Today was one of the most anticipated days of the Star Trek 50th Anniversary Celebration here in Las Vegas!
Why? CAPTAINS! We had William Shatner (Captain Kirk), Scott Bakula (Captain Archer), and Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway) — not to mention Walter Koenig (Chekov, TOS) and Jonathan Frakes (Riker), Michael Dorn (Worf), and Marina Sirtis (Troi) from TNG!
The evening entertainment was provided by the The Nevada Pops performing Star Trek The Concert, a programme of instrumental music from TOS to the reboot films and everything in between!
It was a crazy, jam-packed day and you can read about it all below! The sessions were spell-binding for the most part, although I do take issue with the Jonathan Frakes / Michael Dorn / Marina Sirtis session, which I felt was unnecessarily combative with the audience. My recap of that is also below.
The sessions with Kate Mulgrew and Scott Bakula were fantastic, and there’s even a little something for Babylon 5, Quantum Leap, and Star Wars fans below!
Day 4 Round-up
Costume Parade / Contest!
We finally made it to the Costume Parade, where hundreds of cosplaying Star Trek fans, some in incredibly elaborate costumes, marched around the convention centre in the early morning and arranged themselves for a massive photo-op in the Leonard Nimoy Theatre.
One awesome costume I spotted today was a fan dressed up in a homemade but extremely accurate white engineering suit from the TOS films. Later, I saw a group of fans dressed as a Minions version of the TOS crew!
Later in the day, the Costume Contest took place, during which Terry Farrell (Dax, DS9) was a guest judge. Here are the winning efforts:
- 4th Place: a pair of space jellyfish from TNG “Encounter at Farpoint”
- 3rd Place: a Tholian
- 2nd Place: a couple of guys with phaser rifles dressed in the spacesuits from First Contact
- 1st Place: a little more obscure, the aliens from the end of TOS “Catspaw”(Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to snap a photo of these costumes, but they were a nearly exact replica of the ones seen in the screenshot above.)
Michael Westmore Borgification Demonstration!
Make-up artist Michael Westmore, who helped define the look of TNG-era Star Trek as well as those of many Hollywood films, came out on stage to demonstrate how he turns someone into a Borg!
Westmore explained that a Borg usually takes 3 or 4 hours to do well. To expedite the process, the model had already had about two hours of make-up work done, establishing the Borg skin tone and vein work. The session focused on the Borg tubing and facial prosthetic pieces.
It was a fascinating demonstration! While a make-up artist worked on attaching the prosthetics, Westmore took us through the evolution of the Borg look across the television episodes and films.
Neat Factoids : According to Westmore, the eye pieces of some Borg would blink out the names of cast, crew, and even pets in Morse code! Also, his favourite character to work on was Lal from “The Offspring”, not only the make-up itself but also working with actor Leonard Crofoot (who played the initial, genderless Lal).
At the end, Westmore was joined by Terry Farrell (Dax, DS9) and they briefly discussed the size of her spots!
An Odd Affair: TNG Stars Jonathan Frakes (Riker), Marina Sirtis (Troi), and Michael Dorn (Worf)
So far, we’ve had panel sessions where a host puts questions to the stars before opening the floor to audience questions. We’ve also had sessions where stars haven’t had a host with them and have done their own thing before turning it over to the audience, e.g. the Klingon talk show with Hertzler (Martok) and O’Reilly (Gowron) and the Ferengi stand-up comedy with Grodenchik (Rom) and Eisenberg (Nog). This one started off with the intention of being a host-led session, but changed abruptly and it didn’t quite work.
This session began with a host on stage who was only able to ask one question of the stars: what was it like to work with Patrick Stewart?
DORN: He was a great Shakespearean actor. He was very serious about it. For about 6 months. Until we broke him. We rode him. We rode him hard, until we broke him…. After that, he was sillier than the rest of us.
While this one question was being asked and answered, Frakes was nowhere to be found. In fact, he had left the stage only 30 seconds after arriving on it. At one point, he was sitting with some fans, which admittedly was pretty cool.
He got up and moved around again, this time to go behind a curtain near the stage for photo ops with Scott Bakula who happened to be hanging out there, while Dorn and Sirtis were still sitting on stage. Then he was crouched on the floor behind a barrier that enclosed the photographers’ pit below the stage, taking his own photos of the stage. Then he was off to the extreme side of the auditorium talking to another special guest (not sure who). While he was doing this, Sirtis and Dorn abruptly turned the session over to audience questions without any further banter or lead-up with the host. Most of the initial questions were directed to Frakes, but Frakes couldn’t hear any of them as he was still circulating about the theatre, leading to awkward silences.
As Frakes rejoined the stage, a fan at the mic was trying to ask what the actor had to do to channel the crazy, Borg-plagued Riker in “Parallels”. Sirtis grabbed his sleeve and said, “Jonny, you’re being asked a question. Did you hear it?” He said, “Something about a beard and crazy. I don’t know.” She tried to re-explain the question to him and jog his memory about the episode, to which he responded, “Ugh, I hated that one” (presumably jokingly due to Worf and Troi being married in that episode) and then left the asker hanging. Sirtis apologized, “You’re not going to get an answer.”
