We’ve got a special treat for you today, as Star Trek week continues here on Open the Fridge. We had a chance to sit down with Mary Czerwinski, the face of Creation TV and frequent Roddenberry.com collaborator. She is a veteran of all things Star Trek, hosts her own podcast at DVD Geeks, and started the Trek crafting series Glue Guns and Phasers. We caught up with this busy gal and got her thoughts on Star Trek, geek girl fandom, and what she has planned for the future.
Open the Fridge: How did you get involved in Star Trek and turn it into this career with Roddenberry Entertainment and DVD Geeks?
Mary Czerwinski: I started coming to conventions just for the fun of it because I wanted to meet other fans and share my love of Star Trek. My degree is in journalism, so I always wanted to be on camera to interview these people who have inspired me so much, but also to hear the perspectives of the fans. In 2006 I did a series of fun fan interviews, like “The Sexy Side of Star Trek” and “Star Trek After Dark.” They’re all up on YouTube right now. At one point, Adam [Malin] and Gary [Berman] from Creation saw them and, in 2007, they invited me to be their official Creation TV host. They were trying to get more video on the website, so they asked if I could do 3-minute interviews with the guests as they come off-stage and talk to them about their experiences at conventions. I got to interview William Shatner that year, and so many great Star Trek celebrities. George Takei is always a favorite of mine.
From that, I interviewed Rod Roddenberry and we built up a rapport and a friendship over the years, and we always said we should do a project together. We then started looking at the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, which is coming up in a few years, and thinking, “What are we going to do about it?” We figured that the Original Series actors are getting up there in age and we need to hear their stories while they’re still around. He decided to start a project for the archive so he can actually own the interviews, because previously, they all belonged to Paramount and CBS, except for the ones he did for “Trek Nation.” He wanted to get long-form interviews with all of the cast, starting with TOS, of course, and moving into “The Next Generation” and all the way up to JJ [Abrams]. We have our work cut out for us. We’ve already interviewed dozens of people.
OTF: How old were you when you got into Star Trek? Which characters have resonated with you since you started watching?
MC: I am actually an Original Series girl. I always saw it growing up and identified with Spock and being an outsider. I always loved those characters, like Spock and Data, who are not necessarily human, but they are reaching for their humanity and trying to find it. I got back into Star Trek when I saw Enterprise in college when it was first premiering. I thought, “Wow, this doesn’t look anything like the Star Trek I grew up on. This is interesting. This is modern.” I liked that things didn’t necessarily work on the ship and they were just figuring it out. And, of course, the guys were easy on the eyes. So, that didn’t hurt.
Going back to the characters I identify with, I love Seven of Nine. She gets a lot of crap for being the hot chick in the cat suit, but she was a well-developed character. She had a lot of great moments, especially with the EMH, him teaching her how to be a human, which was kind of a funny proposition; this hologram, this technology teaching this half-Borg woman how to be human and how to feel emotion.
OTF: There is a lot of scholarship written about Seven of Nine. Who do you think are the characters with the most feminist agency, the literary term for a woman having their ability to shape her own fate?
MC: I love Janeway. She’s a character that balances power and strength with nurturing spirit and love of her crew. She has so much pressure to uphold the Prime Directive, but at the same time, their lost and trapped alone and there’s so much pressure on her. I think she does it beautifully, but I think she gets a lot of crap as well from other fans who aren’t into Voyager. And in the Original Series, it’s interesting since that was my first foray into Star Trek. Number 1, played by Majel in that first pilot – she was so commanding. She was the most intelligent mind on the ship; she was definitely an equal. To think that she went from that to Nurse Chapel, which is a very traditional role, and she had this crush on Spock. But at the same time, I feel like Roddenberry stuck it to the man by making her the voice of the computer, and therefore the voice of the series.
OTF: So let’s talk a little about Glue Guns and Phasers. I see you have some upcoming projects and things you’re looking forward to.
MC: Glue Guns and Phasers is a web series where I show people how to make Star Trek crafts along with my friend Brandi Clark. She also has a podcast called “Tiny Odd Conversations.” We actually met at a Star Trek convention a couple years ago and we lived on opposite sides of the country, but I have moved to LA since then and now we work on it together. It’s going to be a monthly web series where we do a Star Trek craft of some sort and I’ve just been asked to be a part of the Star Trek craft book, being featured in there with a couple of my crafts. It’s going to be a compilation of all the best Star Trek crafts around the web. It’s always been my dream, and I’ve been working on it for the last year, to do my own book. I can’t really talk about it because you know how those deals go and whatnot, but that is the goal, to have a book. I realized that I come here to see the fans and I want to do something proactive; I want to make things and make my own memories, like let a little girl go home and 10 years later still have this thing in her closet that she made at a Star Trek convention. I think that’s pretty cool, to have people create.
OTF: It’s very empowering to meet a fellow fan like yourself and to have a discussion like this about a woman’s place in the fandom.
MC: One of the things I wish we had time to talk about on the Trek Girls panel was the idea of the fake fans. We touched on it briefly, but it’s trendy to be a geek now. One of the things I’ve always felt very passionate about is that no one has the right to tell someone how to be a fan. Whether you just watched the JJ Abrams film and you fell in love with Star Trek yesterday, or you’ve been a fan your whole life, we’re all fans and a fan, to me, wants to share what they love. A bully wants to criticize. And I don’t believe that bullies should exist in the Star Trek universe. It sounds cheesy to say this, but it really does mean a lot to me that we’re all in this together. We really should embrace our differences and not argue about petty nuance. I think in the fan community there is a fear of newcomers, a fear that they are going to somehow change it, take something away from it, or take part in it just because its popular. But why not have it be popular? Then we’ll get more Star Trek products and series.
OTF: There were a lot of guys at the Trek Girls panel, and they really seemed to enjoy it. Many of them with their significant others.
MC: That’s the one great thing about Star Trek. This convention is more intimate because it’s not as big as [San Diego] Comic Con. There are families and couples here, and can connect with them. One of the couples that came up to me today after the crafts panel had just gotten married, and they were on their honeymoon. This was their first Star Trek convention and they came to “Glue Guns and Phasers” and made a Star Trek mobile with me that they’re going to hang up in their new house. Those stories are so cute to me. I love that. My boyfriend and I share Star Trek as our mutual love. He’s actually helped me embrace my geeky side, because in school I was kind of afraid of being teased. I was always a goth girl, so I liked outsider/fringe things, but when I was in high school in the 90s, Star Trek was not something you wanted to wear on a shirt. Then in college I just started saying, “Who cares? Let your geek flag fly!”
A big thanks to Mary for sitting down with us! She had lots more to say about her experience interviewing Star Trek actors, her DVD Geeks podcast, and revealed a dark Star Trek: Voyager plot that never came to pass. Check it all out on our special interview podcast!