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To boldly go where few Taiwanese have gone before: Trekkies in Taiwan

2018/01/29 16:29:45

By Joseph Yeh, CNA staff reporter

On a Sunday afternoon, a group of people dressed in colorful yellow, blue and red self-made costumes gathered at a Taipei gallery. They were not there to attend an art exhibition but to learn an alien language.

They were Trekkies, fans of the Star Trek franchise.

The gathering was a part of their regular meeting and was meant for them to learn Klingon language, which is spoken by the fictional Klingon race in the Star Trek universe.

Since its creation by Gene Roddenberry in 1966, Star Trek has entertained fans around the world with its compelling stories and colorful characters as viewers follow starship captains and their crews aboard space exploration vessels on interstellar adventures.

Few other science fiction series have become so interwoven with popular culture. Almost everyone is familiar with the names of Captain Kirk, pointy ears Spock and his signature Vulcan salute, even if they have never seen a single episode of the TV series.

The decades-old franchise has recently enjoyed a rebirth, with three modern Star Trek movies hitting theaters over the past eight years, enjoying huge box office success. The latest and sixth installment of the Star Trek television series since the 1960s original series, also aired in September 2017.

All these are concrete evidence showing the huge and everlasting global fan support of Star Trek.

Trekkies in Taiwan

In Taiwan, however, Star Trek was never as popular as in other parts of the world, not only because of the language barrier but also because local sci-fi fans had limited access to the franchise.

But this has not stopped Trekkies in Taiwan from following in the footsteps of the USS Federation in exploring the universe in search of new worlds and new life and boldly going where few Taiwanese have gone before.

One of the longest-running Star Trek fan clubs in the country, Starfleet Academy of National Taiwan University (NTU), will be celebrating its 20th anniversary later this year.

Also, Taiwanese Trekkies regularly hang out to share their passion for the Star Trek universe, and the Klingon language lecture was one of the meetings they held.

The Klingon language lecturer tlh'raS (賴喬迪) was one of those hardcore Trekkies.

A lover of language, he was so devoted to the series that he started to pick up Klingon and even bought dictionaries to study the language, created by American linguist Marc Okrand.

Bing, a web search engine operated by Microsoft, even added Klingon to Bing Translator in 2013.

tlh'raS told CNA that he fell in love with the show when he saw Star Trek: The Next Generation at junior high school.

"I love how the TV series sees our future in a positive way where the human race and aliens work together to promote peace," he said.

tlh'raS' lecture was attended by dozens of local Star Trek fans who were also visiting the Wrong Gallery next to the 1914 Huashan Creative Park, where an exhibition of Star Trek collectibles, including uniforms and gadgets, was being held.


(Star Trek exhibition in Taipei)





Speaking to CNA, Ho Kuo-chun (何國均), organizer of the lecture and exhibition, said the gathering was launched in the hope of promoting Star Trek in Taiwan so that more people can learn about the franchise.

According to Ho, unlike fans of Star Wars -- arguably the most successful sci-fi series in cinematic history -- who are generally more extroverted, Trekkies are likely to be more low-key.

"We have to think of something more interesting, so that Trekkies will be more tempted to join. We don't like just hanging out with each other wearing costumes and taking photos," he noted, adding that the Klingon lesson is the latest workshop he came up with.

In fact, the Klingon lecture is also a way to show that Star Trek has more in-depth cultural messages than just being a simple TV series, which is why many fans fall in love with it in the first place.

The franchise, known for its progressive civil rights stances since the original series aired in late 1960s, included one of television's first multiracial casts, and the first interracial kiss on American television.

Having fallen in love with Star Trek more than three decades ago, Ho said his first encounter with the franchise was with Captain Kirk and Spock in the original series.

"I love it because it is sending positive messages about how technology can serve humanity," he said.

Also, the goal of the Star Trek starships is meant to explore space for peace missions, unlike most other sci-fi movies and TV series that focus more on interstellar war and conquering, he added.

Owing to his passion for the series and the universe it depicts, Ho started collecting Star Trek collectibles, including toys, uniforms, and gadgets, decades ago. Most of the items on display during the Star Trek exhibition are from his own collection.

Turning Hobby into Profession

Other major parts of the collection on display were contributed by Kevin Pwu (樸聖文).

Not just a hardcore Trekkie, Pwu has turned his hobby into a lifelong profession, as he is also a certified manufacturer of officially licensed replica Star Trek costumes.

His textile company is responsible for producing top-quality Federation uniforms to cater to the needs of fans around the globe. Thanks to the reboot series directed by J.J. Abrams, Pwu said his replica uniform business is booming. With a new TV series launched late last year, Pwu hopes more fans like him will fall in love with the sci-fi classic.

"For me, Star Trek started as a hobby but now it has turned into a dream job," he told CNA.

(By Joseph Yeh)
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