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Bjo Trimble
(Interview conducted via email in August 1999)

Who created Star Trek? A number of talented people brought the original show to life, but it was Gene Roddenberry's vision and drive that made the original series a critical success.

Despite its quality and popularity among its core viewers, Star Trek was largely considered a commercial failure. Its ratings were never high, and they lowered with each season. In 1968, Star Trek ended its second season facing almost certain cancellation. With less than 60 episodes, Star Trek would not have even been a success in syndicated reruns: few television series would pay for the right to air such a small number of episodes. Star Trek would die, and that would be the end of it.

Enter Bjo Trimble. A long-time science fiction fan, Bjo loved the Star Trek television series. When she found out that the series faced cancellation in 1968, she and husband John organized a massive letter-writing campaign to save the show. The campaign worked, and the USS Enterprise would journey through the stars for a third season. Although the series did come to an end in 1969, Star Trek then consisted of 79 episodes, enough to warrant selling its reruns in the syndicated market. Without the reruns, Star Trek probably would never have gained enough popularity to resurface on the big screen, as it did in 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and return to the small screen as Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Who saved Star Trek? A number of avid fans helped keep the show alive, but it was Bjo Trimble's dedication and drive that kept the Enterprise on screen and in the hearts of its viewers.

Click here to visit Bjo Trimble's web site.

