The Star Trek 50th Anniversary Celebration continues in Las Vegas with Day 2 (Thursday)! On today’s menu were
- panel sessions featuring prominent guest stars from various Star Trek television incarnations over the years
- Michael and Denise Okuda, who were promoting a soon-to-be-released massive update of the Star Trek Encyclopedia
- Whoopi Goldberg, undeniably the highlight of the day!
The festive spirit was even more palpable today than yesterday, with participants continuing to arrive, bringing with them an increasing number and complexity of costumes, and musical acts such as The Roddenberries treating fans to impromptu gigs in the corridors! Not to mention the copiuous amounts of Romulan ale flowing at most times of day from Quark’s Bar….
Below, I’ll fill you in on what went on during the panel sessions and on some generally interesting things I spotted during the convention.
Day 2 Round-up
The concentration of costumes is increasing with each day as we approach Saturday’s Costume Parade. While I saw many notable ones on Day 2, the one that struck me the most was a fan done up as the injured Christopher Pike from TOS “The Menagerie”. Not only were his facial wounds a perfect match for those on Pike, the individual was confined inside a 23rd-Century wheelchair exactly like that seen in “The Menagerie”! The wheelchair was mobile and he was accompanied through the convention halls by a Talosian in equally perfect costume.
If these guys don’t win the costume contest on Saturday, there’s no justice in the galaxy!
Subspace Transmissions : the influence of film on Star Trek
One of the earliest events today was Subspace Transmissions, a discussion about the influence of various films and directors on the Star Trek canon. Some notable points:
- Both Forbidden Planet and Robinson Crusoe on Mars informed the feel and look of TOS; Roddenberry had asked show personnel to examine stills of Forbidden Planet during pre-production
- At least three episodes of Star Trek were influenced by Hell in the Pacific (can you think of some?)
- TNG “The Mind’s Eye”, which has Geordi brainwashed by Romulans to kill a Klingon official, was made with The Manchurian Candidate in mind
- As I always suspected, David Cronenberg’s The Fly was a very direct influence on Voyager “Threshold”
Ferengis in Nevada: Max Grodenchik (Rom, DS9) and Aron Eisenberg (Nog, DS9)
We were treated this morning to Rom and Nog, two fan-pleasing Ferengis in full costume! They started their session with some stand-up comedy, focusing on the current US election from a Ferengi point of view. They noted that the Grand Nagus could feasibly endorse Donald Trump, as the candidate has some Ferengi-like qualities:
EISENBERG: He believes he is a successful businessman.
Grodenchik also revealed how the Rom-Leeta romance subplot developed in DS9. He recounted how showrunner Ira Steven Behr took him aside one day and said that, despite the evolving Bashir-Leeta romance, Leeta would be “given to him”. When asked why the sudden change, Behr told him:
“Bashir’s handsome and the female audience seem to be interested in him. So we want to keep him available.”
Eisenberg recalled how the news that his character would seek admission to Starfleet Academy had worried him initially, as he feared Nog would become the Wesley Crusher of DS9.
Grodenchik earned raucous applause from the audience by singing a perfect rendition of the “Slug-o-Cola” jingle.
Finally, Eisenberg broke into tears as he thanked fans for support during his recent health crises and organ transplant.
Without a doubt, Whoopi Goldberg’s first appearance at a Star Trek convention was the high point of the day. She began by explaining how she admired Star Trek and Gene Roddenberry for including a strong, intelligent black character living in a future time. She told the audience that Gene Roddenberry did not know that Uhura was the first such character in science fiction (at least in televised sci-fi) until Goldberg had told him.
She also reminisced about how she had asked her friend Levar Burton during TNG Season 1 if producers might consider her for a role on the new show. She heard nothing after six months, and so pressed Levar again, who told her:
“I told them Whoopi Goldberg wants to be on Star Trek, but they didn’t believe me!”
