Photo: Sherry Lipp
Luckily William Shatner turned up as scheduled, wowing a capacity crowd on Sunday with an hour’s worth of entertaining stories. Rarely did Shatner so much as mention his Trek past, preferring to stay in the moment as he shared details his many current projects. His full-bodied voice did not betray his advanced age (the actor is now 82 years old) and even a nagging cough didn’t compromise his resonant delivery. Enthusiastic and extremely quick-witted, Shatner didn’t get through many people in the Q&A lines due to a knack for spinning elaborate anecdotes spurred by nearly any given topic.
We learned details of his upcoming prog rock album, Ponder the Mystery (releasing October 8), produced by Yes member Billy Sherwood. Lighting gaffes plagued the first half of Shatner’s presentation, prompting him to joke, “They dim the lights on you when you say a bad word.” (He happened to have referred to one of his female dogs as a “bitch” just as the lights went down.) By the second time the stage (and auditorium) went completely dark, Shatner deadpanned, “It’s not funny anymore.” Minor mishaps became something of a running gag as the actor discovered his chair’s armrest was broken. He proceeded to tear off the broken part altogether as convention host Scott Mantz rushed onstage with a replacement.
The second-best panel was a raucous appearance by the women of The Next Generation, Gates McFadden (Dr. Beverly Crusher), Marina Sirtis (Counselor Troi), and Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar). Graciously remaining onstage beyond their scheduled hour in order to accommodate everyone in the Q&A line, the three women told stories that were by turns funny and poignant. Sirtis managed to insult more than a handful of audience members with an unnecessary anti-Republican rant, but other than that it was a lively hour. Each plugged their current projects, including Crosby’s recurring role on Showtime’s Ray Donovan, Sirtis’ role on NCIS, and McFadden’s work with Atwater Village Theatre Collective (of which Crosby is also a member).
Enterprise alumni Connor Trinneer (Trip Tucker) and Dominic Keating (Malcolm Reed) each offered opinions on their series’ much-maligned theme song, “Faith of the Heart” (Trinneer: “Kinda cheesy,” Keating: “No particular ill will” towards it). The perpetually underrated Enterprise didn’t fare too well in host Mantz’s “All-Time Greatest Trek Crew” audience poll (none of the show’s characters garnered more than a few isolated claps). The fact that enthusiasm generally runs low for Enterprise didn’t really hamper the genial presentations by Trinneer and Keating (though a long back-up at registration early Saturday morning ensured a depressingly small turn-out for Trinneer). Keating drew big laughs with his rendition of a slightly raunchy parody version of “Faith of the Heart.”
Ever-popular convention guest LeVar Burton (Geordi La Forge on TNG) arguably had the most Trek-specific stories to share. A seasoned convention pro, Burton also plugged the new Reading Rainbow app (available via iTunes). One fan asked a rather banal question, “What’s your favorite cookie?” that garnered an equally banal answer, “Chocolate chip.” But it paid off with a nice laugh when a fan rushed the stage moments later with a bag of homemade cookies. “Are these chocolate chip?” Burton marveled, “It’s like a replicator up in here!” He quickly added, “I like diamonds, too.” For better or worse, the baked goods appeared to go uneaten.
With Mulgrew a no-show, it was left to Garrett Wang (Ensign Harry Kim) to represent Voyager. He was as funny as anyone, delivering spot-on impressions of George Takei, Brannon Braga, Kate Mulgrew, and others. Wang only semi-kiddingly took producer/writer Braga to task for believing that Harry Kim was a Chinese character (“Kim is the Smith of Korean last names!”). The 20th anniversary of Deep Space Nine was commemorated by Gene Roddenberry’s right-hand man Richard Arnold. Unfortunately, his presentation left a lot to be desired as it amounted to narrating a slide show with basic statistics of how many episodes each actor appeared in (complete with a brusquely delivered “Next!” aimed at the tech people every time he wanted the slide advanced). A more crowd-pleasing DS9 rep was Nana Visitor (Kira Nerys).
The vibe of the convention, though well-attended and full of enthusiastic fans, was surprisingly low-key. Though many attendees were clearly veterans, some of the celebrity guests asked for a show of hands of everyone attending a convention for the first time. There were quite a few Star Trek convention virgins on hand, in costume and out. It’s never too late to embrace your inner Trekker and join in what Suzie Plakson (who appeared in-character as K'Ehleyr, Worf’s mate on TNG) called “the global block party that is Star Trek.”
The Official Star Trek Convention will move on to Nashville (September 7-8) and San Francisco (November 8-10), among other locations. Of course, you can always save up for the mother of all Trek conventions, Las Vegas. The next Vegas con is set for July 31-August 31, 2014. Visit the official Creation Entertainment website for further information regarding upcoming conventions.
Photos: Sherry Lipp