The Day of the Doctor (and it ain’t McCoy!)

Picking up where I left off in my last post, tonight is the “One Night Only” theatrical screening of the BBC’s “Day of the Doctor” and my son and I will be attending at our local AMC Theater. He couldn’t contain his excitement and decided to watch the television broadcast this past Saturday. While I opted to skip it, I did ask him for a spoiler-free opinion when it was over. His reply – “Perfect!” That’s a good thing. It would be disappointing, to say the least, if it had been a stinker and he were now forced to sit through it again in a movie theater. But, instead, he can’t wait to see it again.

As for me, I’ve now seen “The Aztecs” (with the first Doctor from waaaay back in ’64) and the more contemporary episodes “Dalek” (9th Doctor), “Silence in the Library”, “Forest of the Dead” (10th Doctor), “The Impossible Astronaut”, and “Day of the Moon” (11th Doctor). I’ve also checked out the “Night of the Doctor” mini episode which features the return of Paul McGann. I have a basic grasp of the concept of the Time War, the planet Gallifrey, the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Silence, and, of course, of the Doctor’s continual regeneration. Last night, I even took the time to watch the docu-drama “An Adventure in Space and Time”.

So tell me, Whovians, am I ready for tonight?

It’s finally going to happen . . .

Yes, that’s right. After years of ambivalence (for what reason I cannot say) I am finally going to make the time to sit down and purposely watch an episode or two of Doctor Who. It’s not that I have anything against the idea, or the series itself. Nothing could be further from the truth. I simply haven’t found any compelling reason to watch it until recently.

A few months ago, my 15 year old son discovered that recent episodes of the program are available to view on Netflix. He’s already a discerning fan of Sci-Fi and fantasy, having developed a love for Star Trek, Star Wars, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and more. So, when he began watching the Doctor Who series and became immediately enthralled by it, I took notice. This weekend he decided that he wanted share his new found enjoyment with the old man if I’d be willing to partake of an episode or two. And that folks is all the initiative I need.

I realize that these pages have been devoted primarily to Star Trek. However, anyone who has read my entries thoroughly knows that the underlying themes are of much greater importance. One such theme, on which I have continually touched, is the nurturing of the relationship with my boy through our shared love of Sci-Fi. Given that, I am not only enthusiastic about spending the time with him checking out the behemoth of Brit Sci-Fi, but just as enthused by the idea of writing about it here.

More news to follow after the episodes.

The Once and Future Voyages

OH MYYYYY!! (in classic George Takei voice). Has it really been over six months since I’ve published anything here? I do tend to let time get away from me every so often so, I suppose it shouldn’t be all that surprising.  Nevertheless, any readership I’d developed has probably long since abandoned me.  I wouldn’t blame them.  My last few entries of 2011 made more than a passing reference to my opinion that there was little new or exciting to blog about in the world of Star Trek.

Additionally, my finances have taken a severe beating since last year so there will be no visit to the Las Vegas Creation Star Trek Convention this summer.  That sad fact alone has contributed greatly to my utter depression and lack of motivation where Star Trek is concerned. I’m also not a huge fan of the J.J. Abrams reboot so any news and tidbits on the forthcoming theatrical release of the sequel do absolutely nothing for me.

Yet, there is always something to stimulate the interest of an aging Trek fan. One simply must know where to look.  In this case, it’s Star Trek: The New Voyages.  While the 1960s era Captain Kirk and company may no longer appear on our television screens, their adventures continue and have done so for some time now. Step into the Wayback Machine with me as we explore in greater depth:

The year was 1976 and the now classic original Star Trek TV series had been off the air for seven years.  Its animated Saturday morning spawn was also gone by this point and the major motion picture version was still three years away.  Of course, the public was clamoring for new Star Trek stories so, while Roddenberry and his people futilely attempted to develop a new Trek TV show, fans took to writing their own tales, many of which are quite good.  Some of them are so good, in fact, that Bantam Books released a collection of them in paperback entitled Star Trek: The New Voyages.  There were two copies in my house within days after it hit the shelves (yes, my brother and I each had to have our own).  Not only were the short stories in this book finely crafted, many of them included introductions penned by actors from the Star Trek TV series. Awesome!!!

