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O.C. Trekkers See Last 'Next' First

May 24, 1994|BENJAMIN EPSTEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

BREA — Leave it to those Trekkies.

Sunday night, leaders of five local chapters of the International Federation of Trekkers--using information transmitted through space at the speed of light--were able to view the final episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" the day before it happened!

They knew, you see, that studios customarily feed programs early to affiliate stations around the country, so the stations will have time to insert local commercials before the programs are shown. The Trekkers also knew, having read a satellite guide that lists such things, that the East Coast feed of "The Next Generation" would be Sunday night--a full day before the actual broadcast.

At which point, it simply became a matter of tapping into the feed. The satellite dish of Hof's Bar and Grill on East Imperial Highway was all they needed.

*

After seven seasons exploring new worlds of syndicated success--four more than the original "Star Trek" series--"The Next Generation" finally is being transported to rerun land.

The demise of the original crew--Capt. Kirk, "Bones" and Spock--elicited from devotees an emotional call to "live long and prosper"--which the crew went on to do in half a dozen movies. At Hof's, though, the general feeling was--in the words of Anaheim's John Rigoni--"You gotta go on."

"It's going to be a transition, I guess," said David Lee of Diamond Bar, commander of the International Federation's USS Arleigh Burke chapter. " 'Star Trek' is like a part of life, kind of like a neighbor, and now they're moving. You have to get used to the emptiness. . . We just have to live with the reruns."

He popped open a bottle of champagne while those around him--appropriately suited, of course--enjoyed a blue libation (Romulan ale, perhaps?). To lead up to the main event, the Trekkers screened the first "Next Generation" episode; an episode of "Deep Space Nine," a "Next Generation" spinoff that will continue; an episode of "seaQuest DSV" ("that's 'Star Trek' underwater,' Lee said), and Lee's own footage of the filming of "Star Trek: Generations," a movie due in November. ("Next week they're going to be shooting in Pasadena," Lee confided. "Talk to the security guards; they're nice people.")

They also watched "Journey's End: The Saga of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation,' " about the making of the final episode, in its actual time-slot, Sunday at 9.

At that point, Leeanne Laughlin of Huntington Beach, commander of the IFT's Volana chapter--and a biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game who credits "Star Trek" with launching her interest in science--showed amazing self-restraint: She left just before the final episode began, explaining that she wanted to be surprised when she watched it with her fellow chapter members on Monday.

The rest said they'd watch it again.

Byron Smith of Redlands, captain of the Federation's Starship Morningstar, planned to attend a party sponsored by a Klingon Assault Group in San Bernardino. \o7 Klingons?\f7 "Trekkies tend to be accepting of other people," he explained.

Lee planned to go to Q Billiard Parlor in Pasadena for a large party sponsored by the IFT and a science fiction collectible store from Universal Studios. The irony wasn't lost on "Star Trek" fans: Q is the name of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard's nemesis.

*

Even as "The Next Generation" ends, yet another "Star Trek" spinoff is on its way. "Deep Space Voyager" is scheduled to begin in January. But Rigoni said he's already got reservations about it.

"It's a very old theme. You remember 'Lost in Space'? Remember 'Land of the Giants'? Or even 'Time Tunnel'! Well, ('Deep Space Voyager' is about) a star-fleet vessel \o7 lost in space.\f7 "

Smith was more optimistic. Truly of the next generation, he was born the same year (1966) as the original "Star Trek" series (he was 3 when it was canceled).

" 'The Next Generation' seemed a little subtle," he said. "I like 'Deep Space Nine' because it's a little more gritty; it's a little more blatant about the points it's trying to make. 'DS9' \o7 started out\f7 on a level of character development and inter-character relationships that 'Next Generation' got to in its third season.

"In 'Next Generation,' there are new aliens but still Romulans and Klingons. In 'Voyager' it's going to be all new. They're unlimited."

Once the final episode of "Next Generation" started rolling, the Trekkers were all eyes and ears. While Capt. Picard hopped between past, present and a possible old age hampered by an Alzheimer's-like disease, they noted every design change of the Enterprise. They guffawed at the implications of a Worf-Troi-Riker love triangle.

Not everyone in the bar was a Trekker. One who wasn't, Chris Albaugh of Placentia, seemed to express the feelings of many.

"I was intending to go home to bed by now, but I'm still here," he said. "It's very involving. And what the heck--it's kind of fun watching before everybody else gets to."

At show's end, Q (described by Rigoni as "the intergalactic Mr. Annoying") said:

"When you realize the paradox, that is the exploration that awaits you."

The Trekkers broke into spontaneous applause.

"That's good writing," said Dennis Toguchi, captain of the starship USS Roddenberry.

"Q was the good guy, \o7 and\f7 he was the bad guy," Lee noted in wonderment.

"Humanity had its effect on Q," opined Rigoni.

He noted that "Q's continuum is very strong. . . . He's capable not only of going through time but of changing it. If time and matter are interchangeable, you can learn to manipulate both. Don't look at things as a barrier."

It's sort of like watching a "Star Trek" episode a day before it airs, only harder.

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