Wednesday, August 22, 2012

“Set A Course For Home.”

When “Star Trek: Voyager” came on television, I watched the first couple of seasons eagerly. But then we moved from Seattle to St. Louis, and somehow in the shuffle I never went back to it. And I never watched “Star Trek: Enterprise” when it aired for four years, either.

But I caught up with “Voyager,” and I’m catching up with “Enterprise.” Shane, Jack, and I watched all seven seasons of “Voyager” on DVD last spring. We all really enjoyed it - with the exception of Shane’s relationship with Tuvok, who he thought was the worst tactical and security officer he had ever seen. We started watching “Enterprise” before we went to the convention, and we’re enjoying it as well.  Long live Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future.

Robert Picardo, the holographic doctor from “Voyager,” came onstage Thursday evening and set the entertainment bar far too high for anyone else to reach for the rest of the weekend. He was very much like the Doctor, by the end of Season 7 - articulate, clever and funny. He answered some audience questions, but turned them into interesting stories and anecdotes. He talked about himself and his career in a very engaging manner. He sang - yes, the Doctor really can sing, if not quite as operatically as he did in a few episodes of “Voyager.” He talked about that - how he had suggested to the writers that it might be fun to show the Doctor listening to opera in the infirmary - an interestingly emotion-laden hobby for a holograph. And the next thing he knew, he was handed a script where he was expected to sing opera. Not what he had intended, at all, but it turned out well in the end.

Robert Picardo wound up his presentation by reciting an excellent poem he had written himself, from the perspectives of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  I was very impressed. What a smart and well-rounded entertainer.

There was a Voyager cast panel onstage on Saturday. If the Next Generation cast had been wild and funny, the Voyager cast was even more so. The panel consisted of Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway), Robert Beltran (Chakotay), Roxanne Dawson (B’Elanna Torres), Tim Russ (Tuvok), Robert Duncan McNeill (Tom Paris), and Garrett Wang (Harry Kim). They all seemed to enjoy each other’s company tremendously. 

When it came time for questions and answers from the audience, the first question was “Excuse me, but wasn’t there a bald man on your show?” It was Robert Picardo! He came up onstage and joined the cast for the rest of the presentation. 

Kate Mulgrew appeared as part of the Four Captains presentation on Sunday. She was energetic, cheerful, and very kind to everyone who asked questions (as well as to Avery Brooks, as mentioned in an earlier blog entry). She said many things of a motivational nature, the most memorable of which was “If you aren’t living your life, then shame on you!” She also did a hilarious impression of what an eleven-year-old girl would be like as captain of Voyager - formidable! The crowd really appreciated her. I was impressed with her, too.

After the Avery Brooks concert chronicled in my previous blog entry, a midnight ‘dessert party’ was held across the hall from the main theater. Tim Russ and his band performed for an hour or so at that event. They were terrific! They were so good, in fact, that I looked up Tim Russ on my phone and discovered that he was a musician first and an actor second. He played guitar and sang, with a backup band. They played rock music. It really made me want to get up and dance - they should have performed where there was a dance floor, some people were dancing by their tables. They got a long ovation when they finished, and many people, including Jack, bought copies of the CD they had with them. We stopped by to tell Tim how much we had enjoyed the concert. He was a bit out of breath from performing, excited and happy and talkative. It was a lot of fun.

On Friday’s main stage, Garrett Wang (Harry Kim) performed a play with Dominic Keating and Connor Trinneer -- Malcolm and Trip from “Enterprise.” The name of the play was “Art,” and it was written in 1994 by by French playwright Yasmina Reza. It tells the story of three friends in Paris whose friendship is threatened when one of them buys a very expensive painting that is nothing but a white canvas with a few grey lines on it. It is described as a comedy, and it had a lot of funny moments, but it was dramatic and thoughtful, too. It had nothing to do with Star Trek, science fiction, or any other theme related to the convention (like the Shakespeare presentation).  But we all really enjoyed it, and the three actors did an excellent job with it. 