Other interesting tidbits from Whoopi’s session:
- She revealed that Roddenberry named her character after Texas Guinan, a flamboyant New York restauranteur
- Whoopi was nicknamed “shuttlehead” by her co-stars, due to her elaborate headpieces
- She said that the greatest thing Roddenberry did for her was create a character who could “be anywhere at any time”…including in the new television series, if the producers were so generous (the host encouraged fans to use hashtag #BringGuinanBack)
- When asked about her relationship to Q, she said:
She and Q probably dated two or three millennia ago. They might even have a child, but I don’t know about that.
- She said the “biggest secret” of Guinan according to Roddenberry himself is that she might be the “great great great great great great…grandparent” of some of the TNG characters; she personally felt this could refer to Picard
At the end of the session, a surprise visit to the stage was made by James Darren (Vic Fontaine, DS9) who embraced Whoopi before she received a well-deserved standing ovation!
Panel Session: Recurring TNG-era Guest Stars!
We also heard from recurring guest stars Martha Hackett (Seska, Voyager), Hana Hatae (Molly O’Brien, TNG / DS9), Melanie Smith (Ziyal, DS9), and Natalia Nogulich (Admiral Nacheyev, TNG / DS9).
One very interesting revelation straight from actress Melanie Smith is that she herself asked for Ziyal to be killed off! She explained that the DS9 producers were keen to kill off a character. When she heard this, she expressly asked that it be Ziyal. She felt it would make for “good drama” because Ziyal was innocent and had endured a hard life and so in a sense was the most deserving to live. But she said that, even more than this, she hated the makeup and could not continue much longer in it….
- Hackett said she had originally auditioned for the role of Jadzia Dax in DS9, but we know how that turned out
- Hatae said that she was actually traumatized for a time by the Rumpelstiltskin character in “If Wishes Were Horses”, believing the costumed actor would steal her from her (real) family
- When asked what else she had hoped would happen for her character, Nogulich responded with, “An affair with Picard! C’mon, where did you think that the tea and canapés were heading??”
Michael and Denise Okuda Announce Two-Volume Encyclopedia
Michael (production designer, TNG-era) and Denise Okuka (computer, scenic, and video supervisor, TNG-era) showed us beautiful stills from the upcoming two-volume update of the Star Trek Encyclopedia. The new edition includes a complete accounting of Enterprise and the new films.
It was also announced that the new timeline will be referred to unambiguously in official materials as the Kelvin timeline. Take heed, SFF:SE question taggers!
- Legendary comic book artist John Byrne was supposed to attend a panel session on Star Trek comic books, but he unfortunately couldn’t make it.
- There was a discussion session about the
rebootKelvin-timeline films, but none of producers, writers, or actors for that timeline were present. Karl Urban was the only “new Trek” actor who was due to attend the convention, but he had to cancel because of his filming commitments. All things considered, the convention is decidedly Prime timeline.
Exhibits and Promenade
One of the nice exhibits at the convention is Cakes of Star Trek, featuring entries by professional bakers. My personal favourite is a life-like cake rendition of the TOS salt monster!
Another awesome exhibit is 50 Years, 50 Artists, featuring drawings, paintings, and sculptures related to the Trek world.
After a long day, I’m kicking back in the Promenade listening to the evening entertainment. To my right, The Roddenberries are belting out the tunes with a guest vocalist dressed up as the fascist Q judge from “Encounter at Farpoint”. J.G. Hertzler (Martok, DS9) is in the crowd near the stage. He’s in costume from the neck up, wearing a full tuxedo and…sandals. He just spit half his drink out onto the floor. (It might be Romulan ale and it might be a statement.) Now the band is playing “You Didn’t Need to Save the Enterprise Today” (with footage of Spock’s funeral from STII in the background). It’s a rather sombre, slow-paced song. Martok’s not so impressed. Now he’s on the other side of the Promenade leading some energetic Klingon karaoke with Bob O’Reilly (Gowron, TNG / DS9). A fan dressed up as Data is singing “Mr. Roboto”. Martok’s playing air guitar on a feather duster.
Now Connor Trinneer and Dominic Keating (Trip Tucker and Malcolm Reed, Enterprise) have stormed the stage, beers in hand, and are helping the audience to belt out the tunes.
I think it’s going to be a long night….