My hands-down favorite story from the aforementioned paperback is a little gem called “Mind Sifter”, written by the late Shirley S. Maiewski.  The piece details the events that take place after James Kirk is captured by the Klingons and they’ve used their dreaded interrogation device, the mind sifter, on him.  Still alive, his mind hopelessly ravaged, the Klingons determine that he should be disposed of in the past where no one from Starfleet can come  looking for him.  So, they take Kirk to the planet of the Guardian of Forever and send him hurtling back to 1950s era Earth, where he ends up in a mental institution.  The action in the story takes place as he tentatively befriends a female orderly there and then it shifts periodically to the equally tense environment aboard the Enterprise as Spock is forced to give up his search for his friend and assume command of the ship permanently. I won’t give away any other plot details here.  The story is excellent – I highly recommend it.

Fast Forward 28 years.  All of the Star Trek films had been released and there was little hope of Paramount making any more.  All of the follow-up TV series had run their course save “Star Trek: Enterprise” which was shortly to be cancelled.  I was feeling many of the same feelings of disappointment and depression that I am right now (at least in terms of my beloved Star Trek and the dismal prospects for its future).  The brother I mentioned earlier was over for a visit and he made an offhanded comment about Star Trek fan films.  Although I still owned my copy of The New Voyages and numerous other fan-fiction books, it had never occurred to me that there might also be fan-produced Star Trek films.  How could I find them? Where would they be distributed?  Then it hit me… THE INTERNET!!!

Star Trek: The New Voyages Cast

Star Trek: The New Voyages Cast

There are actually several very worthy projects run by fans and they have produced some very enjoyable films.  The best, however (IMHO), is Star Trek: The New Voyages (a.k.a Star Trek – Phase II).  Interestingly, the two names by which this project has been known since its inception are the same as the title of the fan-fiction book and the aborted new TV series I mentioned above, respectively.  Paramount Pictures, which owns the rights to the Star Trek franchise, has even allowed this group of fans – headed by Mr. James Cawley (who also portrays Kirk) to use the Trek name, logos, etc.  Since 2004, they have produced about ten episodes, most of which are available for viewing at their official website.

Most interestingly, however, is the fact that they are currently producing an episode entitled “Mind Sifter”.  A little research on my part has uncovered the fact that, just prior to her passing away, the author of the original tale gave the New Voyages production crew her blessing to shoot a film version her splendid story.  Needless to say the curiosity is killing me!  I hope they manage to get the episode finished in a timely fashion and maintain the quality and love they’ve exhibited in their previous efforts.  Even if they don’t (they are always short on cash and soliciting donations from other fans to help cover their costs), the simple fact that they’ve elected to take on the “Mind Sifter” story has renewed my interest in reading some of the original fan fiction.  So therein lies the enjoyment of Star Trek that I’d thought was waning.  It always comes back – it’s just a question of how and from where. 😉

Where Do We Go From Here? Part 1

After complaining in some of my recent posts about the lack of anything new to look forward to in the world of Star Trek, I have come to find out that the Science Channel will be airing a new documentary entitled Trek Nation on November 30th.  In addition, filming on the second J.J. Abrams Star Trek motion picture begins on January 15th.  Admittedly I am looking forward to the former much more than the latter but it’s all good.  Meanwhile, as I wait patiently for the 30th to arrive,  I have been thinking back on my own particular journey through the realm of sci-fi fandom and realized that it started with Trek but didn’t end there. The 60’s classic Star Trek TV series was merely a jumping off point from which I delved into a number of other fascinating movies, television shows, and books.

