Fans from literally around the world converged on the home of Starfleet Command itself, San Francisco, for Creation Entertainment's Official Star Trek Convention. This promised to be an epic weekend with wonderful guests and entertainment, and the venue was the world-famous Westin St. Francis Hotel, a California landmark since 1906; the hotel was pretty much rebuilt after the famous earthquake of 1906, which occurred shortly after the opening of the property. This storied hotel has hosted kings and queens, heads of state and famous entertainers too numerous to mention. Creation's meeting space included opulent ballrooms featuring elegant wood paneling, gold leaf ceilings with bas relief, walls with wainscoting and fabric, and meeting rooms with hidden passageways dating back to Prohibition that gilded-age patrons used to reach hidden speakeasies that were secreted into the building. A property rich in history that was an elegant counterpoint to the futuristic world of the Federation.
Entering the theater, the hotel's Baroque style Grand Ballroom, one was immediately impressed by the massive stage set, including a formal stage, beautiful banners of the attending guests, and the image of Nichelle Nichols with President Obama giving the Vulcan “Live Long” salute.
Creation co-CEO Adam Malin (clearly energized and excited to be back with Trek audiences he has hosted for more than four decades with his partner Gary Berman) launched the show with one of Creation's famous Star Trek music videos, following which it was time for the arrival of the nefarious Gul Dukat himself, Marc Alaimo. Beloved by Trek audiences in general and DS9 aficionados in particular, Marc looked fit and was clearly in good spirits as he greeted the audience. One attendee asked about Dukat's character arc. Marc loved it (except for when Dukat was a Bajoran) and in particular wanted to ensure the character wasn't one-dimensional. He wanted Dukat have some humanity mixed with his pathos. On makeup: he would be summoned to the Paramount sound stages at 3:30 AM, and it would take 3-4 hours working with Michael Westmore and his team to get into the full prosthetic makeup. He said Westmore loved him because he had a long neck which lent itself to the reptilian nature of the Cardassians.
One attendee noted that Dukat was obsessed with Major Kira. Marc conjectured that if the storyline had continued, it would have been hot to have the two characters hook up. Regarding other TV roles, Starsky and Hutch and The Six Million Dollar Man were two shows he enjoyed doing. He also had a long and enjoyable career in theater. He then complimented Andy Robinson’s performance as the duplicitous Cardassian character Garak. On being a villain: he said he grew up in the streets, and could be vicious if he needed to be. He said as an actor he could use the full range of his personal experiences and feelings. He also had some dance exposure which included ballet from a Jesuit priest who incorporated that into his theater training. On being on the soap opera Edge of Night: he is in prison and his cell mate is ratting him out. He and his cell mates are surrounding the rat, and they start brawling. Unknowingly, Marc had stepped on his cell mate's private parts, and because it was live television the poor guy could only grimace. Marc left the stage to much audience applause!
Next up was scribe Morgan Gendel, who wrote the award-winning TNG episode “The Inner Light.” Looking back, he recounted getting the assignment from Michael Piller, who tasked him with coming up with something "out of the box." His concept was a probe that would beam a civilization's collective racial memory into a host entity (in this case Capt. Picard). Morgan mentioned co-producer Joe Menosky as having collaborated on some of the concepts, including the concept of this civilization as an artisanal society. He felt the casting of Patrick's son Daniel as the character's son was an interesting choice. But for most fans the moment of revelation when the aliens reveal to the aging character that he is the vessel of their message is a remarkable one and an acting tour de force for Patrick Stewart. Fans will also not soon forget Picard playing that magical flute melody, part of Jay Chattaway's amazing "Inner Light Suite."
Following Morgan was writer David Gerrold, beloved for his famous TOS episode “The Trouble With Tribbles” (voted one of the top ten Star Trek episodes of all time). Less known is the fact that David did the rewrite on “I, Mudd,” another fan favorite TOS episode, as well as some episodes of the animated Trek.
Regarding Tribbles: There was no real writing staff. Dorothy Fontana essentially bought the script treatment. David was present when the cast was rehearsing and filming, and noted the speech patterns of the different actors. Based on their cadences and their take on their characters, David tried to write dialogue accordingly. He noted that he had no input on the DS9 episode “Trials and Tribble-alations.” He did come in and appeared as an extra in the episode.
