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Nick Tate Club

Terracon was a 1976 Star Trek convention at the Dragonara Hotel in Leeds, UK, on 9 and 10 October 1976. It was only the third Star Trek convention in the UK (the first two had been in 1974 and 1975 in Leicester). It was chaired by Dorothy ("Dot") Owens, who had become a Trek fan after her daughter, Catherine, started the fan club Empathy with Barbara Kitson. Barbara Kitson, later Edwards, was also a founding member of the Gerry Anderson fan club Fanderson. There were further Terracon conventions until 1980.

The following account of the convention is in the Nick Tate yearbook "Breakaway".

In August 1976, a very bored Carole L Abbs was sitting twiddling her thumbs in St James Hospital, Leeds, following a foot operation. Life was tedious, stuck for two seeks in a hospital bed, unable to get up and dance to the music on the radio or even turn on the TV when she wanted to - and a black and white TV at that.

On Sunday, after seeing Space: 1999 in black and white through half a dozen assorted visitors, patients and nurses, she picked up a pen and wrote a letter be Nick Tate, asking fer a signed photo because she was feeling very sorry for herself, and mentioning an impending Star Trek con in Leeds in October. She gave it be a friend to post and thought no more about it for two weeks.

By then, I was out of hospital and encased in Frankenstein feet - about two tons of plaster of Paris on each one. A letter arrived one morning and I got the shock of my life when I found it was from Nick's agent, in connection with my invitation to him to appear at the Star Trek con.

I choked over my early morning cup of tea, leapt out of bed, and tried running to the telephone. (Remember the seven league feet...) When I'd picked myself up and examined the bruises, I got through to his agent to arrange it and put her in contact with the con organisers. When it was confirmed that he actually was coming, I jumped into the air and again tried a war dance... Well, I picked myself up off the floor, counted the new bruises, and tried to wait the month or so to the con in patience.

On the Friday night before the con started, Nick was due to arrive at 10:40 p.m. and I accompanied Dot Owens, the con organiser, to the station to meet him. Robin Hill came along as well, to take a permanent photographic record of the Great Occasion.

The train was late - as usual. Hundreds of people came pouring off, and Dot started panicking "He's not here, Carole, he's missed the train." Well, she was the first to see him: "Here he is, Carole, look there!"

"Where?" said I, leaping up and down and peering every which-way.

And there he was. Instantly recognisable as he came through the ticket barrier, and a moment later, instantly blinded as Robin took photos. I pulled myself together and was all set to give Nick an impression of a cool, collected, sophisticated young lady, when he asked "Have you been waiting long?"

Quick as a flash, before I could smile and say "Oh no, not at all," Robin answered "Oh, only about five weeks!" and nervousness and apprehension vanished - from both sides - as we collapsed in laughter.

With Nick was Chris Nixon, the publicity man from Pinewood, and both were laden under various interesting packages, which included a dozen or so year two press kits, Nick's Carter costume and a print of the episode 'Journey To Where'.

We walked the very short distance back to the hotel, me carrying the precious film in my hot little hands, and Nick showed concern because I was wearing a long dress and it had been raining. This kind of concern for other people - in effect complete strangers - showed itself through the entire weekend, and is very much a part of Nick's make-up.

Back at the hotel, a crowd gathered round Nick and Chris as they registered. I was still clutching the reel of film, and suddenly decided I must have a photographic record of the event, and shrieked at Robin to take a picture. He was all set to do just that when Nick, who seemed to have a built-in radar where cameras are concerned, turned away from the reception desk and saw what was going on.

"Hey, you don't want that", he said, relieving me of the precious can while I gasped "But, but, but.." and moving in to take its place - more or less - in my hands.

So I never did get a photo of me holding Space: 1999!

We thought we'd never get Nick out of the hotel lobby! For while I was recovering from being grasped by Nick Tate, the man himself spotted Robin's giant model Eagle through the milling throng, and had to go and have a look at it. With the Eagle was my Palitoy model of Carter, which I'd dressed in Alpha pyjamas with the jacket open, and Robin had (with much grumbling) painted up complete with hairy chest! The series of incredulous facial expressions which Nick displayed on seeing it are captured on film in a series of four hilarious photos! Nick didn't seem at all surprised to discover the model belonged to me!

Finally we steered Nick and Chris towards the elevator- and up to Nick's hotel room. The reception committee went along too, and while our guests of honour had dinner, we talked about Space, the differences between the first and second seasons, and all sorts of other things. Eventually, the one or two con committee members with us left, including Dot Owens, and that left just the Terrible Three - Robin, Pat Jenkins and myself, talking to Nick and Chris. We were each given a copy of the year two press kit - which we all gasped suitably over - and Robin's Eagle was discussed and it was then that we were given the invitation to Pinewood Studios. I remember leaving the hotel room at 2:30 am, walking several inches above the floor hovercraft style!

