Thursday, 15 October 2015

When SKoST Talked to Larry - Part One

Let me take you back to 1993.

Whether by Guardian of Forever, the USS Relativity or perhaps your very own Bajoran Orb of Time, let's travel back and I'll tell you a story.

I'd finished my second year of secondary school and decided to spend a week of my summer holiday away with my grandparents. At this time I was really getting into Star Trek and badgered them to drive me around Warrington (in the UK) to find a copy of The Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion which had been released. Could we find a copy? Could we hell and the morning trip into town turned into a day trip which eventually had us in a bookshop in Blackpool. Alas it was so popular that there didn't seem to be one in the whole of the north-west of England but I did manage to pick up Allan Asherman's Star Trek Compendium. While it was still a great book and a useful reference book, I was bitterly disappointed I hadn't picked up the Companion.

Eventually I did get hold of it and the subsequent red revision (but not the third update for some reason) and still to this day it's one of my on-hand reference books. For many years my copies were well-thumbed, digested, revisited and lauded over due to their superb, accurate content.

My point to all this? Well, it was written by one Larry Nemecek who is one of THE biggest Star Trek gurus on the planet and 22 years later I finally got to speak with him.

"In high school I didn't know what I wanted to do," said Larry when I spoke to him a few weeks ago; "I had so many interests and hobbies. I went into journalism and acting and for a while I thought about teaching those in college. After I got my MA in directing and decided not to teach after all, I thought about getting into politics as a staff person but wound up as a beat reporter near home, then a wire editor, an entertainment editor and the chance to do a lot more interviewing."

Larry still maintained a lot of interests, including Star Trek background and fandom as a working adult. When The Next Generation brought in a new generation of Star Trek fans, he created his own Bjo Trimble-style The Next Generation concordance, a new annual volume self-published each season. And once the concordances were noticed by the writing staff on the show and Pocket Books extended the offer to write the official The Next Generation Companion narrative guide and then a second edition, the young Nemecek family upped and moved to LA....and for around 15 years he was intrinsically linked to the Star Trek franchise.

That experience in turn led to his contributions on the Star Trek Fact Files, a sister series of DVDs and notes in Japan, editing the Star Trek Communicator official magazine, producing the Stellar Cartography book, having a The Next Generation alien shuttle (Nenebek) named after him, having the chance to appear in one of the last scenes of the last episode of Enterprise and most recently appearing as Doctor Leonard McCoy in two episodes of Star Trek Continues, on which he still serves as Creative Consultant. I'm probably just barely scratching the surface with that list if I'm totally honest.

When Enterprise ended abruptly in 2005, the parent game company which published Star Trek Communicator almost went bankrupt, Viacom split and then the online world took over, "The last ten years have been a lot of reinvention," said Larry, "It's been a very interesting time. The rulebook is being written for this generation but it still isn't settled."

Speaking to Larry it became clear that his time with the franchise in the 90's and early 00's amassed a great deal of information, interviews and memorabilia. Over time he's attempted to catalogue this immense library and some of this has, in tiny fragments come out through the Trekland blog and the new Trekland: On Speaker collections which are available from the man himself.

The fourth volume - and the latest to be released takes a close look at the genesis of the third spin-off show on it's 20th anniversary; Voyager’s Pilot: Taking Care of Caretaker.

“These are not sound bites and quickie blurbs for TV, but sections of extended, 60 or 90 minutes interviews at season’s end that have now been digitized and remastered, “ Larry explained. 

"It’s all from the producers, writers and designers who really made the creative decisions behind the moments fans love—far more than even the cast. In long extended clips that have never been heard before in public.” 

Making their debuts On Speaker to talk about Caretaker are co-creator/executive producer Jeri Taylor and Emmy-winning production designer Richard James. There’s also director Winrich Kolbe and visual effects Emmy winning producer Dan Curry. 

However, things have moved on and now, due to his long-standing relationship with Star Trek, Larry Nemecek is now heading up the ingenious Portal 47.

Using 21st Century tools such as online, tele-conferencing, webinars and some old fashioned live events, Larry is bringing a packet of features out of his extensive vaults for fans to enjoy...the best we could come up with for a description was that it was a more than just a fan club, more than a podcast and live over the internet.

