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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 October 2006, 07:28 GMT 08:28 UK
On the trail of Trek Tribbles
Sue Nelson with Nichelle Nichols (aka Lt Uhura) in 1996
Sue seizes her moment with Star Trek actress Nichelle Nichols
Former BBC science correspondent and confirmed Trekkie Sue Nelson checks out an auction of Star Trek memorabilia.

If only I had a spare $6,000 (3,175). Then I could bid for the original series Starfleet minidress on offer at the Christie's Star Trek auction in New York.

The dress is mustard, rather than the sought-after red outfit, admittedly, but a bargain compared to the $35,000 (18,500) needed to secure a cast resin model of the USS Enterprise.

Fortunately, for my bank balance, I've already amassed a small personal Star Trek collection of my own.

It takes the form of videos, DVDs, Starfleet brooches, technical manuals, a Star Trek encyclopaedia and various cast members' autobiographies.

And - after making a 30th anniversary programme on Star Trek for BBC Radio 4 - several photographs of me grinning proudly with Nichelle Nichols (Lt Uhura), Majel Barrett-Roddenberry (Nurse Chapell, and wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry) and producer Robert Justman.

Walk of Fame

I have photos of Star Trek stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I have even met George Takei (Sulu) and James Doohan (Mr Scott) - definitely one of my career highs as a science broadcaster and writer.

In fact, I can safely say that I was the only BBC science correspondent who owned a Star Trek communicator, an original series phaser and a Bones style tricorder.

Then lot 776 caught my eye - two fake-fur Tribbles ($800-$1,200). These cuddly, soothing, permanently pregnant balls of fluff first made an appearance with Captain Kirk's crew.

Lot 776's Tribbles were more recent - specifically for a surprisingly good time-travelling episode of Deep Space Nine (Trials and Tribble-ations) where past and future Starfleet crews mingled through seamless special effects and inventive script-writing.

William Shatner
'Other man' William Shatner starred as Captain James T Kirk

The temptation to spend $90 (56) on Christie's two volume auction catalogue set was immense - even if it didn't include tax, VAT and shipping. My husband, Richard, kept catching me on the auction website, drooling. "Just browsing," I murmured, reassuringly.

Fortunately Richard is very understanding. He knew right from the start that there would be three of us in our marriage: me, him and William Shatner.

It began in the late '60s when I was a lanky child wearing National Health specs. I had always enjoyed science and science fiction, and when Star Trek appeared I developed a massive crush on Captain Kirk.

Each week I would watch enviously whenever a shapely anthropologist or biologist joined a search party and (invariably) got to kiss the captain by the end of the episode.

This was science at its best: exciting, adventurous and sexy too. No wonder surveys have found that science fiction on screen - or even in comic books - sparks more interest in science than school teachers.

Major influence

I've lost count of the number of scientists I've interviewed who share my love of Star Trek and science fiction. It was a clear factor in my decision to study physics and later helped me explain quantum teleportation in How to Clone the Perfect Blonde.

And of course there are the numerous futuristic 'predictions' from the series that viewers have seen become a reality: from mobile communicators to needle-less injections.

Sue Nelson and Tribble
Star Trek's The Trouble With Tribbles first aired in 1967

So, like millions of other Star Trek fans around the world, I shall be following the auction with interest but this time, at least, no bids.

A few weeks ago a brown box arrived on my doorstep from America.

"It's your Christmas present," said my husband, examining the customs form. "Last year's Christmas present."

I opened the box and - as soon as I saw a tiny piece of fur - I knew immediately what was inside.

"It's a Tribble!" I shouted, unable to contain my excitement.

So I am now the proud owner of my own, large, sandy-coloured Tribble (batteries not included) which, when switched on, vibrates and coos soothingly.

This magnificent bundle of fluff took Richard nearly a year to source, order and ship. That, I have to admit, is the sort of love even William Shatner couldn't aspire to.

Even better, our six-year-old son loves the Tribble too. So we all sat down and watched a special, collector's edition video I fetched from the attic.

It was encased in a replica tricorder case. The episode? The Trouble with Tribbles, naturally.

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