Creation Entertainment’s Star Trek convention in Parsippany, NJ was already set to be a fun con, but then William Shatner showed up with a camera crew and made it even better. See below for TrekMovie.com’s full report on the con with details and pictures of celebrity guests Michael Dorn, Nichelle Nichols, Nana Visitor, Rene Auberjonois, Connor Trinneer, Dominic Keating and more.
CON REPORT: Star Trek New Jersey Con 2011
In its 40 year history of producing genre events, it is certain Creation Entertainment never produced a convention quite like the one that unfolded this past weekend in Parsippany, NJ. Known for their structure and organization, the biggest discord introduced into the company’s shows usually runs along the predictable lines of events running a bit late or the odd technical gaffe with equipment. Nothing could have prepared the company or the attending fans for the discord introduced by the whirlwind that is William Shatner. As TrekMovie revealed late Friday, Shatner with his production staff and crew made a surprise appearance at the New Jersey con to shoot the pilot episode of the new proposed reality series Fan Addicts.
Grace Lee Whitney
Friday’s crowd was pleased to welcome the popular original Star Trek series cast member Grace Lee Whitney (Yeoman Rand), who discussed the familiar but still heartbreaking story of her departure from the show after a drunken assault by an unnamed Desilu executive. She also revealed her gratitude and affection for the mentorship of Lucille Ball (“She told me not to act, just to react.”) and recalled the wonderful hours spent with Leonard Nimoy during their prolonged time in the makeup room (“him with his ears and me with my big bee-hive thing”) while Shatner “breezed in and out in five minutes”. Whitney also received a huge ovation from the fans after declaring 2011 her 30th year of sobriety.
Nana Visitor and Rene Auberjonois
Deep Space Nine’s Major Kira and Odo had two sessions on Friday, the first a traditional question and answer exchange with the fans and the second a poetry and drama performance entitled “Cross Our Hearts.” Taking the stage with the ease and assurance of two old friends, Auberjonois and Visitor seemed relaxed and genuinely pleased to be at the convention, engaging in friendly banter before opening up the proceedings to the fans queuing to ask questions. Although several concerned particular character moments and roles, several questions were focused on the craft of acting itself. “Actors have to believe with a passion that forces their audience to suspend disbelief,” Auberjonois declared. Visitor expressed her interest in returning to Broadway.
Their appearance was also lighthearted, containing numerous amusing moments. Auberjonois described Odo kissing Major Kira at one point and recalled “I came off on her face!” only to quickly add, “Wait! That didn’t come out right!” In answer to another question, he said “No, I never mind when people call me Odo. It’s a lot easier for them to say than Auberjonois!” Visitor recounted the time she suffered an injury on the Deep Space Nine set and was rushed to the hospital. “My God, what happened to your nose?” asked the stunned doctor, seeing her in makeup. The single most amusing moment came when a fan asked Auberjonois his opinion of his Boston Legal cast mate William Shatner. “Shatner was a prima donna!” he declared, prompting Shatner (who was filming backstage) to pop his head through the curtains and scowl.
“Cross Our Hearts”, the second presentation, featured Visitor and Auberjonois in an omnibus performance of works ranging from Christina Rossetti and Ernest Hemingway to a re-enactment of the first flashback meeting of Kira and Odo. Sitting behind simple podiums, the experienced actors used only the mobility of their faces, hands, vocal talents and timing to convey the complex emotions required by the material. It was a virtuoso performance, and long before the experience ended with the familiar patterns and cadences of Kira and Odo, the audience sat enraptured.
Connor Trinneer and Dominic Keating
Saturday’s headliners included the affable duo of Trip Tucker and Malcolm Reed from Enterprise. Of all the weekend appearances, the mischievous duo’s goofiness came closest to sending the proceedings off the rails. Trinneer discussed co-star Jolene Blalock’s flatulence, getting drunk at a studio party and fearing he would be fired, and having absolutely no idea what the scripted technobabble in the show meant. Keating, in very blunt and plain-spoken PG-13 language, spoke of cast mate Anthony Montgomery (“He would take one big breath in the morning and never F***ing shut-up the rest of the day!”) and his experiences with the auditioning process. He also relentlessly teased fans. For example, when one fan asked where he could be seen on stage, Keating replied “Right here! I thought Star Trek fans were supposed to be smart!”
The audience clearly had a good time, and the duo left the stage to a standing ovation. In a characteristic Keating move, he insisted on signing the Creation
banners on the giant depiction of B’Etor and Lursa’s breasts.
Barbara March and Gwynyth Walsh
Appearing in full makeup and regalia as Lursa nd B’Etor from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Barbara March and Gwynyth Walsh performed in-character musical numbers and engaged the fans in true Klingon fashion, never even breaking character during the prolonged photo-op and autographing sessions.
This is one case where photos will convey the spirit of the experience better than any words can. We wish to extend special thanks to Creation Entertainment for allowing us to shoot and include the backstage image revealing the depth of detail in the costuming and makeup.
