By Nizam Zakaria
I try to stop myself from giggling when I see, for the first time in my life, a tudung-clad Starfleet officer. Actually, there are two of them. One is in a Next Generation lieutenant-ranking black and yellow uniform, the other in Next Generation Insurrection/Nemesis era white and gold uniform. Both girls wear matching tudungs. This is too surreal, I think to myself.
Welcome to the gathering of Malaysian Trekkies at Yippee Cup, One-Utama, on Friday, March 11, 2005, or Stardate: 318191.21 (thanks, Rafil). We are gathered here to save Star Trek.
“We consider this as an outpost meeting of sort,” says Jason Lim, clad in a Next Generation 2373 era uniform, “with San Francisco being Starfleet Headquarters and Starfleet Academy.” Jason, who has dressed his son in the same uniform, is Senior Manager of marketing in Diner’s Club and webmaster of StarTrek.com.my. It has a membership of about 100 Trekkies. Earlier this year, he and a few other Malaysian Trekkies started the ‘Save Star Trek’ campaign in Malaysia – a campaign to stop Enterprise, the fifth and present series of Star Trek, from getting cancelled. The series is a prequel to all the previous Star Trek series, and “follows the adventures of the crew of the Enterprise (NX-01), the first human-built vessel to achieve Warp 5.” (source: Wikipedia)
Everything has to come to an end, but not to Trekkies. This One-Utama meeting is carried out in conjunction with the ‘Save Star Trek World Wide Campaign’, which was first started in the States by Tim Brazeal, head of the fan-run SaveEnterprise effort. When rumours were circulating around during Season 3 of the Enterprise series that there won’t be a Season 5, SaveEnterprise.com was launched. But when the end was certain, the site spawned TrekUnited.com, which aims to unite all Trekkies, whether they are fans of The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, or the movies.
A Trekkie, for those stuck in a worm hole, is a die-hard fan of Star Trek. Some preferred to be called Trekker, because they think Trekkie sounds demeaning. You can spot them by the uniform they wear to their gatherings and conventions; the brave ones sport ridges on their foreheads. The uniform costs around RM150-RM250 and you can actually have it specially tailored (more info on StarTrek.com.my). I am still contemplating ordering one for this year’s Annual BOH Cameronian Arts Awards.
The raison d’etre for the gathering at One Utama is to collect signed postcards that had been made available at StarTrek.com.my a couple of weeks earlier. Jason tells us it’s important to flood the mailbox of Mr. Leslie Moonves, Chairman and CEO of CBS Television, with postcards urging him not to cancel Enterprise. According to SaveEnterprise organiser Brazeal, “Paramount seems to think there’s not enough fan support going on and we’re here to show them there is. I don’t think they can ignore what’s going on.”
Malaysia is the only country in the South East Asian region to actively carry out such campaign and StarTrek.com.my has been asked to be national coordinator for TrekUnited.com’s ‘Fan Fund Campaign’ (fans fund the production costs of Star Trek’s episodes). An American, who wishes to remain anonymous (but for some reason, we know he is an investor in space exploration projects), had donated 3 million US Dollars. Even though Malaysian Trekkies would rather Paramount bring back the show without having to pay for it themselves, they believe support can be shown in other ways. Like the American donor, Jason Lim believes that “Star Trek will encourage younger people toward scientific research and invention, and not just lean on conventional careers like law and accountancy. There’s not enough interest in scientific research in Malaysia.”
I am surprised to discover that the sci-fi subculture in Malaysia is alive and warp-speeding. According to Richard Chua, Administrator of Myscififan Yahoo Group, a prominent Malaysian Sci-Fi Fantasy group, there can be up to 50 postings a day on the mailing list. Not bad for a Yahoo Group that’s not all about sex or politics. The list, with membership between 150-200, discusses everything from Japanese animes to The Lorri of the Rings to the whether George Lucas will make a flop of Episode 3. “Science fiction fans are an open-minded lot,” says Jason, “so they will still go and watch it.”
Looks like it is even possible for Trekkies and Star Wars fans to put aside their legendary rivalry. Never underestimate the power of television. So it was only appropriate that we were shown two episodes of Enterprise season 4, which is not available in Malaysia yet. One of the episodes answered ‘The Klingon Forehead Problem’. We finally understood why some Klingons have ridges on their forehead and some don’t. Without giving it away, let’s just say it was due to a decision made by Captain Archer, and not presumably the budgetary constraints for the cosmetic department of earlier episodes.
At this small Trekkie gathering, I expected to meet nerds so socially dysfunctional they can’t say “hello” or “good bye”, but instead: “Live long and prosper!” (with the accompanying Vulcan salute). I am wrong. Some of these Trekkies are functional enough to marry and procreate; some even brought along their brood. One or two of them look totally shaggable, uniform and all.
Hanim, one of the two Trekkies with aurat modestly covered, came with her husband Haikel, who’s dressed as Captain Kirk from The Original Series. These two had met as a result of their shared interest in Batman comics but neither of them look like the ‘Comic Book Guy’ from The Simpsons, i.e. 30-40 year old virgins living with their mothers. Their geekiness almost seem cool. During the quiz, Haikel, who is known in Malaysia as Commander Kalkamel, manages to answer nine out of ten of the trivia questions correctly, including: “Who was the token black guy in Enterprise?” (Answer: Ensign Travis Mayweather) and “How many shuttlepods does Enterprise carry?” (two, seating six people each)
Seeing tudung-wearing Starfleet officers has shown me how unique this country is, and why some of us embrace the spirit of the Star Trek universe. Isn’t that what Star Trek is all about – celebrating and embracing diversity?
Text by Nizam Zakaria, with additional editorial from Pang Khee Teik, who is a Star Wars fan.
Nizam Zakaria has just completed his sci-fi novel, Vampiro Awang. You can download this novel for free at his blog.
First Published: 24.03.2005 on Kakiseni