With Star Trek’s 50th anniversary here, it feels like a good time to reflect on just why this sci-fi franchise means so much to me for six important reasons.
1. Mego action figures: My first sci-fi toys – A good couple of years before Palitoy released their 3 ¾” Star Wars figures in the UK I was given a 8” Mr Spock figure by my parents. I loved it. A Klingon, Captain Kirk, McCoy, Scotty and The Keeper (Balok the puppet from The Corbomite Maneuver) followed in due course, but how I loved the removable phaser and communicator. Even when McCoy’s leg broke at the knee and I had to Sellotape it solid, nothing diminished my love for these toys, which were also compatible with the Mego Planet of the Apes figures, thus allowing a crossover of the franchises some 40 years before IDW’s comic book.
2. 1971 Star Trek annual: My first sci-fi book – In hindsight, the World Distributors Star Trek annuals we’re pretty poor. They seemed light years away from the show that I was watching on TV, but they were in full colour, unlike what I was watching on our small black and white set. And I could read the stories whenever I wanted. I didn’t have to wait for the next episode to be shown on – this was Star Trek on tap. The 1971 one was acquired for me second-hand from a jumble sale but it was a great alternative to my other comics and kid literature.
3. Tony Todd interview: My first professionally published interview – Having read starburst as a child I finally felt that I’d made it when my first interview was published in the magazine. Interviewing the Candyman actor at the 1997 Starfleet Ball in Bournemouth, the experience was exhilarating, Todd was an affable guest and there was a real thrill seeing the article in print with my name next to it. 19 years later and the thrill of interviewing a guest is still with me.
4. Leonard Nimoy interview: Meeting my hero – Of all the people I have ever interviewed, Leonard Nimoy is the one where I was most star struck. Even as I was asking the questions, inside me I could feel the inner fanboy screaming ‘Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god! Ultimately he was just, of course, an old man with a hearing aid, answering questions he’s heard umpteen times before. But he was gracious enough to treat me as if he’d never heard them before. They say you should never meet your heroes as they are bound to disappoint. Nonsense. You just need to choose the right heroes. When he died in February last year I shed some big tears. I felt like I’d been robbed of a part of my childhood.
5. Patrick Stewart: My first official licensed interview – While meeting the good Captain Picard was not my first Star Trek interview, it was the first to appear in the official, Paramount-licenced Star Trek Magazine. What a buzz in seeing this as the lead cover story and knowing that this was being sold around the world. Mr Stewart (not yet a Sir) was at the Starfleet Ball in Bournemouth and I caught him in a break between photo and autograph sessions. He asked for a drink – it wasn’t tea. Earl Grey. Hot. Reality kicked in.
6. Star Trek Experience: My new wife’s first Klingon encounter – A mere two days after our wedding in Vegas, Justine and I visited the Star Trek Experience in the Las Vegas Hilton. We squealed as Borg implants dug into our back during Borg Invasion 4D, we gasped as we materialised onto the bridge of the Enterprise in The Klingon Encounter, we ate tea in Quark’s Bar, marvelling at the menu which included s alas called Sulu Toss. Sadly, its shut down 2.5 years later in September 2008, just before the new films revitalised the franchise. As you’d expect, we also did the behind-the-scenes tour, and Justine’s first printed document with her new surname was a certificate proclaiming that she’d survived the encounter.
And that’s just the tip of the warp nacelle. I’ve also watched over 700 episodes, 13 movies, read countless articles, books and comics, interviewed 50 actors within the Trek-verse (including George Takei, Brent Spiner, Kate Mulgrew), collected Weetabix cards, attended exhibitions, conferences, conventions and concerts, and gone as Spock in fancy dress (not cosplay, that didn’t exist as a phrase back then). I’ve also written a 20,000 word history of the first 40 years of star Trek. As you can see, Stark Trek and me - we’ve got history.