The Official Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas has officially begun! This year’s 50th anniversary celebration is bigger and better than ever and started off with the stars of Star Trek Enterprise, a tribute to Leonard Nimoy by his son Adam Nimoy, guest stars of TOS and TNG, and more.
Enterprise Stars On Stage
Star Trek: Enterprise stars Connor Trinneer (Charles “Trip” Tucker), Dominic Keating (Malcolm Reed), John Billingsley (Dr. Phlox), and Gary Graham (Ambassador Soval) began the first panel of the convention. The four were asked, with new series Star Trek: Discovery in production, what it was like to start making Enterprise, as they were the last set of actors to start a new series. Billingsley and Keating were cast on the same day and immediately struck up a friendship over coffee. As Enterprise’s casting director swore the actors to secrecy in discussing with anyone the fact that they had landed roles on a new show, Keating recounted how Billingsley had called his wife and hummed the tune to The Original Series theme to let her know that he got the role.
Trinneer went through a more drawn-out casting process, as he had to wait two weeks to learn of the final decision. Trinneer said that, at his final casting session, he was told by the producers that he lacked a certain “awe” for the ship that a Starfleet engineer should have. Days after being cast, Trinneer found out from Rick Berman that the name of his character would change. The Enterprise’s first engineer was to go by the nickname “Spike,” but this creative decision ran into legal issues due to UPN airing Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and its character named Spike. To Trinneer’s relief, who at the time did not care what they would call his character as long as he got the job, the producers changed his character’s nickname to Trip.
Graham, who had already guested on Star Trek: Voyager, was surprised that the writers had a reoccurring role for him in mind as Ambassador Soval. However, Graham confessed that he did not know much about Star Trek nor Vulcans going into the job and required a crash course on the species from Rick Berman. Graham’s unfamiliarity with Vulcans actually produced an interesting plot thread in his first scene working with Scott Bakula in “Broken Bow” as Starfleet and the Vulcans mull over whether to return the Klingon to Kronos. Whilst delivering one of his lines, Graham raised his voice and sensed shock from everyone on set who would never expect a Vulcan to speak that way. This led Bakula to ad-lib the line, “When your logic doesn’t work, you raise your voice? You’ve been on Earth for too long.” While Graham savored his role as a foil to Captain Archer, he gained a much greater appreciation for Soval and Vulcans when Manny Coto took over running the show during the fourth season and gave his character much more depth.
Similar to what has happened with previous Trek casts, actors shadowed directors hoping that they could helm an episode of the show. Keating spent quite a lot of time working with directors, but unfortunately Rick Berman was fighting with Paramount so frequently that the opportunity never came up. When asked about what they would have liked to see in a fifth season of the show, Billingsley noted that he really loved the direction that Coto took the show in the fourth season and hoped for more episodes that tied the series to Star Trek lore. Billingsley did not like the show’s third season, which focused on the Xindi arc, as he felt they were unable to make great standalone science fiction episodes. However, Billingsley did point to the third season’s “Similitude” as the best work they did on the show. Ultimately, Billingsley felt that the Xindi arc was influenced too much by executives at Paramount who, after the September 11th attacks, wanted to raise the stakes and tension on the show, as well as emulate the arc format of 24.
Every cast member praised Scott Bakula’s acting ability and dedication to the series. They noted that he was a pleasure to work with and would always push himself, asking to do another take if he felt he had a better one in him, or helping the crew rig up lighting so they could get to work shooting.
Adam Nimoy Pays Tribute to his Father Leonard, Talks “For The Love of Spock” Doc
Stepping out to strains of “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins”, Adam Nimoy and Trek historian Richard Arnold spent their time onstage talking about Leonard Nimoy’s life and career and gave the audience a sneak peek at Adam’s documentary about his Dad and his famous alter ego.
He shared a few recollections of his Dad and the problems that they had in connecting with one another, and said that the struggle and reconciliation will be part of the documentary, titled For The Love Of Spock.
“It’s not only about Spock and who he was, and why he resonates and who Leonard was, and why he was such an artist and renaissance man, but it’s also the story of a father and son who had a lot of difficulty, exacerbated by the fact that the father is an iconic figure but who both found the path to reconnecting with one another.”
Richard spoke of his longtime friendship with Leonard, and discussed the sometimes acrimonious relationship between Leonard and Gene Roddenberry:
“Gene had very clear opinions, his vision of the future was extremely clear and it was very difficult for a lot of the writers. He wanted the story to drive things, not the characters. They had philosophical disagreements. I saw Gene and Leonard butt heads more than once, especially around the time of Star Trek VI. Leonard had very clear visions of his character and the Star Trek mythos, and it didn’t always agree 100% with Gene’s.”
Nimoy said that the initial conception of the documentary was to be an examination of the Spock character, but that the focus shifted after Leonard passed away:
“It was clear the we would expand to include not only the life of Spock, but the life and legacy of Leonard Nimoy as well.”
