Fans from around the four Quadrants descended on the beautiful Westin O'Hare in the Windy City yesterday for Creation Entertainment's annual Official Star Trek Convention. There was a huge buzz preceding the event, as it would offer an exclusive TNG 25th anniversary event featuring the seven lead actors of the groundbreaking series as well as reminiscences celebrating the 20th anniversary of DS9.
Friday morning as the show opened, fans were immediately treated to a sprawling set of vendors areas, spread over several meeting rooms and foyers. This reporter marveled at the wealth of rare Trek collectibles, original and fine art prints, intergalactic paraphernalia, apparel, books, magazines, models, toys, Tribbles and autographed and matted collages of sci-fi and Trek shows and characters.
The Westin has recently undergone a $20 million renovation and is looking magnificent in both its public areas and guest rooms. The main theater in the hotel's Grand Ballroom was no exception and fans rushed in as it opened to the sight of an expansive stage area, beautifully lit and adorned with theatrical velour, LED lighting and multiple video imagery/projection. Soon Creation Co- CEO Adam Malin came on stage, and in obvious high spirits and energy welcomed everyone to the show. Malin, a self-confessed fan boy, was clearly excited by the prospects of an amazing weekend chock full of guests, contests and activities. First guest on deck, he introduced Jeff Combs, one of Trek fans’ favorite actors who, amongst several roles, is famous for the notorious Weyoun, the Vorta from DS9, and Shran, the conflicted but noble Andorian from Enterprise.
Next up was sociology professor and Trek scholar John Tenuto, who presented a wonderful slide presentation on the making of “Space Seed,” which included rare archival shots of Ricardo Montalban from his life and the filming of the classic Trek episode. Originally, Carey Wilber, a writer for Lost In Space, submitted an 18-page treatment for the episode. In it, everyone thought Kirk was dead, but Spock was able to sense, using his "peculiar powers," that the captain was still alive. We see that the original concept evolved considerably over several script writes/rewrites. It was Joseph D'Agosta who thought of Ricardo Montalban for the eventual Khan role. They needed a guy who could pull off romantic, intellectually and physically imposing. John showed a remarkable a photo of Ricardo as a baby (Spanish parents in Mexico). He was the first Hispanic actor featured on the cover of Time Magazine. We were blown away by a photo of a memo from Lucille Ball congratulating Gene Roddenberry on season one getting picked up for a full season.
Following Aron, scribe Morgan Gendel spoke about the making of his landmark TNG episode “The Inner Light.” As a freelance episodic TV writer, he pitched the concept that a probe could beam an entire experience into your head, in this case Picard's. It was the actual memories of another society into which Picard was implanted. The recurring motif of the episode, the Ressikan flute, formed the motivic kernel of Jay Chattaway's gorgeous “Inner Light Suite,” an orchestral work beloved by Trek fans. The episode also featured an appearance from Patrick Stewart's son, Daniel. Perhaps most memorable is the moment of realization when Picard's 98-year-old counterpart recognizes that he has been the instrument of revelation for the lost civilization. An incredibly emotional moment and an incredibly wonderful performance from Sir Patrick.
Next up was the first of Creation's famous No Minimum Bid Auctions. Host Adam Malin blew us away with some unique items that went for great prices, including a set of wine bottle labels from Picard's vineyards (original production art), an Enterprise shooting script autographed by Scott Bakula, an original gold Mr. Spock liquor decanter, and a stage banner that would ultimately be signed by all the attending celebrities.
The final celebrity of the day was Chase Masterson, who actually came out at the end of Max's segment to sing “I Got Two Babes” (to the tune of “I Got You Babe”) with Max and TNG script coordinator Lolita Fatjo. Dressed elegantly in a sequined dress and looking beautiful, Chase didn't disappoint. On attending her first convention, she discovered that some fans didn't recognize her. Garrett Wang and Jonathan Del Arco were in an acting class with her when she tried out, successfully, for DS9. Avery Brooks recognized her from a NordicTrack infomercial. On relationships with Bashir vs. Rom: she felt coupling with Bashir was too much Barbie/Ken style, and the comic possibilities of Leeta/ Rom would have a much better impact on the show. Her hunch turned out to be right. Her role became more enduring than she had expected. Chase also has experience in musical theater and loves the genre. She has been the lead in shows like Oklahoma.
A couple of bonus features concluded the day: first off, Richard Arnold, Gene Roddenberry's longtime assistant, offered a fascinating look at the making of DS9 on the celebration of the 20th anniversary. Using rare archival images, Arnold wowed the audience with shots showing the evolution of the look of the characters. Some factoids: Alexander Siddig is Malcolm McDowell's nephew. Michael Westmore hand painted Terry Farrell's Dax spots every day. Bob Justman came up with the idea of bringing a Klingon onto the bridge, i.e. Worf. Four days after her departure from DS9, Terry landed her role on Becker. Aron Eisenberg appeared in 47 episodes, Max Grodenchik in 37, and speechless Morn (Mark Allen Shepherd) in over 90 episodes! Jeff Combs was in 32 episodes as various characters. Vaughn Armstrong holds the record for playing the most characters on the various Trek incarnations: 16!
Last event of the day was the Creation game show format Star Trek Trivia: Yes/No. Host Adam Malin led dozens of audience contestants through some challenging trivia questions and awarded hundreds of dollars in cash prizes. And with that, Day One was complete, with the crowd energized in anticipation of the arrival of the TNG cast on Saturday.
Be sure to visit StarTrek.com again tomorrow for a recap of Saturday’s events.