Published Jul 1, 2020
The Star Trek Canadian Connections You May Have Missed
Happy Canada Day!
By Jake Black
Canada is known for a lot of things, like hockey, maple syrup, very polite people, and universal health care. But did you know Canada has a lot of connections to Star Trek?
On this Canada Day, here are ten ties between “the true north, strong and free” and “the continuing mission;” everything from Spock-ing up the national currency to being the home of one of our favorite intrepid captains.
9. World Premiere
We typically recognize Star Trek’s birthday as September 8, 1966. Of course, that’s the date the series debuted on NBC with the episode, “The Man Trap.” But, the show actually had its world premiere in Canada, airing two days earlier, September 6, 1966, on CTV The Canadian Television Network. CTV Sci-Fi, a cable channel owned by CTV’s parent company Bell Media, airs the first-run episodes of Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard today, and plans to bring Star Trek: Lower Decks to Canadians later this year!
8. In-Universe Mentions
Canada and some of its landmarks have been mentioned or seen over the franchise’s 50+ years on television. A few favorites include:
- The ‘quadrotriticale’ grain in “The Trouble With Tribbles” was derived from a type of wheat grown in the Canadian prairies.
- Lt. Sam Lavelle in TNG’s “Lower Decks” mistakenly believes that Commander Riker was Canadian.
- DS9’s Maquis turncoat Michael Eddington was Canadian, carrying with him a Canadian dollar coin he called his “Lucky Loonie.”
- Starfleet cadets and captains alike found Canada to be a relaxing and fun vacation spot, as seen in TNG and ENT.
To celebrate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary in 2016, and continuing through 2018, the Canadian Mint created a series of collectible coins that were also legal tender. However, while the face value of each coin was reasonable, they were sold for significantly higher prices, so most collectors didn’t use them to pay the parking meter.
When it comes to Star Trek and Canadian cash, though, there was one trend that caught on: “Spocking.” Creative Canadians noticed that with a few pen lines, the image of former Canadian Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier on the five-dollar bill could be turned into a picture of Spock. The Bank of Canada said “Spocking” was technically legal, but also “inappropriate” and warned the changes to the bill could prevent them from being accepted.
Similar to the Canadian Mint’s collectible coins, the Canadian postal service issued collectible stamps in 2016 and 2017. The stamps, which could be used on letters and parcels, featured lead characters from the first five Trek television series while higher-denomination stamps boasted enhancements such as lenticular motion images and holographic embossing.
5. Canadian Collectibles
Canadian fans were treated to several other Canada-exclusive collectibles over the years that have become sought-after by collectors in other parts of the world. Some of the more notable include:
- A series of 60 miniature TNG and DS9 trading cards and episode story foldouts that were found in snack bags of Frito Lay/Hostess chips.
- Kelloggs and Nabisco cereals that included premiums like starship miniatures, cutout trivia cards, and even a set of rubber stamps with the plastic heads of DS9’s Odo, Quark, Kira, and Gul Dukat.
- Several American Trek novels and graphic novels from the 1970s and 1980s featuring maple leaf-emblazoned covers. (A publishing side note: DC Comics’ popular 1980s series of Trek comic books were printed in Canada.)
4. The Starfleet Academy Experience
As part of the franchise’s 50th anniversary in 2016, The Canada Aviation and Space Museum was home to “The Starfleet Academy Experience.” Based in Ottawa, Ontario, the museum’s exhibit allowed fans to explore Starfleet vocational paths through a simulated “career day” at Starfleet Academy. The exhibit, which ran for nearly six months, had a gala opening that included special guests such as William Shatner, Rene Auberjonois, and John de Lancie.
The Canadian national anthem, “Oh, Canada,” refers to the country as, “my home and native land.” For a pair of Star Trek productions, that is an apt statement. The 2016 feature film Star Trek Beyond was primarily shot in Canada, including studio shooting in Vancouver, British Columbia. Several exterior locations were shot in national parks in the Northwest Territories and British Columbia. Star Trek: Discovery is shot entirely on the other side of the country in Toronto, Ontario. The Toronto Discovery set was also used as the bridge of Captain Riker’s ship the U.S.S.Zheng He on Star Trek: Picard.
2. Vulcan (Alberta)
The small prairie town of Vulcan, Alberta, has embraced its Star Trek namesake. A large statue of the Enterprise greets visitors as they drive into town. The town runs a welcome center that houses an impressive Star Trek collection and features interactive displays and exhibits. Vulcan’s street signs feature the Starfleet delta shield. Shops are named for Star Trek characters with references like Quark’s Auto Repair and Wolfe’s 359 General Store, and spots around town often feature Trek murals and window paintings.
In the center of town a bust of Spock and Leonard Nimoy’s bronzed LLAP handprint pay tribute to Nimoy’s 2010 visit to his home “planet.” Every summer, Vulcan celebrates its fandom with a town-wide festival that has hosted numerous Star Trek guests.
Canada’s greatest contribution to Star Trek is unquestionably its people. Numerous actors have appeared in the various series and movies. More than a dozen Canadian actors currently appear in Star Trek: Discovery, notably Kenneth Mitchell (Kol), Emily Coutts (Detmer), and Rekha Sharma (Landry). DS9’s Nicole de Boer (Ezri Dax) and Picard’s Alison Pill (Jurati) were both born and raised in Toronto. Canada is well represented in the Klingon Empire as the first Klingon John Colicos (Kor), Gwynyth Walsh and Barbara Marsh (the Duras Sisters), and Christopher Plummer (General Chang) all called Canada home.
And, of course, we can’t forget the Canadian actors in Star Trek: The Original Series, William Shatner (Captain Kirk) and James Doohan (Scotty)!
Shatner was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec. A member of the Canadian Nation Repertory Theatre, he performed a variety of roles in the prestigious Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario. In 2019, Shatner’s contributions to Canada and its people were recognized when he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada, a high honor established by Queen Elizabeth II.
Doohan was born in Vancouver, British Columbia and spent his childhood there. His family moved across the country to Ontario when he was a teenager. Following the outbreak of World War II, Doohan joined the Royal Canadian Artillery where he fought bravely during the D-Day invasion of Normandy before making his way to Hollywood and screens everywhere.
Happy birthday, Canada! Live long and prosper, eh!
A dual American/Canadian citizen, Jake Black (he/him) is a writer whose credits include Star Trek: Starfleet Logbook, Star Trek Magazine, and more. He is a ten-year cancer survivor, and lives in a quiet Connecticut town with his wife, son, and twin daughters. Found online @jakeboyslim.