Anyone who's flown in the past few years knows that as soon as the plane lands you are treated to a concert of smartphone chirps, whirrs and dings. On my recent flight to Las Vegas, once we touched down, I heard the inimitable voice of Michael Dorn proclaim “Captain, incoming message.”
I had arrived.
It was the Creation Entertainment Official Star Trek Convention, my first Vegas con since '07 and my debut providing a piece of the action. This was also the first Sin City meet-up since One Trek Mind left spacedock in November, and we thought it would be fun to make the list-making experience a group effort. In addition to the audience – and we had some great, enthusiastic crowds -- I was joined by special guests: the original Gorn, Bobby Clark; Trek props guru Alec Peters; the Grand Mufti of Trek knowledge, Larry Nemecek; and the Edward R. Murrow of sci-fi celebrity interviews, Ian Spelling. There were four sessions and, by and large, I feel that we came away making the right decisions.
The first panel (which a local news outlet covered; click HERE) tried to establish what were Star Trek's Best Fight Scenes. I can – mostly -- hold my head high at the choices, though it kills me that we didn't include Kirk's brawl against Thelev (the Orion posing as the Andorian) from “Journey to Babel.” You may recall that Kirk puts the hammer down on Thelev by jumping off a wall and then pounding down on him.
Working in front of a crowd was very gratifying, not just because audience members got to see how difficult it is leaving someone off the list, but because I didn't have to hit Google to remember a character's name. (Eternal thanks to the guy who remembered that The Rock's character from Voyager was the “Pendari Champion.”) I was also happy that suggestions of “Sybok vs. God” from Star Trek V and “Kirk vs. the Bridge” from Generations were met with laughs. You see, Trekkies DO have a sense of humor.
An audience member summed up the winning fight from “Amok Time” best: it's the only time where we ever see Kirk come close to losing, and that helps make it so memorable. (That plus it has its own theme song.)
The second panel, Best TNG Episodes, was a little more intense. “'Darmok' shows Picard's determination, the inherent desire for all creatures to communicate,” a woman argued. She was met with a round of applause, but was overrun by shouts for “The Inner Light.” There was one fella, however, who really, really disagreed that “The Inner Light” was worthy of the top spot. “You're a hack! This is bulls**t! It has no re-watch value!” he cried, mostly kidding. A woman in the far back of the hall countered, “It's a vision of the life Picard thought he never wanted – but his good qualities ultimately shone through!” “Plus, it's a weird sci-fi concept,” I added. “A probe floating around implanted the memory of a culture. It's definitely #1.”
We had 15 nominees, and had to whittle them down to 10. “Although I'm sacrificing my own childhood,” one woman agreed, “I have to say 'Rascals' probably doesn't belong in the top 10.”
As might be expected, the battle for Best Original Series Episode was just as heated. “This will be in stone, like the name James R. Kirk,” I said, to the only crowd in the world that would get the joke. Like TNG's bests, we noticed that many of the big winners were episodes where our characters are seen in an environment outside of the ordinary. With “The City on the Edge of Forever,” “Mirror Mirror” and “Amok Time” as top 3, not one of these are typical “day at the office” episodes. The #4 pick, “The Trouble with Tribbles” had a very strong and vocal faction urging for the top spot. They raised a good point that it is oftentimes the episode that turns one into a Trek fan. However, fourth place is probably where it belongs. Personally, I would have liked more of the weird sci-fi heavy episodes like “Wink of an Eye” or “Return to Tomorrow” toward the back of the list, but there were good arguments for “The Corbomite Maneuver” (seeing the team strategize together) and “The Enterprise Incident” (Spock is a Vulcan 007!)
A dark horse was eighth placed “A Taste of Armageddon,” which I personally nominated, and was able to get people rallying for because of its blend of sterile brutality and unexpected humor.
For the last panel, we went lighthearted and tried to determine The Most “Useless” Alien Species. Again, the Tribbles were instantly a flashpoint. Some cried for their heads, and others argued that they were extremely effective as Klingon detectors. (I added that they also will hoover your rug of any spilled Quadrotriticale, but no one laughed.) My favorite part of this panel was when we were discussing a character that ultimately didn't make the list: Ian from “The Child.” We put him up on the board as a half-human, half-Betazoid. Then, in a moment of false bravado, I corrected myself, “Troi herself is half-Betazoid, so her child would therefore be quarter-Betazoid.” As the “Computer” backstage re-typed the entry on the big screen, a sharp audience member chimed in, “No! 'The Child' was a genetic duplicate of its host, so it would still remain half-Terran, half-Betazoid!”
Man, I love Trekkies.
And the love of Trekkies is really the whole point. One does not go to conventions JUST to get autographs from Jennifer Hetrick and Robert O'Reilly (although that's awesome.) One goes to meet people, to yap endlessly about minutiae at the bar and to look at the amazing costumes. (The Elvis Gorn still makes me laugh, as does the couple dressed as the Vasquez rocks, or the dude dressed as “White Guy-nan.”)
Only at the Vegas convention can you have this back and forth, shouting over the din of slot machines:
“It's roughly 150 years from the Eugenics War to Khitomer.”
“The Khitomer Massacre or the Khitomer Accords?”
“C'mon! Be serious.”
Jordan Hoffman was the movies editor at UGO.com for more than four years. He has produced two independent films (look 'em up!) and is a member of the New York Film Critics Online. In 2005, he was named the Ultimate Film Fanatic of the NorthEast by IFC. Jordan fell in love with Star Trek through TOS reruns just as TNG was getting ready to launch. On his BLOG, Jordan has reviewed all 727 Trek episodes and films, most of the comics and some of the novels. He has a funny story about the one time he met Leonard Nimoy.