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Hawaii Star Trek Convention Recap - Day 2

Hawaii Star Trek Convention Recap - Day 2

The Star Trek aloha spirit returned to Honolulu, Hawaii, as Day Two of The Official Star Trek Convention launched at Sheraton Waikiki with Vaughn Armstrong (Admiral Forrest of Enterprise amongst his many Trek roles) inviting his fellow Enterprise Blues Band mate Casey Biggs (DS9's Damar) on stage to perform "The Enterprise Blues," with Armstrong opening with a slide-whistle rendition of the Trek theme. Biggs wailed on acoustic guitar and Armstrong offered a soulful blues harmonica bridge. Both sang as they passionately entreated the powers that be to "put me back on TV!" Next the two next returned to the perennially funny riff on the misfortune that befalls wearing the dreaded red shirt. Armstrong was mighty impressive with another of his collection of blues harmonicas, and the two offered a two-part harmony that was funky and funny ("Please Mr. Shatner, I don't wanna go!") No Hawaiian appearance for Armstrong would be complete without him performing his Hawaiian tune Trekkie Deckie" on ukelele, a tribute to the beautiful Waikiki Beach and the "deep blue sea."

Following that, Creation co-CEO and show host Adam Malin conducted an in-depth interview with Jeff Combs, an all-time Star Trek fan favorite. Tracing back through Combs’ extensive acting resume, they explored his early years working with director Stuart Gordon on several classic horror films of the 80’s, including Re-Animator and From Beyond. One of the highlights of Combs’ film career was his work with director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) on The Frighteners, in which he co-starred with Michael J. Fox. Combs described his process creating his character's fanaticism. He recalled a guest role on DS9 (directed by Jonathan Frakes) that led to an encounter on set with Rene Auberjonois, whom he’d worked with in his early days of regional theater. Auberjonois brought him to the attention of Ira Steven Behr, the executive producer, who cast him as Brunt, the Ferengi. The producers' enthusiasm for Combs’ work paid off when they created the notorious, smooth-talking Vorta, Weyoun. Combs plunged into the role with relish, only to be disappointed by the character's abrupt end in the same episode. Thankfully, Weyoun was cloned (over and over), a running gag for both Combs and the producers. Combs likened him to a court ambassador, the middle management between the throne and the people under the boot of the rulers.

Malin and Combs went on to explore Combs’ powerful role as Shran, the Andorian commander from Enterprise. Combs’ ability to take a conflicted, adversarial character (he said their motivations were due to the fact that they were betrayed by everyone around them) and make him relatable and likable remains one of his great accomplishments on the show. They finally touched on Combs’ triumphant one-man show, "Nevermore," based on the life and works of Edgar Allen Poe. The piece's conceit is Poe giving a sort of recital of his work, wherein he begins to pontificate against his rivals and the American cultural divide even as he starts to get drunk (taking nips from an ever-present bottle). With ever-building inebriation he grows increasingly angry, hostile and self-destructive. The descent into madness and alienation, which marked much of Poe's tragic life, contrasts with Poe's brilliance as a writer and storyteller, and Combs worked with his longtime "Buddha" Stuart Gordon over many months to craft the performance in all its nuance. The audience also peppered Combs with questions about his roles, including the magic behind the clever animatronic Andorian antennae. Combs also gave the news that he will soon begin work on a second season as the voice of Ratchet on the new Transformer cartoon series, which was great news indeed for the legion of Transformer fans in the house.

Next up, Malin interviewed Bobby Clark, the longtime journeyman actor and stuntman who played the Gorn on TOS. With a career spanning 50 years, Clark has seen it all and was a go-to guy for westerns on episodic TV for many years, having appeared on The Big Valley, Gunsmoke, Rawhide and many others. His association with director Joe Pevney led to him being hired to play the deadly Gorn. None other than legendary prosthetic makeup/body suit artist Wah Chung (of the legendary Projects Unlimited FX group that did monsters for Outer Limits as well as Trek) created the body suit/head, over which Trek's wardrobe genius Bill Theiss created the ceremonial coverings. He was taken to Vasquez Rocks, a geological wonderland just north of L.A. that has been seen on many TV series and movies, including serving as Vulcan in the new Trek film. He filmed with William Shatner and Shatner's stunt double, and mentioned with admiration Kirk's famous flying jump kick. Clark was surprised by the amount of notoriety and love his character has received by countless Trek fans, but he loves it.

