Marie Mitchell/ Conversations Columnist

Marie Mitchell/ Conversations Columnist

Another "Enterprising" town is trying to cash in on Star Trek mania. Bloomington, Indiana, officials are engaged in discussions on whether to erect a monument, or display a plaque, honoring the sci-fi series' first female starship captain, Kathryn Janeway, to be born on May 20, 2336. In several of the seven season episodes of "Voyager," which aired from 1995 until 2001, Janeway, played aptly by Kate Mulgrew, mentions her hometown of Bloomington.

That's more than tiny Riverside, Iowa, had in its favor. Riverside, near Iowa City, has a population of about 1,000. It has billed itself as the Future Home of the legendary Captain, James Tiberius Kirk, since 1985, nearly 20 years after the original Star Trek series first aired. The Enterprise crew spent three years of a five-year mission exploring the final frontier, seeking out new life and new civilizations, boldly going where no one had gone before.

For those uninitiated into the Star Trek-verse, William Shatner's swashbuckling Kirk hails from my home state, Iowa. In the time traveling movie, "Star Trek IV," Kirk shares his Iowa roots with someone in the past who believes he might be an alien, guessing, "…you're from outer space." To which Kirk replies, "No, I'm from Iowa. I only work in outer space."

Still, no specific hometown was ever mentioned by the show's creator, Gene Roddenberry, or the writers. That didn't deter resourceful Riverside officials. They claimed Kirk for their own. They built a sizable replica of the Enterprise, created the starship's command bridge in what's now called The Voyage Home Riverside Historical Center, organized festivals featuring several actors from the show and planted a plaque in a place that's been designated as where Kirk would eventually be born -- on March 22, 2228 (March 22 being Shatner's actual birth date).

I've made the trek to Riverside twice. Sat in Kirk's Captain's chair. Took pictures. Bought a T-shirt.

Shockingly, instead of challenging Riverside's claim, Star Trek officials eventually accepted Riverside as Kirk's birthplace without a fuss -- or lawsuit -- and even mentioned it as such in a couple of novels.

So, a precedent of sorts has been set to honor fictional Star Trek characters. Bloomington has an added advantage of having some of "Voyager" co-creator and writer, Jeri Taylor's memos, notes and scripts in the Lilly Library already, along with some Vulcan ears Spock wore in "Star Trek VI."

The impetus for Bloomington's latest efforts comes from a couple who recently returned from a Star Trek-themed cruise, much like the one I'll be taking next March.

While Kate Mulgrew wasn't on that cruise, the couple was still inspired to convince city officials to recognize the 24th Century fictional Captain's grit, gumption and gall in commanding her crew through uncharted territory, with few resources. She had little choice after Voyager was hurled unexpectedly into the Delta Quadrant, and stranded 70,000 light years from Earth.

After all, if Captain Janeway could navigate Voyager towards home, a trip expected to take 75 years or more, then the couple figured they could manage the paperwork necessary to honor her leadership and moral integrity of staying true to Starfleet's Prime Directive of non-interference with developing cultures.

If Janeway could battle the incorrigible Kazon, obsessive predators, the Hirogen, plus the formidable Species 8472 and disease-ravaged parasites, the Vidiians, all while trying to meld her Starfleet crew with rebel Maquis fighters, about 150 in all, including a Borg drone and other hitchhikers along the way, then they could combat city hall.

If Janeway could steer through perilous nebulaes, voids, expanses, wormholes, alternate timelines and other anomalies, looking for a shortcut home, then monument supporters could cut through the red tape to see the project completed.

There is much to admire about Janeway: her determination to get home, loyalty to her crew and compassion for other species. How do I know? I've been binge-watching all 172 episodes of "Voyager" on Netflix to prepare for my cruise. There will be actors from the various Trek shows: the original, along with "The Next Generation," "Enterprise," "Deep Space Nine" and "Voyager," all leading away missions. Performing plays. Singing Karaoke.

There will also be lots of fanatical Trekkers on board -- many wearing pointy Vulcan ears. Fake Klingon foreheads with ridges. Even some with mechanical Borg implants. Many will have memorized schematics of the various Star Trek ships, dialogue from the shows and movies and other Trek trivia.

I only hope we don't get stranded, like Voyager, although there are worst places to spend seven years than on a Caribbean cruise ship with endless food and entertainment. Still, with plenty of starship Captains like Janeway and Kirk on board, plus first officers, medical doctors and other resourceful folk, I'm ready to beam to Miami in March and boldly go where few fans have gone before. And, I'll add a stop in Bloomington to my bucket list to pay my respects to the future's Captain Kathryn Janeway.

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