The con had not even begun, and already Nick had endeared himself to some of his fans as being every bit the man we had imagined him to be. I could not get over how interested he was in all of us and whet we were doing - several times during that evening we said he must be tired and want to sleep, and he said "No, don't go. I'll throw you out when I'm ready." And that wasn't until 2:30 am!

The following day the con began in earnest. Nick gave a short introductory speech in the morning and told us a tale about three Trekkers who'd been looking for Dot and had been given an unexpected treat. Apparently he'd ordered breakfast - including coffee - from Room Service, and while waiting, had decided to take a shower. While in the shower be heard a knock at the door and thinking it was his breakfast arriving had called out "Come in." No one came in, but the knocking continued. At last, annoyed, he had flung a towel round himself and opened the door..., to find himself staring at three surprised - but doubtless delighted - young ladies!

"I wouldn't care", he concluded, "but they didn't even have any coffee! However, if they went to come back tomorrow, same time, with some coffee...!"

Nick's talk was not until the afternoon, and he spent the interim wandering around the con and mingling with people. He mingled very well! He was always easy to approach- on many occasions I heard fans apologising for asking him for his autograph, to which be replied - with that famous Nick Tate grin - "That's all right, it's what I'm here for."

He posed for dozens of photographs - he would always pose for photographs! - with assorted young ladies, spoke to Trek fans and Space fans alike, admired the artwork models, looked round the sales room, and was very interested in the fan publications. And so the morning passed - very quickly.

Lunchtime arrived, and Nick decided he was hungry. He was still being escorted by Robin, Pat and myself - he wouldn't let us go - and when he announced he was going to have lunch, I said again that we would leave him to it.

"No", he said firmly. "I can eat with me any time. I like you three people, come and join us."

So we did, and sat down to a never-to-be-forgotten meal with Nick and Chris. I was teased thoroughly - Nick and Robin are an incredible comedy team. Afterwards, Nick went to change into his costume for his talk, and I retired to my hotel room to recover!

Nick's talk was a tremendous success. Although announced as being from Star Trek 1999 - an unfortunate slip-of-the-tongue by our MC which produced howls of laughter - he received an ovation which, as he confessed afterwards, made him feel more like President Carter than Captain Carter! Flash bulbs popped, tape recorders ran, and in the midst of it all stood Nick, looking marvellous in that uniform with green jacket, saying helplessly "Hey... wow!"

He spoke about Space, what they had hoped to achieve, where he felt they'd succeeded, where perhaps they had failed, how he'd become involved in it, and ended with an open question and answer session which could have continued for much longer than it did, but had to be terminated to maintain the con schedule. Outside the hall, he was still available to talk to and pose for photographs.

Later, in early evening, the episode Journey To Where was shown. It was my first view of season two, and I have to admit that I'd been somewhat apprehensive, being a firm fan of year one, and resenting the numerous changes they had decided to make after listening to all the wrong people. However, I was pleasantly surprised. I liked the music, though I do still prefer the first theme and always consider it an error to change a series theme tune.

I love the costumes, they were a definite improvement. The plot could have been better, but could also have been far worse. All in all, I enjoyed it very much indeed. I think Nick did too, but halfway through he had to go and do an interview, which I also had to do, so neither of us saw it all, and he hadn't seen it before either.

The last item on the agenda for the Saturday was the fancy dress contest, followed by the shore leave disco. Nick was one of the judges for the competition, which I entered as two characters - first as Elaan of Troyius, and second as Dr Helena Russell, complete with blonde wig and giant commlock! I never did see Nick's face when I walked in, but witnesses say he nearly fell off his chair because I looked so much like her! I didn't win: one of the prizes went to a young lady who had four of what most women only have two. "But she must prove that they are all genuine!"

At the disco, Nick must have danced with nearly everyone in the room! It was more like a giant party than a disco, and everyone was looking just a little tired as it drew to a close - including Nick! Well may he look exhausted; after only just having judged numerous assorted scantily clad females, he had to view some more first thing the following day! I think the poor guy was beginning to feel like Michael Aspel judging Miss World!

Sunday began with the Intergalactic Fashion Show - lots of heavenly bodies - which ran for the morning. I think Nick was amazed at both the ingenuity and creative talent which abounded. He certainly seemed to enjoy it and the fancy dress.

Following that, he unfortunately had to leave, because he had an early call for Monday morning. But he didn't go until plenty more photos had been taken, more autographs signed, and a couple more interviews given, He had proved himself very popular, and a most successful guest. But that's Nick; he cares for his fans, he responds well to them. He is interested in what they are doing, and never too busy to stop briefly to talk. When I asked him about running a fan club, he was immediately enthusiastic, and wanted to hear all my plans for it. He readily gave me permission, and the rest of the story you all know.

