A profitable enterprise: Where do Klingons, Romulans and Federation groupies go for a night out? Emma Cook explores one of the galaxy's wilder hot spots

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The Independent Culture
It's 7.00pm and a small queue has already formed outside Page's Bar, an unassuming pub in the heart of London's Westminster. The doors open and they shuffle in, past a billboard cartoon of Captain Kirk and Mr Spock observing: 'This is Saturday Night life Jim, but not as we know it.'

Unless you're a dedicated Trekkie, the Star Trek Fan Club is not Saturday night as we know it. The bar staff wear Captain Kirk uniforms. The punters dress like Klingons and down pints of Romulan ale - a lethal mix of blue curacao, vodka and lager. The bar food is equally alien: Klingon Strogonoff, Cardassian Korma and Photon Torpedo Hot Dogs. You can also buy memorabilia: plastic reconstructions of the Starship Enterprise, Leonard Nimoy dolls, Vulcan language guides and Klingon joke books (What do you call Klingon sex? Painful).

But the principal attraction is the large video screen at the far end of the pub, showing episodes of Star Trek throughout the evening. 'It's weird,' says Bob Benton, landlord and creator of the theme night. 'They'll just sit there for half an hour beforehand staring at an empty screen.' At this point, most of the audience is dressed normally - not a pointy ear in sight. 'Often people bring their costumes in a plastic bag,' says Benton. 'They get more confidence as the evening wears on and change in the loos.'

Benton, 36, has started up the fan club to boost trade in an area that completely empties out at weekends. It took off straight away. He now has people visiting from Ireland, Germany and Australia. A few weeks ago, a couple even spent their wedding night here. But why Star Trek? 'It's the whole idea of time travel,' suggests Benton. 'A lot of people like to believe we have a future and that there's something more out there.'

At first glance this seems just another novelty theme-night, yet it does reflect the ever-increasing appetite for nostalgia. 'The Star Trek crew has a code of conduct,' says John Springthorne, 22, who has travelled down from Birmingham. 'There's always a moral to each episode, which I find attractive.'

Escapism seems to be the main attraction. 'Nobody ever starves,' says TV spaceship designer Cebas. 'Kirk and his crew will zoom across the galaxy just to help out one poor little planet.' City temp James Nash also enjoys the Utopian promise. 'It doesn't matter where you come from; there's no racial prejudice, no money, no flags . . . just the pursuit of excellence.'

Beside the edifying content, fans enjoy Star Trek because there is such a vast amount to learn. 'I'm amazed by the knowledge of the people who come here,' says Benton. 'Some have watched these programmes at least 13 times and they know every word.' There's nothing more a Trekkie loves than to discover rare footage, 'to boldly see what no man has seen before'.

Halfway through the evening the pub is drowned out by euphoric screams of delight when Benton announces he is about to play an, as yet, untelevised episode. 'There's a special out-takes video doing the rounds,' says Bill Wickham, a computer operator. He's been anxious to acquire a copy for the last two months and has arranged to buy one tonight. 'One clip shows Kirk bouncing off a door. It's extremely funny,' he says.

By the end of the night, the first Spock arrives: Terry McEwan from the armed forces, complete with moulded latex ears. 'I completely identify with Spock's philosophy,' he says. 'I believe in keeping peace, just like the Vulcans.'

Star Trek Fan Club, Sats from 7pm, Page's Bar, 75 Page St, London SW1 (071-834 6791)

(Photograph omitted)

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