Lunch with the Perfect Mate
Contrary to what some people might assume, there are many Star Trek people I’ve never encountered. Others I met only in passing—just long enough to thank them for being kind to Starlog and talking to my writers (be that Ian Spelling, Joe Nazzaro, Mark Phillips or Bill Florence). So, no name-dropping shaggy dog stories, no fables without morals about them. Lack of anecdotes!
I sent Canadian correspondent Peter Bloch-Hansen to its Toronto set (for a report in Comics Scene). He also did a one-on-one chat with Janssen (for Starlog #197). That’s because she had guest starred in a provocative 1992 The Next Generation episode as "The Perfect Mate" (Kamala, an alien female trained to imprint upon and uniquely appeal to a targeted male). Consider: if you desire a smart, beautiful foreigner who loves SF, fantasy, comics and mysteries, someone just perfect for you, there she be. The quest is over.
"Kamala was a great, interesting role because I’m not like that at all," Janssen told Bloch-Hansen. "I didn’t want her to turn into a wimp or a victim or anything. She was someone who had chosen very specifically to do that with her life and was content with it. She didn’t look down on it."
But was she really a perfect fit for Jean-Luc Picard? "Kamala took her responsibilities very seriously," the actress explained, "and did her job as well as anybody could, at least I think so. She ought to be taken seriously by Captain Picard. I don’t think that his falling for her is a flaw in his character or has anything to do with being sexist. He fell in love with a woman who is his equal."
Of course, Janssen’s best known for her three-movie run as Jean Grey, one of the X-Men (where she reunited with Next Gen beau Patrick Stewart). She cameos in the current X-film The Wolverine. Now, I began reading Marvel’s original X-Men comic (with issue #14) not long after Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created it. I’ve always liked the telekinetic Jean Grey (romantically torn in the comics between Cyclops and Angel initially; in the cinema between Cyclops and Wolverine). As Marvel Girl/Phoenix, she was an appealing mutant heroine, eventually transformed into the tragic, ultra-powerful Dark Phoenix, then killed off and resurrected several times, as comics characters often are. That poignant thread of doomed romance enhanced the Jean Grey legend.
Janssen did two notable TV series (Nip/Tuck and the recent Hemlock Grove) and three other genre flicks (Clive Barker’s Lord of Illusions, co-starring with Scott Bakula, Deep Rising, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) as well as the Taken movies. But pre-X-Men, her biggest break came in the 1995 James Bond film GoldenEye (Pierce Brosnan’s bow as Agent 007). Janssen played Xenia Onatopp, a lovely assassin with the usual name drenched in that special Bondage brand of sexual innuendo.
So, I was quite intrigued when, to promote James Bond and GoldenEye, Trek alumnus Janssen made a personal appearance at a Starland convention in Denver. Terry Erdmann, another publicist pal of mine (and later author of several terrific Trek reference books), had previously worked with Janssen on Lord of Illusions. He steered her around the con, assisted by two local publicists. That’s when I met her. Janssen had just flown in Saturday morning—and she hadn’t had lunch. Never a good idea to starve a guest! Quickly, something was ordered at the hotel restaurant. But where could Janssen dine in peace, away from prying eyes, before the GoldenEye panel?
Where indeed? I suggested my first-floor room, 20 feet down the hallway we were already in, as an impromptu dining space/green room.
And so it was! I opened the door with trepidation, but the housekeeper had (fortunately!) been there already. Everything looked perfect. Copies of my magazines, Starlog, Comics Scene and Next Generation, were fanned out, as I always did at cons, on the tabletop. A jenga tower of movie trailers was piled high, ready for my preview talk. And there sat a convention gift basket of cookies and candies. All that was missing was an open bar.
Janssen had ordered (what I vaguely recall as) a hamburger (Maybe with french fries? Possibly potato chips?). As the three publicists and I stood around waiting (and noshing on my gift basket goodies), Janssen sat down and finished her meal. Everyone thanked me for the loan of my room, desk and chair and off they went to the con ballroom for the GoldenEye presentation.
I stayed behind, policed the area, got the lunch plate and tray ready for room service pickup. Today, it would be eBay, but, back then, maybe I could have auctioned off the leftovers.
David McDonnell, "the maitre’d of the science fiction universe," has dished up coverage of pop culture for more than three decades. Beginning his professional career in 1975 with the weekly "Media Report" news column in The Comic Buyers’ Guide, he joined Jim Steranko’s Mediascene Prevue in 1980. After 31 months as Starlog’s Managing Editor (beginning in October 1982), he became that pioneering SF magazine’s longtime Editor (1985-2009). He also served as Editor of its sister publications Comics Scene, Fangoria and Fantasy Worlds. At the same time, he edited numerous licensed movie one-shots (Star Trek and James Bond films, Aliens, Willow, etc.) and three ongoing official magazine series devoted to Trek TV sagas (The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager). He apparently still holds this galaxy’s record for editing more magazine pieces about Star Trek in total than any other individual, human or alien.
Copyright 2013 David McDonnell