As anyone with similar interests knows, the relationships among all these various works within the genre can be somewhat circuitous, leading a fan right back to where he started in the most glorious and unexpected of ways.  So it was with me, with Star Trek and the collection of other enjoyable stories that I am going to touch on here.  Seeing them or, in some cases, reading them, was interesting in and of itself, but also in the respect that they allowed me to  gain new perspectives.  I found that getting away from my favorite Trek episodes for a while and checking out a new sci-fi movie or story allowed me to return to the Star Trek universe with a greater appreciation – picking up on nuances I’d perhaps missed earlier.  In other words, everything reinforces everything else in some way.

So, to any readers of this blog who may be interested in sci-fi vehicles other than Star Trek, today’s entry begins a multi-part overview of some of the earliest additions to my list of favorite sci-fi stories.  If my memory is intact enough, I will endeavor to organize them in the order in which I discovered them.  As far as I know, they are all readily available now to anyone wishing to check them out.  Gotta’ love 21st Century, instantly gratifying, streaming, downloadable, on-demand media availability!  Anyway, here we go with Part 1:

Silent Running – Theatrical Motion Picture – 1972

Like the best Star Trek episodes, this film is a morality tale.  Set in “the first year of a new century”  (the 21st I suppose), the film establishes that all trees and plant life on Earth are gone, except for a small collection forests being cultivated under giant domes aboard ships in deep space. The crews of these enormous vessels have apparently worked onSilent Running the forestation project for a very long time with a view toward reintroducing the greenery to our abused planet.  They have their doubts that the project will come to fruition, though, and, one way or the other, they are anxious to get home. Bruce Dern plays Freeman Lowell, a botanist charged with caring for the forests on one of the ships – The Valley Forge.  When the project is abandoned, the crews of all the ships are ordered to jettison and detonate the forest domes and return to Earth.  Lowell is devastated and cannot accept that the forests must be destroyed. Driven by his (laudable) desire to save at least one forest, he takes drastic actions that ultimately determine the outcome of the story.

The film was directed by Douglas Trumbull who had previously worked on the visual effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey (which didn’t make today’s entry in the list primarily because I didn’t see it until 10 years after it came out).  Although the emphasis on saving our ecology that was prevalent in the 70’s is very thinly veiled in this movie, it nonetheless manages to entertain – with a convincing performance by Dern, believable effects, and a moving (if somewhat dated) soundtrack featuring songs performed by Joan Baez.  Notable also are the “drones”, small utility robots played by amputee actors in very believable costumes, forerunners of George Lucas’s “droid” concept from Star Wars.

Westworld – Theatrical Motion Picture – 1973

This film afforded me my first exposure to the work of Michael Crichton, who both wrote the story and directed the movie.  It’s basic theme is one that Crichton had dealt with Westworldbefore and would return to again in some of his later tales – namely, the dangerous consequences that can occur when we assume we can control technologies or elements of nature that we don’t entirely understand.

Sometime in the not too distant future, vacationers can visit a  resort where, for $1000 a day, they are able to interact with completely realistic android robots in three specific historical settings: Roman World, Medieval World, and Western World.    In these adult amusement parks, nothing is off limits.  There are deadly sword battles, gunfights, good old fashioned brothels, and more.   Visitors to these resort-worlds can live out their every fantasy, no matter how violent or perverse. The story centers around a pair of businessmen, played by Richard Benjamin and James Brolin. They’ve chosen to unwind in Western World, where they engage in barroom brawls with outlaws, shootouts with a gunslinger (expertly portrayed by Yul Brynner), and romps with 1880’s style prostitutes – all of whom are lifelike robots.  The movie also depicts a number of secondary characters who have similar adventures in the other two themed resort-worlds.

When the robots and the systems that control them begin experiencing inexplicable malfunctions, the engineers in charge have to decide how best to proceed.  Although they initially consider closing the resort to address their concerns, it is ultimately decided to wait and allow the current guests to stay out their planned visits.  That’s when all hell breaks loose!  This is a compelling movie for sure.  I especially like how the line “Nothing can go wrong” prefaces all the action.  If you enjoyed the Trek TOS episodes, “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”, “I Mudd”, or “Requiem for Methuselah”, you’ll probably like this film.

