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Deep space never felt so close as it did Friday at the Star Trek convention in Las Vegas. Stars of the show joined fans to celebrate the series and one of its most venerated episodes in two separate panels. Full reports on those two panels plus much more in our STLV Friday wrap-up.
Deep Space Nine Panel Keeps Fans Laughing
The first of two Star Trek: Deep Space Nine panels on Friday was a gathering of Terry Farrell (Dax), Colm Meaney (O’Brien), Nana Visitor (Kira), James Darren (Vic Fontaine), Jeffrey Combs (Brunt, Weyoun), Hana Hatae (Molly), and Rene Auberjonois (Odo).
Unbeknownst to most fans, because she was so young when the show was on, Hana Hatae said this was her first time on this stage. Apparently she was unbeknownst to some of her fellow actors to, because when she met Colm Meaney backstage she said, “Hi, dad!” and gave him a little shock. Hana started on the show at age 4, and she said it took her a while to realize that the show wasn’t her real life. She hasn’t acted since it ended and has focused instead on athletics and the violin.
Her on-stage parents “were honestly like second parents. They treated me like family.”
The perennial question of “what was O’Brien’s rank anyway?” came up when one fan, the son of an NCO in the Armed Forces, asked him a question.
“There was always some confusion as to what I was,” said the actor, whose Irish brogue is much thicker in real life than it was on the show. “I was confused about the whole thing myself. I’ve never gotten to the bottom of it.”
Also on stage was James Darren – Mr. Las Vegas himself – who said that, although he started relatively late in the series (toward the end of season 6), everyone made him feel like he’d “been there from the beginning.” More at home in Vegas than just about anyone else, James told about how his experiences with Vegas’s “Rat Pack” at the Sands Hotel as a kid. (James was friends with Nancy Sinatra at the time.)
“It was an incredible experience,” he said. “I learned to drink and smoke and stay up until 4 am in the morning.” When asked about his status as an “enduring sex symbol,” James confessed, “I can’t help it!”
Terry Farrell said that when she, at 28, started playing the 350+ year old Dax, she found the character frustrating. “The writers didn’t know what to do with the character they created,” she said, noting that at one point they asked her to do a combination of Grace Kelly and Yoda.
“Holy s—,” she said. “How would I ever do Yoda?”
This was particularly aggravating when they wrote scene for her where she gossiped about who so-and-so was dating. “Why would a 350 year old person care about who you’re going out with?”
One of the fans asked Terry Farrell about her skin disorder, which prevented her from doing much shooting outside, such as the episode Rocks and Shoals where Dax stays inside a cave for most of the episode. Farrell told how she was teased when people saw her about walking about with a parasol.
“‘Is it raining?’” people would ask her. “‘No, a—hole!’” she would respond.
When introduced as “the divine Jeffrey Combs,” the actor quickly inserted (in Weyoun’s voice) that “only the Founders are divine.”
Everyone knows that Combs is one of Trek’s legendary guest stars, but many don’t know how he got the role. He started off as a minor antagonist to Major Kira, and when the character of Brunt needed to be cast in Family Business, the director of the episode – Rene – insisted that the role had to go to Combs.
The show’s leader, Avery Brooks, also could not make the convention, but Combs shared the story of first meeting him. “My first scene with Avery was a frightening experience,” he said. “I was never. There were three pages of dialogue. I was drinking a cup of coffee, and Avery sneaks up on me and grumbles, ‘No liquids on set!’”
Combs recently spoke with show-runner Ira Steven Behr, who Combs said had to “fight battles with the network” for permission to get the ongoing storylines that became the show’s trademark. Because up until then, it was much more common for shows to do only stand-alone pieces.
“And today, his theory is validated,” Combs said. “Can watch it on Netflix like they’re reading chapters of a book. And it is a glorious thing.”
When Rene Auberjonois started to talk, Terry stuck her hand out for him to spit out his gum. He refused, and told how – with his Odo make-up on – he couldn’t chew anything without the risk of ruining the prosthetic. “So now I chew gum as a tribute to Odo,” he said. Somehow, though, Salome Jens (the Female Changeling) managed to figure out how to do it, he continued – calling her a “brazen hussy!”
Mourning that Armin Shimmerman couldn’t be on-stage with them, Rene noted that Quark and Odo didn’t really share that much screen time: there was only one episode specifically about their relationship and the scenes they’d share in other episodes were typically just, “I walk into the bar, insult him; he insults me, I walk out.”
