by Dan Carlson

Everyone has a passion in their life: something they love to learn everything about, something that makes them fanatical. Most fans only ever watch their favorite television shows, or sports teams, or other activity.

Some seek out like-minded fans who share their passions at conventions and other social gatherings. Meeting an actor or writer who helped create the stories you love can be a highlight of your year. But a few—a lucky few—get to create part of that story.

I helped start the Memory Alpha Star Trek wiki in 2003, along with co-founder Harry Doddema. At the time, it was a simple experiment, to see if the concept of a wiki could be used to make a Star Trek database. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the project took off at warp speed, and thanks to the efforts of many dedicated contributors, it quickly became the most comprehensive and authoritative Star Trek reference website.

I’m proud to have helped create this resource and community that is maintained by fans from around the world – but I never thought that I would actually get to create a small part of the canon Star Trek universe, too.

Incoming Transmission from Mr. Scott

Stardate: April 2015. It started as just an ordinary, lazy day off for me. I was sitting at my desk around lunchtime, catching up on some news on my iMac. I spotted the red notification badge that an email had arrived; I switched over to the mail app and read the subject line: From Simon Pegg.

pegg-ma
From the man himself.

“No way!”, I thought. I opened the message in growing disbelief and geeky exhilaration. It truly was from Simon Pegg, with a personalized photo attachment and everything! I already knew that he’d been co-writing the next Trek movie, and the email – addressed to me and Harry – thanked us for starting Memory Alpha and described how he’d been using the site as a resource for writing the new movie. But more than that, he was looking for a little help with with creating an element in the story!

What he was looking for – and if you’ve seen STAR TREK BEYOND, you’ll know exactly where this is heading – was a Vulcan mineral with some unique properties: a stone or gem used in jewelry, which transmits a harmless energy field that could be detected by a scan, and was uniquely identifiable to Vulcan.

Naturally, Harry and I exploded with excitement and jumped at the chance to contribute to our favorite show! For the next few hours we furiously emailed back and forth, pitching ideas. Harry thought of trininite, a real-world radioactive mineral created during the Trinity atomic bomb test that was briefly used in jewelry (before the consequences of radioactivity were fully understood).

vulcan-nukes
Archer witnesses nuclear destruction in Vulcan’s past. (ENT: “Awakening”)

Vulcans were known to have detonated atomic weapons during the Time of Awakening, so a similar mineral could easily have been created from the desert sands of their planet. It would be very slightly radioactive (and have become less so over the centuries), giving off an energy signature that could be detected by a scanner. And as a physical relic of Vulcan’s illogical wars, it would hold deep meaning for them, justifying its use as a memento in jewelry and similar artifacts.

So, what to call it? We dove in to a bunch of references, starting with Memory Alpha of course! I found a few promising words from the Vulcan language: vokau (“remember” from “The Forge”) and heya (“mountain,” from the novel Spock’s World). This felt like a perfect starting point for a name, since this stone would be a physical reminder of the memory of Vulcan’s past.

We tried a few different variations, but the translation was always meant to roughly be “remembrance stone” or “memory stone.” I suggested vokau-heya as a tip of the hat to other hyphenated Vulcan words (like koon-ut-kal-if-fee), and we eventually shortened it to vokaya.

vokaya
Uhura’s vokaya pendant worn in the film.

I was lucky it was my day off, because I was so excited I dropped everything to work on this – and I’m pretty sure Harry did too. We did all our research, brainstorming, and discussion in about five hours, and then sent off a reply to Mr. Pegg with our ideas. We heard back the very next day, and if we were excited before, we were thrilled when Mr. Pegg loved our idea! We had a nice little email chat, sharing some feelings about the reboot series in general.

It was refreshing to hear from someone so closely involved in making Star Trek, and to hear that even a fan who helped make the films might not have liked every single plot and detail (the Enterprise hiding under the ocean was mentioned), yet still was proud and excited about the movies. I’d been a little bummed about the future prospects of Star Trek after seeing Star Trek Into Darkness, but this brief conversation reassured me that my favorite fictional universe was in excellent hands.