Next time around, I’ll touch on a collection of short stories and a novel, both of which were adapted for the big screen.

Bricks…the final frontier

I went to great lengths in my last post – well, not so great and not so lengthy – to describe the lack of anything new in the world of Star Trek about which to get truly excited.  Silly me. When you’re a 9 year old in the body of a grown man, there’s always something to get excited about.  You just have to know where to look for it.

In my case, I needed to look no further than a little online forum I belong to.  Its sole reason for existing is to provide a virtual gathering place for people who wish the Lego Company would introduce Star Trek sets in the same way they have done with Star Wars, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, and so many others.  It seems clear the market is there.

So, what’s taking them so long?  The rights to produce Star Trek merchandise can’t be that difficult to obtain.  Heaven knows just about every other toy company has marketed a Star Trek line at some point. How cool would it be to have officially licensed Trek sets from Lego?!  Apparently not cool enough for the good folks in Billund, Denmark.  No matter.

In our online community, we sometimes have contests to see who can design the best Star Trek Lego kits.  The most recent was a ship design contest.  I chose my belovedLego-Contest-Entry-TOS-Enterprise NCC-1701 (No bloody A, B, C, or D!).  The goal was to construct the model using your own design and then submit a single photograph for consideration.  Of course, being a bit of a perfectionist, I couldn’t just photograph the finished product.  I had to do so in a way that would demonstrate what I envisioned as the cover of the box it would come in if it were ever mass-produced.  It took me a few evenings after dinner to construct the model and perhaps one or two more to refine the design and tweak things a bit.  The photo at the right is my finished entry.  I was so excited by the chance to do the model, I celebrated with a marathon of classic Trek remastered episodes on NetFlix!

Who says there isn’t anything new in Star Trek to get excited about?  Well, I do – but I’m wrong!

I’ve Just Won My Fourth Game

There is something extraordinarily satisfying about playing a good game of chess.  I think this is due, at least in part, to the necessity of using so many different areas of the brain in so many different ways simultaneously.  A competent player needs not only a thorough understanding of the rules and strategies, but the ability to visualize geometrically in multiple dimensions, to recognize patterns, to think ahead several moves, to consider numerous possible outcomes, and to intuit from his opponent the likelihood of playing a given piece.  It is an intellectually demanding, yet stimulating, experience to be sure and the game is one that we might expect master strategists to play in their spare time.

Kirk and Spock playing chessI think the producers and writers of Star Trek realized this as well.  There are at least thirty separate references to, or depictions of, the game of chess throughout the various Star Trek TV series.  In fact, in several episodes of the original series (TOS as we Trekkies refer to it), chess is pivotal to the plot.  Not surprisingly,  Kirk and Spock are seen playing chess in the opening sequence of the pilot episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before”.  This makes perfect sense in terms of the development of the two characters, both of whom are exceptionally intelligent but who are so very different in their approach to the galactic difficulties they encountered each week, as well as their approaches to the game.

Of course, like so many other things depicted in Trek, the game of chess is given a futuristic update in the form of a three-dimensional board on which pieces can be moved up or down as well as laterally.  As it turns out, this isn’t really futuristic at all as many three-dimensional variants on the game of chess have existed since the 19th century. Nevertheless, the version in Star Trek is the one with which most people now seem to be familiar.  One more instance of the enormous pop-culture impact of the iconic TV series.

Although many people are aware of the existence of three-dimensional chess thanks to Star Trek, they may not be aware just how “real” the game has become because of the influence exerted by Trek fans.  Several sets of rules have been developed to allow for fully realized games using the board designed for TOS.  The Franklin Mint manufactured and sold two different Star Trek 3D chess sets for avid collectors.  Star Trek: The Next Generation and its sister series depicted 3D chess in a goodly number of episodes.

