Saturday, August 18, 2012

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

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful and bittersweet story.

    And it's always so great to hear that they have had fun, these actors, and still have fun, and enough sense of humor to come to these conventions and not be all stuck up like they could be.

    More, more!