Connor and Dominic appeared onstage together another time, to talk about their roles in “Enterprise” and answer questions from the audience. They were very funny and clearly good friends. Connor, who has no southern accent whatsoever, was asked about the southern accent of his character, Trip. He said that when he was hired to play Trip, he had recently performed in a play where he had adopted an Oklahoma accent, so he kept that same accent for Trip. Then one day, well into the series, he was handed a script that mentioned that Trip was from Clearwater, Florida. He went to the writers and argued that Trip couldn’t be from Florida, he had an Oklahoma accent. They said it wouldn’t matter, no one would notice; he argued that it certainly would matter to viewers from Oklahoma and Florida! But nothing was changed. He added that some years later, he met a family of fans who actually hailed from Clearwater, Florida, and they complimented him on how well he did their accent. Go figure.

Scott Bakula appeared on Sunday, as part of the Four Captains On Stage. He opened by jumping off the stage and running down an aisle to the back of the huge theater, shouting “hey! I’m at the back!,” and running up another aisle, back onto the stage. It was quite funny, and certainly got everyone’s attention. He then immediately started to take questions. The first one was from a little boy who started out, “My mom is kind of too shy to come up and ask you this -” which got lots of laughs and a round of applause from the audience. The question was, the mother had seen him perform in a musical (I can’t remember which one, something set in the west), and would he sing something from it? Instantly Scott burst into song, though he only made it through a few lines before stopping and saying “never sing right after running all the way around the theater.” 

It was the end of the Star Trek convention. Shane had signed up for an autograph with Scott. So had hundreds of other people. Shane had to stand in line so long that Paul, Jack, and I had to leave him there so we didn’t miss our next event (The Blue Man Group, at the Venetian, which Shane had seen before). When we met up again later that evening, Shane told us that by the time he got close enough to see Scott signing autographs, he saw that Scott was just signing them as fast as they were handed to him, not even looking up at the people in front of him. When Shane reached him, while Scott was signing a picture, Shane said “So, are you still a Cardinals fan?”
Scott instantly looked up. “Oh yes. BIG time.”
I hadn’t even been aware that Scott was from St. Louis. Well done, Shane!

And that is all I have to say about the Star Trek convention. 

Live long, and prosper.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

All Right Niners, Let's Hear Some Chatter!

A few seasons into “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” a miracle happened. After two decades of Star Trek draught, suddenly a second series appeared on television, running concurrently with TNG. For me, Deep Space Nine is the jewel in the crown of Star Trek. I love every part of that space station, from Quark’s to Vic Fontaine’s.  I love all the main characters, and all the amazing supporting characters. The seasons that chronicled the Dominion War are a masterpiece of edge-of-your-seat storytelling. And while I told George Takei that Sulu was my captain, I lied; my Captain is and will always be Benjamin Sisko.

We had some wonderful encounters with Deep Space Nine actors at the Star Trek convention.

Two actors who obviously became and remain good friends were Casey Biggs (Damar) and Jeffrey Combs (Brunt, and Weyoun). The two appeared as part of a three-person panel in the secondary auditorium, and then again on the main stage together, and a third time with Armin Shimmerman (Quark) on the main stage doing a Shakespeare presentation. I really enjoyed that. All three actors delivered some of their favorite soliloquies from Shakespeare plays; the balcony scene from “Romeo and Juliet” was acted out by Casey Biggs (Romeo) and Jeffrey Combs as Juliet, in costume; very funny, but it was also pointed out to the audience that in Shakespeare’s day all parts were played by men. The three actors ended with a very clever, rapid-fire list of many of the expressions we use every day that originated in Shakespeare plays. Smart and great fun.

Armin Shimmerman (Quark), Jeffrey Combs (Brunt/Weyoun), and Casey Biggs (Damar) do Shakespeare

Andrew Robinson (Garek) appeared only as part of a large group of ‘minor characters’ on the main stage, each of whom spoke a bit about their role in the Star Trek universe and then took questions from the audience. With perhaps two exceptions, every question was for Andrew Robinson. He really should have appeared onstage by himself; I think the convention organizers underestimated his character’s popularity with the fans. Garek was such a complicated and fascinating character. 
I remember that Andrew Robinson said he quit acting for awhile, after appearing on two episodes of “The A-Team!” Not the best experience, I guess. Pity the fool.