As a fanatical lover of Star Trek, I was always a bit disappointed that our heroes weren’t depicted playing the game in any of the theatrical motion pictures.  It always seemed to me that Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock were better prepared to deal with whatever the galaxy might throw at them after a good chess match.  Of course, they are only fictional characters.  I suspect, however, the decision makers who control many aspects of our lives in the real world could benefit greatly from the occasional game of chess, too.

Interestingly, I find that I have greater clarity of mind after playing chess for a while than at almost any other time.  By the same token, however, the focus required to succeed at chess, forces one to suspend (temporarily, at least) concentration on any other topic not related to the game at hand. Perhaps this is why such mental cobweb clearing is often the result.  I have to wonder what the world would be like if more people approached the serious business of life as Kirk and Spock do, with the much-needed distraction of a challenging game of three-dimensional chess.

“It’s Just a TV Show!” or: Was Star Trek Revolutionary?

Merriam Webster lists the following among its definitions of the word revolutionary:  “constituting or bringing about a major or fundamental change”. Other similar reference sources use the word innovative as a synonym.   I have found myself thinking about this a great deal recently and, given these definitions, I think it is fair to say that the original Star Trek TV series of the 1960’s was revolutionary.

This begs the question, “What major or fundamental change did Star Trek bring about?”. In other words, what made it innovative?  I have several answers, some of which are common knowledge even among non-fans, while others are more personal to me.  Herein I will tackle them one at a time and attempt to explain each in some detail.

Star Trek depicted a future of racial and gender equality:
While it may be true that Trek was not the first TV show to place “non-whites” in prominent roles (see: I Spy with Bill Cosby opposite Robert Culp – 1965-68), it was the only one bold enough to consistently portray a human future in which skin color, national origin, gender, etc. in no way determined a character’s level of importance or ability.  In Star Trek we see a multi-national crew comprised of officers both male and female who function as a completely cohesive unit; one in which individuals’ standing is rarely questioned because of race or sex.

I have heard complaints from young Star Trek fans that characters like Uhura and Sulu weren’t featured prominently enough.  Certainly, I too would love to have seen more from those members of the ensemble who were co-stars.  Nevertheless, anyone who has watched the bulk of episodes from the original Star Trek series can’t argue that Uhura, Sulu, and even Chekov later on weren’t given important parts to play.  It was, after all, the 1960’s – a time when African and Asian Americans still had to suffer indescribable indignities in many parts of the United States and Russians were looked upon as little more than cold-war enemies.

Consider that Uhura was portrayed not only as a full Lieutenant but a competent electronics technician, a capable navigator, and an insightful, talented, and gutsy woman on top of her position as Communications Officer.  Sulu too was a commissioned officer who served as a department head, deft Helmsman/Weapons Operator, accomplished botanist, and a confident commander in the absence of Kirk, Spock, and Scotty.  The character of Chekov may have been the most under utilized as he was there primarily to appeal to the same young people who were fans of The Monkees.  All the same, he was given plenty of time in the limelight in his role as Navigator, often being assigned to landing parties, taking the science station in Spock’s absence, and even “getting the girl” in an episode or two – to say nothing of his “national pride”.

I had a great many friends at that time who were of diverse national origin.  All of them counted themselves as Star Trek fans and simply loved the characters I have described. In addition, many celebrities and public figures have cited the characters and philosophy of Star Trek as inspirational, actress/comedienne Whoopi Goldberg and astronaut Mae Jemison among them.

Star Trek was aimed at adults but appreciated equally by children:
With the possible exception of The Twilight Zone (which wasn’t necessarily science fiction anyway), there was very little believable adult sci-fi on TV or in movie serials prior to Star Trek.  Much of what was being shown was intentionally written for children or quickly changed its focus to appeal to the young after otherwise promising starts (see: Lost in Space – 1965-68).