Tyler: When did you first gain an interest in science fiction?
Trimble: I read fantasy (fairy tales, adventures and Edgar Rice Burrough's "John Carter of Mars") as a child, but didn't really find true SF until I was a sub-teen, and the wife of a wrestler known as the Swedish Angel gave me a stack of Astounding Science Fiction magazines. I didn't know what the heck a robot was, but I was hooked!
Tyler: How have you participated in science fiction fandom, and when did your involvement in science fiction fandom begin?
Trimble: I discovered SF fandom in 1951 when I read a tiny filler in the Los Angeles Times that the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society was holding its anniversary meeting. I went to meet fellow fans, and never looked back. My first convention was the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) in 1953. It was called ChiCon II.
Tyler: How did you come to know Gene Roddenberry? How well did you come to know him over the years?
Trimble: I met GR at Tricon, another worldcon in Cleveland, OH, in 1966. He'd brought 3 episodes of Star Trek to show the attendees just days before it aired on TV. The whole story is in my now out-of-print book, On The Good Ship Enterprise. I came to know him well enough to get into arguments with him. He once said he couldn't hire me to work with him at the studio, because he needed a "yes" person, not a "no" person.
Tyler: You are well known in Star Trek fandom for having organized the fan letter-writing campaign that led to the original Star Trek's third season. Susan Sackett, in The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, said you were "responsible for creating Star Trek fandom almost singlehandedly" (9-10). Prior to the letter-writing campaign, had you any experience doing anything like it?
Trimble: Well, prior to that, the Trimbles had organized, directed and run Worldcon Art Shows for 17 years. We already had a reputation for organizing things. I'd never tried to create fandom; it just happened. What happened was that when we mailed the how-to letter to get people to write NBC, I included all the addresses of people who lived nearby and suggested they get together. They did, and formed fan clubs. Had I thought it out, I'd have organized it so it was one huge club, paying us dues. Then we'd be rich by now! Please note that John Trimble was also one of the people who ran the Save Star Trek campaign. I'm just the noisy one, so I get all the publicity. Without John, I could not have done what was done.
Tyler: In David Gerrold's World of Star Trek, you mention that, although Gene Roddenberry was not the cause of the writing campaign that saved Star Trek, he strongly supported it, even to the point of helping to cover its expenses. Just how involved was Roddenberry in the campaign?
Trimble: Gene wanted very badly to be completely involved, but we said it would only make NBC say it was a put-up job. Years later, in his book, Herb Solow made exactly that claim, in fact. He didn't even pay expenses, but by the time David's book came out it was too late to change that impression. I was misquoted on that. Gene did do things like send over platters of food and drink when we were doing a collating of a mailing. At the very last, he paid for postage when we'd run out of funds. But for the most part, fans paid for the Save Star Trek campaign, or it came out of our own pocket.
Tyler: Although communication between fans today is easier with email and the Internet, fandom today seems fragmented. How cohesive was Star Trek fandom in the early years of Star Trek?
Trimble: Well, today everyone has so many Trek series to choose from, so they can become interested in only one small part of the whole. We didn't have that back then. Fandom clung together because we had no one else; today, fandom isn't all that exclusive. We're in the media, we're in mainstream magazines, we're active in community fund-raising. That didn't happen in 1966.
Tyler: Had email and the Internet existed in the 1960s, would the campaign to save Star Trek have been more or less successful?
Trimble: Far more successful, I believe. While there are far more nay-sayers on the Internet, it's only because they now have a vehicle to vent their opinions. Back in 1966, we'd have heard from only a few of such people. But the other side of the Internet coin is that we can reach so many enthusiastic, interested, involved people, so swiftly! It's really quite wonderful.
Tyler: Your Star Trek Concordance has long been considered the definitive guide to the original Star Trek television series. What inspired you to write the book? What the extent of Dorothy Jones Heydt's involvement in the book? Without videotape, how did you manage to gather such detailed information from each episode?
Trimble: Dorothy was a very focused person in the 60s, with only 2 interests: Star Trek and her religion. She began making notes on 3x5 cards about everything Trek. I have always liked encyclopedias, and said that would make a book, and we began to work on one. Dorothy and I both watched episodes on TV and on a friend's early VCR (it was tape, wound through the machine much like an old audio tape recorder). We both make many notes. I did the actual writing, though I stupidly credited Dorothy as the total author in the fan edition and me as only the editor. Dorothy's cattiness about females shows up in the original edition. When time came for re-writes, Dorothy had lost interest and turned the project over to me. I took it from there.
Tyler: The Ballantine edition of the Concordance is copyrighted by both Paramount and yourself. Franz Joseph's Star Fleet Technical Manual is copyrighted in its author's name. None of the recent licensed Star Trek publications are copyrighted by any party but Paramount. What conditions permitted you to obtain partial copyright of the Concordance, and what caused Paramount to become more possessive of Star Trek merchandise?
Trimble: In those days, nobody at Paramount thought Star Trek would last 30 years! So they didn't care. They signed over all rights to Tribbles to David Gerrold, too. He produced them to sell, and paid for his house with them and the writing he could do because tribble sales gave him the time to write. Lincoln Enterprises got many rights that Par [Paramount Pictures] tried to get back from Majel. Nowadays, Par and Viacom realize they have a major cash cow here, and are far more careful of things. I suspect that our collective sales made Par realize they should be merchandising things better. They still aren't doing so, because they have never hired anyone (me, for instance) who understands fandom or the merchandising of Star Trek.
Tyler: It has been said that the animated Star Trek series is not considered canon. Did Gene Roddenberry ever consider them canon?
Trimble: Yes, he did. He thought the animateds gave Trek a new life, perhaps helping keep it alive long enough for that movie or new series. He always hoped for that. Later, other people "spoke with Gene's mouth" in saying he hated the animateds. Not in our conversations. The reason Paramount doesn't want the animateds considered canon is they had a huge falling out with Filmation, and had to buy back the rights (which Par hates to do!) and therefore they are "punishing" the animateds by not accepting them.
Tyler: The authors of the Star Trek Encyclopedia and Star Trek Chronology acknowledge your role as a research consultant in the development of those works. How involved were you in their production?
Trimble: I didn't help write them, if that's what you mean. I certainly was available for phone calls on questions of what happened, or where something was (in the hands of what collector), and so on. I send many of my own notes to Mike (a long-time and very dear friend). He always acknowledged me, which was much appreciated, since many other writers who used my information never did. Especially the fiction writers, all of whom certainly used the Concordance.
Tyler: How involved were you in the efforts to revive Star Trek in the 1970s?
Trimble: Not very. I was raising children, and a new generation of fans were eager to show that they could do it as well as the Trimbles did.
Tyler: How familiar are you with the dealings between Gene Roddenberry and Franz Joseph?
Trimble: Not much. Only rumors. I knew Franz (a true European style gentleman) only slightly. I know Franz Joseph's daughter, Karen Dick. She's the one you should ask.
Tyler: Have you associated with any of Star Trek's other production personnel, or actors? If so, whom?