Friday morning we were walking through the vendors’ hall and came to a long table where Chase Masterson (Leeta), Max Grodenchik (Rom), Aron Eisenberg (Nog), and Armin Shimmerman (Quark) were signing autographs. They were there off and on throughout the rest of the convention. We had the chance to talk to each one of them. Shane, Jack, and I also took this opportunity to start collecting the signatures of Niners team players. In a DS9 episode called “Take Me Out to the Holosuite,” Captain Sisko organizes some of the crew of DS9 into a baseball team, in order to play a rival team of Vulcans. I had ordered Niners baseball caps for Shane, Jack, and myself for Christmas last year, and we had brought them to the convention with us to see how many cast members who played on the Niners we could get to autograph them. When Chase Masterson autographed Shane’s cap, he asked her to ‘add a little kiss’ to it. He meant for her to draw an ‘x’ beside her name. Instead, she kissed the cap! From that point on it was easy to tell which one was Shane’s - his had a lipstick kiss on it.

Max Grodenchik became fascinated with the mechanics of getting a good signature onto the caps. He signed mine first, with it sitting on the table, but was not happy with that, so he had Shane and Jack wear their caps and kneel down so he could sign them while they were on their heads. It was so funny - it seemed like something Rom might have done! Max was soft-spoken and nice. Armin Shimmerman was also very nice, signing our caps and making conversation. He talked to me long enough that I walked away at the end only to realize that I had forgotten to pay the autograph fee so I went back. I handed him the money and said “sorry, I forgot to pay,” and he said “And I forgot to ask you to ... shows what kind of Ferengi I am!”

Max Grodenchik signs Shane's Niners cap

Aron Eisenberg was really lovely. He asked all of our names, shook hands, signed our caps, apologized for asking a fee for the autographs and explained that he was required to do so by the convention (he asked less than anyone else), and offered each of us a postcard with a beautiful photograph of a tree and fence that he had taken himself, also autographed, at no charge. Later Shane and I had a photo taken with the three “Ferengis,” and as we walked up to them, Aron greeted me by name. On Sunday I went by his table again and he said “Hi, Dixie!” as I passed by. Very impressive - he must have met thousands of fans that weekend.

Max Grodenchik (Rom), Shane, Dixie, Armin Shimmerman (Quark), and Aron Eisenberg (Nog)

Max, Armin, and Aron appeared onstage together to tell stories about acting in “Deep Space Nine” and to answer questions from the audience. It was really nice to see how much they obviously enjoyed each other’s company.

Shane had a photo op with Colm Meany (Chief O’Brien). He reported that there was a huge line; I wasn’t surprised, as Colm has had an impressive film career as well as being on both Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. Shane, Jack, and I also got his autograph for our Niners caps; another huge line. As Colm was signing Shane’s cap Shane cheerfully told him “You’re almost done!” (meaning the long line, which disappeared out of Colm’s sight). Colm said “Really?” and Shane said, “No.” They both laughed.

On Friday night the four of us went to a party at the Voodoo Lounge, on the rooftop of the Rio. There was a buffet dinner and a bar. But there was no place to eat. The convention planners had not arranged for enough table space for everyone, so we ended up finding chairs in a corner and eating off our laps. Afterward we went upstairs and out onto the rooftop. It was about 100 degrees, even after dark, but there was a good breeze and a great view of the Las Vegas strip.

The Enterprise, in ice - with dripping nacelles

The Las Vegas strip from the rooftop

We went back inside for drinks and entertainment. Chase Masterson (Leeta) sang several standards first. She looked great and definitely got an A for enthusiasm and effort, but her singing was a C at best. But of course the room was full of Star Trek fans so it didn’t matter much. 

The headline act came on afterward: JG Hertzler and Robert O’Reilly, aka the Klingons Martok and Gowron. They were backed by a good band, played and sang a good range of rocking music, and best of all, performed with guitars made to look like bat’leths. At one point during the concert, the band played while Hertzler and O’Reilly came through the audience dancing with a few lucky women, including me, hooray! It was a very strange feeling, thinking, I’m dancing with Gowron, Chancellor of the Klingon High Council. What fun. At the end of the evening they and the band autographed the guitars and auctioned them off for the charity Wounded Warriors. Egged on by Shane and Paul, I bid on one and won it. I wondered if I would regret it the next morning, but a week later, I am still thrilled with it. Who else do I know with a bat’leth guitar?

