“My name is Rick Chambers, and I’m a writer for ‘Star Trek.’”
Specifically, Star Trek: Phase II, a Web-based fan version of the original 1960s television series. How I became associated with this highly professional, globally acclaimed series is a story in itself—and therein lies a lesson for us in the public relations field.
Phase II is the dream child of James Cawley, widely considered the greatest living Trek fan. His lifelong passion for the show led him to create the series in 2003 (then known as Star Trek: New Voyages), bringing together a talented mix of actors, filmmakers and production people to carry on the adventures of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. Cawley’s mantra from the start has been quality—in writing, in performance and in production values.
While Cawley wasn’t the first to bring Star Trek to the Internet, his version showed the world how to do it well. The award-winning success of Phase II has inspired other iterations within the Trek universe, among them Star Trek Continues (another take on the original show) and a fascinating prequel now in pre-production, Star Trek Axanar.
My slice of the story begins in early 2011. I’m a Trek fan from early childhood and credit the original show with inspiring me to be a writer. Through a series of wondrous coincidences, I connected with a writer/producer on the show. I pitched a story I’d been carrying in my head for nearly 40 years: a sequel to the original Trek episode, “Bread and Circuses.” In that episode, the Enterprise crew visits a parallel Earth in which the Roman Empire and the fledgling Christian faith have survived to the 20th century. My story, “Bread and Savagery,” tells what happens next. (Sorry, friends, no spoilers here!)
To my amazed delight, Phase II accepted “Bread and Savagery” and filmed it in June 2012. I attended the shoot—meaning I had that magical experience of stepping onto stunningly faithful recreations of the original Enterprise sets and watching talented people turn my story into an actual episode of Star Trek. Indeed, one powerful scene by two great guest stars left me fighting back tears of joy.
To have the chance to write an episode of Star Trek four decades after the show was cancelled goes beyond every writing fantasy I’ve ever had. But that wasn’t the end of the story.
During the 2012 shoot, I was invited to pitch another episode in which Kirk encounters a very special woman, one who would change his life profoundly. That pitch became the episode “The Holiest Thing,” which was filmed in June 2013 and is nearing its official release.
In February of this year, actor Brian Gross (who portrays Captain James T. Kirk) and I were in a packed theater of enthusiastic fans for a screening of “The Holiest Thing” in Kalamazoo. What’s more, Gross and I did a brief circuit of media interviews, which proved both the enduring fame of Star Trek and the fascination that people hold for a dream-come-true story.
And now we’re back to where this blog began. In this world of information overload and microsecond attention spans, it’s harder and harder for PR professionals to engage audiences in meaningful ways. Yet there’s one tool that has endured since the dawn of humanity: the value of storytelling. People will tune in to stories, especially real-life, dream-come-true ones. They entertain, they inspire and they give people hope that their dreams, too, might become reality.
Every circle in which PR pros operate holds a wealth of stories. We simply need to look hard enough and then tell them well.