We The Trekkers

By Fred Shedian
Posted at March 30, 2000 - 6:00 AM GMT

Many years ago, in what seems like a galaxy far away, a campaign was started to keep what studio executives thought was a "third rate television show" on the air. During the last few years of the 1960's, Star Trek fans came out in droves...supporting their show to the point of continued production for another year. This was the first time fans for the show made their presence known...and it would not be the last.

The next target was the United States Government. Years later, when the announcement of a new space craft called a "shuttle" was made, Star Trek fans saw an opportunity and took advantage of it. The result was the naming of the first reusable space vehicle in human history being Enterprise...in honor of a "third rate sci-fi show."

Jumping forward twenty years, there are now another series of campaigns underway. These same "old time" fans of the "third rate television show" are suddenly reappearing, for some years after disappearing after Star Trek VI, production of DS9 and/or the production of Voyager. What type of impact are these campaigns bound to have? Is anyone listening to them? What can they hope to accomplish? Today, I would like to briefly look at these issues...directly discussing the "EXCELISOR Campaign" and the "Bring Back James Kirk Campaign."

To start, I will take on the campaign currently in the news...the Excelsior Campaign. I personally took an interest in this group several months ago and am a subscriber to their mailing list. What I find so odd here is that history seems to be repeating itself. When this organization first got off the ground, I was shocked to hear reports of people saying "You'll never be able to do that. No one's interested in Sulu anymore...more Borg!" And that is an exact quote. I am somewhat surprised to find now, several months later, that this idea seems like a good one to fair number of fans.

This campaign, which I must state I find to be very well organized (in fashion similar to the famous "Save Trek" campaign of the late 60's), seems to be making a name for itself. Paramount Pictures reported they had "received a stack of letters" regarding the idea, speaking of "Excelsior Campaign - Phase 1." This stack, as reported by such sources as E! Entertainment Online, later turned into 2,300 letters...in a one month period. Although to some this may not seem like a lot, for an organization which is less than twelve months old, the figure is very high.

Recently, it's been announced that George Takei will be sporting one of this campaign's shirts during the upcoming Grand Slam Convention in California. In addition, convention organizers have scheduled a press conference for the campaign, given it a prime table space (worth some money by itself) and even scheduled Takei autograph sessions at this location. I must say I find this a very powerful impact from such a young organization, showing there is indeed a fair amount of interest in it. It is estimated that this campaign is gaining 100 members each week, now with total membership well into the thousands.

I am waiting to see the response to the campaign after the Grand Slam Convention, it's first real "offline" advertising opportunity with Trek fans. If it's Internet activities are any indication, Paramount may find 2,300 quickly turning into 230,000 or more. Yet, at this stage of production, will this campaign have any serious impact on decisions about the next show?

Star Trek is currently operated by a person who has publicly stated he dislikes the Original Series and all it's stands for. This alone makes many seriously wonder if any solid impact can take place. In addition, with Rick Berman stating the new show will be "radically different from anything done previously", the concept of Excelsior seems all but lost. Or is it?

I find it very fascinating that after all of these years we see the formation of something like an Excelsior Campaign. Yet, we fail to see the formation of a well established, supported and operated "Section 31 Campaign", "Starfleet Academy Campaign" or a "Birth Of The Federation Campaign." Is Excelsior an isolated incident, a group of old fans yearning for days gone by? Regretfully, for those who favor the Borg, it is not alone.

Another campaign now in existence is the "Bring Back James Kirk" crowd. Here, many long time fans have been joining together...requesting/demanding that the character of James Kirk be restored to it's former glory. After all, a man who had saved the galaxy countless times died falling off of a bridge. Is there any chance for this actually happening?

These issues have been raging for months. What prompted by comments was the most recent issue of Star Trek: The Magazine (Issue 13). On Page 107, two fan letters were published...each dealing with one of the above mentioned topics. This issue, which has been a hot one within "Star Trek: The Magazine" and also "Star Trek: Communicator", was given a response of: "The subject of STAR TREK's future has dominated out mail bag for several months. We think it's time to leave the topic for a while, but we'll return to it when Paramount makes an official announcement about the next movie or a new series."

Although I completely understand the need to keep items of current interest published, is not this topic one you would consider "current?" I find it very odd that when fan response and letters to Paramount requesting, in many ways, the return of "old-style TOS/TNG Trek" reach a peak, official magazines seem to adopt a "hands off" policy to the issue. Moving beyond it, fan reaction to published reports about the "series in development" have been less than stellar.

In any event, perhaps with some annoyance and paranoia, I wish both the Excelsior Campaign and the Bring Back James Kirk Campaign the best of luck. With serious support quickly falling behind a series about Captain Sulu, I sincerely hope Paramount Pictures does make another fatal mistake....adopting a series concept so foreign to the Trek universe, no long time/serious fan will watch it. With the success of Seven of Nine, perhaps we will soon see "Trekwatch."

For those seeking more information, the EXCELISOR Campaign website is located at: http://excelsior.iftcommand.com. Regretfully, as of the time of this column, I do not currently have the website for the Bring Back James Kirk Campaign.

Until next time...

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Fred Shedian writes a weekly 'A Take On Trek' column for the Trek Nation.