Hertzler and O’Reilly appeared together onstage the next day. 

JG Hertzler (Martok) and Robert O'Reilly (Gowron)

Cirroc Lofton, who played young Jake Sisko, made a surprise appearance in the vendors’ hall Sunday afternoon to sign autographs. We were thrilled, since he was a Niner! I was alone when I saw him in the hall but I had all three hats with me, so I went over and got into the short line. Shane joined me just as it was my turn to talk to Cirroc. He was friendly and talkative. Shane asked him if he still sees Avery Brooks (who played his father on DS9). He said “all the time.” In fact, he told us, the reason he had rescheduled his photo op session from earlier that morning to late afternoon, was that Colm Meany had taken him and Avery out on the town the night before. “Never drink with an Irishman.”
Words of wisdom.

Cirroc Lofton (Jake) presents a poster to Avery Brooks (Captain Sisko)

Finally, Avery Brooks - Captain Sisko. The first we were going to see of him was Saturday night, at 10:30 pm, when we had tickets to a special performance he was giving. Shane wasn’t feeling well so he skipped it, but the boys and I went. The doors were supposed to open at 10 pm but there was a 40-minute delay before we were allowed to take our seats. There was a piano onstage. Avery came out, to great applause, and sat down to play the piano. What followed was increasingly disturbing. He played a long, rambling piece that I guess would be classed as jazz of some kind, but it was excruciatingly slow. As soon as it ended, he walked to the microphone and talked about how he was going to share what was in his heart with the audience. He then called a pianist onstage. That young man played a rather interesting piece (he attached clothespins inside the piano to create a very different sound). Avery then asked him to talk to us about his work, which he did, but he appeared to be rather uncertain about what Avery wanted. The rest of the hour was spent mostly with the young man playing piano while Avery either walked around onstage, often at the back where he could hardly be seen, or ‘sang’ along with the music - or appeared to talk quietly to the piano, or, twice, shouted “Don’t sing!” at the pianist. Avery played one more very slow piece himself, alternating a few bars with a few words of song - he didn’t appear to be able to play and sing at the same time. Audience members trickled, then streamed, out. Those who remained applauded politely and even gave Avery a standing ovation at the end. But the impression I got was that we were watching a man who was seriously unstable. Partway through the performance, Paul quietly showed me some Google references on his phone to the effect that Avery Brooks had been booked on a DUI in January, as well as various YouTube video titles such as “Avery Brooks has lost his mind.” Overall, the whole experience made me sad, and very worried about what is going on with Avery Brooks.

On Sunday, Avery appeared as one of the Four Captains On Stage. The other three took questions from the audience; Avery did not. He did give a brief talk to the audience, and he did answer some questions asked of all four captains by the emcee of the event. But there were other questions he did not answer, awkward silences often filled by Kate Mulgrew in what appeared to be acts of kindness. 

Jack, Shane and I had signed up for autographs with Avery Brooks so he could sign our Niners caps. There were long waits for all four captains, as you can imagine. But the other three signed over 200 autographs while Avery was still working on his first 50. He seemed to be moving in slow motion. After he signed my cap, I shook hands with him and said “please take care of yourself.” He was looking me in the eyes, shaking my hand slowly, and nodded slightly. Shane was next in line and, not having heard what I had said, also said “Take care of yourself, sir” while shaking Avery’s hand. Avery’s grip suddenly tightened; he looked Shane in the eyes and said “You too, baby.”

O Captain, my Captain. 
Please take care of yourself.

Next: Voyager and Enterprise

Where No One Has Gone Before

I remember so well sitting down to watch the first episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” full of excitement, trepidation, and hope. It was unbelievable that there were going to be new transmissions from Gene Roddenberry’s universe after so many years of radio silence. But would the new episodes be good? Would this show last?

The first episode was not great, but it was good enough. The first season was not great, but it had transcendent moments and then, early in the second season, came “Measure of a Man.” That was the first episode that gave me chills. There were to be many more. The series soared upward from that point on, becoming everything I had ever hoped a new “Star Trek” series could be and more. The main characters came alive. 

