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April, 2000

Excelsior Passion

By George Takei

PASADENA, Calif. - The press conference theater was standing room only and a buzz of expectation was in the air. On stage, seated at a conference table, were Grace Lee Whitney, Commander Rand of "Star Trek VI," Susan Sackett, Gene Roddenberry's long-time executive assistant, and me. Russ Haslage, the leader and organizer par excellence of the Excelsior campaign, was standing with a microphone at the ready as the moderator. All of us wore black Excelsior T-shirts. Suddenly, Russ shouted out. "Excelsior!" The audience roared back in unison. "Excelsior!" A few fists shot up into the air. It was almost like a revival meeting.

This press event, at the huge Grand Slam Convention in Pasadena, was part of Haslage's strategy to convince Paramount Studios to do the next Star Trek television series based on the adventures of the U.S.S. Excelsior with Captain Sulu.

The people in the audience were not only American, but from all over the world - including Brazil, Germany, Japan, Italy, Britain and wherever else Star Trek had touched and inspired the viewers. A bit of history was present in the person of Bjo Trimble, who led the charge on the initial "Star Trek Lives" campaign to revive the show after its cancellation by NBC in 1969. The overwhelming sense of the people assembled there was a chorus of agreement. "We want Gene Roddenberry's shining vision back. We want the Excelsior and Captain Sulu back on the air!" It was impressive, flattering and humbling.

I never cease being astonished by the phenomenon of Star Trek fans. The passion of the fans from the very beginning in 1966 has not only remained constant but has grown and intensified over the years and the generations. That passion has been the singular force that drove the course of Star Trek's history throughout. After cancellation of the original series, it was fan effort that brought Star Trek back 10 years later as a major feature film. When the studio announced that "Star Trek - The Motion Picture" would be the only film because of the enormous cost over-runs, it was the unexpectedly explosive fan support at the box office that produced the series of Star Trek sequels. When a producer decided that the 25th anniversary sixth film would be a prequel going back to the Starfleet Academy days of our heroes, thus recasting the beloved characters with younger actors, it was fan outrage that ultimately drove this producer off the studio lot and put the show back on course with my favorite Star Trek film, "Star Trek VI, The Undiscovered Country" directed by Nick Meyer. And, once again, the fans have become galvanized. Again, they have grabbed the helm to re-direct the course of Star Trek. Again, they are sending their message loudly and clearly. They want Gene Roddenberry's bright vision of the future back as Star Trek.

The fans have demonstrated time and again that they are the real proprietors of the Star Trek phenomenon. At every turning point in the history of Star Trek, they have ultimately prevailed -- against network cancellation, against studio executive pessimism and even against a producer's decision. They have prevailed because they have defined, established and sustained the Star Trek marketplace. And for the studio, that has got to be the Ferengi bottom line.

It puzzles me that the fans must continue to remind the studio powers-that-be of this simple fact: Star Trek fans rule!



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