LAS VEGAS, Nevada, 21 August 2006: Thousands beamed into Las Vegas, Nevada last weekend to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Trek, the enduring science fiction television franchise whose cult appeal transcends boundaries of space and time.
Though originally considered too brainy for American network television in 1966, Star Trek
has proven to be one of Hollywood's most durable products, with film
grosses of US$1 billion and a total of 726 television episodes in five
The original series, starring William Shatner as Captain Kirk and
Leonard Nimoy as Doctor Spock, both now 75 years old, ran only for three
seasons. But the show developed a devoted cult following in
syndication, and today "trekkies" are the only fan group listed by name
in the Oxford English Dictionary.
Gene Roddenberry wrote the original Star Trek pilot in 1965,
the same year as the first U.S. spacewalk, and pitched the show as "a
wagon train to the stars" because westerns were popular in Hollywood at
Star Trek follows the adventures of the crew of the starship Enterprise
on its mission to "seek out new life forms and civilisations," but fans
say Roddenberry's vision examined earthly social issues with an
The Enterprise crew was the first television presentation of a multiracial cast, and the first televised interracial kiss was on Star Trek. Cloaked in 20th century mythology, Roddenberry took aim at racism, class struggle, and imperialism.
"Star Trek was a show not only with vision, but with principles and ideals," said George Takei (Sulu on the original Star Trek) to a packed Las Vegas ballroom.
"Roddenberry believed that infinite diversity in infinite combinations is what makes the world beautiful."
The Trek franchise has attracted legions of fans from all over, unified by their affection for the Roddenberry vision.
"Star Trek tapped into the zeitgeist of the 1960's," Kerry Ferris, a sociology professor at Northern Illinois University said.
"The Trek philosophy was inclusive and non-discriminatory. It invites
the outsider, the other, and it has inspired fans to live out these
principles and do some good."
But costumed, convention-going Trekkies have long been ridiculed for
their devotion to a space aged science-fiction world populated by
Klingons, Vulcans, and the Borg.
"It's really just like any peer group following their interests,"
said Ferris. "It's no different from a bowling league or a gardening
Now in its 40th year, the Trekkie community is decidedly
international. Two young Israelis, interested in developing Trek
conventions in their own country, inspected the memorabilia on sale on
Saturday, their eyes still red from a long flight.
"It excited my imagination when I was young because of the effects
and the technobabble," Nadav Bruchiel said. "But as I got older, I saw
that it is a very deep show. Our world is divided into states and
nations, but Star Trek is a global and interplanetary vision with everyone working together for peace."
Brucheil and his friend rushed off to check out a merchant hawking custom sculptures that transform fans into Enterprise captains or aliens for around US$1,000. "Something to pass on to your kids," said the sculptor.
A group of ten university students from Taiwan trolled the convention in hand-tailored Enterprise uniforms based on those worn in the film, Star Trek: Nemesis.
The garb they find in Taiwan is second rate, "like cheesy Halloween
costumes," so for their first convention as a group, they had their own
"Star Trek unifies people from all different cultures because
we all hope for a peaceful future," Kevin Pwu said. "It's so exciting to
see all these fans in one place."
Trekkies filled the ballrooms at the Las Vegas Hilton, a hotel and casino with an interactive Star Trek
museum where some fans choose to get married. They endured long lines
for autographs and the chance to question their favorite actors on
"I've travelled back in time to come see you," Cathy Le, a computer
programmer from Australia, told Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway of Star Trek Voyager). "When I discovered Janeway, it changed my life. I had the strength to come out as a lesbian."
Inspired Trekkies snatched up a wide variety of memorabilia, from
Russian nesting dolls, hand painted in the likenesses of the original
cast members, to particle pistols and patterns for sewing Starfleet
Martin Netter, a vendor from Berlin who says he owns the only shop in Europe devoted entirely to Star Trek collectibles, has been selling at conventions for 30 years.
"I grew up watching Kirk and Spock with my father," Netter said. "Star Trek is timeless because it's about peace, and the show also had many nice girls."
The auction house Christies displayed a portion of props from the
Paramount collection that will go up for bid in October. Doctor Spock's
"Vulcan Kolinahr necklace" is expected to fetch upwards of US$2,000, and
bidding for a model of the starship Enterprise used in special effects in the feature films will start at US$15,000.
"Well, just look at these numbers," said William Shatner as he
scanned the capacity crowd of adoring Trekkies. "Nobody can believe the
life that Star Trek has shown."