The prospect of meeting some of the actors who had created those characters filled me with pleasure.

John de Lancie played “Q,” creating a recurring guest character so singular and popular that Q popped up again in “Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager” episodes. John appeared onstage with his wife, who had a guest role in an episode of “The Next Generation.” They talked about raising two sons while living the actors’ life, answered some questions, appeared articulate and intelligent. Shane and Jack had a photo op with John, and I got his autograph later, somewhat by accident. In the vendors’ room there was a long table where most of the cast of “The Next Generation” sat for a short time each day signing autographs. I only wanted Brent Spiner’s, but I had to walk by John de Lancie on my way to Brent, and I felt uncomfortable not asking for his, too! He was somewhat brisk but nice. He asked where I was from, and the look in his eyes when I said “Saint Louis” made me laugh.

There was a reason why I wanted to talk to Brent Spiner. I signed up for his autograph because that was the only way to get a moment of his time. I rehearsed and rehearsed what I wanted to say, because it was emotional for me and, like all the women in my family, I bear the curse of teariness when things get emotional. But the moment came, I stood in front of him, he smiled, and I said “I have been waiting almost twenty years to thank you for something kind that you did.”
He said “wait!” and turned to the rest of the cast at the table and said “did you hear that? I did something kind!” We all laughed.
I said, “Twenty years ago my sister’s life was very hard. She suffered a great deal, and eventually the only joyful moments in her life came from your character, Data, on Star Trek. I was so grateful for the happy moments your character gave her, that I wrote to tell you about it and to thank you. I didn’t ask you for anything, but you sent an autographed picture to her. It said “To Gayle: All things are possible.”
She only lived about another year but she treasured that picture until the day she died. It was so kind of you to send it. Thank you.”
And of course at that point I got teary.
Brent was quiet and thoughtful. I said through my tears, “I’m so sorry! I spent the whole morning rehearsing this in my head so I wouldn’t get weepy, and here I am weepy anyway.” We laughed and he said something along the lines of ‘no, no, it’s okay’ and then “And what is your name?” I told him, he thought a moment more, and then he autographed a picture for me. 

Later I met him for a photo op. There was only a brief moment but we exchanged a few words, he was again very kind. 

When I left Brent and walked down the table to leave the autograph area, still teary, I passed Marina Sirtis, who played Counselor Troi on “The Next Generation.” I was going to walk past, but she said “Oh! Did you go to the Olympics?” I was wearing a London Olympics T-shirt, and Marina, I had read, was a London girl.
I told her no, but that I had been in London while they were happening, and that the atmosphere had been wonderful.
She said she wished she had been there, that she’s from the Tottenham area of London and misses the UK. 
She asked what my name was, and we had a nice chat, during which it dawned on me that she had initiated the conversation to help me recover from the emotional interaction with Brent Spiner. 

It’s lovely to meet people whose characters you have admired on TV, and find that they are as nice in real life as you always hoped they would be.

On Saturday, there was a “Next Generation” panel discussion in the big theater. All the main characters from the cast were there except for Sir Patrick Stewart, Captain Picard, who was not able to be at the convention. It was so much fun to hear the actors talk about the great time they had on the set of the show. They were all hilariously funny and clearly all good friends. 

Jonathan Frakes (Riker), Brent Spiner (Data), Colm Meany (O'Brien), and Gates McFadden (Dr. Crusher)

Colm Meany, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis (Troi), Levar Burton (Geordi), and Michael Dorn (Worf)

The Next Generation cast

Next ... Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Friday, August 17, 2012

Scotty...Beam Me Up.


I have a very early memory of “Star Trek” when it first aired in the mid-1960’s. I would have been seven or eight years old. It’s a hazy memory of watching a terrifying red cloud menace Captain Kirk on a planet’s surface. Many years later, when the episodes came on TV in syndication, I watched for that scene for years, to the point where I wondered if I had imagined it. But finally an episode called “Obsession” came on, and there it was. I think the channel I was watching had only had the rights to Seasons 1 and 3 for awhile, because this was one of many Season 2 episodes I hadn’t seen. I didn’t find it quite as terrifying as an adult, but I could see how it had been scary to younger me.

