Creation's Philly/NJ Trek Convention, Day 2 Recap
Saturday morning at Creation Entertainment's Official Star Trek Convention began early in the day, as Richard Arnold, longtime assistant to Gene Roddenbery, presented part two of his comprehensive look back into the production of TNG. Richard’s archival imagery showed several of the cast as directors, including Gates McFadden, Patrick Stewart, LeVar Burton and Jonathan Frakes. He described how Whoopi Goldberg was rarely available, and so when they were able to get her for a day the set would be in virtual lockdown so they could get their work with her done. He discussed the budgeting problems for TNG -- as that show was winding down and DS9 was starting up and gobbling up more of the available budget money.
Gary Graham took to the stage next, to great applause. Gary recounted his casting as Matt Sykes on Alien Nation. He had actually worked with Ken Johnson on an episode of The Incredible Hulk. He felt confident going into his casting meeting, shooting the first audition successfully, and then getting the callback. Amazingly, it went down to Gary and comedian Colin Quinn, and Gary got the nod.
He had not seen the original Rockne O'Bannon film, and avoided it to put his own spin on the character. He was invited to Union Station in Los Angeles, where the Newcomers, in full makeup, were walking around with real people around them. As Gary recalls, there basically were no surprised reactions! Just another day in Los Angeles! One funny and touching recollection involves the pregnancy process of the Newcomers: the female transfers the egg to the male and the male bears the child. Gary's character has to help his partner George give birth, and it was a poignant moment on the series.
On getting cast on Enterprise: he had tried and failed several times, but slam-dunked the role of Vulcan Ambassador Soval. In describing the Vulcan race, he touched on their cunning and deceptive aspects. As they learned to hide their emotions they became masters of deception. But as Soval began to see the aims of the High Council running in conflict to his own belief system, he gradually emerged a heroic figure, which subjected him to torture and potential death. Gary felt that made the character even more challenging and satisfying to portray.
On political views: Gary claims to have a genetic disease where he "can't shut the XXXX up!" He says it may have hurt his career, but added that he doesn't care. Gary ended by inviting everyone to his concert, scheduled for the evening, and left to great audience applause.
Next up was Morgan Gendel, writer of the landmark TNG episode “The Inner Light.” He started by announcing the launch of a new graphic novel miniseries, The Outer Light. The original pitch for “The Inner Light” was born in Morgan's observation of the Fuji blimp. He extrapolated that into the probe that is observed in the TNG episode. Morgan had to pitch the show concept to Michael Piller five times until the concept was fully fleshed out. It became an opportunity for Picard to live an entirely different life, one with romance and other moments than what the Captain had in our reality. The probe essentially beamed the experiences of another man and his race into Picard's mind. If we were to send an informational video out into space today, it might well show us in an idealized version. Thus, what the probe beamed into Picard's mind may have been an idealized version of what their society was. But the probe choosing Picard was born out of the Katan scientists' desire to find an outsider who would be committed to telling the story in our world and fighting inside of the story to convince the authorities that their world was going to be destroyed. In essence, reliving a dead man's memories, but using Picard's own drive to help push the narrative, both within the story and to us in reality.
Gendel also presented an exclusive peek at his new graphic novel, which looked beautiful. No mention of Inner Light is complete without noting Jay Chattaway's magnificent orchestral suite from the episode. At the conclusion of Gendel's talk, Creation presented a wonderful video homage to 45 years of Star Trek set to Chattaway's timeless piece.
Next up was Tim Russ, a very entertaining guy. Tim discussed his trips to conventions around the world. One funny encounter was with a customs officer in England. Tim didn't know what hotel he was staying in or who was picking him up for a show in the UK and had an embarrassing time explaining himself! He said he can relate to his character Tuvok very much. Illogical directional markers in airports that lead you in the wrong direction drive him crazy. He says he's as popular as the principal of iCarly as he is as Tuvok! As for what makes the character unique, he mentioned the fact that he has a family and is a father.
Following Tim, Trek expert Adam Hennessey presented a fascinating segment on the evolution of Starfleet, focusing on adversaries the Klingons and Romulans. Hennessey described the weapons systems and capabilities of various classes of Klingon and Romulans vessels. Exotic classes of ships not commonly known include the Klingon Raptor class, designed by Doug Drexler. The D7 class is the classic Klingon ship known to TOS fans. The K't'inga class, which was the successor to the D7 class, represented a considerable military upgrade. Disrupters with highly enhanced power were the main weapons batteries. Later came the Klingon Bird of Prey (B'Rel class) we are familiar with in Star Trek III and IV, which was used to devastating results. The ship was derived from Romulan origins. Amazingly, the ship went through ten consecutive bridge designs. One impressive vessel was the Klingon flagship in the Vor'Cha class, equipped with cloaking technology and Starfleet-derived technologies as well, but the most powerful of all Klingon vessels is the Negh'Var class flagship seen in DS9 episode “Way of the Warrior,” with its 20 disrupter bays.
