Creation Entertainment beamed into the Windy City with The Official Star Trek Convention, with opening day Friday Sept. 30th, 2011, at the beautiful Westin O'Hare Hotel. This luxury high end property boasts waterfalls, exquisite public space and beautiful meeting facilities, and Creation had booked virtually the entire convention areas.
Indeed, the vast lines overflowing from the convention space into the lobby of the hotel gave buzzing testimony to the sea of people on hand for the celebration. A larger than normal series of vendor areas overflowed with unusual and even unique Trek and sci fi memorabilia. A Vulcan lyre, original model kits from Irwin Allen's 60s TV series, framed and plaqued autograph collectibles, Tribbles, UFP teddy bears and all manner of merchandise overflowed from the dealers exhibits.
As this reporter entered the theater, one could see that Creation had decked the place out with an elegantly dressed stage, giant screen video projection, and vivid banners throughout the ballroom of the attending guests and the fabled ships of Starfleet. A gorgeous space to host such an exciting weekend. First up on the schedule of programming was Richard Arnold, Gene Roddenberry's long time assistant, who presented a unique slide presentation featuring archival images from Classic TOS, most of it behind the scenes, production and special effects images. Someone noted that the pentagonal doorway arches of "The Menagerie" bore a striking resemblance to the doorway arches in Forbidden Planet, and Arnold indicated that Roddenberry had worked at MGM during that period and was very much inspired by the film. One remarkable behind the scenes shot featured makeup wizard Fred Phillips applying the green body makeup to Susan Oliver for "The Cage." Arnold also noted that the port view shots of the Enterprise were only accomplished on the smaller Enterprise models. When the 11 foot hero model of the Enterprise was created, all the wiring for electrical and lights came through the port side of the model, so it couldn't be filmed from that angle.
Next up was writer/director Morgan Gendel, who wrote the beloved ST:TNG episode "The Inner Light." Gendel offered a fun and interesting presentation in which he described the efforts to get the episode sold (5 pitches to Michael Piller), the use of the pennywhistle as a plot device, Patrick Stewart's brilliant performance, and the attention to detail the episode showed. Gendel presented sound clips from the episode and commented on the scenes, often featuring Jay Chattaway's lovely orchestral "Inner Light Suite."
Following Gendel, Dominic Keating exploded on stage in a burst of enthusiastic energy. The man who was Malcolm Reed on Enterprise clearly entertained the growing audience with stories from the show and the convention circuit. On his first event in Phoenix (120 degrees), he spied a "pack" of Klingons sweating in the heat, and declared, "I've found my peeps!" He was "bloody nervous", waiting in the "smelly kitchen area" to go out on stage. He had to go to the bathroom, and lo and behold, next to him in the bathroom were two Klingons, talking about him in Klingonese! His favorite alien on the show: pregnant Connor Trinneer! He also favored Jeffrey Combs, the Andorian Schran. He described how the special effects people had fun with Schran's moving antennae, especially during a supposedly dramatic scene. He also sang a version of "Day-oh" which praises John Billingsley's 2-3 day a week work schedule as Dr. Phlox on the show. "Shuttlepod One" was his favorite episode, and he recalled with admiration the camaraderie between Malcolm and Trip (Connor). The crew had to create a frozen environment where the actors' breath was visible, and Dominic was impressed by the production values they created for it. He also had praise for Connor's performance in Cogenitor. Dominic also enjoyed his run on Sons of Anarchy, working with Katy Sagal and Ron Perlman. He also announced he would be playing the character of The Templar on Diablo 3, a hugely popular video game. He also described his audition for Malcolm (with Brannon Braga, Rick Berman and Merri Howard), describing the character as "British, stiff upper lip, blue collar, working class". Merri thought he was Scottish, Brannon said no, he was Welsh! Rick wisely suggested he just speak in his own colloquial manner, and that slam dunked the deal. At the same time he heard squeaking coming from the next room, which turned out to be John Billingsley auditioning for Phlox. As John described, "I thought Phlox came from an alien world where he was from a bird-like species, so I squawked!"
After Dominic left, Creation Co-CEO Adam Malin offered an entertaining Trivia Competition that brought almost 100 fans up on stage over three segments to answer some rough Trek trivia questions. Amazingly, the same fan won all 3 segments, which netted him $1750 in gift certificates. Not surprisingly the audience supported him enthusiastically.
Following this was Creation's famous No Minimum Bid Auction. Some of the items of note offered included a complete set of 1996 Fleer Star Trek Collectors Cards, beautifully bound and organized in a volume; first edition hardcovers of books by several Trek actors (John de Lancie, Jonathan Frakes, Nichelle Nichols...); massive collections of signed photos from each of the different Trek series ("Star Trek Mega Sets!"); and a set of near mint Star Trek movie poster "half sheets" from the first 3 Trek films.
Then it was time for Connor Trinneer's on stage appearance. Connor regaled the audience with stories from the set of Enterprise. Eerily, his favorite episodes echoed those of Dominic: "Shuttlepod One" and "Cogenitor." He too had praise for the character friendship arc between Malcolm and trip, as well as the emotional arc between Trip and T'Pol. He felt lucky for all the character development that Trip underwent: the loss of Trip's sister and subsequent anger, the pregnancy, and the nefarious Mirror Universe version of Trip (complete with scarred face). He also recalled with appreciation his opportunity to be a part of the Stargate universe (as Michael, the hybrid wraith/human on Stargate: Atlantis). Connor retains his great looks and humble demeanor that make him a fan favorite.
The final guest of the day was the great John de Lancie, looking as debonair as ever with a salt and pepper goatee. John looked back on his work with Leonard Nimoy on the radio show performances of Alien Voices as great fun. He revealed that the jovial demeanor of Q on the set belied the intensity and angst of the shoots themselves, where time was money and getting the shot right the first time was critical. He described Patrick as intense and focused during the shoots. But he gushed when recalling that the great bird of the galaxy, Gene Roddenberry, told him that he made his words better on the screen than when they were written. John also described the Voyager encounter of Q and Janeway as "not as powerful as it could have been". He also said he had a great time on the set of Torchwood.
Later in the evening, Creation's Gold Patrons had the pleasure of attending an exclusive Cocktail Party with Dominic, Connor and John as guests. The atmosphere was relaxed and jovial, a fitting conclusion to a great first day at The Official Star Trek Convention.
Check back tomorrow for a recap of Saturday's events.