I loved the original series for a long time. Almost 50 years later (can that be possible?!), many of the episodes look cheesy and corny. The overacting is laughable, even iconic now, for Shatner’s part. The stories are sometimes goofy. And yet, and yet. This was an amazing, groundbreaking show for its time. Gene Roddenberry had the awesome idea of addressing social issues that could not yet be openly spoken about through science fiction stories. Quite a few of the stories still move me. Others make me laugh, sometimes because they meant to. Although the later “Treks” have far surpassed the first in almost every way, original Star Trek will always have a place in my heart.

Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura, was the first original series star to take the stage at the convention. She is still a petite, slender lady, but she is clearly aging. Her hair is grey, and her memory had to be jogged frequently by her interviewer. She told a few stories and talked about her charitable work. (I was impressed by how many of the actors are involved with, and promoted, a wide range of charitable organizations.)

Paul cracked the whip and made me get up early Friday morning to see Grace Lee Whitney onstage. Grace played the sexy, checkerboard-haired Yeoman Rand in the first season of the original series. Captain Kirk’s onboard love interest. That character vanished after the first season, for reasons undisclosed at the time. Rumors swirled, and it was interesting to hear the story from Grace herself. According to her, she was sexually assaulted by an unnamed man related to the show, and found herself without a job the next day. The humiliation and financial loss caused her to spiral into years of drug and alcohol addiction. She proudly announced onstage that she has now been clean and sober for 31 years. Grace is 82, the oldest living member of the original series cast - she has six months on William Shatner. Like Shatner, she certainly doesn’t look her age. 

George Takei and Walter Koenig (Sulu and Chekhov) came onstage together. They are clearly old friends, and it was a pleasure hearing them talk and joke together. Walter is currently writing a series of graphic novels, available for pre-order on George will soon appear in a play near to his heart, “Allegiance,” about Japanese-Americans in internment camps during WWII. George spent time in such a camp himself as a child. 

I have followed George on Facebook for quite a long time now. He is a smart, funny man. I was excited to have the opportunity to get my picture taken with him. When I walked in for the photo op I was wearing a T-shirt that said “Who’s Your Captain?” George saw it and said “So who IS your captain?” I said “You, of course!” (Sulu became a Captain in one of the Star Trek feature films.) He laughed, and, as you can see, pointed at the question on my shirt in our photo. 
Jack got George’s autograph, and he reported the following conversation:
George: Are you enjoying the convention?
Jack: Yes. It’s my first one.
George: Oh myyyyyy!
George: Where are you from?
Jack: St. Louis.
George: Well then, you’ve been on quite a trek yourself!

William Shatner, Captain Kirk, came onstage on the last day of the convention as part of  “The Four Captains Live On Stage!” He talked a little bit, answered a few questions, then took part in the four captains’ panel. It’s clear that the love of his life is his horses. 

I had signed up for an autograph with William Shatner for one reason: because Paul had given me, some time ago, a little book called “Captain Kirk’s Guide to Women,” and we all thought it would be great to get William Shatner to sign it. So I stood in a very long line (Shane stood in it for me for awhile) and got that (quite illegible) signature. I was told that Shatner signed 800 autographs in one hour’s time. That breaks down to one every four seconds, I believe. So there was no conversation. He signed, I said “thanks,” he smiled. That’s ok. He’s not my Captain.

To be continued ... coming up, The Next Generation.

Star Trekking, Across the Universe

On August 9-12, I attended a Star Trek convention in Las Vegas with Shane, Paul, and Jack. I had been to two Star Trek conventions before, years ago, but they were one-day affairs with a couple of celebrity speakers. This was a four-day convention boasting over 70 celebrity guests, with an expected attendance of at least 3000 people. It was an amazing experience, especially for a lifelong Star Trek fan. (I have to say that Shane, new to Star Trek in the last year or two, found it equally amazing - maybe not in the same way, however...)

