Today was by far the busiest day of the convention both in terms of guests and stars on the stage. Bill Shatner headlined the day in the way only the Shat can do. Karl Urban, who was supposed to make an appearance today, had a last minute cancellation leaving no one from JJ Trek at this year’s con. Today was also the day to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Star Trek Voyager, with lots of VOY panels.
William Shatner on Stage!
William Shatner made his entrance in classic Shatner fashion, dancing his way onto stage to the tune of, naturally, Elton John’s “Rocket Man”. The original James T. Kirk thrilled the crowd with a talk that was at times thoughtful, funny, and poignant.
He talked about his most recent documentary, “Chaos on The Bridge”, which chronicles the tumultuous first seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Shatner called it “the best documentary I’ve done”, and said that all the recent Star Trek documentaries he’s done have have given him more insight into the franchise than he had had when he was a part of it.
He reflected on Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and the challenges he faced making it and said that he “compromised my principle in order to be politic so that something would happen” and it subsequently caused his original vision to become diluted and resulted in the film that got released.
He spoke warmly about Grace Lee Whitney, calling her “a delightful light, so loving, so passionate, so THERE. She was a great gal.”
When asked about the passing of Leonard Nimoy, Shatner spoke at length about their long friendship and Leonard’s illness. In a very honest emotional moment, Shatner said that he hadn’t had a lot of close friends in his life, but felt a deep kinship with Leonard, saying “I loved him as the brother I wish I had.” He mentioned that the book he’s writing about their longtime association will be as much about male friendship and bonding as it will be about Leonard himself.
A fan asked him if he thought it was time for he and George Takei to make peace. Shatner completely disagreed, saying he “didn’t know” George, and didn’t understand where all the “mean-spirited comments” come from. He said that the rigors of being the lead of a television series consumed him, and that he was always friendly with George when he saw him, so he is completely mystified by the hostility. He said George has “blackened my reputation” over the last several years, and he has “no idea what he wants.” He ended by saying he wishes George peace.
Michael Westmore Makes up Robert Beltran into Chakotay
For the first time in years, make-up wiz Michael Westmore put the signature Chakotay tattoo on Robert Beltran. While the actor patiently had the make-up applied, fans asked him a variety of questions.
One fan asked, “Who did you want to get together with on the ship?” Beltran replied, “You know my wife and daughter are here, right?”
“Who did you want your character to get together with?” the fan quickly amended. “That’s better,” Beltran joked, before noting he thought Chakotay should get together with Janeway, causing a huge swell of applause from the C+J shippers in the crowd.
But when it became apparent that such a relationship was off the table, he thought his character should wind up with B’Elanna Torres. This spurred a lot of boos and the cry from one particularly vocal fan, “She was taken!”
“No she wasn’t,” Beltran answered coolly. “Not yet. I was there. You weren’t!”
Another fan asked him if he personally had an animal totem, as Chakotay did. “I wish I could tell you I go to my teepee every night and talk to the spirit of my father, but I don’t,” he answered, a little tongue in cheek. “But I don’t.”
He elaborated that Chakotay’s spirituality was a touchy subject, because they didn’t want to offend anyone’s actual religious beliefs.
“It was a touchy situation,” he concluded. After that, with his makeup finished, his young daughter joined him on stage to uproarious applause.
Michael Dorn Takes the Stage for an Absent Karl Urban
During Beltran’s appearance, it was announced at the last minute that Karl Urban – advertised as one of the event’s headlining guests – would not be appearing afterward. Urban’s absence meant that the rebooted franchise had zero representation at the convention.
Michael Dorn obligingly took the stage instead and answered questions from fans. Dorn took the opportunity to promote his efforts to get a Captain Worf TV series. Host Adam Malin joked, “Is it true the name of the series is Captain Worf and his Merry Men?”
Dorn paused while the audience goaded him on before erupting, in character, “Sir, I must protest. I am not a Merry Man!”
He later also said his favorite episodes were The Drumhead and The Offspring while his least favorite was Code of Honor.
Dame Joan Collins Talks About the Iconic Role of Edith Keeler
We were honored to have Dame Joan Collins, famous in the Trek world for playing one of the most iconic characters of all Trekdom, Edith Keeler. Joan was welcomed to the stage after a clip show of The City On the Edge of Forever and talked a lot about what the character of Keeler meant to her. When originally asked by her agent to consider a role on Star Trek Joan remember replying, “Star Trek? What’s Star Trek?” She went on to explain that her oldest daughter was a fan of the show and encouraged her to take the role.