Star Trek, on the other hand, never lost sight of its adult audience.  Even in its third and final season when the writing was sometimes less than stellar, the stories were often thought provoking morality tales that might not have been shown at all had they been conceived for any television series format other than sci-fi.  Moreover, the series always managed to maintain a level of quality that adults could appreciate while sprinkling in more than enough action and adventure to keep kids like me (I was a little tyke when the show first aired) glued to the TV.

Star Trek engendered strong feelings of loyalty among its fans:
The above is an understatement of galactic proportion!  I can think of no other television series, in any genre, that garnered the respect, devotion, and love of its fans the way Star Trek did.  When rumors of cancellation began circulating during the 1967-68 TV season, fans organized a massive letter writing campaign quite possibly contributing to the renewal of the show for another year.  After its network demise, Trek achieved such cult status during its run in syndication that, at one point in the mid 1970’s, fifty two percent of Americans considered themselves Star Trek fans.

Fan conventions brought out thousands when only hundreds were expected to attend. The stars of the show were highly in demand for personal appearances and were asked by organizations as prominent as NASA to be goodwill ambassadors.  The show become such a cultural phenomenon that four years after its cancellation it spawned a Saturday morning cartoon and after five more years of increasing popularity was re-imagined as a major theatrical motion picture.  The country’s first space shuttle was renamed Enterprise in deference to the show’s popularity.  It is highly likely that the market for films like Star Wars might not have existed had it not been for Star Trek.

I could go on but I think the point has been made.   If even one life is fundamentally changed by something, there is no measure of the importance of the thing.  Millions of people have been affected positively by Star Trek – some in the most trivial fashion and some in life altering ways.  I think Merriam Webster would agree – that is revolutionary!

Consulting the Library Computer

In an effort to get “all geared up” for my forthcoming visit to Creation Star Trek 2011 in Las Vegas, I’ve recently taken my obsession with Star Trek to another level.  I’ve always been a pretty fanatical lover of Trek.  Although, like anything else in life, my over-the-top fandom has had peaks and valleys.  There were times when I was much younger that I ate, drank, slept, and breathed Star Trek.  There have also been just as many periods more recently during which I’d watch 20 minutes of a Trek rerun on SyFy and that was the extent of my involvement for weeks on end.

Thankfully, the Internet provides the perfect means by which I (and countless others to be sure) can dive headlong back into all things Trek.  It’s almost as though I have my own LCARS terminal connected back to every database in Starfleet!  In all seriousness though, as well versed as I am in technology (I’ve been using the Internet in one form or another since 1990) it still never ceases to amaze me the depth and breadth of information that is available on most any topic – especially Star Trek!

I imagine that just about anyone reading this blog is already well acquainted with the sites I’m going to cover in this post.  All the same, there may be one or two folks like me who, only a short time ago, would have been unaware of the existence of so many terrific Star Trek resources online.  For that reason, I decided to compile a list of the Star Trek related websites I’ve been visiting lately.  This list is by no means exhaustive.  In fact, I would welcome comments with suggestions for others that I may be unaware of.

So, here goes:

http://www.startrek.com – The official website of the Star Trek franchise.

http://www.cbs.com/classics – Watch episodes of TOS and TAS online (this can also be done at startrek.com above)

http://www.trekweb.com – News and articles about everything to do with Star Trek

http://www.trekbbs.com – An excellent forum for chatting with like-minded fans

http://startrekofgodsandmen.com – Home of the terrific fan film made for the 40th Anniversary of the series

http://www.startreknewvoyages.com – The site of James Cawley’s excellent fan film series set during the TOS five year mission

http://www.starshipfarragut.com – More terrific fan films

http://creationent.com/cal/stlv.htm – Big, big, big Star Trek convention in Las Vegas next month

http://starfleet1701st.yuku.com – Forum operated by the fantastic 1701st Star Trek Uniform Club

http://www.therpf.com – Custom props and costumes used in role playing

http://www.startrekhistory.com – Absolutely incredible site with insider information about the production of the original TV Series

http://www.trekcore.com – All encompassing site with everything from rare photos to audio clips and more (from all series and movies)

http://www.startrekonline.com – Great Internet game set in the Trek universe

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Star-Trek-Fans/161013817304738 – Cool new Facebook group for we fans

As I had indicated above, there are undoubtedly hundreds (if not thousands) of other sites containing all kindsa’ Star Trek stuff and I’ll bet some of them are just great.  If anyone feels like to directing me to any of them, I’d be more than receptive.

