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Thursday, 20 July, 2000, 17:22 GMT 18:22 UK
Queue long and prosper

Star Trek fans are often dismissed as cranks, but the Science Museum is hunting out the cream of the crop to help the public understand space age technology. By BBC News Online's Ryan Dilley.

Two consecutive days of sunshine. This is as close as London gets to having a heatwave and no time to be donning a tight-fitting Star Fleet uniform.

"I'm dying in this," says Gail Tomlinson, in an urgent staccato.

Captain Kirk, Scotty and Mr Spock
Starship toupee: Captain Kirk leads the Star Trek veterans
Ms Tomlinson is among a gaggle of respondents to a job ad, waiting outside London's Science Museum to be interviewed.

Of all fans, those who follow the TV sci-fi show Star Trek are renowned as being the most fanatical.

Now, the Science Museum is giving 15 British "Trekkies" the chance to share their encyclopaedic knowledge of the show with the general public as guides for its autumn exhibition - Star Trek: Federation Science.

Star quality

Today's hopefuls have been split into groups of five. Queuing in the street, they feverishly rehearse a Star Trek script, handed them just minutes before and liberally sprinkled with tongue-twisting jargon.

As arguments erupt over who's going to take which role - "You can be Kirk because you talk a lot" - museum attendants pace the pavement, fearing paying customers might be tempted to join the wrong queue.

Jonathan Palmer
Boldly going: Star Trek devotees are a hardy bunch
Their concern seems a little misplaced. If punters are not dissuaded by the outrageous faux Scottish accents - "I canny giv' ya murr powa, cap'in" - then the queue's back marker, Jonathan Palmer, will do the trick.

Wearing an alien face mask, Mr Palmer is fearsome to say the least.

Keen to snap up a job which would allow them to be further immersed in the Star Trek universe, many hopefuls have pulled out all the stops to impress the museum's selection panel.

Phaser's edge

"Where else are we going to be able to use our knowledge?" says graduate Clare Lambden, as Gail Tomlinson ferrets in her bag for an elusive phaser.

"Everyone dreams of dressing up for a living," says Ms Tomlinson, levelling a weapon no more menacing than a TV remote control.

Gail Tomlinson
Unphased: Gail Tomlinson is a proud Trekkie
Don't some people find such interest in a science fiction show, however successful it has been, a little, well, odd?

"For four years at school, I didn't tell anyone I liked the show. But now I don't care if people are going to judge you just because of the TV programmes you like," says Ms Lambden.

Ms Tomlison says the public's reaction to her interest in Star Trek has even led to violence.

Born Borg

"I used to wear my Borg costume out. I was singing karaoke at a pub and some guy pulled out all my tubes. It's okay, Borg can survive without the tubes, but the costume was very expensive."

Ms Tomlinson remains defiant, showing off a bus pass bearing a picture of her wearing the ridged nose of the Bajoran.

Emily Carding-Allen
Who nose? Emily Carding-Allen competes for the museum job
Not to be outdone, Emily Carding-Allen, further down the line, wears a rather becoming Bajoran nose of her own.

"It's gone a bit crinkly. I asked a special effects friend of mine to run me off one. Unfortunately, I'm no make-up expert," says the actress.

Ms Carding-Allen agrees that many "Trekkies" are written off as nerds and cranks.

"When I was young I was really obsessed by the show, but now I've developed other interests. But the people you meet who are really into it are still lovely people."

Alien concept

It's ironic that Star Trek devotees should endure such hostility when the show itself espouses a philosophy of tolerance.

"It has never been all about blind facts and science. There's always been a human aspect," says Ms Carding-Allen.

Queue for Star Trek jobs
Set for stun: Trekkies are "lovely people"
Star Trek, in all its incarnations, has tried to portray a future in which all races, and species, can live as peacefully as the Borg will allow.

"We can't even live black and white together at the moment. Star Trek gives us hope for the future," says Ms Lambden.

While many are keen on Star Trek style technology - "A transporter would put a stop to bus queues," says Mr Palmer from beneath his mask - few of the hopefuls seem to have a grasp of science.

Science friction

Although bound to be a crowd pleaser, the Star Trek exhibition will have to be careful about the links it makes between science fiction and science fact, says University of London cosmologist Chad Goymer.

"Some things in the show are more dodgy than others. For instance, transportation violates the 'uncertainty principle'. In the show they just have a box called the 'quantum corrector', or something, to sort that out."
Star Trek
Private enterprise: "Gissa job"

The scientific community is divided over the show's merits.

"Some older people tend to criticise it. Younger people look to it for inspiration. In one paper on faster-than-light travel, the author used the phrase 'warp drive', just like in Star Trek."

Back at the Science Museum, another quintet of Trekkies are being ushered along a "chob" - the word for "corridor" in Klingon as it turns out.

Spock and droll

Despite their impending ordeal, the group seem relaxed and even share a joke about passing wind.
Science Museum curator
"How many fingers am I holding up?"

"I feel a presence," says student Simon Choo in his best Spock voice. "That is illogical."

The laughter dies as they walk into a high-ceilinged library. Before them sit six curators and human resources staff, imposing in full Star Fleet regalia.

The designated Kirk steps forward.

"Captain's log, stardate 2007.12..."

Star Trek: Federation Science opens at the Science Museum, London, this September.

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