CALGARY - When the captain of the starship Enterprise met the people of Vulcan at a sneak preview of the new Star Trek movie, he told a story about Spock.

Actor Bruce Greenwood, who plays Capt. Christopher Pike in the latest instalment in the iconic series, recalled choking up on set as hundreds of extras shot to their feet to get a glimpse of Leonard Nimoy, the original Mr. Spock.

"It was incredible," he told the town council of the southern Alberta town that shares a name with Spock's home world.

Greenwood is new to the hype that surrounds the space series, but hundreds of lucky Vulcan residents who won a lottery to get an early look at the new movie are not.

They attached their pointy ears and donned their Starfleet uniforms Wednesday as they beamed onto six buses and boldly set course for Calgary.

The sneak peek was arranged after film studio Paramount turned down Vulcan's request to hold the movie's Canadian premiere.

Instead, the studio decided on the advance screening after Nimoy declared it "illogical" to deprive Vulcan of its connection to the flick.

"The town has been just been abuzz with excitement," said Vulcan's tourism co-ordinator as residents flashed Vulcan salutes and Romulans grabbed popcorn and swapped costume tips with Klingons in spiky suits.

"I'm thrilled, I'm absolutely ecstatic to see this kind of support, especially from local residents to this Star Trek theme that we're so passionate about."

Fans waited anxiously for the screening to begin.

Jaymz Smith, clad in a scarlet captain's uniform he wears every chance he gets, said the movie signals new beginnings.

"It means a brand new chapter in Star Trek history, a reboot for the franchise and possibly, I'm hoping, really, really hoping, a new level of popularity and a whole new generation who will come to enjoy what I enjoy."

Several town residents admitted they weren't huge fans, but said they were so caught up in the excitement around the film they were willing to give it a try.

Doreen Orr and Ruth Richardson made it through 73 years without seeing a Star Trek movie, but they dutifully donned their Spock ears and blue science-officer uniforms before boarding the bus.

"We had a hard time with our ears," laughed Orr. "The wind blew one off once."

Asked if they're Star Trek fans, Richardson said: "We're going to be.

"We just couldn't miss out on the fun," added Orr. "People were jealous because we got to come.

There were even a few non-Vulcan visitors - Amanda Anderson, 21, of Vancouver Island, won a Facebook competition to attend the screening.

She admitted many people her age aren't huge fans of the original TV show and its spinoffs.

But she predicted the new big-budget action movie will create a whole new generation of followers.

"I think it's exciting," she said. "There aren't a lot of us, but we're out there."

On the red carpet, Greenwood appeared genuinely excited by the hubbub, stopping to chat with fans and admire costumes."

"I'm thrilled," he said. "This is my first deal with everybody dressed up, everybody's so enthusiastic."

The hard-core Trekkers were just as ecstatic to see Greenwood.

Clydine Greniel, who said she's watched the show with three generations of her family, asked the actor to sign a picture of himself in uniform that ran recently on the front page of the Vulcan Advocate, the home-town newspaper.

"He's very, very pleasant, very, very nice," gushed Greniel. "Wait till I tell my grandson."

As for Greenwood's fan status, he admitted he didn't really know the show before he signed on to play Pike, but once he started to watch, he was captivated.

"I didn't really understand the classical themes and the allegories to contemporary culture and contemporary issues that were there," he said.

While the eleventh Star Trek film can be seen in some theatres worldwide on Thursday, it officially opens in North America on Friday.

The story focuses on the early years of Kirk and Spock, and Nimoy has a small part in the picture.

Erin Melcher, the town's information services co-ordinator, said Nimoy has forever earned the gratitude of Vulcan's leaders for going to bat for the townspeople.

"We credit a lot of what came out of it to Leonard and his support of Vulcan. We were thrilled," said Melcher.

"He is our native son."

The community started capitalizing on its famous name 16 years ago when it held its first Vul-con convention. Two years later, it unveiled its own Star Ship FX6-1995-A. A plaque greets visitors in English, Vulcan and Klingon.

Another sign welcomes travellers with the Vulcan motto: "Live Long and Prosper." There's also a space-themed visitors centre and, in an odd combination of prairie tradition and outer space zeal, the town holds the Spock Days Rodeo each year.

Employees in the local bank and hardward store sport the uniforms year round.

Tourism officials say Vulcan drew 16,693 visitors last year.

Melcher said uniforms, patterned after those on the original show, have been the biggest-selling item at the visitors centre in the last six days.

"They come in the captain's gold, the science officer's blue or the 'expendable red shirt,' " she explained, adding a bit of trivia only a Trekker could love: "You know, the red shirts always get killed off first."

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