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Into The Hive Mind: To Boldly Go Where No Fandom Has Gone Before

Christine Bancroft |
January 29, 2013 | 10:56 p.m. PST


Inasmuch as the "Lord of the Rings" series revolutionized the fantasy novel genre, "Star Trek" completely reworked the face of science-fiction. Revolutionary in its own right, progressive and groundbreaking for not only its genre but also its time, "Star Trek" has remained one of the most stolid and widespread fandoms, with a continued and respected presence in fandom circles.

The "Trek" fandom's ongoing mission? To boldly go where no man has gone before.

Subject: The "Star Trek" television show and franchise and the fandom

Warning: Any show that has been on since the mid-60s is going to have some history. There are a lot of dates and facts and names in this section. 

Space...the final frontier.
Space...the final frontier.

In 1966, screenwriter and producer Gene Roddenberry pitched an idea about a space "'Wagon Train' to the Stars" to NBC, unknowingly creating one of the largest cult products of all time. While airing, the show (now referred to as "Star Trek: The Original Series" or "TOS") received low ratings and was cancelled in 1969, only the start of its shaky beginnings (and middle, to be honest). Through syndication and rebroadcasts, the show began to receive recognition, and in 1973, an animated series was commissioned, though it was cancelled after only a year. In spite of cancellation, the animated series received an Emmy Award for Best Series.

In May 1975, "Star Trek: Phase II" was commissioned and began preproduction, but Paramount Television Service, an offshoot of Paramount Pictures, folded and ended work. In 1979, "Phase II" premiered instead as a film, following on the heels of the success of "Star Wars" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", and while it fell below expectations at the box office worldwide, Paramount still ordered a sequel.

KHAAAAAAAAAAN! "The Wrath of Khan", to be specific, was what changed the Enterprise's path. Critical success and lower production costs lead to a total of six "Trek" films between 1979 and 1991.

In 1987, "Star Trek: The Next Generation" ("TNG") premiered, with Patrick Stewart at the helm. Continuing past Roddenberry's death in 199, "TNG" was a critical success and had high ratings during its seven seasons. Nominated for an Emmy, "TOS" and "TNG" are the two best-known television series from the "Star Trek" franchise, and have lead to fan conflict regarding the Captain Kirk vs. Captain Picard debate. "TNG" ended in 1994 after seven successful and award-winning seasons.

"Deep Space Nine" ("DS9") changed its focus, taking place onboard a station versus a starship. While Roddenberry was aware of its commissioning, he passed away in 1991, two years before "DS9's" premiere in 1993; the show took on religious themes and focused on crew conflict, aspects of the show that Roddenberry refused to endorse.

While "DS9" aired from 1993 to 1999, "Voyager" ran concurrently from 1995 to 2001, featuring a female commanding officer, a first for the franchise; while it took featured conflict between crewmembers, in its later seasons, it featured more of the all-for-one mentality that "TOS" possessed. It also featured appearances from previous shows, including cast members and alien cultures.

"Enterprise", airing from 2001 until 2005, is considered a prequel to "TOS", and had longer story arcs and darker undertones, but still managed to solve continuity issues from previous shows. According to long-time fan commonalleytea, "Enterprise", "DS9" and "Voyager" are considered secondary series to many fans, who tend to focus more on "TOS", the feature films and "TNG".

In 2007, a film reboot of the series, titled simply "Star Trek", was taken onboard by "LOST" producer and noted lens-flare fanatic J.J. Abrams, featuring an entirely new cast (based on the original crew of characters), a cameo by Leonard Nimoy (Spock from "TOS") and an alternate timeline that allows for deviation from canonical timelines. The film, released in 2009, received critical success and allowed for the average moviegoer to immerse him or herself into the "Trek" universe, which previously could have seemed daunting, what with all the franchise's history.

The 2007 film grossed $385.7, was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning one for Best Makeup, and is the first of a trilogy. Because of the rebooted "mirror" universe, as well as several other canonical contrasts, die-hard fans gave mixed reviews. Abrams intended the 2007 film to allow for new fans in a new era.

On May 17, 2013, the sequel to the rebooted film, titled "Into Darkness", will be released. The previous film's cast will return for the sequel, with added characters played by British actors Alice Eve and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Words cannot describe how excited I am. 

