The popular culture presented at a Detroit’s Motor City Comic Convention is multifarious. Last weekend’s con had The Greatest American Hero’s Robert Culp to I Dream of Jeannie and The Bob Newhart Show’s Bill Daily to Desperate Housewives’ Dagney Kerr all there to blend the worlds of science fiction, comedy, comic books, and entertainment. For Trekkies there were Star Trek XI posters offered as swag, fans dressed in Trek costumes, Trek items for sale, Lori Petty (Noss from Voyager) signing autographs and last but not least Michael Dorn (TNG: Worf) sharing his thoughts on Trek’s past and future. About 100 people crammed into a small room to hear Dorn discuss his views and experiences of Star Trek.
Dorn started things off by discussing how amazing it was that next year is the 20th Anniversary of Star Trek The Next Generation, asking the crowd "do you realize next year will be twenty years?" He wasn’t aware of any specific special events planned, but said he hoped the cast would get together for a special private event. He discussed how much fun it was to work with the Next Generation actors and crew telling the crowd how Jonathan Frakes (Riker) often sang during moments when not filming. On his time working on TNG Dorn said "it was like the best years of high school". The actor seemed to have genuine affection for his fellow cast mates. Apparently one big change for the actor since his time working on TNG is with his voice. "When I played Worf my real voice became like his, but now it has gone back"
A TOS fan too
The actor listed the ‘Wrath of Khan’ as one of his two favorite Trek films and told the crowd that he has always been a huge fan of the Original Series. As an example he said that before he ever worked on Trek he would play Trek trivia gams with his girlfriend. Dorn spoke very enthusiastic about his opportunity to work the Original Series actors in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The actor was particularly touched by the graciousness of DeForest Kelley (Dr McCoy), who often made jokes and helped him be at ease. Apparently Kelley joked that Dorn portrayed his defense attorney so well he wanted his phone number in case he ever needed a lawyer. Dorn told the crowd what is was like on the last day of shooting for the last of the TOS era films: "seeing the entire original crew of actors together was an emotional experience, I really wish I had a camera for that"
Where the TNG films went right…and went wrong
The other film that Dorn listed as one of his favorites was the TNG era film First Contact. He attributed much of the success to the direction of Jonathan Frakes, saying “he understood Star Trek and acting”. He mentioned that Frakes brought a great deal of improvisational ideas to First Contact, yet for some reason was not allowed that same ability with the next Star Trek film ‘Insurrection’. On why Star Trek Nemesis failed Dorn said there were many reasons, but he laid much of the blame at the feet of the director Stuart Baird. He also derided the script as ‘derivative’, saying "how many times are we going to do ‘Data’s twin’?"
Not up on Trek XI or Trek Remastered
On the subject of JJ Abrams rumored TOS era Trek XI the actor didn’t seem to have a positive view, saying: “I am from the Gene Roddenberry school and I think they need to go forward not backward”. He also speculated that perhaps Paramount may not be happy with Abrams after MI:3 underperformed, but admitted he did not know a good deal about the film. When asked about Trek Remastered (the CGI-enhanced version of the original series) Dorn seemed unaware of the project. Other fans in the audience started to discuss how such changes could distort the original show, or might result in changes to narratives. Dorn said that he thought that such changes would be a mistake saying that the effects should be secondary. (note: Dorn’s negative view of Trek Remastered was reported by the Detroit News, but his comments seemed to be reacting to a somewhat distorted characterisation of Trek Remastered that bore no resemblance to the actual project.
The happy ex Klingon
Some published writings provide the view that Dorn or other Star Trek actors are bitter about Star Trek XI not being about the Next Generation. There was no sense of that here. Dorn’s talk, with his respect for fans, enthusiasm for Star Trek, fondness for Star Trek actors, and his detailed discussions, was one of the better talks we have seen by a Star Trek actor. Dorn is a Star Trek fan of the Kirk era and the Picard era who seemed to relish his time with Trek, telling the crowd: "Given the choice between playing all the major roles of Shakespeare and playing Worf again I would choose Worf…I would be happy playing Worf forever." This is an actor happy with past achievements, and looking forward to new acting or directing challenges. His talk and the reaction of those fans there was an affirmation of his contributions to Star Trek for 11 seasons and 5 feature films. We left with a new appreciation for Dorn and a real sense that Dorn appreciates the fans of Star Trek.
more at Detroit News: Worf At Motor City Con
Photo courtesy of the Detroit News, more from them: Worf At Motor City Con
Want to learn more about the sociology of Trek?
John Tenuto is a sociology professor at The College of Lake County, Grayslake, Illinois. Next January he will be teaching a class called "Social Problems: The Star Trek Edition". The class discusses Star Trek’s presentation of social issues and solutions to social problems (economic, environmental, technological, and sociological), comparing the real world to the reel world of Star Trek. Registration begins this November. Call 847-543-2537 for more info.