Actors vs Fans

By Fred Shedian
Posted at July 21, 2001 - 11:44 PM GMT

After attending the "Shore Leave" ( convention in Hunt Valley, Maryland, I found myself thinking more and more about actor reaction to the fan base of Star Trek. Known as either "Trekkers" or "Trekkies," the franchise has one of the most active and vocal fans in the entire entertainment business. Heck, we even had a space shuttle named after a fictional TV starship and still have the only piece of fiction hanging in the United States Smithsonian Institute Air & Space Museum. Today, I'd like to take a few minutes to discuss how actors have reacted to the fans of Star Trek and my hopes for the actors in Enterprise.

To begin, if a person was to look at the cast of the original Star Trek, how would one describe their interaction with those who have watched them? In general, every one of the supporting cast members has clearly embraced the fan base with open arms...not condescendingly, but with genuine affection. Leonard Nimoy and the late DeForest Kelley are both individuals who also fall into this category, with Nimoy often bending over backwards to accommodate fans when he's at a convention.

On the flip side, you have individuals like William Shatner. Despite his best attempts to save face, it has become clear to many that his continued attendance and involvement has little to do with respect for the show or fans...rather simple greed. The fact he has reportedly been saying the same "story" for the last three years, in some cases to the same convention, shows the very hallow connection he sees with the fan base. Though the financial incentive to attend conventions can be argued to be the lead factor in whether or not an actor is present (though the amount paid is, in general, not that great), I would venture to say that many would probably attend without much financial assistance.

Why would I say this? For any actor who comes to realize the impact Star Trek has on their career, they also come to realize the affection many fans show towards them. This action is very unique in the entertainment business. Very rarely does a show have such vocal, active and overly compassionate fans. In the same way, it's very rare for an actor to get the type of feedback and support they find when doing an incarnation of Trek.

In general, most actors associated with the show have embraced this affection. I clearly recall an incident at one of DeForest Kelley's final convention appearances. He was answering questions and had an elderly woman, in a wheelchair, simply ask "I know your not supposed to, but could I bother you to sign this poster for me?" It is a request everyone hears all the time, but the realization of the dream of meeting the person this woman had watched for years was so evident in her voice it was astonishing. And what was Kelley's reaction? He took the poster, signed it, and after his talk took almost ten minutes out of his schedule to spend with this woman, taking pictures and the like.

This type of activity is common among many of the actors in Trek, with quite a few bending over backwards to help fulfill a request a fan makes. Yet, on the flip side, there are individuals whom seem as if asking for a simple autograph is comparable to cutting off an arm. Mind you, I am not attempting to single out any one individual, such as William Shatner. However, it is very interesting to see the differences in attitudes the point of making you wonder why some even bother to attend. Some clearly remember why they have a job, with others holding almost "god complexes" to the point of thinking they're above "the fans."

With the cast of Enterprise about to enter the final frontier, I must say I am very pleased with what I am seeing. I am somewhat surprised at the fact almost every actor on the show seems to have some past with Trek, most being the fact they were fans. I can only hope that when they make their convention appearances, they will embrace the fans which are keeping them in a job...instead of attempting to shun them.

The fact fans are so passionate about this show is something many people simply can't understand. How is it that a late 1960's television show that lasted only three seasons sparked a franchise that's outlived most of the executive's that originally canceled it? Even when Star Trek is off the air for good, and the conventions end, that may indeed be the show's lasting legacy. What was so important, so vital, that this show survived?

As always, comments are welcome. Feel free to submit them to

Until next time...

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Fred Shedian Produces the long running TrekNation column "A Take On Trek." For a complete catalog of Fred Shedian's columns, please click here to visit the Take On Trek website.