When the USS Enterprise needed to destroy a ship carrying a bizarre disease, Captain Jean-Luc Picard used the code “Omicron Omicron Alpha Yellow Day Star 2-7 Enable” to remove its protective shield and torpedo it into oblivion. Most people live their whole lives without ever needing to know this, but for “Trekkers” like Charles Warren and Pandy Warren, no bit of “Star Trek” trivia is too obscure.
“‘Star Trek’ is classic. It’s family-friendly, it has action, it has drama and since it’s sci-fi, it’s timeless,” Pandy says. “There are really good story lines, and it’s easy to get hooked.” The first episode of “Star Trek” aired in 1966, and the new film, slated for release this summer, is a testament to the franchise’s enduring popularity.
As a kid, Charles loved TV time with his dad, watching William Shatner battle alien baddies in rubber suits and romance green-skinned women. As the years progressed, so did Charles’ affection for the world of Klingons, Vulcan mind melds and ill-fated, red shirt-wearing ensigns. This hobby has led him to attend more than 40 sci-fi conventions and accrue an impressive collection of “Trek” swag, but more than that, “Star Trek” changed Charles’ destiny.
Charles’ son, James, was born a month before Charles turned 17. Charles dropped out of high school, got married, earned his G.E.D. and, at 20, went to work at Mercy Health Center in acute care medicine.
He worked at Mercy for 18 years, nine of which were in surgery. “Star Trek” fueled his interest in science and medicine, and soon Charles joined the Starfleet Medical Corps. “It started as a group of doctors and nurses who would volunteer their time at conventions, to be called if there was a need,” he says.
This experience led Charles to return to school, enrolling at UCO in 1999, where he was inducted into the Tri Beta National Biological Honors Society and earned a bachelor’s degree in pathogenic biology. “It took five-and-a-half years of abject misery to earn that degree, but I got it,” he says.
Now, Charles is a biomedical engineer and James (who is named after Charles’ father, not Captain James T.
Kirk) is 21.
Charles and Pandy were members of the Klingon Defense Group, a team of volunteer security guards who often dress as the warlike, dark-maned villains of the “Star Trek” universe that are their namesake, and patrol sci-fi conventions. Pandy served in full Klingon regalia. “I had the bumpy forehead and brown skin,” she says. Charles, however, served as a plainclothesman in normal, Earthling attire. “I have a Klingon headpiece,” he says, “but I’ve only worn it once, and that was for Halloween. I have to draw the line somewhere.”
The defense group has disbanded and Pandy now works with the actors. During its heyday, its main duty was to prevent shoplifting and keep fans in line, but Charles says “Trekkers” are generally more civilized than followers of other cults of fandom. “They happen to be some of the most respectful fans you could ever find. I grew up around the entertainment business. My Aunt Wanda was Lucille Ball’s personal secretary for 27 years, until Lucy died,” he says. “Soap opera fans are insane. They’re crazy. You show a soap opera fan one of their idols and they go crazy and start pulling out hair and taking snippets of clothing. Sci-fi fans are like, ‘We don’t want to bug you while you’re eating, but when you’re done, can we come over and get a picture with you?’”
Many “Trekkers” collect autographs, and Pandy’s autograph book boasts more than 75 signatures, but Charles took his autograph collection a step further. He’s a self-proclaimed Shakespeare fan, and many “Star Trek” actors have backgrounds in Shakespeare stage productions, so he takes a copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, given to him by his grandfather, to conventions and lets the talent make personalized inscriptions on it, and some will write passages from plays. Over the years, Charles has collected 34 autographs in the book.
Not only did “Star Trek” encourage Charles to earn a degree and find his career, but he believes “Star Trek,” and others of its sci-fi ilk, have shaped modern technology. “The reason that I’m always going to be a fan, and became a fan originally is that sci-fi writers have challenged society’s greatest thinkers to live up to their visions of the future. They’re actually starting to do it,” he says. “It’s gone far to push our society to catch up.”
Charles gives cell phones as one example. In the ‘60s TV series, Kirk and his crew flipped open handheld communicators to speak to each other across great distances. At the time, such an invention was pure fantasy. Fast-forward to present day, and such devices are not only a reality, they’re the crux upon which much of modern communication hangs. “The inventors were the same nerdy guys, with degrees like mine, who sat in their mothers’ basements and figured out how to make these things, and now they’re billionaires,” he says, “Or, at least, you
hope they are.”
The abilies to take a stroll in a virtual reality “Holodeck,” summon food out of thin air from a “Replicator,” travel at “warp speed” or “beam up” may still sit firmly in the realm of fantasy, but it’s certain that real-life scientists have tinkered with these possibilities, or at least let their imaginations ask, “What if?”
“A lot of things that have been in the early series are starting to come true now,” Pandy says. “If no one dreams them up, how are we going to go forward?”
The next “Star Trek” convention to visit Oklahoma will be “Trek Expo,” in Tulsa on June 26-28. This is the 20th year for the convention, and the talent on-deck this year will include “Spock” star Leonard Nimoy.