On Friday at the Vegas con fans got a great mix with very interesting behind the scenes panels with writer/producer Ira Steven Behr and producer/director David Livingston, along with fun celebrity panels, including a joint panel with the Enterprise pair of Dominic Keating and Connor Trinneer, plus Diana Muldaur, and a giant panel of guest stars from various Star Trek series. See below for more details and photos.
STAR TREK LAS VEGAS CON FRIDAY RECAP
By John Tenuto, Kayla Iacovino and Erica Anderson
Ira Steven Behr
Friday’s appearance by Deep Space Nine producer, writer, and showrunner Ira Steven Behr was one of his first ever at a Star Trek fan event, but hopefully not his last. During an interview by Creation Entertainment’s Adam Malin and questions by the audience, Behr shared stories about his career that spans shows as diverse as Fame (which Behr mentioned was the precursor to Glee) and The 4400. Throughout the discussion, many interesting bits of Star Trek history were revealed.
Behr was a fan of Star Trek before being asked to write for The Next Generation during its earlier seasons. He turned down the offer the first time because he wasn’t keen on the idea of being restricted by some of the rules imposed on writers. When Michael Piller took over the writing aspect of TNG, Behr took a chance to work on the program. He mentioned that on his first day, he was given some pages about an action scene involving Jefferies Tubes (which Behr joked he thought was some kind of intestinal problem). He had no idea how the scene fit into the rest of the script. He rewrote it and brought to Michael Piller who liked it, but Behr remembers being very nervous those first few days.
He left TNG after about a year, unhappy with the rules he had trepidation about. In fact, Behr discussed some interesting philosophy about rules being good ideas at the time they are created, but that rules could and should be changed or ignored when writing creatively if the situation is right. It is interesting to contrast Behr’s ideas about the hindrance of rules on creativity to that of fellow Trek scribe and the director of Star Treks II and VI, Nicholas Meyer, who believes that art thrives on limitations. Perhaps the ideas are contrasting, perhaps they are not. Somewhere in there is an academic paper waiting to be written!
Behr stayed in touch with Michael Piller. One day, the two of them were at a Dodgers game, and Piller, who had repeatedly been asking Behr what work he was currently doing, casually told Behr that he would like him to come onboard a new show called Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that was going to be created which was much more like his sensibilities, and that in two years, Behr would be the showrunner. Hilariously, Behr said that he has no idea what the score of that game was because he was in shock and so happy about the offer.
Behr spoke about the incredibly talented cast of actors and creative behind the scenes artists who produced the show, calling his seven years with DS9 an amazing experience. He spoke about how on the last day he couldn’t leave, telling someone on set that he had his entire life not to be there anymore, and he wanted to stay as long as he could, literally leaving when the last of the sets were being struck. He loved the show and the people that much.
His time on stage ending, Adam Malin invited Behr back for next year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of DS9 and it is an invitation fans hope can be accepted.
Before leaving, Behr asked the audience for a favor. In easily one of the most emotional and best moments of any Star Trek convention, Behr asked the audience, on the count of three, to think the words "Hey, Michael Piller" in reference to the incredibly talented and important producer/writer of TNG, and arguably one of the people who helped save the franchise. Piller had died almost a decade ago of cancer, a painful loss. Behr counted "1, 2, 3" and silence filled the room. You could feel a wave of thoughts being sent as a few thousand people’s ideas all reflected the same notion. Behr looked upward, and with a breaking voice, said "Michael, you hear that?" We all did, and we know Piller did, too.
Behr then signed autographs for hundreds of fans for free, taking pictures and chatting with each. From my own perspective, I could say Mr. Behr is not only the showrunner of a favorite television show, he became this weekend part of a wonderful memory of what Star Trek is all about.
Another behind the scenes luminary appearing on Friday was David Livingston who was a supervising producer on Star Trek Voyager and Star Trek The Next Generation, along with being the director for dozens of episodes from the TNG, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise series. Livingston talked about how he began with TNG at the beginning as a production manager, which put him in charge of budget and crew. When it came to the role of the director, Livingston noted that on Star Trek it was the his job to shoot what was on the page, "the scripts were locked," so ad-libbing or changes weren’t really part of the experience. However, he noted how it was the director’s job to give life to the words on the page by deciding on how to shoot each scene.
Discussing favorite episodes that he directed, he cited "The Killing Game" for Voyager and "Crossover" for DS9. He also generally liked episodes where characters were possessed by something or in an alternative universe. Discussing DS9’s "The Visitor" he revealed that they initially considered using Cirroc Lofton (in heavy make up) to play the part of the older Jake, but he was glad they brought in Tony Todd who was "totally committed to the role and cried in every take."