Trimble: I knew all of the original cast, most of the office personnel, and quite a few of the production people for the original series. I knew only a few of the actors for TNG: Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, and Brent Spiner, having met Stewart only twice. I knew most of the DS9 cast. I know nobody on Voyager. Last week, I met Robert Picardo at Fantasticon, and he thanked me for saving Star Trek so he could have such a nifty job!
Tyler: How did you become an extra in Star Trek: The Motion Picture?
Trimble: It was director Robert Wise's idea to get as much of the Enterprise crew on the rec deck as possible while Kirk explained the Giant Purple Magilla that was eating the universe. He said we never saw anything close to the 430 people supposed to be aboard the starship. Gene thought of asking the Screen Extra's Guild (they were separate from Screen Actor's Guild in the 60s) for permission to "go on the street" for half the people needed on that rec deck. So Trek fans were invited to a casting call. Some of us, for our work, were cast even if we didn't really fit the criteria (the costumes were already made up) of height and weight.
Tyler: Would Gene Roddenberry have approved of the more recent Star Trek television series and feature films? If not, what are some of the elements of which he would disapprove?
Trimble: I feel that Gene might have come to like DS9, had he lived to see it. There might have been some changes. Majel recently said that GR would have hated the war in DS9, but frankly I am amazed that she cannot see the same theme in much of what Gene did, including his recent "discovery" of Earth: Final Conflict. The only reason there were not full battles in early Trek is lack of funds to pull it off, and lack of technology to show it. Otherwise, GR would certainly have added it; he knew what audiences liked. I don't know about Voyager; I can't see where it's going, and I don't feel GR would have liked that. I don't think he would have liked the last couple of movies; they were very far removed from the Trek Gene came up with.
Tyler: You are credited with creating Star Trek Enterprises, a business specializing in the sale of Star Trek merchandise. Majel Barrett-Roddenberry now runs the company under the name of Lincoln Enterprises. (Editor's Note: As of 2004, the company was known as Roddenberry.COM, and Gene Roddenberry, Jr. had a significant role in the company's operation.) Did you have any business experience prior to helping form this company?
Trimble: John and I set up Star Trek (now Lincoln) Enterprises for Gene, only to find that he really wanted to turn it over to his new wife, Majel. We ran several small mail-order businesses prior to setting up ST Enterprises, but always failed due to lack of money to advertise widely (another thing the Internet might have changed). Majel had no business experience, so we left and she took over, the business never really took off as it should have.
Tyler: Gene Roddenberry said that the original Star Trek series was a method by which he could explore contemporary human issues without fear of excessive censorship. One aspect of human life that is conspicuously absent from Star Trek, particularly beginning with Star Trek: The Next Generation, is religion. For example, none of the recent major Star Trek characters is religious except Kira Nerys, whose gods are actually aliens. Roddenberry in later years said that he was a humanist, and this clearly shows in The Next Generation and its spinoffs. Was there a reason why human belief systems are not represented in Star Trek? Does this cause Star Trek to fall somewhat short when it comes to exploring the human condition?
Trimble: Exploring the human condition through religion would come up very short on this planet! Organized religion has probably done more damage to the human condition than almost anything else except outright war, in my opinion. Witness overpopulation because religious beliefs will not allow contraception; witness the Inquisition, and Talking Heads on TV... well, that could go on for hours! I don't see that it's imperative in exploring the human condition to include someone's belief in a tenuous (at best) being. But that's a personal opinion. Thousands of SF stories have managed to explore the human condition without mentioning relition. Gene was a humanist from the start, so far as I know. In the 60s it was just Not Done to explore religion on TV; everyone shied away from it. Having a comedy about a preacher with a family and human failings would have simply not flown in those days. It is always very difficult to deal with religion, because everyone has their own private viewpoints about it, and whatever you do or say will certainly cause someone to scream about it. But there was a chapel on the original Enterprise, which was used at least 2 or 3 times that I can recall. I think getting Sisko involved in Bajoran religion was a very brave thing for the writers to do.
Tyler: To my knowledge, you have visited the sets of the original series, the first motion picture, The Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine's "Trials and Tribble-ations" episode. What is it like to visit the "real" starship Enterprise? Does seeing the lumber and stage lighting of the actual sets diminish or enhance the illusion of reality that viewers enjoy when seeing the sets on the television or movie screen?
Trimble: I've visited all the sets of all the series and movies. I live only miles from Paramount, and have many friends there who are willing to leave a drive-on for me at the gate. I love to visit sets; I like to watch the magic as it happens. Does seeing the lumber and stage lighting disillusion me? No. I've taken some people on a set, only to have them say it was very disappointing. What were they expecting, fairyland? I don't know... but I like seeing the reality, then seeing the way it turns out on screen.
Tyler: Are there any elements of the sets, props, costumes, and models that surprised, impressed, or disappointed you when you saw them in person?
Trimble: No, but I was prepared for that. My mom was a costumer for Warner Bros, and I snarked out around sets and prop rooms in my childhood. I am always impressed with the loving care that fans put into copying costumes and props, because there is never enough time to do it that well for a real production, or the money to do it well.
Tyler: How do you believe that Star Trek and Star Trek fandom have changed since the original series?
Trimble: A great deal. While there is still that sense of idealism, there is more of a hard edge to fandom now, a reality-check in many people that Paramount isn't a benevolent being that handed Trek to us. I think that's healthy. Fans still work for charity, and give thousands of dollars away every year, which made Gene very proud of them, and makes me very proud, too.
Tyler: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek: The Next Generation made Star Trek more mainstream. How did this change the experience of being a fan? As a fan, is it more enjoyable to be part of an obscure group, or part of the mainstream?
Trimble: Though it hasn't totally happened yet, it's easier to be part of the mainstream, because people aren't acting like you may do something weird right in front of their kids. There is a bit more understanding of the intensity of some fans, and that's perhaps a good thing. But in a way, we're losing our fan-individualty, and some of us are a little sad about that. Still, when fully-costumed Klingons show up in a children's hospital, it's worth it to see the faces on everyone, kids and adults. People ask questions, and talk to us, instead of veering off and looking at us out of the corners of their eyes. I've never worn a Klingon costume, but have many friends who do, and have traveled in their company.
Tyler: Motivation, inspiration, and perserverance are qualities from which we all benefit. Thank you for allowing me and Star Trek fandom as a whole to benefit from those qualities in you.
Trimble: Thanks for those kind words! I enjoy teaching a writing class when I'm invited to conventions; it's not about how to write, but how to work up to writing. Sort of a Positive Mental Attitude on writing. Not that I'm invited to many cons, as I'm viewed as one of the Old Pharts nowadays, with nothing much to say about the newer Trek. Ah well.... 8-)
Interview copyright 1999 by Greg Tyler and Bjo Trimble.

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