The Best Trek Gift You Ever Gave Or Got - Part 2
Now that the holidays are here – with Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa upon us within a few days of each other – we reached out to some StarTrek.com favorites and asked a single question: What’s the best Star Trek gift you ever got or gave? William Shatner replied, as did Nichelle Nichols, Robert Picardo, Scott Tipton, Kevin Dilmore, J.G. Hertzler, Mike Westmore, Chase Masterson and other StarTrek.com interviewees and bloggers. In fact, we received so many replies that we’ve spread this feature across two parts, yesterday and today. So, please, read on and enjoy, and from the StarTrek.com team to you and your family, may you have a happy and safe holiday season.
So many wonderful Star Trek gifts have come my way over the years that it's difficult to choose. Earlier this year, a wonderful lady approached me at a convention wearing the most gorgeous Star Trek necklace that I'd ever seen. She told me that she had made the necklace herself and it was one of a kind. Much to my surprise it was later delivered to my hotel suite among the other treasures that had been given to me. I have been wearing that necklace every day since and I draw positive energy from it. I never got a chance to thank the woman that gave it to me. She was tall, slender and beautiful. If anyone knows her identity please let me know because I would love to let her know how much it means to me and I bless her every day.
The other best Trek gift came from a fan not too long ago. I always carry a big book, usually a bestseller, with me on long flights. I had such a book with me when I flew from Paris to LA to interview for Star Trek. That book was Robert Ruark's novel and treatise on Africa, UHURU. I carried it into the interview at Desilu with me, which caused quite a bit of discussion. Obviously, I got the role. The next day Gene (Roddenberry) asked to meet me for lunch and he asked me about the book because he wanted to use the title in the name of my character and asked me what the name meant. I told him that UHURU was the Swahili name for Freedom. He loved the name, but thought that the name UHURU was a little too harsh-sounding. I picked up my glass of congratulatory champagne and blithely said, "Why not do an alliteration and soften it with an A instead of a U? And make it UHURA?" Gene screamed, "That's it! You've named your character. That belongs to you. You're from the United States of Africa. Now create your background and how you came to be in Starfleet."
I loaned my copy of the book to someone, never to see it again. I've told the story about the book many times, including in Chicago during Creation Conventions' small Group of 10 (event), when I told them that I no longer had the book. Much to my surprise, I received in the mail from Dave Arlend, Trekker Supreme, a copy of UHURU that he had found on the internet. Dave, I bless you every day.
Over the span of 18 years, I received many things of interest from cast and crew. One TNG year -- season three -- it was a long, thick terry-towel bathrobe with the Star Trek logo on the sleeve. I still use it today. Another year, Gene and Majel Roddenberry gifted me with my first exceptional bottle of wine from their personal cellar. Over the entire length of the 18 years, my wife Marion and I gifted to the casts, crew and many production individuals an item that always contained a star. Usually, we tried to stay to a silver theme until literally we couldn’t find anything else. As soon as the Holidays were over Marion would start her search for the next year’s gift. There were gifts such as radios, key rings, cups, decorative plates, picture frames, etc, always with a star and always something of use.
I think the greatest gift I got from Star Trek was getting to know Bill Theiss, the TOS costume designer. He's the one who convinced me to become a costumer. I never stopped working after my first job with him on Bound for Glory, the movie about Woody Guthrie, starring David Carradine. Anyway, that and, of course, getting to know all the people on TOS, especially DeForest Kelley, Leonard Nimoy, and my captain, Billy Shatner.
In the fall of 1974, I was a fifth-grader and a relatively new convert to Star Trek, having been introduced to the show via the awesome Filmation animated series. While poring over my latest Scholastic Book Club order sheet, I discovered to my absolute delight a pair of Star Trek items: Star Trek—Log One, a novelization of Star Trek: The Animated Series episodes by the masterful -- and personally inspirational -- tie-in writer Alan Dean Foster, and a poster-sized reproduction of Lou Feck's rendition of the U.S.S. Enterprise created for the cover of James Blish's collection of fictionalized TOS episodes titled Star Trek 4. A few well-delivered pleas to my mother later, I had placed the order for my first Star Trek merchandise ever. I still have that very copy of Star Trek—Log One, but the poster, alas, fell prey to rips and aging after hanging in my bedroom at my parents' home for more than 15 years. When I took it down, I decided it was too tattered to keep. It did not keep me from bemoaning its loss, though, to many of my fellow fans including my writing partner and heterosexual lifemate Dayton Ward.