But enough of that. We've a fandom to cover.

Fandom name: Trekkers/Trekkies

One of the "Old Ones", a so-called "sleeping giant", the fandom is one of the earliest and one of the most recognizable.

The Trekkie/Trekker debate is long-standing, and it can get nasty. Trekkies, the better-known of the two titles, is sometimes considered a pejorative term used to describe fans who are more inactive, less attentive or simply "less fan-like". The word "Trekker" was developed to denote the more die-hard fans from the less attuned, according to commonalleytea. However, Roddenberry, when confronted with the issue, simply replied, "It's 'Trekkie'. I should know; I created it."

While the fandom tends to be all-encompassing, in its incipient stages, it was definitely male-dominated (as is a general tendency with science fiction-related fandoms). In addition, there is an occasional issue with what is called "fandom elitism". For example, the issue between Trekkie/Trekker could be determined as "fandom elitism" because it attempts to create an inferior group and a superior group (with the Trekkers marking themselves as superior to the Trekkies, for example, or vice versa.) Some fans of "TOS" may attempt to establish superiority over fans of "TNG" or the 2009 film. This issue is not unique to the "Star Trek" fandom, and is a (deeply irritating) trend that is equal parts ubiquitous and ridiculous.

I shall reiterate: all fans are equal, regardless of the extent to which they have indulged in the subject, the knowledge they possess of it, the adaptations they have seen or read, et cetera. A fan of one subject is not better than a fan of another. One who has been a fan for longer is not better than the new fan. To demean one group of fans is to become the same people fandoms were created to combat—those who demean people for liking a topic in any fashion were, after all, bullies. Shortly put: by degrading another fan, you're becoming the very same people you hated in high school who degraded you.

The word "Trekkie" will be used here, as it tends to be the more all-encompassing term, as well as the most-recognized. Those who prefer "Trekker" should take no offense (for explanation: see above paragraph).

A progressive show: Roddenberry created the show to break boundaries and follow along with the development of the 1960s counterculture movement.

Leonard Nimoy's Spock and William Shatner's Captain Kirk became the faces of a franchise that has lasted nearly 50 years.
Leonard Nimoy's Spock and William Shatner's Captain Kirk became the faces of a franchise that has lasted nearly 50 years.
Most famously, "Star Trek" featured the first on-screen interracial kiss (specifically, between black and white actors), between William Shatner's Captain Kirk and Nichelle Nichols' Lt. Uhura in the episode "Plato's Stepchildren" in Nov. 1968. Although NBC had expressed concerns regarding the scene and attempted to change it, the actors deliberately overacted or missed their marks in order to force the producers' hands.

The episode was not aired in some states, notably in the South, where it was considered too…"racy".

Later episodes and series featured interracial relationships, and used interspecies relationships to symbolize them even further.

The show is notable for breaching ideas of religion, race and sexuality, discussing drug use and xenophobia, and touching upon issues prominent in the 1960s and later decades.

Actress Whoopi Goldberg credited Nichols from "TOS" with inspiring her to become an actress, noting that, at the time, it was unusual to see a black actress have a leading part.

Non-canonical spin-offs, including books and comic books, feature LGBT characters; while Roddenberry had suggested one or more "TNG" characters would be gay in 1987 (at the height of the AIDS epidemic, note), this never came to fruition, at least, overtly. In a letter to the "Los Angeles Times" in 1991, Leonard Nimoy said that "it [was] entirely fitting that gays and lesbians will appear unobtrusively aboard the 'Enterprise'—neither objects of pity nor melodramatic attention." Due to Roddenberry's 1991 death, there were no recurring LGBT characters in the show, although the episode "The Outcast" discussed sexual identity and orientation discrimination. The episode featured a character who was androgynous by species, and discusses orientation-correction therapy techniques used by anti-homosexuality groups.

The "DS9" episode "Rejoined" featured a same-sex kiss; the "Enterprise" episode "Stigma" discussed HIV-AIDS, although all depictions of sexuality and sexual orientation within the franchise have been criticized.