I saw a few interviews about the writing and production. It was exciting to read about our contributions to the movie, even if we weren’t mentioned by name. Mr. Pegg described how he’d used Memory Alpha, and gotten help from “the Memory Alpha guys”. I think it was reassuring to other fans who saw these interviews, as Harry and I had been reassured in conversation, that the writers, actors, and director were invested in making a Star Trek movie, not just an action-heavy sci-fi film with the words “Star Trek” slapped on it.

sdcc-stb

One to Beam Down… to San Diego

Stardate: July 2016. The release date of STAR TREK BEYOND was getting close. It started as another ordinary work day for me. At lunch, I checked my email on my phone, and saw a message waiting. Folks from Paramount and Wikia – the host of Memory Alpha – had heard about Harry and my contributions to the movie thanks to Mr. Pegg’s interviews, and were inviting us to attend the world premiere at Comic-Con in San Diego!

Harry, sadly, couldn’t make it. He lives in the Netherlands, but I promised to video chat with him if anything interesting happened. I really didn’t know what to expect at the premiere. I’d been in contact with Wikia, and Mr. Pegg’s assistant Claire, but due to the busy nature of the event, a lot of the planning was last minute. I scouted out the park the morning of the premiere when I picked up tickets for me and my friend Becca, who joined me in San Diego.

We threaded our way through the crowds lined up waiting get in to the BEYOND premiere, and they gave me a press pass so everyone knew I was supposed to be taken to the red carpet.

stb-red-carpet

The red carpet. Was this actually happening? Sure, my place was the very last spot at the end of the line, but I didn’t care. It was the freakin’ red carpet!

We heard cheering as the first stars finally arrived at about 7:00 PM.  I saw plenty of familiar faces as they filed past. I didn’t get a chance to actually talk to any of them — but it was amazing to actually see Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoë Saldana, and all the others walk past!

I called Harry on my phone, and got a video chat started. I’d already been in touch with him by email, and we both agreed that this definitely qualified as “something interesting!”

Then, it was suddenly happening. I was talking to Simon Pegg, so glad to meet him in person after chatting over email. It was a short, but friendly and sincere conversation. He really is as cool as he appears in the interviews – and Harry got to join in too, by video call.

Here’s a great video that the Wikia team filmed of our chat with Simon on the red carpet:

Despite having spoken with Mr. Pegg, I didn’t really know how our idea was going to be used in the film. Harry and I had seen a promo clip that we strongly suspected featured vokaya, but we didn’t know for certain. And so, when Spock started talking about modifying the Franklin’s scanners, my ears perked up.

This was it… and then I heard it said aloud, “vokaya!” The scene itself was funny, as Bones and Spock discussed the utility of the mineral. I laughed at Bones’ quip — “So… you gave your girlfriend a tracking device?” — followed by Spock’s hilariously subtle look of shock as he realized the implications.

After a night of excitement, it was time for one more surreal moment. Mr. Pegg had suggested that it was coming, but I’d never heard anything official, so I’d never quite believed it was going to happen. But Becca and I were watching for it, and then, there it was:

credits

There was my name, and Harry’s name, in giant letters on a giant screen, thanked by the producers in a major movie. A Star Trek movie. Becca cheered and I clapped, grinning from ear to ear.

Harry and I were always aware of the potential in the Memory Alpha project, but I never really thought that it would become the single most authoritative Star Trek reference in the world. It wouldn’t have been nearly as successful without so many diverse contributions.

The two of us may have set up the site, but we only wrote a tiny fraction of the articles that can be found there – Memory Alpha is a true group effort, and I’m grateful for everyone that has contributed to it over the years.

Dan Carlson is the co-founder of Memory Alpha, the Star Trek wiki.
You can read an extended version of this account at ST-Minutiae.com.

  • James

    Great to see that MA gets some credit. It’s my go-to resource for anything Trek related. Well done guys.

  • That’s a wonderful story! And the bit about the jewelry used to track Uhura was one of my favorite moments in the movie, so good job, guys!