The genial and affable Bobby Clark took the stage early Sunday afternoon to describe his experiences as one of the original series’ best-loved villains, the Gorn Captain from “Arena”, and his long career in television. Still seeming a bit stunned by the enduring popularity of Star Trek, Clark revealed that it was his family that persuaded him to start doing conventions, a development he seems to truly enjoy. Describing the warmth of the Gorn suit (“I would have been hot even in the Arctic!”) and commenting on the lack of depth in the character conception (“The Gorn was thought of as a one-off and really given no background”) Clark had such a good time that he jokingly refused to relinquish the stage when his slot ended. His good nature and obvious joy in the proceedings resulted in a warm ovation.
The actor who portrayed Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine’s gruff Worf graciously stepped in after a scheduling conflict (directing an episode of the series Leverage) forced Jonathan Frakes to bow out. Relaxed and looking fit, Dorn described his vegan lifestyle, his interest in piloting small planes, and his favorite Worf moments through the years. Asked if he would ever consent to appear in his Worf costume at one of these events, Dorn assented immediately. “Sure! For $1,000,000!” As he was limited by time, Dorn’s fans caused a minor logjam as they all tried to exit to get to his autograph line at the same time. Speaking of the costume one female fan noted she thought "Klingons are sexy" and asked if Michael had ever dressed as Worf in the bedroom, the actor was clear "No!"
Michael also talked quite a bit about his transition from TNG to DS9, revealing that the atmosphere was quite different between the two shows with TNG a "party atmosphere" and DS9 "like a church." But he said after a year and half he got the DS9 cast to relax and have more fun. Dorn also talked at length about the Worf/Dax on-screen romance, which he dubbed "Star Trek’s Bogie and Bacall." Regarding Terry Farrell leaving the show for the seventh and final season, Dorn said he understood why she did it for professional reasons, but he wanted her to stay. He also noted that Dax should have had a "more spectacular death."
The ever-enchanting Lt. Uhura of the original series was the last headlined guest at this year’s convention. In tribute to their long association, she insisted Creation co-founder Adam Malin share the stage with her during her appearance. Malin, honored but clearly drained after his energetic turn as the auctioneer during Creation’s traditional no-minimum bid event, gamely conducted an impromptu interview. Nichols discussed her audition and hiring for Star Trek, the legendary encounter with Dr. Martin Luther King that caused her to rethink her decision to leave the series, and her groundbreaking recruitment of women and minority astronauts for NASA. Ending with a soaring rendition of the original series’ theme, Nichols cheerfully went off to her photo-op and autograph session and the scheduled programming concluded.
As Creation convention attendees know, the celebrity appearances are only one part of the ongoing entertainment at these events. From music videos to a panel discussion on the evolution of the ships of Starfleet, there are things to do all day. One of the most enduring and popular events is the traditional costume contests, so we include the following photos of the entrants and finalists. It was hard for the crowd to choose, but the eventual winners were the ladies in the homemade Duras sister costumes.
The Shatner Effect
Instead of events all unfolding as per schedule at the 2011 Star Trek con in Parsippany, NJ the proceedings were turned into a chaotic multi-track convention due to surprise inclusion of William Shatner and a camera crew. While videos might be airing in the main ballroom, William Shatner was prowling the dealer’s room or hotel corridors shooting footage and fan interviews for the pilot of Fan Addicts, the new reality series centered around fans attending Creation Entertainment shows.
Shatner’s impromptu pilot shoot included a sweet moment interviewing his original series co-star Nichelle Nichols. Other of his original series cast mates were amused and amazed at his appearance as well. “I was setting up my table and who comes rushing in here but Bill!” Grace Lee Whitney (Yeoman Janice Rand) recalled, mimicking her surprised look. “That Shatner!” said Bobby Clark, the original Gorn Captain, smiling and shaking his head.
Shatner certainly gave the fans a workout, most clearly late Saturday morning. He assembled over 100 attendees outside the hotel and directed them to literally run through the sliding doors, down the long corridor of the Hilton’s main lobby and into the dealer’s room while his cameras recorded them. Once gathered in the dealer’s room, his crew passed out FAN ADDICT signs and Shatner directed all present to yell out, showing their excitement. Bobby Clark was so bemused by the odd sight that he popped up and began shooting photos with his own digital camera.
As Shatner continued to film the first two days of the event, an even stranger phenomenon occurred. So ubiquitous was his presence, that oddly the fans almost began taking the iconic original series captain in stride. People would glance over their shoulder and whisper “There’s Shatner again,” and go back to what they were doing. Only when he arranged certain prolonged set shots (attendees leaving the con for the last time, for example) did he attract a truly large crowd of observers.
The only time Shatner formally took to the stage was a brief moment when he asked convention goers to all yell “Khaaaaaan!” at the same time as the cameras rolled. Other than that, he remained “behind the scenes”, but almost continually visible on both Friday and Saturday.
A memorable con – with Shatner bonus
While William Shatner’s surprise appearance and continual presence was unquestionably the defining event of the weekend, the celebrities and programming also made Creation’s annual Official East Coast Star Trek Convention one of the most memorable in their long history of producing fan events.
Slideshow from the con
Slideshow of Shatner & film crew: