These days, you can find romance that aligns with every niche interest under the sun. Want to find someone to fall in love with your sonic screwdriver? Try this site for Dr Who fans. If you want to find a fellow Hufflepuff to spend the rest of your life with, go for the Harry Potter-themed Dating for Muggles. There's even one for Americans desperate to marry a Canadian and flee the Trump-ocalypse. But some romantics take it to where no man has gone before—and into the world of Star Trek fandom.
Oliver Gough, the founder of Star Trek Dating, set up the site after he watched all of the TV series and wrote a novel called Stalking Shatner in 2008. "I started to dream Star Trek," he tells Broadly, "and in mid-2009 I was having a conversation with a friend. 'There are no Star Trek dating sites,' I said to him." Instead, Gough purchased the domain name and hired a web designer.
The similarly named TrekDating, on the other hand, was set up by Jonathan Bird in 2013. It now has members in the UK, USA, Australia, and Ireland and claims to have close to 2.5 million users. Bird says he even met his wife on the site. "I joined to make sure things were working properly," he told the Guardian. His wife only used the site for four days, but that was all the time she needed to find Bird.
Intrigued by the promise of an intergalactic romance, I signed up to a few of these sites. Unfortunately, they weren't exactly well designed or easy to navigate. A Trek-themed dating site seems like a great opportunity to go with a futuristic style and a lot of excellent style Star Trek puns, but both Bird and Gough's sites look dated. At least Star Trek Dating deploys the pun "set phasers to stunning." (For the record, my tagline on both sites was "Captain Janeway in the streets, Captain Janeway in the sheets," so thank you and goodnight.)
Finding someone to talk to about their experiences on a Star Trek dating website was more difficult than finding a Vulcan who emotes, but I finally found someone ready to spill the space beans. Sandra Traethau, 34 and originally from Ottawa, used the site Trekkie Dating because Tinder wasn't really her style. She said the site was reasonably easy to navigate, and a high number of people responded to her profile, but "I felt like some of them had been trying for a while, if you know what I'm saying."
Traethau ended up going on two dates with people she met on the site. "The first one was a guy in his late 30s who I found quite funny and charming online, but it was a bit awkward at first." Having Star Trek as a common interest, however, was a good way to get chatting. "Turns out that it was a good icebreaker," Traethau says, "because he mentioned that he 'felt like [the anxiety-ridden Lieutenant] Barclay,' one of my favourite secondary characters ever." In the end though, they didn't see each other again. "We talked about Star Trek and had a good time, but it didn't really feel like a date."
Her other date was, well, less successful. "I don't even know why I said yes in the first place," Traethau says. "He messaged me with the Borg greeting: 'Drop your shields, you will be assimilated.'"
She goes on to explain that the guy turned up to the date in character as a member of the evil cybernetic alien race, "but it didn't work because he's obviously not a cyborg but a slightly-too-young-for-me, skinny nerd trying to have a deep voice." She mostly can't remember what the guy said on the rest of the date. All she does remember is "at one point he said, 'Prepare to be boarded,' and started air humping." That was the point at which she told him that she was out, and left.
Bad dates are obviously not exclusive to Star Trek dating websites. Pretty much anyone who's ever used a dating website or app has a story like this one. Well, maybe not quite like this one; this one is pretty special.
I wanted to have the Star Trek values: discovery, adventure and friendship and working together for the greater good.
Astrid Dees, an intern at a pole dance studio from Knoxville Tennessee, has a more successful tale of Trekkie romance. Four years ago she met a guy called Chris Miller at a Star Trek convention in Nashville. When they first met, she was uniformed in a dress from The Original Series and he was dressed up as Judge Q from the The Next Generation. "We stayed in touch for a couple of years and we were just friends," Dees explains. "Then he moved over here to North Carolina and we started chatting on the internet. And then we decided that I would come visit, and then we fell in love and here we are a couple of years later and now we're married."
Dees has never used a dating sites, but says that she knows plenty of other couples who've met at conventions, including one couple, "that met in line at a Star Trek convention in Vegas [for] lost tickets or something."
How they met is not the last time Star Trek was a part of their romance. "Watching Star Trek is one of our favourite things to do together. It's our comfort place to go together. We have a Star Trek trivia game we play. Any chance we have to dress up we have a great time. Star Trek also has a good sense of humour; that can spark a little love."
Miller asked Dees what her dream wedding would be, and what came to mind was "a couple dressed up as Klingons getting married on the [Starfleet] Bridge at the Las Vegas convention—that kind of planted my seed." Dees was also keen to go to the Star Trek 50th anniversary convention in Las Vegas, and "always thought getting married by Elvis in Vegas would be great." They decided to combine the two and had a Trek themed wedding led by Elvis. "He was wearing a white jumpsuit but it had the [Star Trek] insignia on it," she explains. "It was really great," she says, smiling.
When I asked these women what is was that they liked about Star Trek so much, they both gave similar answers: It's comforting. "In my late 20s I was working and going to school, it was a stressful time, and I played it in the background, it's comforting to me," says Rees. Traethau agrees, "I break out the Blu-Rays when I feel down and it always works."
Star Trek may be a great common starting point for a romance, but is there something in its ideals that prove conducive to romance? The TV show was well known for its right-on values—in 1968 it showed one of the first interracial kisses on American network television—and its vision of the future is one of a largely pacifist utopia.
Gough says the philosophy of the show was vital when setting up Star Trek Dating: "I wanted to have the Star Trek values: discovery, adventure and friendship and working together for the greater good."
"I think that most people who love the series share a common, basic understanding of how things should be, ideally," Traethau elaborates. "What's important is that you are open to ideas and different ways of life. The Vulcans have made that their motto: IDIC—'infinite diversity in infinite combinations.' Work with people, discuss ideas, get passionate. That's a healthy, pragmatic philosophy, and kinda reminds me of what some old people say about marriage."
Rees puts it simply: "Star Trek is my happy place."