Creation Entertainment beamed into Nashville, Tennessee, for their Official Star Trek Convention over the weekend of June 9-10, 2012 at the gorgeous (and enormous) Gaylord Opryland Hotel. This venue, one of the finest hotel/convention center complexes in the entire world, was a suitably grand location for what promised to be an epic weekend. A huge opening line attested to the electricity in the air over the celebration of the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and several of the cast members would be attending and speaking at the show. This was all a prelude, however, to the world celebration planned for Aug. 9-12 in Vegas at the Rio Hotel that Creation has had in development for several years (StarTrek.com will provide complete coverage of that event as well; for more information go to www.creationent.com).
As the show opened fans, were treated to a sprawling vendors area, a testament to the renewed fan energy and interest attracting more vendors back to the Trek marketplace. Gorgeous Trek and sci-fi artwork, rare collectibles, props, a myriad assortment of T shirts, caps, drinkware, as well as a beautiful space sciences exhibition featuring scale models of the International Space Station and other spacecraft, all created a wonderful showcase for attendees.
Activities in the cavernous (and elegant) Presidential Ballroom kicked off with a welcome from Creation Co-CEO (and host for the weekend) Adam Malin. Malin, along with partner Gary Berman, carry the honorable distinction of having produced live genre events for the longest time span of any producers, a whopping 41 years. When asked what sustained his interest, enthusiasm and longevity in the marketplace, Malin responded, "It's simple: I'm a lifelong fan boy. Gary and I have loved sci-fi, and especially Star Trek, since we were kids, and it's been amazing to live out our dreams and be a part of this amazing fan community which has grown into a huge worldwide audience over the years. It's also a validation of the dream of the Great Bird of the Galaxy (Gene Roddenberry): life is beautiful and mysterious, and it's just going to get better for humanity as we move forward and mature." Seeing the diversity of ethnicity, age and gender at this event, one could only agree with that assessment.
One fan asked if he would like to be omnipotent like Q. He said his kids certainly felt like he acted that way! Yes, he would be glad to be omnipotent, like a benevolent dictator (citing the flawed examples from around the world). Seriously, he would try to make things better. One young man asked an endearing question, which is, if Q has immortal powers, why doesn't he use them for good? John rationalized that Q meant well, but was sometimes misunderstood. Regarding Q as a recurring character, Gene wanted what became the pilot to be the first regular episode, but the studio wanted a 2-hour pilot. So Gene had to create a second half, in which he introduced the character of Q. The character was supposed to be a one-shot, but then after the success of the character, Gene then a decided he wanted to bring Q back from time to time.
John also reflected on his childhood as a true fan of science-fiction films. On having also appeared on Deep Space Nine and Voyager, he felt the best work was when he was philosophical, mainly with Picard. He felt his work with Kate Mulgrew was hampered by the creative decision to have Janeway emotionally aloof from Q. He would have preferred more emotional and sexual tension between the characters. Suddenly, an attendee in a spot-on Q costume emerged on stage, and as John closed his segment the two posed for a great photo op.
LeVar then asked if there were any Reading Rainbow fans in the audience (major screams and applause). He announced the re-launch of the show, as an online subscription service, including books, contests and games. Initially it will launch as a tablet application which can be downloaded for free. It contains hundreds of digital books, done in the Reading Rainbow style, with many interactive features that kids will love. LeVar also revealed he has a new TV series coming on TNT this summer called Perception, co-starring Eric McCormack as a schizophrenic neuroscientist who helps the FBI solve crimes. The show runners were writers from Enterprise. LeVar spoke highly of the show's concept and writing, and urged everyone to watch the show come July.
One young fan asked if it hurt to wear the VISOR. LeVar said yes. She said, precociously, that it was no surprise to her. LeVar noted that it WAS a surprise to him, and uncomfortable. There were actual screws that he had to screw into his temples, where he had pasted magnets. That's how the VISOR stayed on in action scenes!
Next up, a group of scientists, engineers and technology professionals representing the Tennessee chapter of the Space Society offered an interesting and entertaining slide and clip presentation on space science. Fans viewed exclusive imagery from the International Space Station, and clips of the Aurora Borealis, city lights from 200 miles up, and global storm systems. The group brought some amazing pieces on display in the vendors’ room, including a 16-pound meteorite that was 4 billion years old. They paid tribute to deceased scientist/ author Carl Sagan. They also showed some of the benefits of NASA science research in our everyday lives. Fans were also treated to footage of Nichelle Nichols speaking on behalf of NASA, and a recording from Dr. Stephen Hawking was equally inspiring. An interview with Leonard Nimoy as the shuttle Enterprise arrived in New York City was very enjoyable as well. They also covered the SpaceX launch and payload that recently docked at the International Space Station, including a narration from Elon Musk, the company CEO who also created PayPal.
One of the things fans noted throughout the day was the execution of the event: scheduled events running on time, seating for everyone (no one turned away from the theater because of overcrowding, despite the size of the group), and the quality of the meeting space and the friendly professionalism of the Creation staff. That, plus the tremendous diversity of attending talent and presentations, made for a very positive mood and happy attendees.
Following Chase, Gene Roddenberry's longtime assistant Richard Arnold offered a wonderful sideshow of behind-the-scenes glimpses from the production of TNG. Many famous personalities visited the set over their seven-year run. Particularly impressive was the quality of the set work, the makeup and costumery, and the production standards overall, to say nothing of the wonderful ensemble. Next up was Sandra Piller, widow of the late Michael Piller, one of the principal creative forces behind TNG, DS9 and the series The Dead Zone. Sandra and her band mate Jane Bach (Nashville Writers Round) performed some wonderful country music songs for the audience, which was met with vigorous applause and support.
Following Sandra, host Adam Malin offered up an entertaining and high-energy No Minimum Bid Auction, which had the audience successfully grabbing great Trek and sci-fi items at a fraction of their retail value in a whirlwind of motion. Some of the notable items included a photo art print signed by all 5 Star Trek captains, an authentic TNG Technical Writers Guide (supplied to everyone who wrote for the show as a sort of technical "bible"), lots of signed sci-fi cast shots from various shows that were exceptional values, and some collectible signed shots of the cast from the last J.J. Abrams Trek film.
The last event of the day was Creation's famous Costume Competition, a 41-year-old tradition. Almost 50 contestants vied for gift certificates totaling $500. The winners: an amazing Andorian, a stunning Deanna Troi, and a whimsical Capt. Picard's replicator!
It was a fitting fun end to an epic first day at Creation Entertainment's Official Star Trek Convention. Be sure to visit StarTrek.com again tomorrow for a recap of Day 2.