May You Live Long and Prosper…


In the summer of 2009 on a road trip through Alberta, Canada, my friend Kris, smug grin in place and a sort of heady satisfaction in the gleam of his eye, promised me we’d be “bolding going” to someplace special.

“OOOhhhh… Are we going to Vulcan??”

“Fuck you.  Get in the car.”

Vulcan, Alberta!

The small prairie town that flirted with greatness and then turned to coincidence to make an honest living.  With just under 2,000 people it has, the town’s far-out website pledges, “worked hard to take advantage of its name by creating a fun and unique Star Trek related identity that makes it stand apart from any other small prairie town. Today, Vulcan offers a fun and unique tourism experience for visitors and Trekkies alike.”[1]

* * * It’s Space Tourism!  Here!  Now! In the “Official Star Trek Capital of Canada,”[2]  VULCAN, A L B E R T A * * *

Yours to discover, in wild rose country.

Speaking Vulcan in Vulcan.

Welcome to Vulcan in Vulcan.

Well, why not?

True, “Vulcan’s famous name came from a CPR[3] surveyor, who had a penchant for Roman Mythology. In 1910 the surveyor named the town Vulcan after the roman God of Fire and Forge because it was to rest on the highest elevation point.”[4]  Yet, even the gods themselves can only do so much.  Not all gods are worthy, after all, and we don’t have to love them.

Onward, then, from The Forge to the Final Frontier!

We arrived late in the afternoon, stopping off at the tourist information centre before carrying on to our final stop, Calgary, just an hour or so away.  Outside the Vulcan Tourism and Trek Station/Galaxy Gift Shop, so called, there are, the town assures us, “Star Trek inspired attractions.”  Specifically: a Star Ship FX6-1995-A,[5] and a humble memorial to the creator, Mr. Gene Roddenberry himself.  The ship sits atop a pedestal, thoughtfully embossed with plaques welcoming visitors in Vulcan, English and Klingon.

In Vulcan, Alberta.

To seek out new life and new civilizations…

Approaching the ship from below, it takes but a slight fold of the imagination to envision it soaring up, up, up into the cosmos and through the very limits of the Alpha Quadrant before swooping back down to Earth to rest again, “proudly overlooking highway 23, halfway between Calgary and Lethbridge near the Centre Street entrance to town.”[6]

Across the street: a gas station.

Inside, another story.

Stepping into the building proper, “designed to look like a landed spaceship”[7] – a feat which, with its white spires pointed to the sky and across the horizon and its prominent chapeau/dome, succeeds, actually, if you take it as a building that is designed to look like a landed spaceship – the blue of the Alberta sky gave way to a nebulous womb of inky blacks and purplish whorls and silvery trims.   Dangling spheres and soft, suggestive light.

And Wall-to-wall murals… 

…and Postcards and mugs, and costumes and props. And the “Vulcan Space Adventure” virtual reality game.[8]   And commemorative plates and posters and shotglasses and camo hats and jewelry and nutcrackers and candy and cards and t-shirts and bobble-heads and coasters and large people wall stickers and collapsible water bottle-set phasers and Tribbles (medium) and ST Fish Car Emblems and Pon Farr Perfume (for Women) and maps and notepads and Five Dollar Coins[9] and coffee beans and Starfleet beer cozies and ornaments and ST business card holders and Vulcan pens and pins and badges and ST Pizza Cutters[10] and busts and toys and, inescapably mixed into all of this yet somehow at the forefront and most of all, Them.

“Life-sized Star Trek character cutouts…waiting to pose with you on the main bridge of our Star Ship.”[11]  Yes.  The Vulcan Tourism and Trek Station/Galaxy Gift Shop has a bridge.  Of course it does.  And there are costumes for those who want to pose along.  That’s what Vulcan promises: a good time, an experience, a sensation.  They are waiting.

Yet, through the distortions and neurosis of memory, that’s not what quite I remember.

Cardboard cutouts of every conceivable ST character, sardined into any available space!  A gaggle of Trois!  A pile up of Captains Kirk, Picard, Janeway!  An Archer!  A matching set of Commander Siskos![12]  A baker’s dozen Klingons!  Data!  Why are you pointing that phaser at me, man?  Dude, be cool.  There a Spock, there’s a Spock, there a Spock, there, there, there!

