I’ve just finished the third day of my 5-day mission to bring you the best of the Star Trek 50th Anniversary celebration in Las Vegas!
Things are really heating up here! The festivities started early today with the Starfleet Academy Cheerleaders who gave us a pep rally as the crowds shuffled in for the morning programme. The Leonard Nimoy Theatre in the convention centre was bursting at the seams as attendees with weekend-only passes began to show up. At the high point, more than 5000 fans were packed into the theatre!
And today’s programme was nothing short of stellar, including:
- An announcement of a project that will release long-hidden missing footage and audio from The Original Series
- A deeply personal session with George Takei
- A rare convention appearance by Kirstie Alley
- A bunch of stars from TNG and Voyager with some hilarious interviews!
- An announcement of a forthcoming DS9 documentary with a plot for Season 8, Episode 1!
Day 3 Round-up
My favourite costumes today were:
- A pair done up as the Borg Queen (complete with tubes in her occipital and parietal lobes and flashing LEDs embedded in her chest and abdomen) and the human skin-job Data from First Contact
- A fan costumed as Armus from TNG “Skin of Evil” (the black slime creature who killed Tasha Yar) — I’m not sure how this fan was able to breathe with the full-body shiny black plastic encasing him and so he gets extra kudos!
- An assimilated Darth Vader and Doctor (sonic screwdriver in hand) were regenerating in the Borg regeneration alcoves!
The Roddenberry Vault: Never Before Seen Footage from The Original Series!
We started off the day with a special treat: an announcement of a soon-to-be-released collection of unseen video and audio from The Original Series. Michael and Denise Okuda (production designers, TNG-era) made the announcement together with Gene Roddenberry’s son, Rod Roddenberry. The project is called The Roddenberry Vault.
They explained how Rod had brought Michael and Denise in about ten years ago to reveal to them that Gene and Majel Barrett-Roddenberry had kept a storage vault (which changed locations in the Los Angeles area several times) with hundreds of film cans of dailies that had been saved from the TOS years — basically anything that had been on camera that hadn’t made it into the final episodes. Initially, Michael and Denise had signed a non-disclosure agreement while they figured out what to do with this discovery.
Apparently, it took three years just to watch all of the disorganized footage. Odis McKinney, a former NFL cornerback who is now a film editor, helped out by matching video reels with audio!
Some of the missing footage and audio represent scenes that have only been alluded to in the James Blish novelizations.
After years of work, The Roddenberry Vault is to be made available later this year.
- An extended scene in “City in the Edge of Forever” which has new dialogue between Kirk and Edith Keeler where she uses the word “forever” (the complete line was not revealed)
- New dialogue with Spock at the end of “Who Mourns for Adonais?” which confirms Lt. Palamas’ pregnancy by Apollo (something that hasn’t appeared in canon outside of the James Blish novelization)
- Two brief but new scenes in “Space Seed”!
Most of the new footage consists of behind-the-scenes footage that shows how the actors developed their characters on set. It’s an exciting year for Star Trek fans!
George Takei on lost co-stars, Sulu in Beyond, Bill Shatner’s books, and lying about fencing!
George Takei took over the stage this morning with amazing gravitas! The first thing he did was pay tribute to Gene Roddenberry, Deforest Kelley, James Doohan, Leonard Nimoy, and Anton Yelchin. About Doohan, he mentioned that James “taught him a lot about drinking”. When Takei had asked Doohan how was qualified to play a Scotsman, given that he was of Irish Canadian descent, Doohan apparently responded with:
“I’ve drank many a libation of Scotland, enough to play a man of Scotland.”
Takei also recounted his family’s hardship during his childhood, as he spent three and a half years in Japanese internment camps in Arkansas and California. He mentioned how this informed his activist side and how his tenure in Star Trek is a reflection of this.
He revealed that Leonard Nimoy himself had invented the Vulcan neck pinch because he didn’t believe that a Vulcan would punch someone under normal circumstances.
