will.


Kirk carries a drawn Starfleet Type 2 Phaser with a Type 1 Phaser correctly inserted in his right hand and a tribble in his left hand.

Spock gives the Vulcan salute with his right hand while holding his left hand, fist clenched, behind his back. A Tricorder hangs around his neck and across his chest.

The speakers include a built in Lithium-Ion 500 mh rechargeable battery. They are charged by plugging the supplied micro-USB charging cable into the back of the speaker and into a computer USB port or 1A/5V charging block. The speaker’s red LED glows while it is charging, tuning off when it is charged.

A three-way switch on the rear of each speaker allows you to switch from off to Auxiliary Mode, allowing you to plug in any audio device via its headphone socket and the supplied auxiliary 3.5mm line-in cable. I tested this function with Engage: The Official Star Trek Podcast from my iPhone 5S and it was delivered clearly and crisply on the 1.5”/38mm Massive Audio driver. They sounded just as good in Bluetooth mode.

Bluetooth Mode is a flick of the switch to the left. On Kirk you get Shatner: “This is Captain James Kirk of the USS Enterprise”. On Spock it’s: “Live long and prosper”. Phaser fire accompanies Kirk’s pairing with your device and “Full ahead, Warp Factor One” when you disconnect. For Spock it’s the whir of a Tricorder and “Captain, I suggest the Vulcan mind probe”. There’s nine sound effects for each of the speakers, in all, which play in different scenarios. Or you can play them directly by pressing the SFX button for two seconds.

I made a call with the speakers, when connected to my smartphone. I could hear the recipient fine, but my voice was too quiet. Not a deal breaker.

Captain Kirk (Model FT-KRK) and Mr. Spock (Model FT_SPK) are available at a recommended retail price of US$49.95.


Review: Star Trek Beyond (2016), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) and Star Trek (2009)


The last three big budget blockbusting Star Trek movies seem a far cry from the morality tales delivered in the original television series of 50 years ago.

Some fans profess love for one and contempt for the other, with both iterations of Captain James T Kirk and crew having their fans and their critics.

But when you analyse the new films, and the original series that inspired them, you discover they have far more in common than you’d first think.

It’s no secret that the Star Trek series of 50 years ago was created by Gene Roddenberry so that he could tell morality tales that would be nixed by the censors on a conventional show. Star Trek commented on sexual and racial equality, and was deeply unpopular with the establishment for doing so. But it also slipped through other, less obvious, morality tales which flew right under the noses of the censors who couldn’t get past the science fiction format. For this reason, the original Star Trek series, ahead of all the others, is considered by many to be the best.

That same thinking often espouses televised Star Trek, which could tell deep and intimate tales in your living room, the definitive version. Star Trek on the big screen, it follows, is less than pure Star Trek because the format has to be altered to pull in the punters. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) is an example of Roddenberry trying to spin a small screen story on the big screen with a budget to match. While it did OK it did not bust blocks, and is widely criticised by some. (I happen to love it).

When you start reading up on the original series, and delve behind the scenes in books like Inside Star Trek and the brilliant These Are The Voyages series, you discover that while Roddenberry and his crew were breaking many moulds they were also forced to fit into some.

Star Trek’s first pilot, The Cage starring Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike, was rejected for being “too cerebral”. Roddenberry was forced to come up with something closer to the action and adventure format of other shows of the time like Bonanza. The second pilot, Where No Man Has Gone Before starring William Shatner as Captain James T Kirk, was more like it. And when it went to series fistfights were part of each morality play. Half a century later we remember the morality plays, but forget Kirk’s ripped Starfleet shirts.

The new films set in an alternate timeline have a similar genesis.

While telling engaging stories about Kirk, Spock, Bones et al, JJ Abrams reboots have also had to pull the paying punters in. In science fiction, these days, that means blowing up planets and starships. And, just like the torn Starfleet shirts and fist fights in the original series, we see plenty of that in Star Trek (2009), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) and Star Trek’s 50th anniversary film Star Trek Beyond.

Star Trek (2009) skilfully sets up the alternate time line, created by original Spock (Leonard Nimoy), being thrown back in time to just before Kirk’s birth. It’s a film with an emotional wallop that goes some way toward explaining the loyalty and friendship of the original crew of the Enterprise.

Star Trek Into Darkness is a darker film, that tries too hard to emulate elements of the original series down to frame by frame recreations. The irony is this ended up being lost on the new viewer, who enjoyed Into Darkness as an action packed romp, while feeling contrived to the die-hard viewers. All that said, Into Darkness includes some heavy social commentary around the state of the world in 2013 if you’re prepared to dig for it.

Thankfully Star Trek Beyond gets us back on track, in Star Trek’s 50th year, and hones in on all the things that make Star Trek work. A central story point is the unity of the United Federated of Planets, and the film includes 50 new races to celebrate Trek’s half century. Kirk’s (Chris Pine) opening log entry about the 966th day in space winks to the audience since Star Trek was first aired in September, 1966. But at its core this film is about relationships between the main characters, and explores them in new ways. Kirk is paired with Chekov, played by the late Anton Yelchin, Spock (Zachary Qunito) with Bones (Karl Urban), Sulu (John Chow) with Uhura (Zoe Saldana), and Scotty (Simon Pegg) with a new, alien, character, as the story unfolds.

Kirk and Bones have a wonderful scene together, early on, that echoes a discussion from the first season episode Balance of Terror.

It’s these relationships that make the Enterprise crew strong, and Star Trek Beyond a worthy carrier of the Trek torch. Nimoy’s and Yelchin’s deaths, before the film was released, are also sweetly referenced in the film, as is a nod to the original cast.

Star Trek endures.