RECAP: Mulgrew, Nichols, Montgomery & More at Official Trek Convention
The Creation Salute to Star Trek in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, was scheduled for April 25-27 but actually opened to gold members on Thursday night. The advance opening gave people a chance to sign in and get first pick of the really neat stuff in the dealers’ rooms. As the Philadelphia and New York areas were a hotbed of fans of The Original Series, several dealers featured some very old and extremely rare merchandise. One, a man named John Beccafico, had been stricken by the malady most hated by fans—a spouse who decided that she’d rather have a house to live in than a collection. His collection was extensive and included a great deal of TOS-era stuff—including one of the Tribbles given out by Paramount at one of the first Star Trek conventions in New York. He also showed a lot of other hard-to-find collectibles, including a Spock helmet, an early Halloween costume, and some very rare and unusual toys.
Friday kicked off with fan favorite Richard Arnold, who told us a new story: the tale of “The Cage,” chosen because this was the 50th birthday of the episode. Richard discovered and revealed a number of surprises about the show, including several casting anecdotes. Did you know that both Patrick McGoohan (famous as the Prisoner) and James Coburn (Majel Barrett thought him to be “dreamy”) were considered for Captain April (later Pike)? Carroll O’Connor, not yet famous as Archie Bunker in All in the Family, was seriously considered for the role of ship’s doctor before John Hoyt was hired.
Up next was by K’Ehleyr actress Suzie Plakson and makeup artist John Paladin, who gave the audience a live peek at how Trek-style alien make-up is applied and how it changes the person underneath. Suzie spoke at length about how the make-up and costume helped her become a member of a whole different species -- and then demonstrated, on-stage, just how this was done. The finale of this presentation was rather surprising, as the spirit of K’Ehleyr briefly possessed Suzie and told us about her fate and that of the treacherous Duras sisters.
On deck was the Yes/No Trivia Contest. For the first time in a while, Creation had a double winner. Once the stage was cleared, former Enterprise actor Anthony Montgomery soaked in a warm ovation before filling us in on the latest news about his graphic novel series, Miles Away, which is about a young man who acquires superhuman powers and finds himself fighting an interstellar war that is not as much his as it is his mysterious family’s. The graphic novel is currently on sale and Anthony is already working on an animated version of the series which would feature the voices of several members of his old Enterprise friends, among them
Scott Bakula. Other talent working on the series includes Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner and David Hasselhoff… who has already cast Anthony in an animated series of his own.
Terry Farrell, DS9’s Jadzia Dax, closed out the day, talking first about her current career as a wife and mother and, in the course of her Q&A, actually getting into an interesting discussion about the best laundry detergent. An avid hockey fan, she finished her time on stage leading the entire audience in a rousing (and quite loud) cheer of “Go Flyers,” her team of choice; and it was we are just a few miles from the arena where the playoff games are being contested and cheering any other team might have been problematic and, perhaps, unpopular.
Saturday opened with James Darren, DS9’s Vic Fontaine, who, unsurprisingly, has many connections in this area as his family came from Blackwood, N.J. Mr. Darren sang a few bars for the audience, discussed his long and varied career and his memories of playing Fontaine. He even promised to sing at Creation’s big Karaoke night if at all possible.
Richard Arnold then took the stage, offering a tribute to Trek’s dear, departed Gene Roddenberry, Deforest Kelley and James Doohan before screening a touching video salute to Majel Barrett-Roddenberry. The video he showed was originally seen at her funeral.
Terry Farrell then made an encore appearance. Among the topics: her early days as a model and actress, and the journey that brought her the happy place she now occupies. A special event then followed. The Grand Nagus, Rom, and his son, Nog, beamed in from the planet Ferenginar and, though dismayed at finding themselves in what was, to them, the past, took the time to interact with the audience. They started with politics (talking about upcoming U.S. President Christie and suggesting that “Rombama” might make a winning name for a Nagus. They then spent some time looking for a sign that could help them find their way back to their own time, but the only sign that appeared was a life-sized image of Quark, who spent the remainder of his time on stage overlooking the other two. A song followed—actually a Ferengi rap—before Max Grodenchik and Aron Eisenberg revealed their hu-manity and took questions from the appreciative crowd. They revealed that they’re about to take their show deep onto the road, doing a multi-city tour of Australia.