LLAP

Star Trek Uniform Horror Stories – The Final Phase

To complete my series on mishaps and difficulties with Trek uniform costuming attempts, I am going to start out with what would appear to be a horror story.  The great part is that, although the uniform itself and the circumstances surrounding its aborted creation may have been horrific, the ending is a very happy one IMHO.

Stardate: 1986.6 – By the age of 19 I had already done several things that a geek like me wouldn’t have been expected to, at least according to Bill Shatner’s “evil Captain Kirk” from Saturday Night Live.  I had most definitely kissed a girl and I had already moved out of my parents’ basement and gotten my own apartment (with the lovely girl I had kissed, I might add).

I really was incredibly lucky to have fallen in love with someone so intelligent and beautiful but, to my added good fortune, she was also almost as much the Star trek fan that I was. We had purchased our first VCR (a BetaMax – LOL, I’m old!!) and the first pre-recorded movie we acquired was, of course, Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  The TOS episodes weren’t readily available on Beta yet so we got a bunch of blank tapes and started recording them from TV.  This way we’d have a monster collection of Trek shows to watch whenever we wanted.  We also worked diligently on collecting every paperback in the PocketBooks Star Trek series and read them all many times over.  We had just made tentative plans to attend a Star Trek convention – it would have been our first together – when this particular horror story began to unfold.

We thought it would be pretty cool to participate in the costume parade at the con and we each had a favorite uniform from the TV series that we planned to wear.  Mine was to be Kirk’s alternate command tunic – the green wraparound.  My lovely girl would have donned Uhura’s revealing mirror universe uniform.  Unfortunately, neither of us knew the first thing about constructing a homemade Trek uniform costume.  Although, at least my girlfriend knew how to sew and had made some garments in the past.  If memory serves, we didn’t have any patterns either and there certainly was no World Wide Web as we now know it through which to order them or do any research.   We did have some reference books to work from (The Making of Star Trek, The Starfleet Technical Manual, and Bjo Trimble’s excellent Star Trek Concordance) but otherwise we were on our own. By far our biggest impediment though was that we were almost always broke, so we didn’t have a lot of money to put into these costumes to begin with.

We picked up some cheap (and dreadfully wrong) material and tried to get underway.  My girl’s fabric was a bright red double-knit … definitely on the right track but too bright and too thin, almost like a crepe.  Mine was very dark green, way too dark really, and was similar to the material from which bedsheets are made…so it had no flex/stretch capability whatsoever.  Undaunted we began our project anyway.  I think my girlfriend drew out something akin to a pattern for my shirt and she then cut the individual sections accordingly.  I don’t remember if she had cut out all the pieces and was assembling the final garment or if she had just done a few basic pieces to put together a mock-up.  Either way, before long I had a front and back connected to a right sleeve.  The fit was awkward and the material didn’t lay well on my torso.  Nevertheless, it was coming together.  But given everything I’ve just described, it was questionable whether this costume would be usable at all – and therein lies the first horror story.   The second, and much bigger, horror story is that we left that green shirt half finished – that was as far as we ever got on it.  The sexy red mirror universe uniform never even got started.

For a multitude of reasons that probably have no place being published in a Star Trek blog, we broke up at the beginning of that summer, having never attended the convention or even finished the costumes.  Although I initially thought there was hope of getting back together, I blinked my eyes and months had gone by.  Suddenly it was a year – then two. We each ended up marrying and starting our own families, neither seeing nor speaking to each other as two years became five and so on.

