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December, 2006

Second Wind

by George Takei

It has been fifteen years since my last and final marathon. That was the London Marathon back in 1991. Since that punishing run, I have become a steadfast follower of, what is called, the Law of Nature. It decrees that as time passes, the mind is supposed to grow with insights as the body gives up its strength. It didn't take my mind to inform my body that the latter is true. I can't run 26.2 miles anymore. My days of running marathons are over.

However, I still savor the good memories of those days strategizing with other runners on the long distance runs, going on long, sweaty training runs with them, and sharing what we learned with each other after each run. One of the things we often talked about was the "second wind" - that burst of renewed energy that runners seem to get at some point in the run, when we are feeling totally spent, straining to lift the feet, and dog-tired but determined to keep staggering forward. Suddenly, the feet inexplicably regain their easy stride, the breathing becomes relaxed and steady, and the pace picks up. This usually happens at about the two-third point in the run for most runners.

That notion of the "second wind" seems to be holding true for my career as well this past year. My work schedule seemed to suddenly pick up renewed energy. As the months passed, the pace has ramped up to warp speed. And, I find my intensifying work schedule as invigorating as being back at the helm of the Starship Enterprise going at warp ten.

2006 began with a jump-start on the second day of the new year. A call from Gary Dell'Abate, the producer of the Howard Stern Show on Sirius Satellite Radio, inviting me to come aboard the show as its "official" announcer was the shot from the starting gun. And I was off and running. As I've written in my blog at the beginning of the year, I agreed to join the show and be with the Howard Stern team as often as my schedule would allow. A year has passed and the team has now become family. I have a hilarious good time with Howard, who I consider the "great truth teller," my "cuddly muffin" Artie Lange, the classy lady Robin Quivers, Fred, Benjy, and the two "boy friends," Sal and Richard. And, occasionally, I drag out my soapbox and speechify on issues to boot. It seems I am now identified, not only with Star Trek but with the Howard Stern Show as well.

Howard Stern has heated up my career. Streams of offers for episodic television began coming into my agent's office. "Malcolm in the Middle," "Freddie," "Will and Grace," - alas, all these shows were cancelled shortly after my appearance. I hope I wasn't the one that jinxed them. Happily, "Psych," and "Cory in the House" are alive and thriving after my guest appearance. I hope I've brought them some long life and prosperity.

The pace of conventions also has taken off by the amazing fact that the year 2006 is Star Trek's 40th birthday. This is truly a remarkable event. A show that was so low rated back in the '60s that it was cancelled after only three seasons has lived so incredibly long and prospered in so many unimagined ways. This is unprecedented. I celebrated this happy event throughout the year with fans at conventions all over the world from Europe to North America to Asia. At 9 p.m. on September 8, 2006 - exactly forty years since Star Trek was first aired on NBC back in 1966 - Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Eugene "Rod" Roddenberry, a crowded bevy of fans, many from overseas, and I toasted this propitious moment with sparkling champagne up in the landmark Space Needle in Seattle, Washington. How cool was that! It's a memory I'll never forget.

One amazing thing followed another. I filmed a new Star Trek episode - in, of all places, the lush, verdant wilds of the Adirondacks! It was put together by - of all people, devoted Star Trek fans! The show will be accessed - of all things, by the internet! Forty years can produce such undreamed of wonders. This series of Star Trek episodes called "Star Trek: New Voyages" was created by people who discovered Star Trek on television as youngsters in high school or college and today are successful people each in their respective professions. Led by James Cawley, they remain committed Star Trek fans to this day; so committed that they have pooled their money, energies, and passion to produce the "New Voyages" series.

My participation in it began with director/filmmaker Marc Zicree, who found a story developed by Hollywood science fiction writer, Michael Reaves, for a contemplated revival of Star Trek as a television series in the '70s. The series revival was not to be but the story remained glowing in Marc's mind. He came over to my home and shared his enthusiasm for the script and the idea of doing it as part of the "New Voyages" series. I read the script. It was a terrific Sulu story. In it, he ages thirty years, and during those years, he falls in love, they have a daughter, and tragically, he loses his wife. It turns out, however, that those thirty years were just three minutes to the crew of the Enterprise. It is a moving drama -and I didn't have to endure the aging make up for it. The power of my acting, I'd like to think - but more accurately the years that have passed since the TV series, made age make up unnecessary.

The experience of filming this project was as arduous as it was wonderful. The hours were tough and long but I loved the dedication of the hardworking cast and crew. The role was challenging and at the same time, enormously fulfilling. Marc Zicree is a passionate and utterly committed director. I think we have an extraordinary Star Trek episode. I can't wait for it to be web cast in March next year.

There was another Star Trek landmark. Paramount Studios decided to clear out its warehouse of all its vast collection of Star Trek props, costumes, spacecraft models, and other memorabilia and put them up for sale at the prestigious Christy's auction house. That many of these collectibles sold for as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars is another measure of the economic success of the fans who discovered the show so long ago. Like Star Trek, the fans too have lived long and prospered.

The feature film part of my "second wind" included "The Great Buck Howard" with John Malkovitch and Tom Hanks and "Finishing the Game" directed by hot young director Justin Lin, about martial artist, Bruce Lee's last, uncompleted Hong Kong film. Both films will be released next year.

The topper of the year came like an early Christmas gift in late November. I was cast in the highest-rated new television series of this season, NBC-TV's "Heroes." I will play the powerful and wealthy industrialist father of the time traveling Star Trek fan Hiro Nakamura, wonderfully acted by Masi Oka. Is this déjà vu all over again? And, so auspiciously, in the 40th anniversary year. My first episode will air on Monday night, January 29, 2007. So next year, you will be seeing a lot of the results of my "second wind."

2006 has been a richly engaging and exciting year. Like in marathon running, I know that a tremendous stimulant to the "second wind" comes from the cheering and the support of the people on the sidelines. As we briskly stride into the next year, my heartfelt thanks goes out to all who have been such an integral part of this fantastic run that I have enjoyed this past year. May I extend to all, my heartiest cheers for a happy holiday season.

 



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