- Associated Press - Sunday, May 15, 2016

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - The galaxy of “Star Trek” has lived - and prospered - longer than just about any other American television show.

Almost 50 years since the original TV show aired on NBC, its worlds and characters - Captain James T. Kirk, Mr. Spock and many others - loom larger now than they did in those early years, the Iowa City Press-Citizen (https://icp-c.com/1Xn3ESW ) reports.

The University of Iowa Libraries, whose staff is populated by Star Trek fans - “Trekkies,” for short - is capitalizing on 2016 being the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek universe with a new exhibit in the main library’s gallery. Featuring a multitude of art created by Trekkies, one-of-a-kind documents from the UI’s connection to Star Trek and many out-of-this-world Star Trek toys, the exhibit celebrates what has made the series so beloved.

“Star Trek was very much a show of its own time. It has a very late-‘60s vibe,” Peter Balestrieri, curator of the science fiction and popular culture collections for Special Collections, said Wednesday as he walked through the exhibit.

“Notions of living in peace; that cooperation is better than competition; that exploration and science are more valuable than conquest and interplanetary imperialism - those are beautiful notions in Star Trek that people are still connecting with.”

The exhibit opened April 25 and runs through the summer, until Aug. 5. Inside the gallery are both the sights and sounds of Star Trek: muted pink, blue and yellow lights enshroud action figures and spaceship replicas; the sounds of space and the USS Enterprise carry across the room.

“Any Star Trek fan will feel at home here,” Balestrieri said.

The original “Star Trek” television show first aired in September 1966. Centered around the exploits of the crew of the USS Enterprise in the 2260s, Captain Kirk, played by William Shatner, and Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy, explored the Milky Way galaxy.

Their five-year mission: “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

After the show was canceled in 1969, the franchise’s popularity actually increased. In 1979, the film franchise was started with “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” The film series’s second film, 1982’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” was directed by UI graduate Nicholas Meyer and was both critically and commercially successful.

“It keeps rolling through all these permutations, and all of these permutations managed to be successful,” Balestrieri said of Star Trek’s 50-year run. In total, there have been 12 Star Trek movies, with the 13th - “Star Trek: Beyond” - scheduled to be released this summer, and six Star Trek television series, with the seventh coming to CBS next year.

The Main Library at UI was a perfect fit for a Star Trek exhibit for numerous reasons, Colleen Theisen, Special Collections outreach and engagement librarian, said Wednesday.

“Because Kirk is from Iowa, he only works in outer space,” Theisen said.

Riverside, just 14 miles south of Iowa City, is known as the future birthplace of Captain Kirk. Each year, the town of 993 people, according to the 2010 census, celebrates their Star Trek connection with TrekFest. The two-day festival draws Trekkies from across the country with a parade, contests and Star Trek-themed games.

This year also marked the inception of the Main Library’s newly opened exhibit gallery.

“The idea to do something for the 50th anniversary has been around for quite some time. We’ve got a lot of Star Trek fans here,” Balestrieri said.

The reason Star Trek remains popular, he said, is because of its fans, like the ones inside the Main Library.

“The whole exhibit is heavy with the work of the fans,” he said.

There are dozens of Star Trek fan-made zines that show everything from fans writing themselves into Star Trek episodes to stories about Kirk and Spock being romantically involved with each other. Other items include a fan-made Star Trek encyclopedia that captures every known fact in the Star Trek universe and a program from the first Star Trek convention.

“This is only the tip of the iceberg; we have thousands of Star Trek zines,” Balestrieri said.

A more direct connection between the Star Trek universe and the University of Iowa is on display through a plethora of items used in the making of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” donated by Meyer, who graduated from UI in 1968 with a degree in theater and filmmaking.

There’s the draft of the “Star Trek II” movie script, when it was originally titled “The Undiscovered Country.” There’s a personal letter from Meyer to “Star Wars” creator George Lucas, where Meyer personally thanks Lucas for changing the title of “Revenge of the Jedi” to “Return of the Jedi.” The company releasing “Khan” originally wanted it to be called “Revenge of Khan,” which Meyer viewed as a rip-off of the Star Wars title.

Original set photos, storyboards, concept art and even the shooting schedule from the movie are also on display.

“This stuff isn’t just for Star Trek fans; film fans will love seeing film history,” Balestrieri said.

Meyer will visit UI on May 20 to visit the exhibit. He will also deliver a talk and take part in a public question-and-answer session at 6:30 p.m. May 20 at Shambaugh Auditorium inside the Main Library. The event is free and open to the public.

To capture the hearts of die-hard Star Trek fans, an installation inside the library and outside the exhibit will allow students to sew together fuzzball creatures that are iconic in the Star Trek universe: tribbles, the small, furry, soft aliens that are undeniably cute but reproduce rapidly.

Theisen was sitting at a sewing machine inside the library Wednesday, sewing together stuffed tribbles out of furry fabric. Along with students, she had sewn together 63 tribbles since the exhibit opened. Theisen, too, is a Trekkie, so sewing together tribbles for the exhibit is just one way to show her love for the show.

The stuffed tribbles will fill a display case in front of the exhibit that holds a USS Enterprise crew member’s outfit and a cardboard cutout of Captain Kirk. Balestrieri said he and the library were still trying to figure how to sell tribbles in order to help start a scholarship.

“Star Trek shows a future where we’ve gotten our act together. So much gender parity, racial inclusion - it gives you hope. And then there’s these fuzzballs,” Theisen said. “Not many things are as fun as Star Trek.”

___

Information from: Iowa City Press-Citizen, https://www.press-citizen.com/


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