The 22nd-century Romulan Bird of Prey was evidently the evolutionary precursor to much of the Klingon warship technology, including their revolutionary cloaking technology. With its distinctive bird graphics, small and compact, it was used to test Federation defenses. It featured a plasma weapon of limited power. The D'Deridex class which succeeded the Bird of Prey and was seen beginning in TNG was a huge and powerful upgrade to the Romulan Imperial Fleet. With its green hue and huge, dual hill configuration, perhaps its most interesting technology was its quantum singularity warp drive. Comparable-sized vessels include the Borg Cube and the Dreadnaught. Later, in Nemesis, we encounter the V'Aldore and Scimitar. The Scimitar in particular is bristling with weaponry designed to go up against the Dominion and was of course used by Shinzon to devastating effect on the Enterprise. The audience loved this scholarly and informative presentation. Fans can reach Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next up was a hysterical, partly improvisational performance from Eric Menyuk and Robin Curtis. Dressed as nerdy Trek fans in TOS uniforms and Spock ears, they searched the audience for their "seats" and finally settled on stage, beginning a reminiscence of the Trek celebrities they had seen at past conventions. Nerdy Robin spoke about her favorite, Robin Curtis; evidently she had a restraining order against Nerdy Robin. Nerdy Eric said he became an app developer, creating "Angry Pancakes" ("it went flat"). Nerdy Eric pulled a poor member of the audience ON stage, declaring him "the blob from Season 3." Gushing with compliments, Nerdy Eric declared this man "gushed with blobbiness!" An argument ensued about who has the better memory, men or women. They proposed a trivia contest, which they presented to the audience Phil Donahue-style. Questions such as "what was the name of the alien given colonization rights by Data" were given ridiculous multiple choice possible responses. There were no clear winners in this battle of the sexes, given the absurd possible answers. Example: who considered himself the Grandfather of Data? Possible answers: Robot from Lost in Space, Wil Wheaton, etc.
Returning to their real personas, they proposed a real battle of the sexes to see who are the better fans. Eric suggested a joust which featured Robin versus a guy Eric picked from the audience (Ben). The rules: hands behind your back, no tongues, no horses, and proper lances. Out came long baguettes, which were placed gingerly between the legs of the two protagonists (truly a sight to behold). One hand was then placed on the base of their "lance". Thus, in vaguely masturbatory form, the two were engaged in a "whacking off to the death!" Men against women, as usual, cheered their gender on. Whoops, Robin's baguette got whacked off: man triumphant!
After this silliness, host and Creation Co-CEO Adam Malin presented Creation's famous Yes-No Trivia Competition, in which 30 fans at a time were invited on stage to answer trivia questions. The last fan standing won a $250 gift certificate. This process was repeated, and amazingly, the same fan won three times, watching his winnings multiply, until he left the stage finally with a whopping $1750 in cash prizes.
Following was Creation's famous No Minimum Bid Auction, in which some amazing items went to the highest bidder. Notable entries included a limited edition montage signed by all five Trek Captains, a 1996 Fleer Collectible Trek Card Game set, and a photo signed by Martin Landau and Barbara Bain from Space:1999!
But the electricity in the air was clearly reserved for guest of honor Patrick Stewart, who emerged from backstage to a standing ovation and sea of applause. Looking fit and trim and sporting a tee-shirt that proclaimed "Magneto was right!," Sir Patrick caught the audience up to date on his career. He has completed roughly eight years of satisfying theatrical work. His immediate plans are to re-focus on his film and television career. He has a new movie that will go into production in June. He enjoys being a "Sir." He uttered a famous quote: "The line must be drawn!" Regarding location filming, he shot Moby Dick in Australia, substituting for Nantucket, although he went there to do research for the role. He loved the Banff mountain locations for the second X-Men film.
The thing that he enjoyed about his tenure on Trek was the continual examination of thoughts and ideas regarding human nature. Patrick is evidently an amateur astronomer and views planets and stars on his property in rural England. A gentleman in a wheelchair used a Stephen Hawking-style computer voice generator to ask what it was like being chosen to be Picard. He revealed that he was Bob Justman's pick for Capt. Picard, but not Gene Roddenberry's. Evidently Bob, Rick Berman and others wore down Gene's resistance. The man wished Patrick much continued success and the audience gave a rousing round of applause to the physically challenged questioner. A continued riff was a faux putdown of Canadians, and faked shock at the revelation that Bill Shatner is Canadian. When asked what the recurring motif of seven years of filming TNG was, Patrick described it as laughter -- having a great time filming while still getting the job done.
One attendee wondered about a possible autobiography. Patrick indicated that he has a series of essays he is compiling that he will organize into a loose sort of autobiography at some point. He described writing as "laborious," but promised it would be forthcoming, eventually. On Malcolm McDowell: they first met in 1964 in the Royal Shakespeare Company. Malcolm was an understudy in Henry V, and he had to play an English messenger with the lines, "my gracious liege, bestow yourself with speed, the French are bravely in their battle set and they will charge us!" So Malcolm comes out to recite his lines, freezes, and blurts out, "Come on, come on, they're coming!" Patrick said he loves working with Malcolm. After a few brief last remarks, he left to a thunderous ovation.
Check back again tomorrow for a recap of day three, and click HERE to read the recap of day one’s events.