And also something else.  Undeniable.

I am not an observant Star Trek fan.[13]  I used to be able to name episodes and plot twists and stardates and the variously sexy bearding of one Commander William Thomas Riker,[14] and there is a glut of unwritten Ensign Ro fanfic buried somewhere in shallow recesses of my subconscious, but these days I’m liable to get tripped up in the minutia.

Penda Uhura?  Nyota Uhura?  Penda Nyota Uhura? Nyota Penda Uhura? Beyond Uhrua?

I lapsed.

Kind of a lot.

This kind of works for me, though.

Sometimes, too, instead of rapt attention,[15] Star Trek inspires a kind of manageable ennui as I stray from the lessons of the Prime Directive,[16] and focus instead on the actors tugging haplessly away at their shirt bottoms.

Stop.  I still love Star Trek.  But now I can’t always help seeing the cardboard for the cutouts.  And so as I made my slow circumambulation of Trek Station, an odd sensation of having interrupted someone else’s carefully planned fun.  A kind of embarrassment of not knowing, exactly, what to do with myself as my expectant friends looked on.  A feeling of interloping on the Crew, standing there in silent testament of the town’s devotion, wondering all the while whether all this tongue-and-check embrace of Star Trek is a kind of gesture to those of us who aren’t committed.

It was certainly not the homecoming Kris had hoped for me.

I purchased an “American Gothic Vulcan Mug” and a pair of rubbery stick-on Vulcan ears for my friend, Rosena, who had an impressive (in the way that impressive is a kind of scary, penetrating obsession) with a certain Zachary Quinto at the time.[17]

Leaving, giddy, self-conscious, relieved, I impulsively the young clerk standing behind the counter, all decked out in her replicated uniform, “But, though, do you like Star Trek?”

“When you live here, you kind of have to,” is what she said.[18]

 [1] Quoted from:  The website doesn’t denote Star Trek as a title by italicizing it, but for consistency, and wherever I can, I do.

[2] They are serious.  In 2010, the town of Vulcan finalized a licensing agreement with CBS Consumer Products which gave Vulcan the right to create its own line of Star Trek/Vulcan (the town) mechanize available exclusively at Vulcan-area businesses.  The official recognition of Vulcan as the “Official Star Trek Capital of Canada” came with the deal.  A bonus.

[3] Canadian Pacific Railroad.

[4] Quoted from:  For the life of me, I can’t figure out why it would follow that because Vulcan (the town) rests on the highest elevation point in the vicinity of Vulcan (the county), that Vulcan (the town) would be named after Vulcan (the god), who is said to toil in blacksmith shops beneath volcanoes.

[5] A.K.A. The Starship Enterprise from Star Trek V.  Thank you.

[8] It looked like it cost extra, so I didn’t enquire.

[9] $15.00/Ea

[10] Shaped like the Enterprise.  You can just see it now, can’t you?

[12] By this, I mean pre and post goatee.

[13] The difference between a “Trekker” and a “Trekkie”?  So much drama.

[14] Read: not sexy.  Lt. Thomas Riker was sexier, comparatively.

[15] Back in 1993 I nearly burned down the kitchen while watching the premiere of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, dinner-cooking-on-very-hot-stovetop totally forgotten.

[16] I can’t remember, although I can’t shake the impression that the Prime Directive can’t – in the way that “can’t” really is “shouldn’t” – be used against Star Fleet, if it, indeed, ever “can” be, and that if it ever was, that such an unhappy occurrence most likely came from the misplaced arrogance beaming in from the other side.

[17] Around that time Vulcan (despite not having a movie theater) had unfortunately lost an impressive and ambitious bid to premier the new Star Trek (2009) film.  In appreciation of the town’s valiant efforts, a private screening of the film was held in Calgary for 300, um, Vulcanites (?).  Vulcanoes?  Bruce Greenwood was there.  It was nice.

[18] By a similar trick of Fate, I will find myself in Calgary, Alberta June 8 – 10th, 2012 and these dates coincide precisely with Vulcan’s Spock Days and Galaxyfest, a three-day event which turns the whole town into an open convention centre.  But you still have to register.  It is the 20th Anniversary.  Will I make it?

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