Two Christmases ago, Dayton surprised me with another copy of the same Scholastic poster with the Lou Feck art. Turns out he had been scouring eBay for it for more than a year without my knowledge. It now hangs—professionally framed, this time—in my living room. It's a testament to what Star Trek fiction has brought me over the years, not just in pure reading enjoyment but in my own writing opportunities and more importantly in lasting friendships, and it is easily the coolest Star Trek gift I've ever received, Christmas or otherwise.
Don't even have to think about it. A 1970s Christmas. The Mego USS Enterprise Bridge playset. Finally, my Mego Captain Kirk had a vinyl-covered cardboard ship beneath his feet. That cool light-blue plastic Captain's Chair, the replaceable alien landscapes that would hang from the viewscreen, and best of all, the Transporter. Put a Mego figure in the booth, spin the knob up top, press the green button and with a satisfying "KA-THUNK!" -- vanished! Not exactly the height of 1970s technology, but to my five-year-old eyes? Sheer magic.
I was at a convention many years ago and two gentlemen approached me. They told me that they were huge Star Trek fans and that they worked for NASA. When they were boys they said it was Star Trek that inspired both of them to become scientists. They then handed me a test tube with a small of amount of reddish dust. They informed me it was moon dust and it was their gift to me for being a part of the Star Trek universe. Can you imagine? It is mere feet away from as I write. I keep it close, always.
Back at the turn of the 21st Century, my mother was able to attend a convention in Chantilly, Virginia. She got a chance to see her son on stage before thousands of folks who loved Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry and the Klingons. It was an amazement for her and I think she finally began to see her son as a successful artist, something that I think she worried was improbable, at best, and impossible, at worst. My mom passed not long after that day in Virginia, and the gift of allowing her a moment of loving pride in her son was perhaps the greatest gift I was ever given in Star Trek.
I've got shelves of Star Trek tchotchkes, adorn myself with inside joke T-shirts and signed photos festoon my office's walls. Yet the greatest Star Trek gift I received is something that has no tangible form. I don't hide my love of Trek. It's part of who I am. My parents and sister and some close friends like to tease me, but my wife understands. She's something of a fan herself -- though won't watch DS9 because she thinks Quark's teeth are gross.
At our wedding, her maid-of-honor Kim gave a heartwarming and hilarious speech detailing the unique strength and history of their relationship. Toward the end was a postscript, wherein she turned to me, a husband for all of 30 minutes and said, “to Jordan, from the depths of my heart, I know your feelings for your new wife can best be expressed thusly.” She then grunted out a few snarly words of well-pronounced Klingon, and explained that this was the traditional expression of love roughly translated as “I would kill the children of a thousand planets just to see you smile.”
Yes, this woman memorized a phrase in Klingon to wish us well as we explored the strange, new world of matrimony together. No autograph or replica will ever come close to topping that.
My best Star Trek Christmas present -- or so I thought -- was discovering that I had been chosen to be a Hallmark holiday collectible. Let's face it, all Trek actors get to be action figures, but a Christmas tree ornament? That is respect -- with actual spiritual undertones. Or so I thought ... Each year, my ornament hangs by the neck on a low branch of the family tree, in dog-marking range, cowering behind the talking Borg Cube ornament. You know, "We are the Borg. Resistance is futile. Blah-blah-blah."
My take away? A Christmas ornament is a very poor relative to a talking Christmas ornament. Mute may be cute but talking gets you location -- and location is usually repeated in threes. Hopefully The Artist will win best picture and silent icons will once again be honored at the top of the tree.
To read part one of this feature, click HERE. And now it's your turn: What's the best Star Trek-related gift you ever gave or got?