As more questions were directed at Frakes, most of which were half-answered at best, Sirtis started getting annoyed:
SIRTIS: Why did Dornie and I even show up?
It was hard to tell if she was joking or not. When another audience member asked Riker about what it was like to work with Ronny Cox (Capt. Jellico) in “Chain of Command”, Sirtis interjected (this time clearly irate):
SIRTIS: People, here’s a tip about asking questions. If your question is about what it was like to work with so and so, what do you think we’re going to say? We’re in front of thousands of people with cameras and stuff around. If your question is about working with so and so, please just sit back down. I’m sorry to say, but that question is a waste of time.
The only question which was answered directly and completely was who they would want to play them in a J.J. Abrams reboot of TNG:
FRAKES: Wil Wheaton. (laughter)
DORN: Idris Elba.
SIRTIS: Until recently, I had been saying Mila Kunis. But ever since Katie Lowes went on Jimmy Kimmel dressed up as Troi, I’d say Katie Lowes. Just because she went and actually did it.
One interesting thing that did come up:
SIRTIS: I based Troi’s accent on an Israeli friend of mine.
Finally, Dorn confirmed that the pitched Captain Worf television series is dead now that CBS has announced Star Trek Discovery. This was the expected answer, but people like to have confirmation.
That brought to a close an odd, somewhat combative session. In fairness, most of the tension between the stars and audience was due to Frakes and Sirtis, who I felt were talking down to the audience. Dorn was laid-back and gentlemanly, interacting with the audience jovially and naturally.
After they had left the stage and were prepping for the Walter Koenig session, Sirtis came back on for a minute to plug a Hallmark television movie that she’ll be starring in.
Walter Koenig (Chekov, TOS) got a spot all to himself, arriving on stage to rapturous applause.
Koenig opened his session by discussing the number of times he thought Star Trek wasn’t going to make it:
- the original cancellation of TOS
- the critical and commercial failure of The Motion Picture — he admitted that even he was bored when he saw it for the first time…
- after Star Trek III, which didn’t generate the interest or praise that Wrath of Khan earned
- just before filming commenced on Star Trek V, when he, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, and George Takei were afraid that having Bill Shatner direct the film might push them to leave (although relations were probably smoother during the actual filming than they expected, given that they didn’t walk off the set)
He had better things to say about Captain Kirk than Shatner. Regarding Kirk’s anti-climactic death in Generations :
KOENIG: It was an abomination. A great insult.
He also answered some questions about his work in Babylon 5 :
KOENIG: I never thought Bester was a bad guy.
He also said that his favourite Bester scene is the one inside the train sitting across from Garibaldi.
Finally, he remarked upon how much he has enjoyed participating in fan-led Star Trek projects over the years, such as Star Trek: Renegades.
CAPTAIN KIRK: William Shatner!
Shatner was, well, Shatner. Entertaining, human, and inquisitive. He started off the session revealing that he knows nothing about “spacetime” but is in the process of discussing the concept with Michio Kaku and Stephen Hawking as part of a new non-fiction programme that will be produced in Canada. He also stopped the host, who used the word “remiss”, to demand the meaning of the word outside of its familiar use (“I would be remiss…”). He rambled a bit, but it was still fun to listen to. Apart from boasting about his recent equestrian championship, the man was warm and humble and genuinely entertaining.
He discussed his days as a prankster on the Star Trek sets, including the famous bike story (i.e. how Leonard Nimoy had bought a bike to beat Shatner to the cafeteria on the other side of the filming lot in the 1980s — Shatner had locked the bike to a fire hydrant, hidden it in his trailer, and had it mounted to the sound stage roof). He mentioned a story I hadn’t heard before: he would make Deforest Kelley question his faculties by stealing his bagels from the toaster before they finished toasting!
A lot was discussed, but one thing I feel like reporting is an open and conciliatory discussion by Shatner on Star Wars vs. Star Trek, in response to a fan question about the age-old rivalry:
SHATNER: I’m going to treat that seriously. First of all, Star Wars created Star Trek. How? The Star Trek I was in was on for three years. Then cancelled. Gone. The ratings went down and we were cancelled. History. About 7 years later, Star Wars, done by someone called George Lucas, explodes! Just explodes! At Paramount Studios they were running around asking, “What do we have that can equal Star Wars?” They scratched their heads and thought, “We had that, what’s it called? That Star Trek thing. Should we do a show? A TV movie? Let’s do a movie! A cinematic movie! Let’s bring in Bob Wise!” He was one of the biggest directors of the time, imagine that. Bob didn’t know anything about Star Trek, but his wife urged him to do it.
They made it but didn’t have time to edit it. It didn’t do very well. But we didn’t stop there. The wife of the head of Paramount Studios said you can’t cancel Star Trek, you have to make more movies. But it’s Star Wars that created that need to have Star Trek. It created the awareness.
