Bjo Trimble: The Woman Who Saved Star Trek - Part 2
Yesterday, in part one of our exclusive interview with Bjo Trimble, she discussed in detail the origins of the letter-writing campaign that led to the third season of the original Star Trek and everything that followed. Here, in the second half of our email conversation, Trimble discusses some of what followed for her and her husband, John, including two books, a cameo in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, another letter-writing campaign (this time an effort to have the first shuttle named Enterprise), and more. Trimble also shares her thoughts on the most recent iterations of Star Trek and catches us up on what she and John are doing these days.
Millions of fans, of course, are forever appreciative of your efforts. What did Gene Roddenberry say to you? What have the TOS cast members said to you over the years?
Trimble: Gene and most of the TOS cast members all thanked us, with the exception of a couple of people who at that time did not much care for fans and found it annoying to admit that we had anything to do with their success. Desilu never acknowledged our existence, and neither had Paramount. Anytime we get to go to a premiere or party at Paramount, it’s due to someone in the ranks remembering us. As for the millions of appreciative fans, I suspect most of them have no idea who we are; all they see are a couple of Olde Pharts with nothing new or interesting to tell them.
One personal highlight for you must have been that day you were an extra, along with other fans, in The Motion Picture. What was that day like?
Trimble: We were both invited to be in ST:TMP, but John had to work. He has been very sorry to be so conscientious, since he was out of that job the next year. It was a real thrill to see all the excited fans and to meet the unfailingly polite and patient director, Robert Wise. Many fans framed their paychecks, throwing the Paramount accounting department into a real tizzy. I cashed my check; we had two small children to care for. The fans had a wonderful time on the recreation deck, playing with the games that were subsequently removed as not being useful to the plot. The professional extras were not particularly amused, but then, fans weren’t worrying about where our next job and next paycheck was coming from in the film industry.
We did so well that the planned two days of shooting was crammed into one long day. We are all in white, tan or pale gray uniforms. So what did they serve us for lunch? BBQ chicken and watermelon! Most of the fans on the set enjoyed the organized chaos of being in a movie. There was one heart-stopping moment when an alien mask went missing, but it was found in the hands of a fan who was trying to find out where to give it back.
You wrote On The Good Ship Enterprise. What did it mean to you to recount your 15 years of involvement with Star Trek in book form? Any stories you couldn't tell then that you can now? And is the book still in print?
Trimble: I had lots of fun writing those stories – all of them true. It meant a lot to be able to share fun stories with fans. Oh, yes, there were stories I could not tell then that I could tell now! We’re not the kind who likes to tell or hint at scurrilous back-stage goings-on: we leave that for the gossips. We enjoy seeing fans laugh at the fun things that we can share about our days on the sets, and our interactions with the actors and other members of the show. The book is no longer in print, but a very nice fan is helping get it updated and put online as an ebook.
You also helped lead the charge to have the first U.S. shuttle called Enterprise. Take us through that experience.
Trimble: A couple of other fans actually started this project, but for some reason, they could not finish it, and asked us to take it over. We thought it was a good idea to make the public really aware of the space program by using a popular name for the first shuttle, and we took it on. This was quite a scramble because there was a hard deadline for getting the job done. Remember, this was back before home computers, so it was all done with typewriters and telephones.
When we knew the shuttle was truly going to be named Enterprise, all the official TV Trek people were invited out to Edwards Air Force Base on the California desert to see the roll-out. Except for the Trimbles, of course. However, science fiction authors Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven insisted that we be invited to the reception and roll-out. John attended the reception, but he had to go back to work on roll-out day. I was given a Press Pass, since nobody could figure out what else to do with me. It was a huge thrill to know that Star Trek fandom had been such a big part in making this important step into near space, at least.
How exciting and/or unnerving is it that we're about to celebrate Star Trek's 45th anniversary?
Trimble: Not very exciting or unnerving for us, so far. We have not been a part of any former anniversary celebrations, and are not a part of any 45th anniversary celebrations. Certainly Paramount would never acknowledge that we’d helped keep the studio solvent! We have not been invited to any of the fan conventions or other various fan observances of this anniversary, either. So we are just interested observers as yet another anniversary goes by.
Well, we at StarTrek.com are aware of the important role you and John played in Star Trek history. We're grateful to you for your efforts and pleased to ensure that newer, younger fans are hearing the story now from you...