Kate Mulgrew then did a Q&A in which she talked about how much she enjoyed doing Orange Is the New Black, relating that she found it more rewarding than Voyager because it offers a freedom that Trek just never managed. Nearly half of the attendees were female, continuing a trend that we’ve seen building through the past few years. Having both Terry and Kate as guests on the same day created an interesting contrast. Terry was very happy about her current role as wife and mother, while Kate, with grown children, was very happy about her career choices and the state of the industry, where powerful women were beginning to come into their own. It made for an interesting contrast and gave more evidence of the power women have begun to exert both inside and outside the industry.
A really entertaining costume contest came next. More than 50 fans participated, including the youngest Tribble I have ever seen. Although there were top-notch Starfleet uniforms and a very robust (and loud) Klingon contingent, the winner was a wonderfully creative concept: Picard’s pet lionfish.
Saturday night was dominated by karaoke. Robert Picardo, Robert O’Reilly, J.G. Hertzler and Anthony Montgomery joined the conventioneers for several hours of songs both modern and classic.
Robert Picardo was the first guest to appear on Sunday. He started by telling the audience about his current work, which includes a new film for SyFy that he promises will be even more outrageous than Sharnknado. He is also working on Redemption, in which he plays an asteroid miner on one of the moons of Jupiter. His character is Muslim and he had to learn the proper way to pray from a specially-hired technical advisor. During the ensuing Q&A, he told the audience how he carefully salted the idea that the emergency holographic doctor program should, logically, be installed on most new and refitted Starfleet vessels and facilities, thereby opening the opportunity for him to appear in more shows and movies. He then admitted that he played the Doctor as the opposite of most Starfleet officers, self-important and a bit vain—fun for him and us.
Robert O’Reilly and J.G. Hertzler were next. Asked how he was cast as Gowron, Robert credited Jonathan Frakes, who cast the Klingons for episodes he directed. While shooting, however, he pulled Robert aside and asked him to do “the eye thing,” telling Robert “I liked that.” It became a character trademark. Hertzler, who has gotten into local politics back in New York, talked about something he recently learned… how to avoid getting sued. He also told us about the time his character was supposed to fight with Seven of Nine. Jeri Ryan asked for a weekend rehearsal, but was apparently a no-show, finally showing up 90 minutes later. During the rehearsal, she took a long forward step to throw a punch—and pulled a muscle—in her butt. J.G. laughed as he explained that eight guys rushed forward to massage the pulled muscle, forcing him to really rush to beat them to the job.
Robert Beltran then came on, looking remarkably like Stewart Granger (something he called attention to) and talked about his days on Voyager. He informed the crowd that he had proposed a variety of story ideas to the producers. He suggested a baseball-themed episode—and was told it had been done on Deep Space Nine. He finally got them to agree to do a boxing episode. Robert asked for some time to get into proper shape—and when that time was disallowed, insisted that he must wear a t-shirt while shooting. On location, no t-shirt appeared, so he refused to shoot until a t-shirt arrived which, after a long delay, it did.
The weekend closed with a very special appearance by Nichelle Nichols, who regaled the audience with familiar, but always fascinating tales of her days as part of The Original Series and the days beyond. She proudly told of her visit to Whoopi Goldberg on the Next Generation set—one that held up production for more than an hour. She also told us of her visit to the White House to meet President Obama, something she was very proud and pleased to have done. Nichelle then recounted her meeting with Zoe Saldana. Nichelle invited Zoe to her house and Nichelle says it was “like meeting my daughter.” Zoe, it seemed, had been told that Nichelle might be upset at the casting of a new Uhura, but Nichelle calmed her down and made her feel right at home, enough that she told Nichelle: “You are so normal.” A question from the audience got Nichelle talking about the space program and how proud she is for not only her own part, but for her role in igniting William Shatner’s interest; both of them have been important ambassadors for the space program.
It’s hard to follow Nichelle Nichols, and there was no attempt to do so. Bloopers ran after she left the stage, followed by autographs and the end of a very interesting and entertaining convention.