The documentary has been playing the festival circuit for several months and will make it’s theatrical and VOD debut on September 9. Adam hopes the fans see the film as a love letter to Leonard and to them:
“It’s a labor of love. We threw in the kitchen sink as much as we could, crammed a man’s life into an hour and 50 minutes, and I’m really proud of the work we did. It’s a tribute to Dad, and it’s a tribute to you, the fans.”
Erik Menyuk and Robin Curtis Celebrate Star Trek In Song
Erik Menyuk (Traveler) and Robin Curtis (Saavik) took to the De Forest Kelley ballroom stage today with a rather unique opening number. While most celebs spend their time on stage talking a bit about what they’ve been up to lately followed by some audience Q&A, Erik and Robin treated us to a musical celebration of Star Trek set to the tune of “Fanfare for the Common Man”. Their piece, entitled “Fanfare from the Uncommon Fan” involved the flashing of signs with words like “Mr. Spock” and spelled out quotes like “I have been and forever shall be your friend” to the tune of the music. It was a rendition of a performance they put together for Cruise Trek, which you can see in the video below:
TOS Guest Star Women Thank Fans and Their Star Trek Family
This afternoon we got to catch up with our favorite female TOS guest stars. Celeste Yarnall (Yeoman Landon), Tania Larmani (Kara), BarBara Luna (Lt. Moreau), Sherry Jackson (Andrea), Kim Darby (Miri), Laurel Goodwin (Yeoman Colt), and Sabrina Scharff (Miramanee) all took the stage to talk about what Trek means to them and what they’ve been up to since the show so many years ago.
Celeste Yarnall gave a particularly moving “thank you” to the fans, citing their support and love as the thing that pulled her through after she was diagnosed with stage 3 Primary Peritoneal cancer.
“It was this tremendous ordeal, and I know so many of you have gone through it as well. The surgeries, the chemo… it really tests the mettle of us Star Trek family folk. And, if I can do it, you can do it. If we can do it, we’re all in this together.”
She said she thinks of Star Trek fans as her family and mourned the recent losses felt by the Star Trek community. “I want to thank you for helping me to boldly go. I just didn’t want there to be another person missing from our family. With Leonard gone and Grace gone and Arlene gone, I didn’t want to bring another tear to anybody’s eye. So, I’m here!”
Iconic Guest Stars Donahue and Itzin Metamorphosize Vegas Stage
Two legendary actors, best known for roles outside the Star Trek franchise, entertained fans together despite the fact that they never appeared on the same episode (or even the same shows). Host Scott Mantz interviewed Elinor Donahue and Gregory Itzin to help warm up the convention in its first few hours on Wednesday. The two went together like the Tuvix of guest stars.
Donahue played Commissioner Nancy Hedford in the TOS episode “Metamorphosis,” but is better known for roles on Father Knows Best, The Odd Couple, Andy Griffith, and others. But at a Star Trek con, she’s best known for two weeks of work she spent portraying one of Star Trek’s first high-profile female commanders.
“Star Trek has always been ahead of its time. It’s always been a trailblazing show,” Mantz said. “When Metamorphosis was shown at the time to have a woman trying to stop a war was ground breaking. A lot of people for many years didn’t appreciate that Nancy Headford was Hillary Clinton.”
In a connection that sharp-eyed fans don’t need Memory Alpha to spot, Jane Wyatt played both Elinor’s mother on Father Knows Best and Amanda Grayson in “Journey to Babel.”
“She would brag to anyone who would listen that she was Spock’s mother!” Elinor quipped.
Mantz continued to ask when it hit her that she was part of something special for her role on Trek. She said it wasn’t until about 10 years later, when someone said they’d seen her name in a Star Trek trivia game.
“I was terribly offended,” she joked. “Who wants to be thought of as trivial!”
Itzin is best known for his role as the morally ambiguous Charles Logan on 24, though he’s also appeared on NCIS, Friends, and many other shows.
“We love to hate your character,” one fan started, with Itzin quickly interrupting, “I love to be hated too.”
“When I started playing the President, I wanted to be presidential! No. Instead turned out to be the villain. It was so well written, there were so many places to be both things,” he said. “There’s something special about working on that show that was intense and very applicable to life.”
Itzin played five separate roles on DS9, VOY, and ENT, notably as a gangster who antagonizes Quark in “Who Mourns for Morn?” and an evil admiral in “In a Mirror, Darkly.” He favorite Trek actor to work with is Armin Shimmerman, though he describes Bob Picardo as, “also a lot of fun.”
Itzin almost got a role on TNG’s “The Big Goodbye,” as a Dixon Hill-era detective, but ended up on an episode of L.A. Law instead. Had he scored the role, he would have been one of very few actors to have appeared on all four modern Trek series.
“I felt very lucky to do more than one role,” Itzin said. “I loved that it was make believe, that I was allowed to play people in those costumes and carry a phaser and talk in a different way. You carry yourself a different way than you would in real life.”