What makes this such a terrific story is the happy ending I alluded to earlier.  We two geeks each knew that we were meant to be together.  In a way it was almost like one of those great Star Trek stories in which destiny is fulfilled even if there is sadness along the way.  More than ten years after we had originally begun dating and nearly eight years since we had last spoken, we met at our tenth high school reunion and picked up where we left off.  Now we are rapidly approaching our fifteenth wedding anniversary and our Trek fandom hasn’t waned.  In fact, our thirteen year old son and I will soon be attending Creation Star Trek 2011 in Las Vegas – and we will be doing so in full uniforms created by none other than my lovely girl.

I will be blogging from the con and undoubtedly posting photos of my new and improved green Kirk wraparound tunic.  But no photos or blog posts can accurately convey the most important facet of this tale – even though the blog topic is “Horror Stories”, my time with the incredible woman described herein has been the antithesis of a horror story!  She completes me and I her.  And our shared love of all things Star Trek is one example among many of how our fate was “in the stars”!

Star Trek Lives!

This phrase means something completely different to me now than it did when I first heard it nearly four decades ago.  As I recall, in the early 1970’s “Star Trek Lives!” was a rallying cry; an almost defiant exclamation by a large segment of the public that our beloved Star Trek couldn’t be killed by an entity as insignificant as a mere television network.  Thanks to a less than accurate Nielsen rating system, the execs at NBC put an end to production of new live-action episodes in 1969.  However, within a few short years people were clamoring for more – and we ate up anything we could get: TV reruns in syndication, paperback books, magazines, photos, models, toys, and more.

I even had the good fortune to attend some of the earliest conventions and I witnessed first-hand the effects we, the fans, had on keeping the Star Trek universe alive.  By September of ’73 people my age (and, yes, even older ones) could see new adventures on TV, albeit in a half-hour, Saturday morning animated format.  The important thing though was that the quality of the storytelling and the optimism of the show’s creators was still evident.  Then there were the books – novelizations of the original ’60’s TV episodes, collections of short stories, new full-length novels, looks behind the scenes – enough to fill the bookcase in my bedroom.   But it got better still.  When the Federation Trading Post opened on 53rd Street in Manhattan, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven!  By 1976 or ’77 all manner of Trek merchandise and memorabilia was available.  It was only a matter of time until the “Star Trek Lives!” mantra would result in the fulfillment of every fan’s dreams – new live-action Star Trek with the original cast intact!

Fast forward 30 years.  It’s fair to say that Star Trek has reached its saturation point.  After 11 theatrical films, 4 new television series, hundreds of books, and dozens of video games old-timers like me are forced to wonder if there is anything fresh and new to be brought to the Star Trek table.  And yet, even if there is not, Star Trek lives!  As far as I can tell, there are still millions of people around the world whose appreciation for, and devotion to, the Star Trek universe is unwavering.  And although there are undoubtedly those who would disagree, I think that’s a good thing.

In a little over a month, I’ll be attending Creation Star Trek – Las Vegas with my 13 year old son in tow.  We’ll be celebrating with thousands of others the 45th anniversary of the sci-fi juggernaut we both love so much…and it really doesn’t matter to us if there is ever another new Star Trek TV show or film.  Heck, my son wasn’t even alive when the bulk of the Star Trek stories we now enjoy were released.  Yet, in the Star Trek universe as it stands now there are so many good stories, so many morals worth living up to, so much blatant optimism for our future – it’s a legacy well worth celebrating.  In many ways, I am reminded of the means by which we mere mortal humans manage to live forever… by creating great memories with our loved ones and passing them down through generations.  The phrase “Star Trek Lives!” may have a different meaning now but the optimism, understanding, tolerance, hope, and love which continues to be shown by its newest legion of young fans speaks volumes!

Star trek Lives!