Star Trek fans will spend much of 2012 celebrating the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Creation Entertainment, which for decades has staged official Star Trek conventions, will lead the way with a series of fan-filled, all-star TNG-centric events over the next several months. The highlight of the Creation schedule, this year, as every year, will be the annual Creation Entertainment Official Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas. StarTrek.com recently caught up with Gary Berman, Creation’s co-founder and co-CEO (with Adam Malin), for an interview in which he discussed the company’s long history of TNG conventions and previewed their plans for 2012.
How excited are you to kick off the 2012 campaign of Star Trek conventions?
Berman: Star Trek is, of course, the anchor of our company and we love being involved in a property that has stood the test of time and offers such a positive hope for the future as well as a philosophy that is about inclusion and the importance of celebrating diversity. Just seeing that awesome photo the other day of Nichelle Nichols and President Obama in the Oval Office shows how Star Trek transcends pop culture. We're proud to be a small part of continuing Gene Roddenberry's legacy.
Of course, the major hook for 2012 is the 25th anniversary of The Next Generation. First, let's talk about the past, and then get into the future. What was your first Creation Convention with TNG guests? Had the show even premiered yet? What was that like for the fans, and for you personally?
Berman: Like other fans, we were thrilled about the launch of a new series, but also worried that it would be hard to live up to the original show. The first several episodes had their issues, but the audience was huge and soon it was offering great stories and of course a wonderful cast headed by Sir Patrick (Stewart). Marina (Sirtis) was the first guest "brave" enough to venture into the fan convention market and she was brought to a Star Trek convention we were doing in Philadelphia by Majel Barrett-Roddenberry. The room was packed and the reception was fantastic. After that, many of the other cast members joined our shows. They are all extremely entertaining on stage.
Actually, was there a TOS convention BEFORE that at which you and/or Adam knew that TNG was officially happening and you guys spoke to the crowd about it?
Berman: Gene Roddenberry actually talked about "his new series to come" with our audiences at a convention in Los Angeles. We have his speaking notes framed in our office and they include his list of the actors in the show. Before the series started we were doing slideshows with the backgrounds of the actors and whatever info we had. Roddenberry was incredibly supportive of our events in those years.
For you, over the years, what have been the most exciting TNG-centric moments at Creation Conventions?
Berman: Gene's appearances at the close of our annual Los Angeles Conventions, particularly when he was joined on stage by Majel. Also, for the 5th Anniversary of TNG, we had the whole cast on stage at the Bonaventure in L.A. A great moment in New York City was when William Shatner and Sir Patrick Stewart were on stage together for the first time. That was pretty special.
It's 2012, the 25th anniversary. How are you guys celebrating it?
Berman: We're doing special presentations at all the conventions that Richard Arnold is putting together. He will take the audience behind the scenes of the development of the series. Also, each convention will feature many Next Gen stars and, of course, Vegas will have virtually the entire cast plus many guest stars. Finally, our two evening parties in Vegas will be highlighted by complimentary drinks to raise a toast to Roddenberry and TNG's anniversary.
The big event, of course, is Vegas, which will celebrate everything Star Trek. First, what kind of reaction did you get from longtime Creation attendees to the Rio?
Berman: The response was pretty amazing. Everyone seemed to really love The Rio. The Hilton was great back in the days of the Star Trek Experience, but it was definitely time to move after it closed. The Rio offers so many restaurants, bars and entertainment choices and the convention facilities are pretty spectacular, including built-in stages and amazing sound systems. The hotel rooms are all suites, of course. We didn't really have many logistical issues considering it was the first year.
We know it's still coming together, but what are some of the elements familiar and maybe brand-new, that fans can expect to see/experience in Vegas.
Berman: As we've done traditionally, we are having a number of theatrical performances by our various guests. This really takes Vegas away from what you see at other fan conventions. Avery Brooks is doing a musical concert. Armin Shimerman, Jeffrey Combs and Casey Biggs are doing Shakespeare. Garrett Wang, Dominic Keating and Connor Trinneer are performing in a play. Eric Menyuk and Robin Curtis are doing a comedy show. Tim Russ and his band are playing. J.G. Hertzler, Robert O'Reilly and Chase Masterson are doing cabaret shows and, of course, we have our two giant dinner parties at The Rio's VooDoo Lounge, which is a unique setting at the top of the hotel. We have some surprises in store as well and, of course, we are very excited about our guest line-up, over 70 celebrities, including four captains and special guests like Ben Vereen. We also have a series of special lectures about various Star Trek subjects by John Tenuto and Professor Anthony Rotolo that we think the audience will really enjoy, and David Gerrold is back as well with his popular writer workshops. One of the highlights of the weekend will no doubt be the TNG reunion panel we have planned on Saturday and I think most fans can guess what we have in store for Sunday once they see the line-up.