Adrift for six years in interstellar limbo, disowned by its home base, the spaceship seemingly has no place to go but Ultima Nostalgia. All, however, may not be lost for the United Star Ship Enterprise and its 430 crewpersons. As countless signs, T shirts and bumper stickers proclaimed last week in Chicago, STAR TREK LIVES! Star Trek? The old NBC-TV space western? Indeed. While a new TV season dawdles toward its debut, 142 U.S. stations and another 117 overseas from Abu Dhabi to Zambia keep rerunning and re-rerunning the series. With an army of fans ready to put their phaser beam guns on "kill" if it should be shot down, Star Trek attracts more viewers today than it did during its three-year network career.
Not only old television shows but a number of antique radio serials, such as The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet, also command fervent fad followings. In the new discotheques springing up round the country, hit tunes from the '40s and '50s are the dominant sound, and there's a whole new Tarzan vogue (see following story).
Time may be running out for Star Trek, however, as newer space spectaculars flash into view (TIME, Sept. 1). The series is now in its eleventh cycle in some areas, and devoted Star Trek fansor Trekkies, as the space-boppers are calledknow all 79 episodes as well as Enterprise Skipper James T. Kirk knows his Operations Manual ("Nature and Duration of Mission: Galaxy exploration and investigation: five years"). Thus 16,000 Trekkies who paid to attend last week's Chicago convention, the biggest ever held, have spent considerable time writing SST (Save Star Trek) letters to Paramount Television, which owns all rights to the series. Their campaign has swamped Paramount's in boxes since production was halted in 1968. Star Trek addicts argued that its popularity would ensure profits if it could be revived.
The profit motive was plentifully in evidence at Conrad Hilton convention headquarters, where hucksters did a brisk business in Star Trek artifacts from space suit emblems to books (Bantam and Ballantine together have printed more than 6 million Star Trek paperbacks) to a $5 kit containing a dozen scale blueprints of the Enterprise. There were photographs for sale of Skipper Kirk, played by William Shatner, and First Officer Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), a pointy-eared half human, half Vulcanite who has become a cult unto himself. Many of the new Spock generation attending the convention wore plastic ears like their hero and sported buttons boasting I GROCK MR. SPOCK"grock," Spockies explained, being sci-fi lingo for "dig without letup."
Standing Ovation. For the first time at a Trekkies' convention, all the TV actors were in Chicago to represent such Enterprise stalwarts as Dr. Leonard McCoy, who in one episode contracted an incurable disease and fell in love with the green high priestess of a doomed planetoid; Chief Engineer Scott ("Scotty"), for whom "relaxation is a stack of technical journals"; Lieut. Uhura, the black female communications officer who sings soprano for relaxation; and Ensign Chekov, the Russian pilot. The stars were greeted by standing ovations.