Fans from around the world converged on The Crowne Plaza Cherry Hill, just outside the City of Brotherly Love (Philadelphia) in anticipation of Creation Entertainment's The Official Star Trek Convention. The event marks the kickoff of this year's celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and much of the TNG cast would be on hand for the festivities.
After a brief welcome from Creation Co-CEO Adam Malin (Malin, along with partner Gary Berman, is celebrating four decades of Creation events, making them by far the longest-running convention producer of genre-fan-oriented events), first guest Suzie Plakson hit the stage. The stunning Ms. Plakson most memorably caught our attention as K'Ehleyr on TNG and actually appeared several times, in different roles, in various Trek incarnations. An accomplished musician/vocalist with several albums and music videos under her belt, Suzie was greeted by much fan admiration and attention. She described some dissatisfaction with her Q costume, expressing that it should have had more "boobage!" On working with Michael Dorn: "He was a doll". She still keeps in touch with some of the Trek cast members. Her passion for old movies led to a desire to take up acting and "transform." She trained at Northwestern University and "on the streets of Manhattan."
On actively seeking a role on TNG while doing a development deal at Paramount, famed Trek casting producer Junie Lowry caught her doing a showcase on the lot. She was asked to try out for a Vulcan doctor, and actually got made up in Vulcan makeup. Out of that came the opportunity to play Worf's ill-fated love interest. Plakson is also an accomplished vocalist and has an album called "Didn't Want To Do It;” the music is available on iTunes. The title video from the collection can be viewed on You Tube. Suzie then proceeded to sing a brief Western song inspired by her father. Then she shared a story she has wanted to tell for many years. "Art has its own mind and takes its own time" was her preamble before launching into a brief excerpt from her "allegorical mythical journey tale" titled "Return of King Lillian."
Next up, Gene Roddenberry's longtime assistant Richard Arnold presented part one of his comprehensive overview of TNG. This presentation offered many rare and previously unseen shots from the production and history of the show.
The final segment of the day was an epic presentation featuring the distinguished actors -- Eric Menyuk, Robin Curtis and Hallie Todd -- all of whom had appeared on TNG at one time or another. Host Adam Malin navigated the trio through some poignant and vivid memories of their casting, roles and the impact being in the Trek continuum (and community) had on their respective careers and lives.
A spirited Eric Menyuk recounted his casting battle for the role of Data, which, of course, ultimately went to Brent Spiner, but Menyuk was one of the final two choices for the role. He went on to appear as The Traveler in the memorable first-season episode “Where No One Has Gone Before.” Although the role had a profound impact on him, he claimed to have a passion for law that led him into that profession, where he made a lot of money working for Fortune 500 companies (unsatisfying) and then settled into law advocacy for challenged young people (AIDS etc), something that has become his life's work. At the same time it's obvious that Eric loves his return visits to Trek events.
A svelte Robin Curtis spoke proudly of her extended family, which just completed a three-month Biggest Loser program. She has spent the past nine years working in home construction, but fondly remembers her two-part TNG experience on "Gambit” as well as, of course, her work as Saavik in Star Trek III and IV. She had high words of praise for director Leonard Nimoy and the ensemble casts of both TOS and TNG. Robin and Eric have a Trek spoof planned for Saturday’s convention day.
Hallie Todd fondly recalled her appearance as Data's daughter, Lal. She modeled her performance after Brent Spiner, especially in the "Datalore" episode. Although resistant at first to taking on a sci-fi role, she ultimately was grateful for such an important performance. "The Offspring" marked the directorial debut of Jonathan Frakes. Hallie remembers the cast and crew being buoyant with anticipation for Jonathan's first turn as director. She remembers him as generous and professional, prepared and supportive.
All three concluded with a heartfelt “Thank you” to the warm welcome Trek fans have given them over so many years. The audience responded in kind with a standing ovation. It was a rousing end to an energizing first day at The Official Star Trek Convention.
Vist StarTrek.com again tomorrow two read a day-two recap.