Live Long, and Potter

Ninety-year-old William Shatner is set to become the world’s oldest space tourist…


James T Kirk sat forward in his chair.

Out on the vast canvas of endless space he had spotted a silver gleam that differed subtly from the twinkling of the countless stars.

He jabbed urgently at a button, which lit up.

A crew member rushed to hear his command. Her name badge said she was called Gemma, her uniform said she was a Space Hostess and her expression said this was not the first time Kirk had summoned her.

She reached up and turned off the button above his head. “What is it this time, Mister Kirk?” she asked.

Kirk pointed out of the window. “Unidentified spacecraft,” he said, “off the starboard bow.”

Gemma leaned over him to look out. “It’s the Facebook satellite,” she said.

Kirk frowned. “Why would Facebook have a satellite?”

“So they can watch what we’re all doing,” said Gemma patiently. “Between that and what we tell them ourselves via, well, Facebook, they can build a profile of us and our needs, so we get more relevant ads targeted at us.”

“Well, it doesn’t seem to be working,” said ninety-year-old Kirk. “All I get these days are ads for Zimmer frames and incontinence pads.”

He looked at Gemma as he said this, and was surprised at her lack of surprise. Then again, she did seem to be lacking the normal emotions of a young woman. She had failed to get excited or agitated at what had turned out to be the International Space Station, then at the Hubble Telescope, then at the Sat-Nav satellite, which didn’t seem to be switched on. Not only that, but she didn’t seem to be remotely attracted to him.

Suddenly he understood.

“You’re an android,” he said, nodding.

Gemma glared at him. “I’m from Hull,” she snapped, storming off.

Kirk sighed. Tourism is no fun when you’ve lived in space. Everywhere you go, you’ve been somewhere better. Niagara Falls are no match for the lava falls of Omemia, the Northern Lights pale beside the Sky Fires of Tharilion Prime, and Uluru is nowhere near as impressive as the Really Big Rock of Nao 109.

As a result, his retirement had so far been unfulfilling, so when he heard of space tourism he had eagerly signed up.

He realised now that it was pointless, like the Obamas deciding one day to take the White House tour.

It was an attempt to relive a past too great to be relived. It was doomed to fail because he was not in charge. He was one passenger among many, led up steps – disappointingly, not beamed – into a seat in the body of the spacecraft. Gemma had enacted a bizarre safety demonstration in which she stressed the importance, when hurrying into a spacesuit, of not attaching the helmet with the visor facing the back of your head. She had served him lunch on a small tray – a drink that tasted like turnip that had been passed through a juicer and a meal that tasted like dog-food that had been passed through a dog.

And the whole excursion was pitiful. They did not seek out new life or new civilizations, they did not go where no man had gone before. They skirted the Earth, practically skimming the atmosphere, so close that Kirk was sure that if he tried he would be able to see his house. Other tourists were thrilled, embracing every wondrous second of the experience by filming it their phones, but Kirk was bored.

He sat gloomily staring, unseeing, out the window. Then he sat forward in his chair.

Out on the vast canvas of endless space he had spotted a silver gleam that differed subtly from the twinkling of the countless stars.

He jabbed urgently at a button, which lit up.

At the crew station Gemma looked, saw which light was on, and sighed. Still, she was a professional, so she put on her best smile and walked down the cabin to Kirk’s seat.

“Can I help-”

“Unidentified spacecraft,” interrupted Kirk.

“I’m sure it’s just another satellite, Mr Kirk,” said Gemma.

“It’s getting nearer,” said Kirk, pointing.

Gemma looked over his head out of the window, then frowned, then looked harder. She stood back and stared at him.

“Excuse me for a second,” she said, and moved towards the front of the spacecraft with the penguin-like gait of someone who is running while trying to appear not to.

Kirk watched the object grow nearer. Then he felt a tap on his shoulder.

“The pilot asks will you join him on the flight deck,” said Gemma.

Kirk followed her up to the cockpit, where the pilot and co-pilot sat gazing in frozen astonishment at the ever growing shape. The pilot turned to him.

“We don’t know what to do,” he said.

Kirk smiled grimly. “Open a channel,” he said.

The co-pilot flicked a switch and handed Kirk a microphone. He turned it on.

“This is James T Kirk,” he said, “of the Starship -” he hesitated.

“We’re called the Lulabelle,” whispered the pilot.

Kirk closed his eyes. “Of the Starship Lulabelle,” he went on. “Identify yourselves.”

There was silence.

“Maybe it’s nothing,” said the co-pilot. “Maybe it’s just a comet, and -”

“We are the Borg,” said a metallic, monotone voice. “You will be assimilated.”

Kirk looked up in shock. Sure enough, the object was now close enough for him to tell that it was cube-shaped.

“Red alert!” he shouted. “Arm phasers!”

“Arm what?” said the pilot.

Kirk turned off his microphone. “Have you no phasers?” he asked.

“No,” said the pilot.

“Photon torpedoes?” said Kirk. The pilot shook his head.

“We’re a tourist ship,” said Gemma. “We don’t have weapons. We do have a range of duty-free products, if you’d like to spray perfume at them.”

“Resistance is futile,” said the Borg voice.

“This is ridiculous,” said Kirk. “What were you planning to do if you met aliens – play the Close Encounters notes at -” he paused. “Hang on,” he said. “I have an idea.”

He flicked back on the mike, took a deep breath, and began to sing Bohemian Rhapsody.

As the flight deck, the spacecraft, seemingly the whole of space filled with the undulating, eerie sound, the cube stopped.

Kirk sang on. The cube slowly began to move away.

Kirk reached the “I see a little silouetto” part. The cube sped up, rapidly becoming a tiny white dot, then vanishing.

The pilot and co-pilot started to clap. Kirk turned to Gemma was gratified to see her staring open-mouthed at him. About time, he thought.

“What the hell was that?” she asked.

Kirk face fell, but just for a second, then he smiled. “It’s Queen, Gem,” he said, “though not as you know it.”










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