On Wednesday, September 8, 2022, the Star Trek fandom community and many of the stars and creators of that universe marked the 56th anniversary of The Original Series’ premiere with a teaser-filled celebration at Los Angeles’ Skirball Cultural Center, and The Nerds of Color were there on the star-crowded purple carpet and in the fan-filled theater to witness a gathering that was, underneath it all, about the power of found family and the magic of finding a place in which to belong.
The purple carpet was overflowing with new and familiar Trek stars wishing everyone a Happy Star Trek Day and flashing Vulcan salutes with both hands, but everyone we talked to emphasized what Star Trek meant to them, as creatives making it and fans interacting with it: Star Trek was about everyone seeing themselves reflected back, and about finding and fostering places and people with whom they can belong.
We had the opportunity to speak about everything from race, gender, sexuality, and representation to fandom and fatherhood with fan/comedian/musician Reggie Watts; Star Trek: Lower Decks’ own Ensign Beckett Mariner and host of The Pod Directive, Tawny Newsome; Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Paul F. Tompkins (Dr. Migleemo); Star Trek: Picard’s Michelle Hurd (Raffi Musiker); Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Babs Olusanmokun (Dr. M’Benga), Melissa Navia (Lt. Erica Ortegas), and Christina Chong (Lt. Na’an Noonien-Singh); and Gen X’s own avatar of geekdom, the host of The Ready Room and the man who will never not be known as Wesley Crusher, Wil Wheaton. We’re happy to let them speak for themselves here.
On the main stage, Tawny Newsome and Paul F. Tompkins (with musical backup from a beatboxing-over-theme-music-while-in-Starfleet-uniform Reggie Watts), treated fans in the live audience and streaming from home to showcentric panel discussions with cast members including newer faces and veterans like Star Trek: Picard’s namesake, the inestimable Sir Patrick Stewart, and Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Prodigy’s Kate Mulgrew (Hologram/Admiral Kathryn Janeway), peppered with first-looks and sneak-peaks of upcoming seasons, announcements of new ancillary projects and premiere dates, prerecorded messages from celebrity fans and a taped tour of the DISCO set with Wilson Cruz (Dr. Hugh Culber), plus cosplay, make-up, merch (two words: Nerf and PBteen), and too many unplanned jokes about misfiring teleprompters to count.
[For a full run-down of all new video content and announcements, visit StarTrek.com. If you are a Paramount+ subscriber, you can log into your account to watch archived recordings of the day’s live-streamed segments.]
But the meaning and feeling of the day was truly underscored by a tribute to the late, great Nichelle Nichols, introduced by her character Nyota Uhura’s current embodier and legacy keeper, ST:SNW’s Celia Rose Gooding and full of recorded homages from actresses to astronauts for whom Nichols served as both a mirror and a doorway. Star Trek, to those gathered on that stage and in that room and on countless couches and at innumerable desks watching along, is about belonging, about searching for and making room for a place for ourselves and others both like and unlike us, and about building a future and a community based on that need, that drive. As Star Trek: Prodigy’s Hologram Janeway narrated over the closing montage, “This is a place for family.”
[Photos and videos by Lucy Sperber.]