William Shatner, centre, DeForest Kelly, left and Leonard Nimoy
starred in Star Trek
The subject of last week’s column gave science-fiction writers the latitude to send spacecraft from planet to planet because the indirect evidence suggested that there are a multitude of planets out there orbiting countless stars.
I discovered that on the day that I was writing, Sept. 8, “Trekkies” were celebrating the 20th anniversary of the first television voyage of the Star Ship Enterprise.
In Winnipeg, this was an important day in the life of the local Star Trek club. To find out what Trekkies are all about I attended the opening meeting of the season last Wednesday night. It was a bit of a zoo, and the first-time visitor might be a little unnerved.
Most of the group are under 30 and are not old enough to have remembered Star Trek from its first run. I was fascinated by this group of young people who seem to have banded together to worship a space opera that survived only three television seasons in the mid-60s.
Club president and charter member, Barb Anderson, has a BA in sociology, with courses in social research. Last spring she conducted a comprehensive survey — an eight-page questionnaire — of their membership.
Anderson pointed out that it is really a social club, and most of the events are opportunities for the members to congregate, simply because they enjoy their own company. But there is more than that to being a Trekkie.
Many of the members were in costume, some wore the full Enterprise uniform, and others merely had objects of a science-fiction nature.
During the meeting several people had an opportunity to speak, and I was struck by how articulate they all seemed to be. I soon realized that it was a group with a strong sense of theatre. They were all unabashed hams.
The meeting began with the lights dimming suddenly. Astronomical slides appeared on the screen. I felt at home.
What followed was a surprisingly slick audio-visual presentation about the story of Star Trek and the activities of the local club members. The tape narration was delivered straight, but it was full of humor.
The audience whooped when candid pictures of acquaintances appeared. Russ Strong and a group of friends put in many loving hours preparing the music and slides for this one showing.
The principal speaker for the evening was Manitoba Planetarium producer Roger Woloshyn, who discussed the bleak scientific prospects for communication with alien species in our galaxy. Though I may have thought this group was not interested in reality, I found the question period that followed lively and imaginative.
“So, just to send a radio message to the nearest star, and get a reply would take a minimum of nine years,” Roger explained. “Communication, even at the speed of light, is very slow when you consider the great distances between stars.
“Under these circumstances, what kind of messages are possible?” He asked rhetorically.
“Galactic junk mail,” someone offered from the back of the room.
So what makes a Trekkie, and does it have anything to do with astronomy? Anderson was able to provide some insight.
On March 11, 1980, the Winnipeg club held its first meeting. They were swamped when 500 people turned up. Today membership has stabilized at about 100, with an active core of 25.
The surveys show that the club is made up mainly of educated young people, although there are members of all ages. Many are creative writers — the club regularly publishes their poetry and short stories.
Formed in isolation
This club formed in isolation from other Trek groups and is known as the clean Winnipeg group. They love socials, and look forward to any kind of opportunity to dance. Much of this may be due to the fact that when the club started, five years ago, many were still teenagers and could not go to licensed establishments.
It is a fan club. I discovered fans of any kind follow a definite pattern. Outside of the organization, many members of fan clubs consider themselves to be loners. This surprised me because of the boisterous, gregarious appearance of the assembly.
Anderson said many members had some connection with the military — personally, or perhaps their parent was in the service. “I only joined because I needed the job,” laughed a lad who overheard this part of the conversation.
The members like to find reasons to get together frequently. They hold many events throughout the year. I should have guessed that Halloween is a chance for everyone to be in costume, so that is an excuse for a major social. There is also a Christmas party, a spring social, and a summer picnic.
Each month there is a general meeting at the Planetarium Auditorium. The club also operates a series of “Starships” where the crews hold their own meetings.
When I was told there was a monthly newsletter called Short Treks, and the membership fee is only $10, I wondered how they could afford to keep the club in the black. The fee just covers printing and mailing of the newsletter. They need the socials and other events to fund anything else. Occasionally, their bigger publication, Event Horizon appears.
There are special rates for non-resident members, juniors, and families. Several book and hobby stores offer discounts to people with membership cards.
The next meeting is October 21 at 7 PM at the Planetarium Auditorium. It will be quite a show, this is their annual talent night.
Winnipeg Free Press, Saturday, September 20, 1986 Page 79
In 1986 Robert Ballantyne was director of the Manitoba Planetarium. His weekly column in the Winnipeg Free Press, called Sky Watch, focused on the return of Comet Halley and astronomy.
© 1986 Robert Ballantyne and The Winnipeg Free Press
Added to this blog on 2016 February 16
Richard McKay has uploaded some digitized videos from Star Trek Winnipeg events taken during the years when this club was active. Click this link http://j.mp/trekwinnipeg