In 2005, "TOS" actor George Takei, came out; actor Zachary Quinto, who portrayed Spock in the 2009 film and will return to the part later this year, came out in 2011.

Fandom activity: Conventions, movie releases or show marathons, previously fan magazine ("fanzines"), fanfiction, participation in clubs, academic study (i.e. the study of Klingon), filking

Fans cosplay the crew from "TOS" at Comic-Con in 2008.
Fans cosplay the crew from "TOS" at Comic-Con in 2008.
Ever-present at conventions such as Comic-Con, as well as Trek-specific cons, the Trekkies are an active bunch. "Star Trek" had a cult following generally believed to have started with the syndicate rebroadcasts in the late 60s following "TOS's" cancellation. Since then, a plethora of "Star Trek" fanclubs have been created, the largest of which is STARFLEET International, which has an official board and fleet admiral, who retains the position for years.

Widely attended cons include Toronto Trek, Starbase Indy (in the Midwest), the STARFLEET International Conference in Dallas, Tex., and Galaxyfest (held in Vulcan, Alberta, for no small reason). Most are for profit, although there are some conventions run by volunteers, for fans by fans.

While fanfiction has existed since the beginning of forever (truth or hyperbole? Only you decide.), slash fiction became increasingly popular with the "Star Trek" fandom. Often simply shortened to K/S fic, this was one of the first and most prominent pairings in fandom history. The show is known for its progressive beliefs regarding sex, sexuality and relationships, which only developed along with the show. 

Before the Internet (horrible, I know), fan groups came together to create "fanzines", fan magazines, where they published extracanonical material, including fanfiction, slash or otherwise. Musicians wrote and played "Star Trek"-related music, a practice that is called "filking".

There are fans who have learned and become fluent in "Klingon", a fictional language that is completely translatable, similar to "Lord of the Ring's" Elvish.

Good people to know: Gene Roddenberry, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Wil Wheaton, Patrick Stewart, David Blaser, Barbara Adams

Roddenberry, the creator and writer of the original "Star Trek" series, and a producer and/or writer on many of the subsequent films and shows until his death in 1991, is noted for being an influential leader of the change in the science-fiction genre as it was adapted for the screen in the latter half of the 1900s.

William Shatner (Captain James T. Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Spock), George Takei (Hikaru Sulu) and Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Nyota Uhura) portrayed characters on "TOS", and are some of the best-known "Trek" actors. Nimoy made an appearance in the 2009 film and played a part on J.J. Abrams' "Fringe."

In "TNG", Jean-Luc Picard, captain of the Enterprise, was played by Patrick Stewart (Professor X in "X-Men"; nerd worlds blissfully collide). Wil Wheaton played Wesley Crusher, then a teenager, on the show, and is now well-known throughout Internet, sci-fi and gaming circles; he recently played on "The Big Bang Theory" as an evil version of himself.

The Kirk versus Picard debate, contentious throughout the fandom, is truly up to interpretation. Some prefer Shatner's brash, handsome Kirk who…talks…like…this; others prefer the logical captain to the action hero archetype. Kirk is considered a cultural icon and is better known. To each his own. To see my take on the Kirk versus Picard debate and other TV rivalries, you can check out this article.

David Blaser is the current fleet admiral of STARFLEET, and has been for the past three years. Fan Barbara Adams received media recognition during the Whitewater trials in 1992, regarding President Bill Clinton's real estate investments from 1977. Adams was an alternate juror who refused to remove her Starfleet uniform during the trial and was subsequently removed.

A few wise words: The United Federation of Planets, Starfleet, Enterprise/NCC-1701, Trekkie/Trekker, Vulcan, Romulan, Klingon

The United Federation of Planets: Occasionally referred to simply as "The Federation", this is an interstellar society created in the late 2300s. Its capitals are located in San Francisco and Paris, and is located in the Alpha and Beta quadrants. It is often seen as a parallel to a more idealistic United Nations, and a contrast to the Soviet Union, and contains more than 150 planets in its membership.

The USS Enterprise, NCC-1701, is the iconic starship that Kirk and his subsequent captains traveled in.
The USS Enterprise, NCC-1701, is the iconic starship that Kirk and his subsequent captains traveled in.