He was also asked by an audience member about his reaction to Sulu being gay in Beyond. It’s already well-known that Takei disapproves of the change: while he is happy that Star Trek is finally tackling LGBT issues, he believes that Gene Roddenberry’s original characterizations should not be altered. Takei’s suggestion to John Cho (reboot Sulu) and Justin Lin (Beyond director) was that a new character be created. He added that Cho had called him to say that, despite the concerns, they had gone ahead and written in Sulu as being gay as they couldn’t fit in a new character. Takei reacted with:
What do you mean “can’t fit in a new character”? There is a new character, that zebra-faced woman!
Takei then asked that fan what he thought about Beyond :
AUDIENCE MEMBER: It didn’t bother me. It wasn’t great. Um, it was okay.
TAKEI: That’s right.
Another fan made the mistake of asking about his rivalry with William Shatner:
TAKEI: Well, most of that was made up by Bill. Every time he needed to drum up sales of one of his so-called “books”, it would help if there was some drama, you know….
Doesn’t sound like a made-up rivalry, if you ask me….
Regarding his fencing scene in “The Naked Time”, he revealed that the director asked him how he would feel about weilding a Samurai sword, which reflected the character’s background. He countered that he would prefer a fencing sword, because of his love for Robin Hood. The director was fine with this, but asked Takei if he had fencing training. Takei insisted that he fenced competitively. In fact, he had never fenced before.
TAKEI: Actors lie, y’know.
So when he got home, he immediately arranged for some emergency fencing training.
Panel Session: Voyager stars Tim Russ (Tuvok), Ethan Phillips (Neelix), and Garrett Wang (Harry Kim)
This session was HILARIOUS. While George Takei had the audience’s full attention, these guys may have been the true highlight of the day.
Phillips reminisced on the early episodes and the difficulties of adapting to their characters. He joked about Robert Beltran (Chakotay):
PHILLIPS: He couldn’t even remember his own character’s name, let alone the lines!
Garrett Wang revealed a major farting problem on the Voyager set, exacerbated by long days of filming. He singled out Phillips for farting in enclosed spaces like shuttlecrafts. He also recalled a time when Russ had made an epic two-and-a-half minute long fart. It wouldn’t stop and Russ had even called over a mic operator to record it.
Russ lamented that he never had a chance to take part fully in a Captain Proton storyline:
RUSS: I was always stuck on the bridge saying, “Captain, there is an anomalous sensor reading….”
Wang closed the session by doing one of his famous (and accurate) Janeway impersonations!
Panel Sessions: TNG stars Levar Burton (Geordi LaForge), Gates McFadden (Beverly Crusher), Brent Spiner (Data), Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar), and John de Lancie (Q)
The first of two TNG sessions brought Burton, McFadden, and Spiner to the stage. They had great chemistry and more than satisfied fans’ expectations as the first group of TNG stars to take the stage during this convention.
McFadden mentioned the thing she hated the most about working on TNG were the alien banquets they had to attend, with strange-coloured gelatinous food that they had to pretend to eat and which often stank, especially as the filming day dragged on.
When asked about his favourite science fiction other than Star Trek, Spiner responded quickly with:
Spiner also mentioned that Seth McFarlane told him that the story for Ted 2 was based on TNG “Measure of a Man”.
Towards the ends of the session:
SPINER: We’re so happy to be part of something so much larger than us. Star Trek is the great American epic. What else has lasted 50 years? It’s part of the American fabric and it’s here to stay!
In the afternoon Crosby / de Lancie session, Crosby mentioned that she had originally auditioned for the role of Troi. The character card mentioned “Betazoid”, which meant nothing to her. When she asked the casting agent for a description of Troi, she was told:
“Well, she’s kind of like Icelandic.”
Countering the anticipation that many remember regarding the announcement of TNG back in 1987, Crosby mentioned there was also some hostility from fans who didn’t want a new Star Trek series, believing that the new crew had no right to tamper with the Star Trek legacy!