Star Trek Voyager’s Garrett Wang was on hand at the show. He appeared on stage and made sure the fans new about the T-Shirts his new company had that he was selling in the dealers room.
While taking questions Wang revealed that even though he can, he didn’t actually play clarinet on Voyager…and he wasn’t happy about that. He also noted he regretted not taking the King of Jordan up on an invitation to visit the country, after the King did his cameo on the series (Picardo and Phillips did go to Jordan). Talking about the relationships on set, the actor said he and Robert Beltran were the closest, because they were the only single guys. However he and the rest of the guys from Voyager still get together regularly for dinner. Wang likes to do impressions and he said he even did his Janeway impression in front of Kate Mulgrew, who thought it was pretty good. Surprisingly Wang said the most challenging thing he ever did in Star Trek was on the independent fan film Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, but that was mostly due to there being no AC on the humid set.
Garrett also hung around long enough to intro the next panel…
Dominic Keating and Connor Trinneer
Enterprise stars Dominic Keating and Connor Trinneer had a joint appearance and you could still see the great chemistry they had as Malcolm and Trip on the NX-01. The pair joked around a bit on stage and also spoke about how there was a lot of practical joking on the set of Enterprise. Dom’s favorite was when they found an old Canada Dry commercial Scott Bakula did playing the Canada Dry Man and they set it up to play on every monitor on the bridge of the Enterprise.
The pair reveled some behind the scenes stuff about the series. Connor said that the scene where T’Pol drops her robe in front of trip was actually not Jolene Blalock but a stand in, so he didn’t get to see her naked. The pair talked fondly of the episode "Shuttlepod One" which was essentially a two man play for them. Apparently the crew applauded the actors after they shot the episode (something rarely done on set). Connor revealed that originally Trip was a bit of a "dumb Southerner" but he felt that wasn’t the right thing for someone who headed Engineering so the producers were open to his suggestion to change that.
Talking about current projects,
Connor is doing voice over work for HP computers, whereas Keating recently finished voicing the character Templar for Diablo 3. Keating also did a guest role on Breakout Kings and is doing a new movie with Harvey Keitel.
And in one of the expanded features of the con, the pair also did a dramatic reading together.
Friday also had a rare con appearance for Diana Muldaur who had a guest roles on the original Star Trek in the 60s ("Return to Tomorrow" and "Is There in Truth No Beauty?") and then came back as a regular for Star Trek: The Next Generation in her role as Chief Medical Officer Katherine Pulaski. Muldaur described working on TOS as "marvelously original" and noted "it was just plain fun." Comparing the two series, the actress said she found TNG to be much more technical and less about people than TOS, but she still found TNG fascinating. Commenting on the role of Polaski, Muldaur said "she was fun."
Specifically regarding her roles in the original series (playing a psychologist and a astrobiologist) she noted it was a "huge breakthrough" to play against the norm as successful career women. The actress also talked about how things were a bit chaotic when shooting "Is There in Truth No Beauty" as the script had been thrown out and they filmed it scene by scene but out of order as Gene wrote a script during production.
Making History Group Panel
Some of Star Trek’s unsung heroes — the supporting characters — took the stage this afternoon to share their collective years of experience working on Trek. The large group consisted of Andrew Robinson (Garak), Eddie Paskey (Lt. Leslie, "the" classic redshirt on TOS appearing in 57 episodes), Patti Yasutake (Nurse Alyssa Ogawa, TNG), Alexander Enberg (Ensign Vorik on VOY,young reporter on TNG’s Time’s Arrow Part II, and Ensign Taurik on TNG’s Lower Decks), Michael Barrier (DeSalle from TOS episodes "The Squire of Gothos," "This Side of Paradise," and "Catspaw"), Arlene Martel (T’Pring from "Amok Time"), and Elizabeth Dennehy (TNG’s Lt. Cmdr. Elizabeth Paula Shelby in "The Best of Both Worlds" Parts I & II).
Each one of them expressed their thanks and gratitude to the fans, explaining that their careers were very influenced by Star Trek and its success. "When I booked the part," said Dennehy, "someone said to me ‘you have no idea what is about to happen to your life’. And, no I didn’t!" Robinson said that he felt he had betrayed the character of Garak in the later seasons saying "I made him too lovable." Martel, who was originally called in for the pilot, said that the role of T’Pring affected her strongly. "It was the first time I played a woman who was intellectually centered rather than emotional. It changed my life."
Friday also featured TrekMovie’s Kayla on the "Geek Girl" panel where she was joined by Her Universe founder Ashley Eckstein, along with DVD Geek’s Mary Czerwinski and Bye Bye Robot’s Charity Wood.
Much more coverage coming + livetweeting
More Star Trek Las Vegas 2012 coverage:
Keep your eye out for more reports coming over the weekend.
Photos by Andy Britton & Kayla Iacovino