Beam Me Up Scotty (Capt. Kirk's Conception)
If you’re willing to use a little imagination, make that a lot of imagination, you can beam yourself up in a transporter located at the Voyage Home History Center in Riverside, Iowa, the future of home Star Trek’s own Captain James Tiberius Kirk. (Get it? Voyage Home?)
Riverside is also where Capt. Kirk will be conceived, but we’ll get to that later in our story.
If you didn’t know, Capt. Kirk will indeed be born in Iowa. It says so, right there in black and white in Gene Rodenberry’s book, Making of Star Trek.
One catch, it doesn’t say where in Iowa.
This is where Riverside City Councilman Steve Miller comes into the picture.
Miller was a devout Trekkie. While reading Making of Star Trek, and the reference to Capt. Kirk being born in a small town in Iowa, Miller saw an opportunity.
(I can’t get past this point in the story without images of The Music Man, which was set in the fictitious town of River City, Iowa, coming to mind. A story about another person who saw an opportunity and grabbed it. But I digress.)
Back to our story.
At the very next Riverside City Council meeting he proposed the little town officially declare itself the “Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk”. The motion passed unanimously, I mean who wouldn’t want that honor, and on March 25, 1985, Riverside became the official future birthplace of Capt. Kirk.
From there, just as the Spaceship Enterprise rockets through the galaxies, Riverside’s claim took off. Now the community is recognized near and far as Capt. Kirk’s future birthplace, it’s not even questioned.
If you’re lucky when you visit the museum, a fella named Phil will be working the counter. Phil is a die hard trekkie, regularly attending Trek conventions around the country, and can answer any and all Star Trek related questions.
That’s why his face has been on television stations from coast to coast. Whenever anything Trek related happens, and news media need an interview, the Voyage Home History Center gets the call and Phil is often the guy answering the phone.
Riverside’s claim, in fact, has become so ingrained in popular culture the 2009 Star Trek movie reboot identified the tiny town, population 1,115, as Kirk’s home. So now it really is official.
The museum is pure kitschy fun. At the risk of raising the ire of Trekkies everywhere, I admit I’m not one. I will always hold a fond place in my heart for Chewbacca. I know, them’s fighting words.
However, my co-explorer on this particular outing is an unabashed Trekkie and she was very much excited, walking through the souvenirs, movie posters and other memorabilia. I will take her enthusiasm as a big thumbs up to other Trekkies considering a stop.
As mentioned above, using your imagination you can beam yourself up in a facsimile of a transporter and, at the very least, you can get a good selfie. Personally, I got excited and geeked out at the captain’s chair that looked like it had been beamed down directly from the Enterprise. Big thanks to the local high school class for its work on constructing it.
Out in front of the museum is parked what is purported to be a scale model of the Spaceship Enterprise. It’s on wheels and is part of the annual TrekFest Parade and Celebration held the last Friday and Saturday of June.
The festival is one of those small town summer parties you see all across the United States, with a Star Trek twist. There’s the traditional sand volleyball tournament, bingo, live music, apple pie and fireworks.
But it wouldn’t be a TrekFest without a late night, after dark, showing of a Star Trek movie, a Search for Spock scavenger hunt, Star Trek trivia contest, Trek costume party and celebrity guest appearances.
This year those guests were Robin Curtis and John Paladin. Curtis portrayed Lt. Safavid in Star Trek III and IV, and Tallera in Next Generation. Paladin has been a makeup artist on Star Trek: Kitumba and Star Trek: Of Gods and Men. He was also a Klingon in Kitumba.
Across the street from the museum is a statue of Capt. Kirk which, by the way, intentionally doesn’t look like William Shatner, the original Capt. Kirk. Phil told me they couldn’t get Shatner’s permission for the statue. Others say a generic statue takes into consideration all of the other actors who have, and have yet to, portray the character.
Of course, no visit to Riverside is complete without visiting the monument on the exact spot where Capt. Kirk will be born. Well, maybe it’s the exact spot. There’s some subterfuge afoot regarding that one.
The monument was moved in June this year to prevent future Klingons from time traveling back to Iowa and sabotaging the captain’s birth.
At least that’s what the press release announcing the move said. Actually, the people who owned the property it previously sat on want to expand their business and so the monument had to be moved. But you gotta like the Klingon story better.
It’s still in the downtown area, about a half a block down and across the street from the post office.
A few other tidbits:
First, there seems to be a little bit of controversy regarding Capt. Kirk’s real birthdate. The Riverside monument puts it as March 22, 2228, but the year 2233 is more commonly accepted.
Turns out the 2233 date was put out there with the book Star Trek Chronology: The History of the Future in 1993, eight years after Riverside had constructed its monument.
Second, when visiting the museum you’ll see a unique looking time capsule dubbed "Quantum Destiny", created in 1989. For some reason it has never been buried. Phil said no one seems to really know why it wasn’t buried, it just didn’t happen.
Finally, there’s another, much smaller, monument to Capt. Kirk’s birth that isn’t available to the public eye at the moment. It marks the spot where James T. Kirk will be conceived in the year 2227.
It was originally embedded in the floor, under a pool table at Murphy’s, a local bar. That’s right, Capt. Kirk will be conceived on a pool table, in a bar, in Riverside, Iowa.
More recently the pool table was removed and the plaque moved to a nearby wall. Unfortunately, Murphy’s closed at the end of July this year and, at least as I write this now, has not found new owners.
So here’s your opportunity, if you want to own a piece of the future, there’s a bar for sale in Riverside, Iowa. I mean, someone has to reopen it sometime in the next 200 years and put that pool table back in there or Capt. Kirk will never be conceived.
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