Trekkies keep the Starship Enterprise airborne

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The Independent US

The Trekkies have struck again. Most of us might think of Star Trek as a television sci-fi programme whose time came and, after an extremely robust career on both the small and big screens, went again.

But diehard fans of Captain Kirk, the Klingons, and that mantra about boldly going where no man has gone before do not give up so easily.

Since there is no more Star Trek on television, and since the various generations of the film series appear to have run their course, the fans are taking matters into their own hands and shooting their own Star Trek episodes on digital video, for broadcast to fellow fanatics over the Internet.

Paramount Studios, which owns rights to the show and its various spin-offs, does not appear to mind so long as no commercial transactions are involved. And the fans are lapping it up.

One amateur production group called New Voyages claims to have received 30 million hits on its website. Its episodes, which are shot in upstate New York, are so popular, in fact, that some of the actors who appeared on the original show have agreed to make guest appearances. (Among them, George Takei, who played Sulu, and Walter Koenig, who played Chekov.) One of the original Star Trek writers, D C Fontana, has written an episode.

Another site, in Los Angeles, is boldly exploring gay themes that no official Star Trek episode has explored before. A third, which is based in Austin, Texas, imagines a space ship whose crew has been turned into salt.

Amateur Star Trek has taken off in Belgium and the Netherlands. One production, found at www.ussintrepid.org.uk, is based in the Scottish Highlands and is currently putting the finishing touches to an episode entitled Heavy Lies The Crown.

Altogether, there are believed to be more than 20 online Star Trek homage shows either in existence or in the works. Yesterday's New York Times followed the fortunes of a group of Trekkies creating their own show in the woods of Virginia, complete with intergalactic weaponry and cloaking fields. Participants revelled in donning the costumes and spending hours trying to perfect the make-up, especially for the Klingons.

One organiser described the experience as "online community theatre". Another, Paul Bednar, marvelled at how he had allowed his producer-friend to talk him into donning a form-fitting blue tunic, black trousers and ebony boots.

"I used to joke with him, 'You would never get me in a Star Trek uniform'," he told the newspaper. "Even on Hallowe'en, it's not going to happen. Next thing I know, I'm wearing a uniform."

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