Saturday evening drew visitors from around the world, to share the first convention reunion of the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast. The nine members of the crew were in Canada at the special "TNG: Exposed event at the CalgaryExpo. See below for a full report and even more pictures.
TNG cast laughs at memories of the good old days
The special event held at the Calgary Stampede Corral began with surprise guest, Star Trek Voyager star Garrett Wang, who introduced the event. Wang was followed by a riveting speech by Marvin Rush (who directed some episodes of TNG) who noted how "We live in Star Trek," citing iPads, flip phones and other modern technologies that have since come true after their debut on Star Trek. He concluded that he believed Star Trek will be remembered as a documentary, rather than a drama series.
Next came a couple of short videos with the first being a new tribute made for the con featuring Trek legends like George Takei, Walter Koenig, Robert Picardo, and John De Lancie. "Gene Roddenberry deserves the credit for the utopian view of human future," explains Takei, "[he] captured the ingredients that made it long lasting and loved." Robert Picardo, too, spoke of Star Trek’s importance: "Would there be a world of sci-fi without Trek? I can’t imagine it." Edward James Olmos, of Battlestar Galactica fame, also professed his love for Trek – though he admitted he’d prefer his own first officer to Riker in the Battlestar universe. Calgary’s Trekkie Mayor Naheed Nenshi, pictured in his office complete with First Contact poster, contributed a welcome video from the City of Calgary, concluding with the Vulcan salute.
And then, finally, one at a time, TNG’s familiar faces were brought out by the hosts of Space Channel’s innerSPACE in order of their fictional rank. The corral, normally filled with the echo of 7,500 hockey fans, instead shook with applause from the standing ovation of Trek fans. The actors began by discussing their experiences in Trek, from their first thoughts and worries to their final realization that it was something truly special. Marina Sirtis confessed that, originally, she had not been happy with the role, but by season three she had realized they’d done something right.
The legendary cast continued to discuss their best memories from the set. Michael Dorn shared an hilarious anecdote about how stray cats were using dirt on a Paramount stage that was supposed to be the earth of a foreign planet and Patrick Stewart had to crawl around in this improvised kitty litter, exasperatingly exclaiming "I don’t know how I got here! I’m crawling through cat shit!" Gates McFadden joked that her favorite moment "was when I finally found the button to turn Data on!" At this point, Brent Spiner rose and reached comically for the button on his pants – and both Gates and the audience exploded into laughter.
Jonathan Frakes recalled his first con where jaded original series fans were less than welcoming and how he spotted a sign on a merchandise table saying "Buy any action figure, get Riker free!" Requested by the crew of the International Space Station, Patrick Stewart described his conference call with them, asking "Why would a real spaceman want to talk to a fake one?!" The ISS crew professed their love for the TV shows, and sent him a photo of the entire crew in their Star Trek uniforms. Much to Stewart’s surprise, this had not been Photoshopped; the ISS team had worn their replica uniforms into space.
Lucky fans then asked questions, one of the first suggesting an animated reboot of the series. Patrick Stewart agreed, but "only if it was done by Seth McFarlane!" The pinnacle of the question period was a surprise visit by Aaron Douglas (Battlestar Galactica), a good friend of Wil Wheaton’s. After friendly banter and an impressive bout of Treknobabble concerning the speed of neutrinos, Wil turned to Aaron for his real question: what was it like to be back on stage with these people? In his answer, Wil Wheaton had a personal confession to share with the audience, that he had only told the cast at dinner just an hour earlier. "What I was unprepared for [in leaving] was how much I was going to miss the people that are on this stage … To be here tonight, for me, it’s very much for me – it’s like coming home." Each star was visibly moved and, in tears, Marina rose to cross the stage and embrace him. They reassured him that he was just a kid at the time – they knew that then, and they knew they would always be there for him. "To tell you the God’s honest truth you were a pain in the ass," said LeVar Burton, "but you were our pain in the ass!" Amidst LeVar and the casts’ humorous affection, there truly was not a dry eye in the venue.
Clearly, an audience favorite was Jonathan Frakes, who was teased by his cast mates into redoing his line from TNG’s "Where No One Has Gone Before" – "It wasn’t him, it never was – it was his assistant!" He stumbled repeatedly, unable to recite the line as it was structured, but his attempts had everyone in the house in absolute stitches. Upon the conclusion of TNG’s "All Good Things," Michael Dorn remembers everyone spontaneously holding hands around that iconic poker table – and says that after that last scene was shot, he had never cried so hard in his life. "We had fun for seven years," he says, looking fondly upon his Star Trek family. "I have the opportunity to spend time with the people I laugh best with this weekend."
The surprise of the night though, was Space Channel’s Teddy Wilson asking Patrick Stewart to choose his favorite adversary. After brief consultation with Frakes, Patrick agreed that Damon Bok of the Ferengi had easily been the worst. "I came to love the Ferengis in time," he commented, but then amidst the thousands of cheering fans, there came a voice from the back of the corral…"WHAT A BUNCH OF POOP! I got a- I got a flower delivery here for a John Luck Pycard!"
To everyone’s surprise, including the Next Gen cast, John deLancie came marching up the aisle, bouquet of orchids in hand. He was welcomed, embracing all of them and joining in on the fun. As Stewart noted, the very last scene of TNG’s All Good Things was shot at 2am and was dialogue between himself and deLancie. Stewart distributed the flowers among those on stage, giving his love. Then, Gates McFadden took each sprig back from the cast with a gentle kiss for each, until Stewart, with whom she acted out a passionate kiss – sharing the best kiss for Stewart, drawing cheers and applause.
Wil Wheaton, in his ultimate Geekdom, asked Patrick how awesome it was to be an X-Man. Patrick laughed, and explained how wonderful it was to work with all of the actors – and he considers Hugh Jackman to be adorable.
As always, the cast members demonstrated exceptional class. "We share a bond that is unbreakable," said Burton, expressing gratitude to Calgarians for their humble welcome, "and we thank you enormously for caring for the people that we have played all these years." The TNG:Exposed Event was truly a landmark in Trek history. With home grown conventions able to showcase such talent and bring in Trek fans from around the world, there is great hope for the franchise.
And, as a certain Android might say, the sky’s the limit."
More from Calgary
Stay tuned for more TrekMovie coverage or Calgary Expo and the TNG reunion, including coverage of the Sunday panels.
All photos by Alex Martinuik