De Lancie mentioned how his work on Star Trek Timelines has improved his own knowledge of Star Trek — especially the Borg.
Both Crosby and de Lancie discussed the difficulties of resuming a character after many episodes or even seasons of absence from the show.
De Lancie also discussed the impossibilities of playing an omnipotent being:
DE LANCIE: I always played an omnipotent being with clay feet, or one too stupid to realize he was omnipotent.
Kirstie Alley granted fans a rare convention appearance! One interesting side note that came up is that her eyebrows apparently had a more human than Vulcan shape in The Wrath of Khan. She was fuzzy on the details but explained that Director Nick Meyer had noticed that she frequently raised her eyebrows into a upswept shape on her own while reading her lines. Combined with the fact that her character is supposed to be half-Romulan (a fact that was apparently mentioned to her as early as initial script readings for the film), she said that they felt fine taking liberties with her brows.
She also confirmed that she was definitely flirting with Kirk in the turbolift.
Panel Session: DS9 actors Terry Farrell (Jadzia Dax), Nana Visitor (Kira Nerys), Nicole de Boer (Ezri Dax), and showrunner Ira Steven Behr
Mostly a great session, but I did fear that having Farrell, de Boer, and Behr together on stage might have been a recipe for awkwardness…and there was some mild awkwardness by the end of the session.
Some interesting facts that came up:
- De Boer revealed that her boyfriend at the time had auditioned before her for the role of a (male) Dax successor
- Regarding Ezri’s screen time in DS9:
BEHR: It’s true, some of the other actors were not thrilled about the amount of attention Ezri was getting in that season.
- Responding to a fan question, Behr insisted he was totally oblivious to Babylon 5 while he was making DS9 and was more worried about making the show distinct from TNG and Voyager.
- Farrell said she read up on Buddhism and Taoism to gain the maturity to play a 300-year-old character.
- Behr explained that he made Ferengi-focused episodes because
We had heroes coming out of our butts!
and Ferengis were the humans of the 24th Century.
Behr himself asked a question to Farrell and Visitor, saying that after they had used up the “Old Man” and “Dax is a Trill, let’s explore her old hosts” themes, he and the other writers tried to put Dax and Kira together more. He wanted to know if that friendship was successful in the actors’ opinion. (It was a vague question, but the answer seemed to be “yes”.)
Elephants in the room could hide no longer, and the subject of Farrell’s sudden departure from DS9 crept into the discussion.
FARRELL: Can I come back like Spock??
BEHR: Oh, now she wants to come back. Pfft.
In fairness, both the question and the retort were jokey and light-hearted. But a well-meaning audience member made things awkward by asking if Farrell had helped de Boer’s transition into Dax. The obvious answer was “no” as Farrell had moved on and was already filming Becker.
DE BOER: Yeah, it would have helped me a lot.
FARRELL: But it was a bit weird because I didn’t want to die, I wanted to be a recurring character.
In happier news, Behr revealed that a DS9 documentary has been in the works for a couple years and it will include a script and/or storyline for Season 8, Episode 1 that will shed light on the fates of DS9 characters! It doesn’t sound like this will be released in the very near future, though, and we may have to wait a few years or so.
BEHR: We may not have been the “fun” set, but we had the best cast you could ever ask for.
Okay, on that note, I’m off to another round of Klingon karaoke! Last night’s was really good fun, especially when Connor Trinneer and Dominic Keating took to the stage to lead the entire auditorium in a sing-along of the Enterprise theme song!
Klingon karaoke delivers again! This time, Martok and Gowron (the former with a cardboard guitar and the latter in Hawaiian shorts) were joined by surprise guest Robert Picardo (The EMH, Voyager) who belted out “Twisting the Night Away”. Boy, can he dance!
I also bumped into the Okudas again (TNG-era production designers) at karaoke. Denise told me a funny story about how Tom Paris’ Captain Proton jet pack caught fire on set….