Saturday, Oct. 1st marked the second day of Creation Entertainment's Official Star Trek Convention in Chicago, Il. at the beautiful Westin O'Hare Hotel. The day before had marked the start of a rousing weekend that would build to a climax with Leonard Nimoy's final valedictory appearance.
The day got off to an interesting start with a presentation from sociology professor John Tenuto, who, with the permission of Nicholas Meyer, presented script concepts and lines from Star Trek films that never made it on screen. Attendees were treated to alternate script titles, plot lines and characters. Some of the revelations: the original set up for Khan had him participating clandestinely in a conspiracy in which he is finally revealed; Khan and Kirk were originally supposed to have a knock-down, physical battle together; Saavik was indeed supposed to be pregnant with Spock's child; the antagonist in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered CountryI was originally supposed to be Saavik, not Valeris, but the producers/writers decided that it would damage the fans' memory of Saavik from previous films.
Following John, Creation Co-CEO and show host Adam Malin interviewed the first lady of the galaxy, Nichelle Nichols. Malin focused on Nichols' tenure on Classic TOS. Nichelle first met Gene Roddenberry through her breakthrough guest-starring role beside Don Marshall (Land of the Giants) on Roddenbery's series The Lieutenant. Through her success on this episode, a variety of theatrical work came her way (she was most comfortable in the world of the theater as a chanteuse, singing and dancing) and she ended up in Europe, performing in London and Paris while being courted by eligible jetsetters. Meanwhile, the call came from her agent to come to L.A. to audition for a show (Star Trek) that had already been through two pilots and was now casting for the series. Although resistant, she did fly back and snagged the audition. She hadn't realized that Roddenberry "had a little something to do with the show"! After being cast, and ready to film a season's worth of shows, she was crushed to learn that the suits in the front office wanted her off the bridge, because that was a place for men. It sadly was also because of the color of her skin. Roddenberry urged her to "trust him," and work as a daily instead of contract player. She acquiesced, but much to her surprise she was doing more under this work arrangement than if she had been a contract player. However, at the end of the first season, she was determined to leave, sick of the prejudice, the sexism and the Hollywood nonsense.
She handed her resignation in to Roddenberry on a Friday afternoon. He begged her to take the weekend to reconsider, and if on Monday morning she was still determined to leave he would accept it. As destiny would have it, that very weekend, on the cusp of her departure from the show, she found herself at an NAACP fundraiser where she was asked to say hello to "her biggest fan." To her shock, it was Dr. Martin Luther King. When she revealed to him that she was leaving the show, he was enraged. He told her that Roddenberry had created something so forward-thinking, in which a person of color was finally being presented as an emissary of peaceful exploration and scientific endeavor, as an equal with other people, that if she left she would do irrevocable damage to the cause of African Americans everywhere. With that she made the history-shattering decision to stay on Trek, giving up her career in theater for what she now saw as a higher calling. Nichols was notably moved by this recollection, which brought the audience to a standing ovation and a fitting conclusion to the segment.
After, Richard Arnold, Gene Roddenberry's longtime assistant, returned for part two of his 45th Anniversary slideshow. Fans were treated to images of Richard's participation in Star Trek (2009) as a Romulan, as well as candid shots of the new cast, including while in attendance at William Shatner's Hollywood Charity Horse Show. Also featured were shots of Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy on stage at Creation's Vegas event a couple years ago. Leonard remarked to Zachary that "you don't know what you are getting yourself into!"
Following Richard, longtime Star Trek writer/producer Brannon Braga took to the stage for a fascinating discussion about his tenure on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise, 24, FlashForward, and his new groundbreaking Fox series, Terra Nova. Brannon has generously made himself available to appear at Creation shows over the years, and his thoughtful stewardship of so many sci-fi series marks him as one of the most important creative personalities in the business. Mounting Terra Nova (with executive producer Steven Spielberg) proved to be a massive two-year undertaking, with the writing crew in L.A. and the production crew in Queensland, Australia. Queensland was chosen for its pristine environments and freshness in terms of being seen on TV series (production opted against more familiar exotic locales like Maui and Kauai). He regretted the abrupt termination of Enterprise, even as the show was reaching its creative zenith.
