Bjo Trimble: The Woman Who Saved Star Trek

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Bjo Trimble: The Woman Who Saved Star Trek
Interviewer: staff
Interviewee: Bjo Trimble
Date(s): August 31, 2011
Medium: online
Fandom(s): Star Trek
External Links:
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Bjo Trimble: The Woman Who Saved Star Trek is a 2011 two-part interview with Bjo Trimble. It was conducted as via email part of the 45th anniversary of Star Trek: TOS.


Some Topics Discussed


My first convention was Chicon II in 1952, when I was a WAVE at USNTC Great Lakes. I was in the hospital with an infected ear when I saw a small blurb in Astounding Science Fiction about a convention that Labor Day weekend in Chicago. So I wrangled a 3-day pass, Radar O’Reilly style, and took off. I was technically AWOL, but nobody caught up with the paperwork until I’d returned. At the convention, I met a bunch of other excited SF fans, including this bespectacled young man who had just sold his first short story. He decided he liked me and proposed on the spot. I said thank you, but no. His friends assured me that Harlan Ellison really meant marriage, and I assured them that I really meant no. I also met Robert Bloch, Wily Ley, August Derleth and several other writers at that wonderful convention. I was hooked on science fiction fandom! Since I was an artist and cartoonist, fan editors quickly engaged me in the wonderful world of fanzines, where I drew many covers and interior illos for fan publications. I have also done an occasional professional illustration, too. Later on, John and I organized and directed the World Science Fiction Art Show at Worldcons for many years. That show is still going strong.
In fact, there was a small letter campaign organized by Harlan Ellison and other science fiction writers when Star Trek was threatened at the end of the first season. Their main push was to save the only TV show that actually bought scripts from writers who knew the subject, so not many fans were involved. Details are hazy on just what happened, but NBC at least did not cancel the show, so it must have worked.

The whole Save Star Trek campaign was John’s fault. We had visited the Trek set, about when word sifted down that the show would be canceled at the end of this, the second season. So we watched actors do their stuff beautifully in front of the camera, then slump off looking depressed. On our way home, John said, “There ought to be something we could do about this!” Now, he’d been married to me long enough to know better. By the time we got back home, we’d mapped out a basic plan of action. So we called Gene Roddenberry to see if he was OK with this idea. Gene had just told his staff that it would be wonderful if there was just some way to reach to fans and get their support. So things began to happen.

But all the news at that time was about Women’s Lib and “the little housewife speaking up,” so the news media had little interest in a businessman. Reporters focused on me instead of John. To my sorrow, John has seldom gotten even the fan credit he so well deserves for his part in making the Star Trek we know now a reality for all of fandom.
The Concordance started with a young lady taking copious notes on episodes as they were viewed. I started helping her. When she had shoeboxes full of 3x5 index cards, I suggested that we put together a sort of encyclopedia fanzine. But it began to take too long and she lost interest. When we finally produced the Concordance fanzine, I was foolish in giving the young lady all the writing credit, which was not entirely true. For subsequent publications of the book, she had no input at all. John and I produced the first fan-published edition on an offset press in our basement. If you purchased a copy and happened to be in town, you had to come to our house to collate your own book! One of the reasons for the delay was Gene Roddenberry’s removal from his own show for the third season. The new producer did not like Trek fans and refused to let me have any access to scripts. Then President Eisenhower died before the final episode was shown; it did not air until the opening of the late re-run season. So we had to wait until then to make notes on that final episode, then print a third-season supplement. The fan reaction was about the same as anything that happens Trek-wise today: some fans loved the Concordance, others hated it and nitpicked it to death. Some of their criticism was valid, but a lot of it was simply jealousy that they had not thought of the idea. Subsequently, several worked on their own version, but Mike Okuda was the only one who ever gave us credit for our pioneering research into the subject.
NBC figured Gene Roddenberry for a loose cannon – and they were right. Gene was as iconoclastic as he could possibly get away with, and he suffered a fair amount of slings and arrows due to his unrelenting envelope-pushing. NBC was also convinced that Star Trek was watched only by drooling idiot 12-year olds with no buying power. They managed to ignore the fact that people such as Isaac Asimov, a multiple PhD, and a multitude of other intellectuals enjoyed the show. So, of course, the Suits were always looking for reasons to cancel shows they didn’t trust to be raging successes. They used faulty Neilson Rating numbers to “prove” that Star Trek was failing badly, and decided to cancel it. Fans decided to take action, and we did it very well, thank you very much! So well that NBC came on, in prime time, and made a voice-over announcement that Star Trek was not canceled… so please stop writing letters. This was all accomplished before the Internet. Only the very rich had computers; many big corporations farmed their computer work out. We mimeographed newsletters and mailed them out to addresses we got from SF conventions, book dealers and even some ST fan mail that Gene helped us obtain from the fan mail service that Paramount contracted with. The newsletters had guidelines for letters, and asked each person to write a letter and then pass the information along to at least 10 people, asking them to write a letter and pass the information on as well. Thus was the Rule of Ten born.
Gene and most of the TOS cast members all thanked us, with the exception of a couple of people who at that time did not much care for fans and found it annoying to admit that we had anything to do with their success. Desilu never acknowledged our existence, and neither had Paramount. Anytime we get to go to a premiere or party at Paramount, it’s due to someone in the ranks remembering us. As for the millions of appreciative fans, I suspect most of them have no idea who we are; all they see are a couple of Olde Pharts with nothing new or interesting to tell them.
We enjoyed TNG very much, really liked DS9 – which is still one of our favorite series – watched most of Voyager but didn’t get into it as much, and frankly thought that Enterprise was not even close to being Trek. We felt bad for those actors, who worked so hard against a tidal flow of bad decisions and unworkable scripts. Of the movies, some have been fairly good, some really horrid. The Powers That Be are convinced that they should never use anyone familiar with Trek for scripts, directing or any of those little production details. They say that what’s really needed is to get non-Trek writers and directors to “appeal to the non-Trek audience.” Which, of course, has assured that both Trekkers and non-Trekkers stayed away in droves. Of course, we are always asked what we think of the J.J. Abrams film. We think he did pretty well, though we’re a tad tired of bald, tattooed villains in long leather coats. We understand that comic book characters and loud music is considered necessary pandering to the kids. Still, there is some lovely character development that we’d love to see in future movies – if we ever do see a second movie before the actors are ready for retirement! What we liked most about the Abrams film is that is opened up the entire Trek time plane into several other dimensions. Fans were upset about changes in canon, such as Uhura kissing Spock. Well, in the Trek-time we’re most used to, they never got together. In this alternate time, they did. We suggest that the fans trying to wrap their mind around this read a whole lot more time-travel sci-fi!
Be kind. Be nice to each other. Be welcoming to newbies; they are the future of fandom, whatever you are a fan of. We hope that all of you are inspired to be a part of the future we may never see, inspired by a little TV show conceived by a far-seeing 20th Century writer and humanist. We are pleased to know that we have been a part of making sure it happened. We envy you the future, and wish we could come along on all of your new voyages of creativity and imagination.