  • Martin Paternoster

    Fantastic!

  • Madis

    Cool!

  • October_1985

    What a cool story! Congrats, guys, you deserve it, good job! Actually, when watching the movie I thought that all that jewelry plot, in another movie could have been forced and cringeworthy, and thankfully, as the rest of the movie, it was pretty well realized. Having a couple of experts aboard helped, no doubt. Simon Pegg is a cool dude.

  • Xandercom

    You gave your girlfriend radioactive jewellery?

    You gave your girlfriend a tracking device?

    I luled.

  • Newdivide1701

    More reason to keep Simon for Star Trek 14 — and Beyond.

    • Bifash

      Pegg, Jung & Lin were such a terrific team, I’m a bit flummoxed as to why they are now reverting to the group ( and idea ) that was parked at the time BEYOND was set into motion.

      • In Belfast

        They’re setting up a new pattern, used to be the even numbered Treks were the better ones, now it’s the odd numbered.

    • pittrek

      After seeing Beyond last weekend the only thing I can say is please Paramount, keep Kurtzmann and Orci as far away from Star Trek as possible! Pegg and Jung have finally written a movie, which FEELS like a Star Trek movie.

      • Locutus

        I couldn’t agree more that Beyond feels truer to Star Trek than its predecessors!

        Yet I am mystified why the box office take has been poor compared to the first two films. With a budget of $180 million and a current haul of $230 million, I am concerned Paramount won’t invest any more in this movie franchise. I have read elsewhere that movies must gross at least double their budget to be profitable, and we are a long way from $360 million.

        Is Star Trek 4 in jeopardy? Does what the longtime fans enjoy not have enough appeal for mainstream audiences? Did Into Darkness influence movie-goers not to see Beyond? Did the first trailer sour folks on this film? Or is Star Trek just swept up into the general malaise of this summer’s other blockbusters? I just don’t get it.

        I am hopeful that the international release and home video purchases will make the movie profitable, but I am concerned.

        • pittrek

          I was the ONLY person in the theatre for the first 5 minutes. Later 9 more people came there, but I’ve seen Into Darkness in the same theatre and it was almost 100% full. Not sure what happened, but I blame the trailers – after seeing them I decided NOT to see the movie, I have changed my mind only after people whose opinion I trust gave it positive reviews.

          Also, it was a horrible idea NOT to release the movie everywhere at the same time. The movie opened here last Thursday, which is a MONTH after the first releases, plus there are countries in which the movie opens in September. Everybody in these countries who wanted to see the movie could see it a long time ago illegally.

        • Fctiger

          Sadly Star Trek 4 is definitely in jeopardy now. Beyond looks to be the first film since Nemesis which will lose money at the BO and we know happened after Nemesis failed. And Nemesis wasn’t that expensive it was only $60 million. This however is three times the cost of that and could lose anywhere from $50-100 million. Yeah I dont know why it did so poorly either frankly. I knew it would probably be the worst of the three in America since it had been declining there but I thought at least it would do about the same overseas as STID if not better and yet its declining everywhere in multiple countries as well.

          It is a shame. It would be nice to get at least one more but I can’t blame Paramount if they were done with these films after this disaster if this film can’t even break even and it looks like it won’t. That said there will still be other films in the future, just will be something else I guess but who knows how long it would be before we get another one.

        • The Science Fiction Oracle

          Nopr, it’s not in jeopardy at all. It’s going to hit $300 million still with China coming up, and Trek does a lot better in disc, cable/sat and online businesses, so it’s going to still end up in the black here within a year.

          The next movie is a done deal.

          • Locutus

            I upvote you because you convey a strong ray of hope! I wish I was so optimistic.

        • mswood666

          A couple of Reasons. in the US live action films (outside of a few low budget films) have all performed lower then what was expected of them 9Even Civil War did lower then it was estimated to), and with the exception of one film (that still did poor business) openings were softer then expected, and legs were much smaller then previous years. The only films to escape that were the majority of animated films. Which have done some great business.

          Overseas, Brexit has severally impacted the exchange rate for what is the biggest major global market outside of the US.