On a career in writing, he suggested writing continuously, and having writing samples that could be submitted to agents. Living in L.A. also seems to be mandatory. In discussing the writers' brainstorming and creative processes, he described various scenarios, where shows initiate from one to two people, or are "gangbanged" by entire writing teams. "Yesterday's Enterprise" was just such a show, and became a beloved member of the ST:TNG canon. He also described Terra Nova as aspirational, in that the future they are escaping from won't make it, so they have to create a new future. Will that dysfunctional future corrupt the new reality they are creating in the past? Probably so, he conjectured. According to Brannon, on Star Trek, religion was dealt with metaphorically, because (not common knowledge) Roddenberry's vision of the future was that religion was eliminated, along with the divisions and conflict it causes.
Next up was a remarkable performance: A Klingon Christmas Carol, performed by a local Chicago repertory company Commedia Beauregard (www.cbtheatre.org/). This performance utilized Klingon language translations developed in conjunction with Marc Okrand's Klingon Language Institute, and featured professional actors, costumery and makeup. The audience was clearly enthralled by this unique performance, which also featured fight choreography and discussion from the director.
After that, Malin hosted a high-energy No Minimum Bid Auction that had items flying off the stage at a fast clip. Some of the notable items included a set of four pewter Franklin Mint ship miniatures, a complete set of two-sided Star Trek movie posters (from the J.J. Abrams film), and limited-edition, out-of-print hardcover Star Trek novels.
During the auction, the voice of Patrick Stewart could be heard from the audience question microphone, clearly signaling the arrival of Brent Spiner. Number One (Jonathan Frakes) didn't miss a beat, interviewing "Picard," which was Brent holding a photo of Patrick's face in front of his head. Malin quickly cleared the stage, and Spiner/Frakes took control. Frakes jumped out into the audience, roaming the room manically, while Spiner sat enthroned on his chair from the stage, again doing his Stewart impression. One audience member asked what it was like playing two characters at once, and both actors spoke simultaneously, in perfect sync. Brent described Marina Sirtis' Troi costume as her working at McDonald's.
One fan suggested Data and Spock were more intelligent than Kirk and Picard. Spiner countered that Picard seemed more like Data's father, while Kirk seemed like Spock's father (to which the audience howled). Spiner did his imitation of Rip Taylor ("come on, everybody!") and Jonathan noted that Brent's career is on fire, between Alphas, Big Bang Theory and The Simpsons, all coming up this season. He noted that Brent used to frequently say no to projects offered to him. Jonathan said everybody loves you. Brent replied, "That's true." Someone suggested that Brent could help Jonathan move his career to the next phase. Brent's advice to Jonathan: "You've got to say yes to what's offered you!" (more cheering)
Jonathan noted he was busy working as director on episodes of Burn Notice and Leverage, to audience applause. He also frequently broke into singing jags, including "Tradition" from Fiddler, "If I Had My Brother" from L'il Abner and, of course, his famous "Volare'" (with the audience responding appropriately). Jonathan recounted that Brent once offered to pay $12K to pay for the entire cast and crew of ST:TNG to take a nap. Unfortunately, two crew member refused to do it. Brent replied that, "The only reason I wanted to do that was because I wanted to take a nap!" Brent also advised the audience that his last name was pronounced "SPINEYAY." Jonathan asked Brent who he thought he looked like. Spiner replied Ernest Hemingway. Frakes responded Billy Joel. Then the two broke into several rounds of Broadway songs, including excerpts from The Music Man and A Funny Thing Happened on The Way To The Forum. They did a riff on Noonien Soong, describing the name as Chinese food. Jonathan related that Stephen Hawking noted that "Between the deep bouts of quantum physics I like to do an occasional TV show!" The inevitable question regarding the scene with Tasha Yar came, and Brent reminded everyone that he was programmed in multiple techniques and was anxious to try them out.
Last up was the Creation Costume Competition. Almost 100 contestants wowed the audience with an amazing variety of aliens, officers and assorted creatures. Coming in third place was a fantastic Gorn; in second place, an elegant and statuesque Seven of Nine; and taking the grand prize (good for $250) was a remarkable Ferengi, assimilated as a Borg.
A jubilant end to a day rich with memories, fun and good times shared.
To read our recap of day one, click HERE, and check back tomorrow for a recap of third and final day, the highlight of which will be Leonard Nimoy's final convention appearance.