It’s a good — no, great — time to be a Star Trek fan. While in the past, decades have gone by between new Trek projects, current Trekkies have no such dilemma — 2020 alone saw the introduction of new shows Picard and Lower Decks in addition to the third season of Discovery. But while 2020 was filled to the brim with new Star Trek shows, there was another, more unexpected addition to the Star Trek universe that’s helped bring joy to hundreds of fans over the course of COVID-induced lockdown: The Sid City Social Club.
The brainchild of Deep Space Nine actor Alexander Siddig (Doctor Julian Bashir), the Social Club began in April 2020 as a bi-weekly meeting, a way for Siddig and his fans to connect while also staying safe at home. Fans can sign up on SidCity.net for a slot to chit-chat with the Trek actor about DS9, cooking, pets — anything that strikes their interest.
Months passed, and the club grew in popularity — what once started out as an experiment (one that Siddig himself was unsure would be successful) slowly grew into a weekly fixture in the Star Trek community, attracting so many attendees that it’s now common for the meetings to hit capacity within seconds of the Zoom link going live on the website. The Social Club’s continued success prompted Siddig to introduce a new feature to the club — readings of fan-written scripts, performed live for attendees each week.
Initially, the performances were limited to Siddig and fellow Deep Space Nine co-star Andrew Robinson (who played fan-favorite Elim Garak), but since then, just like the club itself, the performances expanded from a one-time performance to a multi-part series featuring appearances from Armin Shimmerman (Quark), Nana Visitor (Kira), Cirroc Lofton (Jake), and Terry Farrell (Jadzia). SYFY WIRE (virtually) sat down with Siddig to chat about the evolution of the Social Club, performing the fan-written DS9 play Alone Together, and his love for the character of Julian Bashir.
I can’t believe you’ve been doing this since April. Did you expect to be continuing the Social Club for almost a full year?
[Laughs] No chance! I thought maybe we'll be doing it for ... just a couple of meetings, and that we’d have to work really hard to get people to come back because they'd be, like, bored. And it just didn't work out that way. It started off as a kind of entertainment but became a sort of group hug.
Why do you think people keep coming back? Like you said, you were worried that you'd have to fight to get people to stay, but now people are crossing their fingers to get on the list to get to talk to you every week.
I think it's just because it's a really kind group of people. And we've come from everywhere with a load of different lifestyles and places where they live — different countries, continents. And it's reassuring to find that everybody's just really terrific, you know, really gentle and really that you can trust them. And that's hard to do with a group of 100 people in the room.
For you personally, what's your biggest takeaway from doing the club twice a week?
I think I've kind of become dependent on it, in a weird way. I get as much from it as some other people get from it. And I think it's broken down this barrier. I don't think I'm really a ‘celebrity’ anymore to any of those guys, you know. I mean, I am, but that's on the backburner. It's how they met me, but like any friends, you forget that really quickly, and we’re just guys hanging out, and it's really cool that it’s like that.
So the Social Club happens. It's great. People love it. It's amazing. And I'm sitting at home thinking like, wow, I'm so glad this thing happened. But then, on top of that, Alone Together happens. So not only do we get to talk with the actors every week, but we now get to see them performing. How did Alone Together develop? Where did that idea come from? Were you itching to act again?
No, not at all! At the time, I was really inspired by all those guys in Milan, Italy. Singers and musicians who just got on to their roofs and on their balconies, because they were secluded, and sang and played for free from their balconies. And people got a lot of pleasure out of that. And I thought, "Well actors can't really do that. But you know what we can do? We can do something on zoom." And my wife's childhood best friend happens to be a huge Star Trek fan, I mean encyclopedic understanding of the genre. And he said, "I'll write something." And I said, "Terrific, let's go!"
And he wrote something. And it turned out to be really, really good. And then a bunch of other people wanted to write stuff, and their stuff turned out to be really, really good. So we just did a load of different things, from several authors.
You've done so many projects — Gotham, Game of Thrones, Syriana, you’ve done all these things… What is it about Star Trek and Julian Bashir that keeps you coming back?
I think of Julian Bashir, as — there's a quote in Chaucer, in Knight's Tale — and you may or may not have read it, and it doesn't matter if you ever do. But they refer to one of the leads as a very perfect, gentle knight. And I see Bashir as a very perfect, gentle knight. He's the knight in shining armor. And when you get to know him, you find him kind of goofy, and you relax around him and you laugh. But he's the knight, you know? He's the guy who comes in and he's the cavalry. And I love that combination of really approachable hero, but faulty — faulty in a way that your friends are faulty, that you still love them, but they've got these irritating faults. And I just love the humaneness of him. He's my superhero.
How did the other Star Trek actors start getting involved in this? We've seen you do projects with Andrew Robinson before, writing plays and performing them at cons, but I feel like it's a whole different beast to have half a dozen of the original actors back.
Well, that was really me just picking up the phone and saying, "Come and watch." Andy [Robinson] and I did the first couple, and then Cirroc [Lofton] arrived. And it was just Matthew becoming more ambitious writing it. And Armin said, "I'll come," and he loved it. And once you've got Armin [Shimmerman], you get Nana [Visitor], and once you get Nana you get Terry [Farrell], and so everybody just piled in.
DS9 turns 28 this year, and fandom is still very much alive and well. There was the documentary a few years back, now the Social Club, and then you have these new plays. What do you think has kept DS9 active all these years?
The fan base. They’re a kooky bunch, but they like to be in touch with each other. This group is really nurturing, and they’re just a very approachable group. You'd be surprised just how many people who thought they were kind of lost, found us, and don't feel lost anymore — which is really encouraging. I mean, people who are kind of outsiders, people who don't consider themselves one of the pack, people who don't consider themselves the life and soul of a party — that doesn't really describe the DS9 fan. I mean, we do have our lives and souls. But they've kind of come out of a closet [Laughs]. They weren’t lives and souls before they came out. And that's been really cool. So we get a lot of gender-fluid people, you know, nonbinary folk, and neurodivergent people. I think that those bonds created by people who have trouble creating bonds, are stronger than anything. So they've lasted for decades. I see faces in the Social Club who I've seen for 30 years.
Before I let you go, we saw characters from The Next Generation and Voyager pop up in Picard. If you were asked, would you come back for Picard? Would you like to see Bashir again?
If they respected the fact that I think of Bashir as my very perfect gentleman knight, then I would happily do that. If they mess with that image I have of him, then they'd be in all kinds of trouble.
Where would you want to see them take the character? If you had full control over Bashir’s arc, where would you go?
I don't know. I love not having control. So I would be really excited to see what another writer can come up with. My ideas are invariably the worst, you can just talk to my wife [Laughs]. But when I meet other people and listen to their ideas, suddenly something starts to cook and I look forward to someone else coming up with a good idea. I have a feeling that one of these days, he'll turn up.