She also spoke a lot about her role in Dynasty, working with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, and her interactions with the Royal family.
Brannon Braga Talks Trek
Long-time Trek writer/producer Brannon Braga took the stage after the Voyager panel dispersed, joking to the much-smaller crowd, “I’m glad that some of you stuck around!”
Braga spoke candidly to the crowd about the highlights and lowlights of his career with Trek, which started as an intern on TNG and ended 15 years later when he was the “last guy standing.”
“Michael Pillar was my mentor and I owe everything to him,” he said.
A controversial star in the Trek cosmos, Braga often gets more attention for the lowlights than the highlights. Recently he went to Twitter to list his personal five worst episodes.
Bottom five that I wrote (badly): SUB ROSA, THRESHOLD, AQUIEL, THESE ARE THE VOYAGES, IMAGINARY FREIND https://t.co/nP9CbKahSG
— Brannon Braga (@BrannonBraga) July 29, 2015
But nonetheless he has always been a fan first and is happy to engage (no pun intended). He started his session by saying, “I come because I like to see the fans, I like to talk to the fans.”
Braga’s career also includes winning one of very few Hugo awards for the franchise for co-writing All Good Things… He worked on that while simultaneously writing Star Trek: Generations.
“As most of you probably realized, the final episode turned out better than the movie,” he said. “I think the reason is we put more or our heart into it because we wanted it to be great.”
Along with Rick Berman, Braga co-created Enterprise.
“People seem to have warmed up to the show over the years, I’m glad that it’s finally getting its fair shake,” he said. “When Many Coto came in on season 4, it was like what the show should have been like from the beginning.”
One fan asked him about a complicated conspiracy theory wherein Cardassian Seska from Voyager was actually the same character as the Romulan T’Rul from DS9 – both were played by actress Martha Hackett.
Braga quickly dispelled the theory, noting, “Writing staffs of DS9 and VOY didn’t interact very much, but we had a friendly competition with each other.”
Braga discussed the difference between the serialization on DS9 and the more episodic nature of VOY, which he said works better in reruns.
“I don’t think 24 (which he’d worked on) works very well in reruns.”
Regardless, Braga did want Year of Hell to be a season-long arc instead of merely a two-parter.
Host Adam Malin asked Braga about the huge frustration he must feel when he develops a show that “tanks in the first season,” such as Threshold, whose stars included Brent Spiner and Peter Dinklage.
“It was just on the wrong network,” he observed. “I don’t know why CBS even picked it up.”
On the other end, Braga’s had success with his work on Cosmos, which is being considered for a second season. His show Salem has also been renewed for a third season.
And with success there, maybe Braga will someday be able to help bring Trek back to TV.
“I’ll tell you, as a fellow fan, I want to see another Star Trek show,” Braga said. “It’s a TV show more than it is a movie. I’m waiting for Star Trek to come back right along with you.”
The Role of Women in Voyager
TrekMovie was represented by Kayla Iacovino at the Women of Voyager panel today, hosted by Mary Czerwinski and panelists Jarrah Hodge and Amy Imhoff. The quartet talked about strong female roles on Star Trek Voyager and the influence those characters have had on strong female characters in TV and movies in the 20 years that have passed since Voyager first aired. Fans chimed in from the audience about how they were inspired by Trek’s strong female characters and what Star Trek and other modern franchises need to do to properly represent women.
Great Couples of Cosplay
One of the great things about Star Trek costuming is hearing about how people got started and for many couples it has been a great way to have fun together!
Juliet Hamak and George Yefchak (Fremont, CA) have been coming to STLV for several years. They are both professional musicians and met in an orchestra. Juliet recalls that she was a little apprehensive to costume at first because she wondered how many people really costume at conventions. After arriving at the convention she realized that almost everyone does! She immediately changed into costume in a nearby bathroom and has been proudly donning her Starfleet colors ever since. She said, “Something we really look forward to is that everyone is really nice and [the con is such a] positive environment.”
So costumes are not only a great hobby for Trekkies but Trekkie couples as well. More to follow!
More amazing costumes!