          Now we still have most of asia, most of south and latin america that still haven’t seen the film, and at least Asian still seem to be doing ok, i am hoping South Korea is an example of continued growth for the rest of this area.

          but the film should easily pass 300 million. How much further will be determined by any growth rate in those markets. I don’t expect it to reach 350 though. it will end up being the 4th most watched Trek film by inflation passed numbers.

          And there is one other negative. Trek on film previously has never done well when TV Trek was being made. i am sure having some of the media’s (and fans) attention on a new trek tv show certainly hasn’t helped.

          • The Science Fiction Oracle

            “Trek on film previously has never done well when TV Trek was being made”

            Not true. TVH came out about 10 months before the new TNG series, and did the best box office since TMP. Beyond came out about 7 months before STD, but it’s not having the same success.

            So there is no such relationship or trend here between movie Trek box office results and a new Trek series in development. They are mutually exclusive developments.

          • Fctiger

            Star Trek First Contact was the third highest film in the franchise behind TMP and TVH and it played when there were TWO Star Trek shows airing week to week so yeah that doesn’t make much of a difference. End of the day there really are enough Trek fans out there if you can have two successful shows on and a film every two years. It just has to be good enough to pique their interest.

        • ADeweyan

          What a lot of Star Trek fans seem not to realize is that the number of strong fans of the series is small compared to the fans of blockbuster action movies. There is a reason Paramount has pushed movies that strong fans see as being non-Trek-like — more people want to see them.

          The more like TOS the movies get, the less like the Avengers or Star Wars the movies become, the smaller the group of people who are not only going to want to see the movie, but see it more than once.

          • Locutus

            I tend to agree with you. Of all those among my immediate family and friends who saw Star Trek Beyond, I am the only one who thought it was better than the first two. My brother even said that he fell asleep in the theater while watching Beyond. I am the only hardcore Star Trek fan among them. Given my (completely unscientific) sampling of the general movie-going populace, I’d say your observations are correct.

        • startrekker1701

          Cus it was ‘just OK’.

  • Michael

    Memory Alpha’s section on section 31 is about to get vastly larger…. A new “Discovery” has been made..

  • Sykes

    Thanks for the account, Dan. It’s great to hear how exciting it must have been to take part.

  • Fctiger

    Wow I’m SO happy for you guys! I didn’t come across Memory Alpha until maybe in 2013. Maybe a bit sooner but probably not until 2012 the earliest but I love that site so much. Hell I was just on it an hour ago lol. Its such a great site and what I actually do now (and been doing for 3 years now) every time I watch an episode from any of the show I automatically go to your site and read up on the episode background from the production creation through the trivia and continuity, its all great and loaded with information. I will be honest it seems like the Enterprise section is pretty bare with this info but yes its the newest show and as said people from everywhere fill this stuff in so it is what it is. But its amazing just how detailed everything is on that site.

    And I lol over that exchange in the film. I honestly think that entire subplot ended up being the funniest out of all of it. It certainly got the biggest laughs in my theater. Pegg and Jung wrote a lot of fun scenes and its great you guys help contribute. I can’t WAIT to see how much will be added when Discovery comes around, with all that new content. Thats what is fun about wikia’s like yours you now have all this info and history and fans connect the dots to all of it. No joke I read today on YOUR site how Commodore Paris from the film is now confirmed to be Tom Paris ancestor. Sure it came from Pegg himself on Twitter but sites like yours makes it easy to find these bits of info and trivia in one place and why its so fun to scour it.

    Anyway glad you were involved and love your site! You guys did a great job on it. Truly well done.