I have a lot of pictures and highlights to share, more than a reasonable amount for one blog entry. So this is going to be an overview of the entire convention, suitable for both Trekkies and casual observers. The entries that follow will focus on specific celebrity guests and our experiences related to them (when there are any). I will assume that anyone who reads beyond this first entry has some familiarity with Star Trek actors and characters (or doesn’t care), so no explanations of who these people are will be forthcoming. If you don’t know your Star Trek characters, well ... get thee to thy television! Or to Memory Alpha, the Star Trek Wikipedia.

The convention was held at the Rio Hotel and Casino. As many of you know, Las Vegas casino hotels are pretty surreal environments at the best of times. When you add in a Star Trek convention on the premises, you can only imagine the unreality level. I have to say one of my favorite things about the weekend was seeing people in Star Trek uniforms going about their daily business in the casino; sitting at the bar or at slot machines, having their shoes shined, lining up for drinks at Starbucks, etc. If only life could be this way everywhere, all the time.

We checked in and got our badges and conference guides on Wednesday evening, after which we were allowed an early look into the massive vendors’ hall. This room was one of the focal points of the convention, filled with booths hawking every imaginable type of Star Trek merchandise, as well as fine art booths selling autographed photos (of a wide variety of celebrities, not just from Star Trek), and lots of meet-and-greet autograph booths. Some of these were manned the entire weekend, usually by non-Star Trek celebrities who had starred in other science fiction TV shows or movies (such as Richard Hatch from the original “Battlestar Galactica”), or by minor Star Trek ‘celebrities’ who had often played one or two guest parts in the original series and were now unrecognizable without the big posters of which characters they had played (especially if they played heavily costumed characters such as the Gorn from the original series episode “The Arena”). Other booths were occupied by A- or B-list Star Trek celebrities at specific times. Some were there most of the weekend and were easily accessible, such as Chase Masterson (“Leeta”) and all three Ferengi regulars from Deep Space Nine. Others, such as the entire main cast of Next Generation minus Captain Picard, were there only a few times, and there were long lines to meet them and get autographs. Many of the A-listers, however, were never in the vendors’ hall. To get their autograph or a photo with them, one had to buy tickets and go to a particular small room at a particular time. We did a little bit of everything.

I love this picture of a fan in a Gorn costume, in line to meet the actor who played the Gorn in "Arena."

We had the pleasure of a nice conversation with Richard Kiel on Wednesday evening. He has been in a wide range of TV and movies, from playing “Jaws” in two James Bond films to “Happy Gilmore” more recently. I remembered him from his guest roles in two episodes of “ The Monkees,” as the alien visitor to earth in one of my favorite episodes of “Twilight Zone” called “To Serve Man,” and from the MST3K version of an old science fiction film wonderfully titled “Eegah.” He was delightful, as you can see in this picture.

We were in and out of the vendors’ hall all weekend. You never knew who you might see there, or what interesting new items might have gone up for sale. 

Thursday morning the convention began. Throughout the next four days there were events running nonstop from about 9am until about 6pm, sometimes later, on two different stages. On the main stage there were interviews with the biggest Star Trek celebrities, plays, panels, everything they thought most people would be interested in, because that room seated thousands. The second, smaller auditorium hosted lesser celebrities, films, auctions, quizzes, etc. 

The first major celebrity guest was Ben Vereen. I was thrilled to see him, I have been a fan of his for many years, and he has had such a varied and interesting career. He was at the convention because he guest-starred as Geordi’s father in an episode of Next Generation. There was a nice handful of multi-faceted stars like this at the convention, people who had a career beyond their work in Star Trek. I had a fun conversation in a lunch line with Richard Herd. He had a small recurring part in Voyager as Admiral Paris, but I recognized him from his much larger body of TV and movie work.

Throughout the four days of the convention we heard lots of interesting presentations, met a number of Star Trek celebrities in photo ops and autograph sessions, heard the song “Star Trekking Across the Universe” about sixty times (it’s funny - once, maybe even several times - but it was played in between sessions so many times that we all got heartily sick of hearing it). We attended several concerts given by Star Trek celebrities, saw people in jaw-dropping costumes, played Resistance is Futile Bingo (Jack and I won the last game, but tied with two other winners and lost in the run-off), and in general had a wonderful time.

If you want to see and hear more, read on.