Star Wars was grand. It was like opera! It was huge and marvelously entertaining, but it wasn’t about people like Star Trek was. That’s what we offered.
CAPTAIN ARCHER: Scott Bakula! (including his recent discussions with Bryan Fuller about the new TV series!!)
Scott Bakula opened his session by expressing his regret of never having met Leonard Nimoy in person. He also seemed very humbled to be invited and was in awe of Star Trek’s influence and longevity.
Bakula had a down-to-earth, laid-back presence and was very generous and natural with his question answering. I was uncertain how to “rate” the Frakes / Dorn / Sirtis session while it was happening, but seeing Bakula handle the stage was a welcome relief from the odd tension of that other session.
When asked whether his character on Quantum Leap influenced his portrayal of Archer:
BAKULA: Sam Beckett had a naivety about him, because he was a child genius…much like myself. (laughter)
He explained that Archer was more complicated and cut from a different cloth than Beckett. Archer “grew up in the program” (meaning the space probe program, in the confines of his father’s work and dreams) and was “a little messed up psychologically”.
On a question from a fan dressed as Archer’s dog Porthos concerning the acting dog who played Porthos:
BAKULA: I’m not sure how to break this to you, but “he” is a she. And her real name was Prada. And that, boys and girls, tells you everything you need to know about life.
He also admitted he doesn’t know the final fate of the acting dog.
He answered a series of questions about Quantum Leap and the lack of resolution for his character:
BAKULA: I like to think Sam is still out there, that he’s still doing good stuff. That’s how I get past it.
Another interesting revelation:
BAKULA: We did talk about doing a musical episode of Enterprise, but we never got there. We never figured it out. It would have been interesting to have that kind of episode, set in space, but it just didn’t happen.
Regarding fight scenes in Enterprise, Bakula revealed to the audience that, while filming the first fight in “Broken Bow”, he was told “captains don’t bleed”.
BAKULA: I told them I don’t think so: this captain’s going to bleed!
Finally (cue drumroll): when asked about whether he might appear as Archer in the new TV series, he had this to say:
BAKULA: Oh, absolutely! Bryan [Fuller] and I were talking about this a couple weeks ago. (audience cheering) Now, now, now, everybody calm down. It happens to be on the network I’m on right now, so that’s a good thing. But people in my business say this all the time. I’ve seen some pictures of things I can’t talk about. Some images of make-up that I can’t talk about it. BUT IT’S AWESOME. I’d love to be on it, if asked. I can be on it, that’s all I can say!
This is closest thing to a new detail about the TV series that has been uttered during the convention so far, but I’ll emphasize that this seems to be pure fantasy at the moment — it’s just actor / producer talk, as Bakula himself cautioned….
CAPTAIN JANEWAY: Kate Mulgrew!
The third captain to grace the stage today was Kate Mulgrew! She was accompanied through the doors by a few “alien babes”, a Ferengi, and someone dressed as a member of Morn’s species!
She started off by discussing how her life has not been without sadness, beginning with the death of her youngest sister when they were only children. She mentioned how the juxtaposition of sadness and love has shaped her approach to everything she does, including her roles on Voyager and on Orange Is the New Black.
When asked about her chemistry with Q on screen, she revealed that she and John de Lancie (or John “the Naughty” de Lancie (!) as she called him) had been friends since their younger days, as they had met in theatre. She said he’s the only man who could entertain her enough for them to sustain a phone call longer than a few minutes.
Interestingly, Mulgrew weighed in on the issue of the death of Tuvix, in a way some might not expect:
AUDIENCE MEMBER: What did you think of the episode “Tuvix”?
MULGREW: Shoot me guys, but…not much. He wasn’t a happy guy that actor, so it wasn’t a happy set. If I can’t get along with my actors, I tend to get a bit prickly myself. So what did I think about the death of Tuvix? Probably high time.
Regarding Voyager aliens, the Vidiians were her favourite aliens followed closely by Species 8472. She said that, on set, each member of 8472 was a pole with a tennis ball on top!
She told a story about how Robbie McNeill (Tom Paris) was in a porta-potty in the desert during the filming of “Caretaker” while the actor playing the Kazon leader was grunting and having a difficult time in the adjoining porta-potty. McNeill was freaked out and told Mulgrew about it back on set. She said that, from then on, every time she acted a scene with a Kazon, she thought about asking him:
Did everything come out alright?? (laughter)
Mulgrew also discussed her latest book, her travels in Ireland, and the challenges women face in the acting world.
Star Trek The Concert with Guest Conductor Jay Chattaway!
The gala event today was Star Trek The Concert, a programme of instrumental pieces from the television series and films performed by the Nevada Pops!
While waiting for it to start, we got to hear Robert Picardo (The EMH, Voyager) singing again, this time with The Roddenberries over at Quark’s!
A special treat during the concert was hearing a special arrangement of the orchestral suite from TNG “Inner Light”, complete with Picard’s tin whistle solo, conducted by the composer himself, Jay Chattaway!
Overall, there were more hits than misses today, and taking in all of it was exhausting to be honest!