Trimble: We are very pleased to be able to reach so many new - and not so new - fans at once to say that we are still Trekkers, still enjoy fandom, and very much enjoyed telling our story to all. We enjoyed it so much, in fact, that we plan to become guest bloggers on StarTrek.com to share our favorite Star Trek stories.
Post-TOS, how closely or not did you follow TNG, DS9, Voyager, Enterprise, the TNG features and, of course, the recent J.J. Abrams film?
Trimble: Very closely, and with great interest. We enjoyed TNG very much, really liked DS9 – which is still one of our favorite series – watched most of Voyager but didn’t get into it as much, and frankly thought that Enterprise was not even close to being Trek. We felt bad for those actors, who worked so hard against a tidal flow of bad decisions and unworkable scripts. Of the movies, some have been fairly good, some really horrid. The Powers That Be are convinced that they should never use anyone familiar with Trek for scripts, directing or any of those little production details. They say that what’s really needed is to get non-Trek writers and directors to “appeal to the non-Trek audience.” Which, of course, has assured that both Trekkers and non-Trekkers stayed away in droves.
Of course, we are always asked what we think of the J.J. Abrams film. We think he did pretty well, though we’re a tad tired of bald, tattooed villains in long leather coats. We understand that comic book characters and loud music is considered necessary pandering to the kids. Still, there is some lovely character development that we’d love to see in future movies – if we ever do see a second movie before the actors are ready for retirement! What we liked most about the Abrams film is that is opened up the entire Trek time plane into several other dimensions. Fans were upset about changes in canon, such as Uhura kissing Spock. Well, in the Trek-time we’re most used to, they never got together. In this alternate time, they did. We suggest that the fans trying to wrap their mind around this read a whole lot more time-travel sci-fi!
Where are you and John living these days, and what are you doing now?
Trimble: We live in the foothills of Southern California, near Pasadena, California. We lived for awhile in the Big Thicket near Houston, Texas, but moved back to SoCal where we are both far more at home. John is retired. As a freelancer, it is difficult for me to retire. We wish we had more money for travel and attending conventions, but otherwise, we’ve got a good life. I’ve been a dyer for about 50 years, and have taught dye workshops in various U.S. states as well as in other countries. I also teach medieval illumination. This works well because we are both active in the Society for Creative Anachronism.
What is Griffin Dyeworks & Fabric Arts?
Trimble: This is our little online natural dye and earth pigment business. We sell dyes, colored earths, small fiber tools such as drop spindles, hand looms and shuttles. I write the catalog entries and the tutorials, and John is the Fulfillment Department. Griffin Dyeworks & Fiber Arts International Corporate Headquarters is one-third of the family garage. Our security system has four legs each, but they work for cheap.
Fans still try to save favorite endangered shows -- Roswell is an example, so is Jericho, and so was Enterprise. How different a mission would you say that is at this point, with Hollywood more business-driven than ever and the Internet in many ways usurping snail mail?
Trimble: This is a new world and has many new ways to do things. Hollywood can double-check on fan demographics faster than we can get a project together, even with the speed of the Internet. That, and a growing cynicism about selling TV time, makes it harder to create a really good push to save a show. The Rule of Ten still works, but now you can pop it into the Rule of One Thousand with the click of a computer button! Fans have forgotten the major credo of getting a studio’s or network’s attention: hit them in the bank account! Don’t just email the people responsible for canceling the show; their minds are made up. Write or email all those sponsors, big and small, who paid out for TV time for advertising. They don’t like to hear that you are unhappy with them; they want people to like them, and like their product. There are ways to do it, too. No threats, no rage, just polite requests. Be nice. Thank them for sponsoring your favorite show; businesses like to be thanked. But point out that if the show goes off the air, you will not be watching their interesting commercials. And besides, you are unhappy, and unhappy people don’t buy products. This works.
Any final thoughts you'd like to share with longtime fans... and newcomers, too?
Trimble: Be kind. Be nice to each other. Be welcoming to newbies; they are the future of fandom, whatever you are a fan of. We hope that all of you are inspired to be a part of the future we may never see, inspired by a little TV show conceived by a far-seeing 20th Century writer and humanist. We are pleased to know that we have been a part of making sure it happened. We envy you the future, and wish we could come along on all of your new voyages of creativity and imagination.
To read part one of our interview with Bjo Trimble, click HERE. To learn more about the Trimbles and what they’re doing now, visit their company’s official site at http://www.griffindyeworks.com/.