Starfleet: the space exploration and military organization of the Federation emphasizing defense, diplomacy and discovery. Most members are human, although there is a plethora of other species; the Starfleet headquarters are in San Francisco.

The USS Enterprise: The iconic starship used by Captain Kirk and his crew, as well as many of the franchise's other crews. it is registered NCC-1701 and is Constitution class, but was changed from its original look for the 2009 film.

Trekkie/Trekker: a fan of the show. See above for commentary on the Trekkie/Trekker debate. (Hint: it's a bunch of malarkey.)

Vulcan: Spock's native species, one that attempts to live through logic and logic alone, without influence from emotions. They are simian in form, save for their arched eyebrows and pointed ears, as well as a slight greenish hue.

Romulan: a passionate and antagonistic alien race that contrasts the Vulcans, in spite of mutual ancestry through Vulcan colonization. They are often shown with a prominent, V-shaped forehead, dark hair, but similar ears and eyebrows.

Klingon: a humanoid alien race, recurring villains, strict warriors and are often depicted as brutish and wild. They have bronze/copper-colored skin and brown hair, heavy facial hair; in later series, the Klingons had a redesign, which gave them ridged foreheads, and made Klingon characters heroic and honorable rather than violent and murderous.

Happy homes for the wayward fan:
Star Trek's official site; Memory Alpha, the wikia community; TrekWeb; Ex Astris Scientia (in Latin, "From the stars, knowledge"), which focuses on "treknology," science and tech; Star Trek Minutiae, which features trivia and articles; Hailing Frequency for "Trek"-related gaming podcasts; STARFLEET International's site; Trek Today, which also has episode guides for newer fans

A handful of miscellany trivias, memes and potentially interest tidbits:

Your sacrifices have been noted. You will all be missed. Whoever you are.
Your sacrifices have been noted. You will all be missed. Whoever you are.
The phrase "Beam me up, Scotty" is never said. The closest is, "Beam us up, Scotty" and "Scotty, beam me up".

The Red Shirts: If a background character is wearing a red shirt, he or she will be killed. The "red shirts" are Starfleet security officers who basically become cannon fodder. They will not survive the episode; do not develop any sort of love for them, no matter how cute they are. They will die and you will be heartbroken, every time. It's a Trope, too.

According to Hollywood, the tell-tale sign of nerdiness is being a part of the "Star Trek" fandom.

NASA named the space shuttle "Enterprise" after the "Star Trek" starship. (Also, the "USS Enterprise" is a Constitution class starship. The original name for the space shuttle was the Constitution.)

The movie "Galaxy Quest", which parodies "Star Trek" and the related-fandom, has been noted by "Trek" actors and writers for its accuracy, especially regarding the fan behavior.

The Picard facepalm. Alternatively, have a rather exasperated Picard. He is just 900% done with everything. (But it's okay, because Sir Patrick Stewart is probably immortal, or at least, ageless.)

TRIBBLES. There is a trouble with them! At the end of this iconic episode, Shatner continues to get Tribbles thrown at him. Supposedly, this is because of a dispute with Shatner and some of the show's crewmembers.

Wil Wheaton says, "don't be a dick" and I would suggest you heed his warning. Also known as Wheaton's Law.

"Dammit Jim, I'm a Doctor, not a(n) X!" Bones' catchphrase in "TOS", picked up by fans, and repeated. If you are a doctor, use it when someone asks you to perform outside of your realm of expertise. In the more likely even that you're not a doctor, use it to inelegantly refuse to do something. Also in TV Trope form.

Spock is unimpressed. Just look at this Tumblr.

Concerned your life just isn't flashy enough? Add lens flare, courtesy of J.J. Abrams.

Now, go boldly where no man has gone before! Live long and prosper! Be sure to make the Vulcan hand-salute while well-wishing, unless it's a Red Shirt you're wishing well. If so, it is futile and you should probably say something alone the lines of "live fast and die Red".

Next week, we'll take a look at a different part of the 'verse. The "Firefly" 'verse, to specific.

Have a suggestion, question or comment? Reach Columnist/resident Red Shirt Christine Bancroft here or find her on Twitter here. Special thanks to commonalleytea for her insight and help. Click on her name to find her art/illustration blog!



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