Following Bobby Clark, Casey Biggs came on stage to discuss his tenure as DS9's tragic Cardassian patriot, Damar. Biggs revealed his background as a classically trained Juilliard graduate, and having seen his amazing Shakespeare work with Marc Alaimo and Jeff Combs, fans know he has the chops for the conflicted Cardassian sideman to megalomaniac Gul Dukat. Biggs is also an accomplished musician, as evidenced by his guitar and singing work both for the Rat Pack and The Enterprise Blues Band. Biggs lamented Damar's descent into alcoholism and joked about the distasteful Karo syrup he had to continually swallow for that gag. He also thanked Trek fans for their years of support and unflinching belief in Gene Roddenberry's humanistic vision of a powerfully positive future society in harmony with itself and nature.

Scientist Inge Heyer of the joint astronomical scientific teams atop Mt. Mauna Kea on The Big Island offered a fascinating slideshow on the work being done by her associates, as well as glimpses at stars and planets outside our solar system. Fans got to take a closer look at the 15 different telescopes on the mountain, operated by joint international teams of scientists. She also announced that as of this weekend, 500 planets outside our solar system have currently been discovered, an amazing number of possible worlds with life.

One fun part of every Creation Star Trek Convention is the great music videos they have gathered over the years. Highlights from this show included a beautiful video set to Jay Chattaway's "Inner Light" orchestral suite and a hysterical "Requiem for the Redshirts," saluting those poor schlubs who beam down but never make it back up. A Hawaiian theater company, Theatricus, then staged an abridged version of their sci-fi stage drama "The Children of Aragos," featuring aliens, androids and space marshals. The audience enjoyed seeing this imaginative original sci-fi performance, complete with swordplay and a reference to the United Federation of Planets. The show continued with Creation’s final No Minimum Bid Auction of the weekend, and some great deals were had on some very special Trek and sci-fi collectibles. Amongst the intriguing array of items were a set of collector trading cards featuring fabric swatches from Trek costumes, some out-of-production Hallmark Trek X-mas ornaments, and a Galoob mini-action figure of Data signed by Brent Spiner. A Five Captains signed commemorative photo valued at $1000 went for $520, a steal.

Afterwards, the stage was cleared and Armin Shimerman was welcomed to warm applause and cheers. He recounted his audition for Quark, in which he was competing against none other than the man who would become brother Rom, Max Grodenchik. In opposition to the expected rivalry between the two actors, they bonded almost immediately and discussed the Ferengi mindset. Shimerman got a third callback at which Avery Brooks, Nana Visitor and Auberjonois were present. He admitted to being very nervous, especially as he was a huge Trek fan. Rick Berman was there, as were a host of "suits," and his line "I love a woman in uniform" got big laughs from the group. Berman came by afterwards to ask how he thought he did, to which Shimerman replied that he wasn't sure. Berman countered that he shouldn't have worried because they wrote the line just for him. He was in! Shimerman reflected that he had used a vocal affectation for the first episode and that Berman counseled him to speak naturally, or he would blow out his vocal chords. He also suggested that he should drop the "Irish" accent because they already had an Irishman on the show. He then described his costumes (by the great Bob Blackman) as beautiful -- and hot. Shimerman also recounted a time during the Northridge earthquake of 1994 when they were sent home from the studio. He was already glued into the "helmet" portion of the head prosthetic, and after calling his wife (actress Kitty Swink) and hearing that his house was damaged, he knew he had to go home. He was driving at 5 a.m., in the dark, with this huge head piece attached to his head and holding his glasses in front of his head. A passing driver, freaked out by his head piece, waved him on with a glassy look on his face! He also recalled with glee his time as a female Ferengi, proud that virtually every member of production felt him up! He would get into a fat suit and a dress and transform himself.

Then Max Grodenchik joined Shimerman on stage. An attendee wondered about how the dynamic with mom Moogie was worked out. They got to work with two great actresses, Andrea Martin and Cecily Adams, and drew on their own maternal instincts. Regarding the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition, Shimerman claims that Grodenchik knows ALL of them, including number 50: never bluff a Klingon.

With the conclusion of their segment, Malin invited all the guests of the convention on stage, and the audience was treated to a final bow from J.G. Hertzler, Armin Shimerman, Max Grodenchik, Vaughn Armstrong, Casey Biggs and Jeff Combs, who bid a hearty mahalo to the audience. It was a remarkable exclamation point to a weekend overflowing with aloha spirit and good times.