“But little grace notes like that can have a big effect,” he noted.
One relationship that got plenty of attention though was between Odo and Kira. Proving that he still thinks about the show as much as we do, he recounted how he was thinking about their final scene together while he was swimming laps a few weeks ago. Odo, in a tuxedo, rejoins the Great Link and bids farewell to Kira. Rene said he should have shape-shifted a part of himself into a little paper, drink parasol – like the one he gives Kira when they first start dating – and handed it to her to “leave a part of himself with her.”
“I should have done that,” Rene said. “Maybe we should go back and reshoot that!”
Two Visitors from the future look at the past
Later in the day, the crowds were honored to host Tony Todd and Cirroc Lofton (both Jake Sisko) who shared their memories of the Hugo Award-nominated episode “The Visitor.”
Producers first tested the idea of having Cirroc play the older version of Jake, to the point of putting him in make-up, but it was too difficult to make the 18 year old plausibly feel like a 70 year old – so Tony (who had previously played Worf’s brother Kurn) was brought in as a ringer.
“From what I knew of Tony Todd, I knew him as Candy Man,” Cirroc said. “So I knew not to mess with him. I really thank you for making it a classic episode.”
To play the role of a man who’d lost his parents at an early age, Tony drew on the inspiration of his aunt, who had raised him as a child and died three months before the episode was filmed.
“This script got me out of my shell,” he said. “It’s like she was whispering to me ‘Go back to work.’ … Doing this was as close to heaven as I can imagine.”
The actors and audience then watched the episode’s climactic scene together as see below).
When it ended, everyone was in tears
Caching up on what they’re doing now, Tony was quick to promote Prelude to Axanar, a fan-produced film and Kickstarter project being heavily promoted at the convention. Cirroc shared how he now owns a restaurant, Sara the Wine Bar, in Culver City, CA.
“So I guess I followed the Sisko family legacy!” he said to great applause.
More Star Trek Vegas Friday
TrekMovie.com’s Captain’s panel where our ‘tribunal’ of advocates: Kayla Iacovino, Joseph Dickerson, myself, Alec Peters and John Champion debated the merits of the five TV captains. In the end the fan voting was a tie for Picard (argued by Alec) and Janeway (argued by Kayla).
John Shuck talked about chit-chatting with someone between takes on Star Trek VI. The gentleman was very rude and didn’t answer him — then Shuck realized he was a robot and the guy controlling him was on a break. At the same panel Catherine Hicks joked that the casting process for Star Trek IV was so onerous that she had to go to Shanter’s ranch and get approval from his horses. Also on the panel was Daniel Davis.
At another guest star panel Lee Arenberg talked about how DaiMon Bok, whom he played in season 7 of TNG, and said that Patrick Stewart considers him to be Picard’s nemesis. He also talked about how fans remember his role on Seinfeld. (I missed that one.). Also on the panel were Don Stark, Mark Allen Sheppard, and Natalija Nogiluch.
Director James Conway had a panel talking about his experiences working on The Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space Nine and Enterprise (including the ENT pilot "Broken Bow"). He said his favorite cast to work with was TNG and he regretted that when he was offered the job of directing the series finale "All Good Things" he had to refuse due to a conflict.
At the Cosplay Focus panel make-up John Paladin artist transformed a fan into a Klingon. Gave some pro advice "Never pay a lot for a wig." The wig he used in his sample Klingon only cost $10 from www.samsbeauty.org.
Even more pix from Friday
Here are some more pictures from other Friday panels (sorry didn’t have time to stay to cover)
Favorite guest stars panel with Jerry Hardin, Hallie Todd, Gwynyth Walsh, and Suzie Plakson, Robin Curtis
Original ladies of classic Star Trek panel with Celeste Yarnall, Barbara Luna, Arlene Martel, and Sally Kellerman.
Harlan Ellison and Grace Lee Whitney had a panel (and at one point joined on stage by a Rand cosplayer)
More Star Trek Vegas Con Thursday & Friday
See our previous reporting from Friday panels: TNG in HD panel (which has been updated) and the Roddenberry panel. Plus check out our Thursday wrap-up with Karl Urban, Harlan Ellison and cast of TNG.
More to Come
Check back soon for our coverage of Saturday’s panels with actors panels for stars of Enterprise and Voyager, new merchandise announcements, Simon Pegg and more. And of course even more on Sunday!