On the classic bar brawl: Michael Pataki is the annoying Klingon who is making fun of Scotty. Practically every other character who we don't recognize is a stunt person. The stunt coordinator went to the director Joe Pevney and asked what items in the bar the stunt guys could break. Basically the chairs and bottles. On dropping the Tribbles on Shatner: David was afraid Bill would reject the scene because it makes Kirk look silly. Much to his surprise Bill embraced the scene as a way to give Kirk a comedic opportunity.
On matching “Trials and Tribble-ations” visually to “The Trouble with Tribbles”: the producers literally had to use a special outdated film stock to match the footage from TOS during the scenes where the DS9 crews are on NCC 1701. Regarding Gene Roddenberry: he called the man a visionary, but not the best production manager. David also takes credit for giving Kirk his middle name, Tiberius (originally a joke).
Following David's segment, host Adam Malin surprised the audience with an entertaining and well-researched multimedia presentation on "The Aliens of Star Trek." Using music video clips, slides, factoids and trivia questions, Malin pulled from decades of Trek continuity to talk about some of our favorite Trek creatures and alien civilizations, touching on history, physiology and interesting details.
Next up was Bobby Clark, the man who played the notorious Gorn on TOS. Bobby recounted filming his epic battle both with Bill Shatner and his stand in (a stunt actor) both on sound stages at Desilu and on location at Vasquez Rocks, California (close to where he lives). On the costume: there were two of them, and he wore his for 12 hours at a time. There was another "stand in" Gorn for long shots. Bobby also spoke about his career as a cowboy in over 100 films and TV shows.
Following Bobby, Creation offered the first of the weekend's No Minimum Bid Auctions. Items offered at this high-energy event included stage banners signed by all the guests at the convention (Malin mentioned that some of the proceeds benefit Arts High Foundation, a charity that funds arts education for high school kids); a Klingon banner signed by the late Bill Campbell; and first-edition hardcovers by convention guests John de Lancie, LeVar Burton and Brent Spiner.
After that, it was time to welcome fan favorite Jeff Combs, one of Star Trek's busiest character actors. Jeff appeared in numerous alien roles on different incarnations of Trek, and has led a distinguished career in film, TV and stage. On Weyoun from DS9: he thought he was just a one-timer, since he was killed in the episode (he had already appeared as Brunt, Ferengi Commissioner). Evidently, the writers were so impressed by his portrayal that they decided to make him a recurring character. Being a clone was the perfect solution. Sitting in the makeup chair for the first time as the character was like going to school for the first time, trying to devise who the character was: a courtly, almost Japanese zen-style character masking his duplicitous nature. On Shran: he and the makeup guys who controlled his animatronic antennae devised a visual language for Shran's different moods.
On Peter Jackson: The Frighteners was meant for a Halloween release but was pushed to the summer, so it wasn't an optimal release time. As Jeff describes it, it starts out as a happy-go-lucky Michael J. Fox film and slowly devolves into a dark horror melodrama. He described Peter as a genius able to change a story on a dime from one direction to another. He also had great things to say about another of his directors, Stuart Gordon
(Re-Animator, Bride of Re- Animator, From Beyond). Stuart was Jeff's original director on his one-man stage show about Edgar Allen Poe, which Creation presented a couple years ago at their huge Vegas event.
Jeff thanks Rene Auberjonois for getting the role of Brunt on DS9. It was Rene who’d suggested him for the role. Also, if Enterprise had gone a fifth season, Jeff says Shran would have become a series regular. He also had high words of praise for William Shatner, as the ballsy Captain Kirk. And he enjoyed working with Duane Johnson, A/K/A The Rock, on an episode of Voyager. Jeff left the stage to thunderous applause.
Creation ended the day with a showing of Gene Roddenberry's personal set of Star Trek Blooper Reels. Time has done nothing to diminish the hilarity of these TOS clips. It was an upbeat end to a wonderful first day at Creation Entertainment's The Official Star Trek Convention San Francisco.
Visit StarTrek.com again tomorrow for a recap of day two’s events. Guests scheduled for today include Walter Koenig, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, John de Lancie and Denise Crosby.