"I've been saying it's using the best of 21st Century technology to get a backstage pass to the 24th Century in a way you've never had before, all year long from your centre seat at home." explained Larry, "Each month has a couple of 'tele-briefings' via conferencing— a round-table with me and also then a Trek guest, plus a release of some interview audio plus his images or documents (reference materials from Larry's front-row seat during the production of the shows in the 90's and 00's). It's for people who want to hear from the actors but also from the people behind the scenes who made the shows what they are. It's for new fans, it's for bored fans, it's for fans who don't know what they don't know."

Portal 47 also brings participants early one-week advance access to all new guest vidchats and other undated posts at the Trekland blog, plus exclusive access to the Portal 47 closed community on Facebook, as well as 15% discount once a month on a winning bid at Larry's Trekland Trunk events or on future merchandise...for "the cost of a movie for two each month," Larry says, or $25 a month.

Genuinely every fan will be able to find something to entertain and interest them, potentially making this one of the most detailed Star Trek experiences we've ever seen. It also gives people who live in remote areas, or might not be able to get to conventions, the chance to gain even more exquisite knowledge on the 50-year-old franchise.

"When I'm at conventions, then, we can hold Portal 47 meet-ups." said Larry. There will be an annual Portal 47 meetup at Las Vegas, Comic-Con San Diego, or any local convention near to Portal 47 participants where Larry is a guest. On top of that, those involved will receive a further 20% off the one-day personal Trekland Tours of choice from a menu of Star Trek film sites in Los Angeles Larry is now developing (clearly for us in the UK this ain't going to be a possibility in the near future....!) He says as soon as possible he will offer a second time slot for the telebriefings so UK, German and other Europeans can take part on the sessions at a more palatable hour.

September was the launch month for the project and at recent conventions Larry has been promoting an annual package as well as a three month trial but if you email Larry directly mentioning Some Kind of Star Trek you can sign up, receive a free On Speaker CD and a call sheet from one of the later shows as part of your introduction - how's that for a nice little extra?

Along with this massive piece of work, Larry is also making some more tweaks to his Con of Wrath documentary project which has been ongoing for a number of years.

It's about the Ultimate Fantasy in Houston, Texas in June 1982, which was planned to be the first big arena Star Trek show—but which did not quite go according to plan. As this infamous event melted down on two fronts and yet staggered to completion, fans were already giving it snarky nicknames when I Survived The Con of Wrath buttons began to pop up in the dealer's room by Sunday afternoon.

Jerry Wilhite dreamed of an arena event alongside HoustonCon, and the excitement around Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan propelled the possibility. He talked to Star Trek cast about the possibility of doing something very different involving elements like a one-act play by Walter Koenig, a vocal set by Nichelle Nichols and a band, a talk show that would involve everyone.

"And then, only a week before, they found out that the sell-out announcement fans were getting when they called up for tickets somehow did not exist. There were not 50,000 people over three shows—there were several hundred. When that hit and they went into crisis mode, it then spilled over into the regular convention; news crews started showing up, smelling fraud, and the Paramount folks worried about the PR repercussions, especially as The Wrath of Khan had only been out for two weeks—and they decided to stay. But no one stopped to wonder what did happen?"

There have been a few notorious high-profile convention debacles since. "What was special about this was that Houston was the first, it was the biggest, it was The Original Series cast and it was the first time someone tried to do this and get the whole cast together.

"It was personal to me because it my first road-trip con," said Larry, who attended with a couple of friends from college and his younger brother. "We went and got caught up in the mess. We had to pay for our room twice and so could only stay the one night, took some pictures, went home and forgot about it. Then a few years ago I ran into someone at a party talking about Houston and 'Ultimate Fantasy' and Con of Wrath and it turned out he was the technical director. I suddenly had this lightbulb go off: I had wanted to do something with media, and this was something produceable I thought I could do as a first project. If Harve Bennett and Walter Koenig would talk to me (as the main leaders of the cast for the event) then I thought I would do it."

In the second part of the interview we'll be talking Enterprise in Space, Beyond and more. I'll be putting this up over the weekend.

For more information on Larry Nemecek and Portal 47 plus everything else, seek out Trekland this instant and thanks to the man himself for his help in producing this article.

All images taken from Google

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