When I said goodbye Sunday afternoon, it was like saying farewell to an old friend. Hard to believe that two days before I had not even met him. He was like that to many fans who kept coming back ta him for yet another photo! He never forgets, either.

... and to think that all I wanted was a signed autograph!

Addendum by Eileen Skidmore:

As everyone knows, Carole went on to form the British Nick Tate Club. She found that Nick really does care for his fans and for people who are prepared to work for him. Many others of his fans have since been able to meet him. Sadly, Space: 1999 has ceased production and Carole had to give up running the club, due to pressures of work. But the club is running as strongly as ever. At the time of writing, we have 212 members and their numbers are increasing all the time.

Eileen Skidmore

In S9Fanzine Four (September 1997), Eileen explained her how she became a fan.

I became a fan of Space: 1999 after watching the first transmission on British television of the episode, "Earthbound." I supposed if I am honest I have to confess that the only reason I originally watched Space: 1999 was because I was an admirer of the work of Christopher Lee and I knew that he was a guest star in the "Earthbound" episode. I wanted to see him in this one episode of this new series which had received so much publicity as Britain's dazzling replacement to Star Trek. I honestly didn't know what to expect from Space: 1999, I had been a Star Trek since I watched the first episode televised here in the late 1960's, the publicity stating that Space: 1999 was going to be better than Star Trek had alienated me slightly against the new series as it had a lot of Trek fans, could anything be as good? I couldn't imagine it would be! But I have never been single-minded where science fiction is concerned, I think there is plenty of room for good SF shows, so I watched "Earthbound" with an open mind. I was so impressed with everything I saw. I loved "Earthbound" and not just because an actor I liked was in it! I loved everything about Space: 1999, or what I'd seen so far, so thereafter I began to watch Space: 1999 every week, my admiration for the series growing with each episode. I enjoyed all of the characters, all of whom had their own different qualities. I soon started to care about them and their ultimate fate. I found much to admire in the storylines of the episodes, some of which I believe are classics to equal anything else in any science fiction series, though of course a few were not so good, but even the poorer episodes often have a special scene which makes them worth watching. The special effects were visually stunning. In debates about which series of Space: 1999 was best I had to say I find the first season the superior one, but that is not to say that I dislike the second with its faster moving, more humorous episodes.. .there is a lot to enjoy in the second series. But for me, the first series had greater appeal because of the way it conveyed the great mystery of outer space, it reminded us of the vastness of our universe, the wonder and awe we fell when we contemplate it's size, it's origins, it's mysticism, it's beauty and diversity. It reminded us how little humankind understands of what might be out there, and what is expected of us.

Not long after becoming a of Space: 1999 1 became more deeply involved with an extent I had not anticipated. Accompanied by Phyllis Proctor, I attended Terracon, a primarily Star Trek convention, which took place in Leeds, England in 1976. Nick Tate was the principal guest at Terracon '76. We met Nick, and were totally charmed by him, we became devoted to him on the spot! Equally charmed was our friend, Carol Abbs who was a friend of convention organizer, Dorothy Owens. Carole had been the person who had invited and arranged for Nick to attend the convention. During that weekend Carole got Nick's permission to start his official fan club. As soon as the convention was over Carole set about founding the club (then called The British Nick Tate Club) which opened with a lot of kind assistance from Nick Tate and Gerry Anderson, at the end of 1976. Not all that long after the club's foundation we volunteered to help out by running the photograph sales section. After only a few short months Carole had to give up running the club and Phyllis and myself found ourselves as Co-Presidents of it after being accepted in those positions by Nick, and we are still running what is now called The International Nick Tate Club twenty one years later! To those of you who never got around to joining our club, perhaps because you imagine that we only feature Nick and he is not perhaps your principal interest of the series, I'd like to urge you to give us a try because at least half of each of our newsletters features items on Space: 1999 in general in addition to Nick's news and the letters he so kindly writes or dictates over the phone.

I have had a marvellous time in the years since I first ventured to watch Space: 1999. Through the series I have made so man friends, some I have met personally, many of these have become dear friends. Others I only know through their interesting letters, but all have turned out to be fine people. There is a nice 'family' feeling when one communicates or meets another Space: 1999 fan, (or in my case, a Nick Tate fan), don't you agree? I have been to lots of nice conventions... even one in the United States in 1980, and of course I have been lucky enough to get to know Nick Tate well. He is a special person. I have a small but interesting Space: 1999 memorabilia collection. I do not consider myself as a serious collector, I just get things I personally like, by no means do I buy all that is available. I admire those with the dedication to do so though. To sum up; Space: 1999 has changed my life, and enriched it too. I am glad I watched it all those years ago.