  • madmadia85

    this is hella rad! So cool! I love ‘remembrance stone’ – the necklace thing is one of my favorite bits in the movie; I love the joke about it of course (Spock’s face y’all! lmao) but more than anything, I also love the way it becomes a symbolic thing between Spock and Uhura never being ‘over’ with her still wearing it (hidden when they are taking a break, openly and proud in the end as confirmation of them getting back together), and also them finding their way back to each other . I think it’s very poignant when you think about it that with vulcan getting destroyed, he not only gave her one of the few things he has from his home planet, but it also was the necklace of his beloved mother. That little thing is quite precious both in terms of what the mineral means to vulcans (now more than ever because it has became the memory of their original planet too), but also the sentimental/emotional aspect of it. They should find a way to sell replicas that fans can buy, I bet it would be quite popular 😉

    • Thanks for the link to the article about the necklace; that was interesting.

    • Locutus

      They should sell replicas of the necklace, but only if the profits were donated to Memory Alpha and keeping that site around. As a die-hard fan, the site is truly a treasure trove (much like this one)!

      • Pipe’sIDIC

        Yes. I would like to buy the Vokaya amulet. Its beautifully made and knowing the history, makes it more priceless.

  • drum-van

    congrats! well done!! the interview with simon was great. seems like a genuine nice guy.

  • Judith Rodriguez

    Such well deserved recognition…I’ve been reading MA for years! It’s a great site.

  • GIBBS v2

    Fantastic! Congrats to everyone and thank you!

  • pittrek

    Simon Pegg seems like a great guy. He seems so “human” if you know what I mean.

  • Fiery Little One

    I’m part of a message board Dan used to frequent, so I think my smile is slightly wider.

  • The Science Fiction Oracle

    C O N G R A T U L A T I O N S

    ! ! ! ! !

  • Pipe’sIDIC

    Woo hoo! Congrats, guys!

    Who said Star Trek producers don’t love their fans?

  • Real Memory Alpha contributor

    This is horses#!t! You’ve (both) long since abandoned MA. You have no clue who is really responsible for keeping it alive and actually making it relevant since your departure, yet here you are getting all the credit for something you walked away from. What’s worse, you only feel ‘a little bad’ about it. You’re welcome.

    • Fctiger

      Want to calm down there a bit sparky? End of the day A. They created the site and B. They were the ones Pegg called and who actually came up for the concept that was used in the film.

      Whatever ‘politics’ are going on with the site itself, it doesn’t negate their involvement with the film.

    • The Science Fiction Oracle

      Hi Donald

  • Dawn

    Why is trekcore not posting what mainstream media is about beyond being a flop?

  • Dawn

    Hey look it flopped.
    Some people owe us an apology becuase we told you it was goin to flop.

    • Gene’s Vision

      Do you require rescue?

    • The Science Fiction Oracle

      Go back to your S&M soft porn web surfing please.

      • Gene’s Vision

        Precisely!

  • Promoboy

    Folks,
    All this talk about why the film isn’t doing well at the box office…
    The reason: Poor word of mouth. Non fans arent recommending it to others.
    And to be honest, I can’t blame them. As
    hard as it is for this die hard Trekkie for over 40 years to admit- the film really wasnt that good. ( IMHO).
    I pray this won’t be the last of the big budget Trek films, but I’m not hopeful. (It’s up to China to make it profitable now). Would JJ Abrams have made a difference? Maybe his full time return to the franchise would be the right move. Thoughts anyone?

    • The Science Fiction Oracle

      Do you need help locating the return button?

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enter_key

      • Promoboy

        Do you need help getting a life? Get out of mom’s basement once and awhile. I offer my heartfelt criticism of the Trek movie, and in response you offer bullshit nonsense. You are pathetic.

        • The Science Fiction Oracle

          ..

    • Pipe’sIDIC

      Nah, it was the botched up and over-budget marketing that hurt Beyond.

      And we still have so-called Trekkies and Trekkers that don’t embraced IDIC. They want exclusivity instead.

  • Yendor Jones

    Here in the Philippines the movie is not yet in the theaters. But illegal DVDs of terrible quality are everywhere. These sell for about A dollar (USD). The sound and picture is often not able to be understood. I so wish legal DVDs were available, or it had been released to the theaters here. Anyone know when it might play in Dumaguete?

    • Pipe’sIDIC

      Really? IMDB has listed that Thailand as well as Philippines have shown Beyond last July 20?

      You must have missed it.