Day three of the Official Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas was jam packed with plenty of high-caliber panels including the latest details on deleted scenes from TOS found and digitized for the “Roddenberry Vault” project and appearances by George Takei and the TNG, DS9, and Voyager casts.
More details about TOS deleted scenes for “Roddenberry Vault” revealed
It has been known for decades that there were deleted scenes from TOS, but very little evidence that any of them survived, outside of a few battered stills. Finding that footage has been somewhat of a holy grail for Star Trek fans.
Denise Okuda spoke for many fans when she said, “we hoped, we wished, we prayed that there would be more out there”.
Those prayers will be answered this fall, when Roddenberry Productions and CBS release Star Trek: The Roddenberry Vault, a collection of outtakes and scene extensions left on the cutting room floor which have been harvested from the vast Roddenberry film archive.
Michael and Denise Okuda, Rod Roddenberry, Roddenberry Productions COO Trevor Roth, producer Roger Lay, and CBS executive Phil Bishop gave details about the long-gestating project, which began in 2007 under highly secretive conditions.
Those expecting long-hidden, fully finished scenes may be disappointed. According to Rod, “95% of it is just the end of a take or something that’s just not interesting. But the gems are in there, and you need someone to go through it and actually find those gems.”
The cataloguing process took over 3 years and yielded more than 100 hours of footage, which the team is still combing through.
According to Denise Okuda, “these are snippets, alternate takes, but the coolest thing about it is that you’re like a fly on the wall, it’s like you’re there behind the camera, and you’re watching them film. It’s like a time capsule, and that’s one of the things we’re excited about.”
Two very exciting sequences from the 12 episodes that will be part of that set: a scene extension from “City on the Edge of Forever” involving Kirk and Edith Keeler, and another from “Who Mourns for Adonais?” which features an alternate ending where we find out that Carolyn Palamas is pregnant with Apollo’s child.
The scenes will be presented as part of a documentary about the series that features new interviews with William Shatner, Dorothy “D.C.” Fontana, David Gerrold, and many others.
The production team is racing to get the project finished and have it ready for home video release by the end of the year.
What Are The Top 10 Worst Episodes? The Answers May Surprise You (But Probably Won’t)
The phrase “Worst episode ever” gets thrown around a lot these days, taken as a short-cut to signify nerd-rage by The Simpsons character Comic Book Guy.
AND a group of passionate fans Friday morning waged into that battle anew, to decide for once and all what the 10 worst Star Trek episodes are. Because the best part about loving Star Trek is hating Star Trek.
“Engage” podcast host Jordan Hoffman led the spirited debate, with two microphones and dozens of fans sharing their insights on why something should, or shouldn’t, receive the title. He also gave surprisingly good Trek merchandise as gifts to everyone who made their case.
The final score was:
- Precious Cargo (ENT)
- The Alternative Factor (TOS)
- Move Along Home (DS9)
- And the Children Shall Lead (TOS)
- Sub Rosa (TNG)
- Shades of Gray (TNG)
- Turnabout Intruder (TOS)
- Threshold (VOY)
- Code of Honor (TNG)
- These are the Voyages (ENT)
The process was spirited and, frankly, delightful with everyone in the crowd of 200 throwing themselves into the competitive process.
Selection went via a chaotic voice vote; maybe next year they could do a March Madness bracketology. There was a particular dispute over the TNG episode “Masks”, with a group chanting “Save Masks!” over and over again to keep it off the list.
Of course “Threshold” received a lot of attention, with one fan defending the writers for “chickening out” at the last minute on the script. Hoffman quickly interrupted to say they actually “salamander’d out.”
A young girl came up to the microphone before a certain infamous TOS episode had been named, prompting Hoffman to say, “I can’t believe there’s a certain season 3 TOS episode that hasn’t been mentioned yet. Perhaps this child shall lead us …”
The girl, however, said her worst episode was “Conspiracy” because “It’s really gross.”
Hoffman deflected several suggestions of episodes that he said were “Dumb but fun,” including “Catspaw”, “Spock’s Brain”, and “The Apple”. He said they were great to watch “After you’ve had a few glasses of Tranya.”
What episode do you love to hate? Put it in the comment section below!
Oh My! George Takei on the 50th
Star Trek star George Takei was the first actor to appear on Friday, declaring that Star Trek would not be celebrating its 50th anniversary if not for the fans. Takei paused to remember just a few of the many who were so instrumental in shaping Trek but had left us too soon: Gene Roddenberry, Majel Barret Roddenberry, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Leonard Nimoy, and Anton Yechin.
Takei said that Doohan was his favorite drinking buddy and joked how he played a Scotsman yet he was a Canadian of Irish descent. Takei recalled that Doohan said he was qualified to be a Scotsman because he had enjoyed enough Scottish libations to qualify. Takei felt that Nimoy was the soul of the franchise, recalling a moment when a script called for Spock to punch a bad guy. Nimoy reasoned that, logically, a Vulcan would expel as little effort as possible. Thus, the Vulcan nerve pinch was created.
Takei quickly opened the floor to questions, the first of which concerned how many times he had been back to Tule Lake Internment Camp, where his family interred during World War II. Takei recalled that he had been to the camp only three times along with his partner, Brad, on July 4th. Takei explained to the audience that, while July 4th is supposed to be a national holiday of celebration, July 4th was the day when his family arrived at Tule Lake. Takei recalled that his father was appalled by the questionnaire he was given: the first question asked if the subject was loyal to the United States, and the second question asked if the subject was willing to disavow their loyalty to the Japanese Emperor.
Regarding Takei’s stance on the decision to make Sulu gay in Star Trek Beyond, Takei recalled his conversations with John Cho, Justin Lin, and Simon Pegg where he opposed the decision and asserted that Roddenberry had to create all of his characters as heterosexuals as he was walking a fine line with the network. Takei challenged Lin and Pegg to be as creative and bold as Roddenberry in creating a new homosexual character. Takei, noting that he had seen Beyond, criticized the reveal of Sulu’s homosexuality by pointing out that the moment went by so quickly that the audience could easily miss it. Takei felt that Jaylah could have instead been a homosexual character who could have been fully fleshed out. Takei felt that Roddenberry would have created a new character, but ultimately agreed to disagree with Beyond’s filmmakers.
Voyager boys talk the process of getting cast in Star Trek
Three of the Voyager boys, Ethan Phillips (Neelix), Garrett Wang (Harry Kim), and Tim Russ (Tukov), took to the main stage today and talked about what it was like for each of them to be cast in the show and participated in their usual hilarious banter.
On casting each of their characters, it seems that the process of landing the roles of Neelix, Kim, and Tuvok were quite different for each of the actors.
“This opportunity came around over the course of seven years,” recalled Tim. “I read for the show several times for over three or four years for different roles, guest star roles, and I finally booked a few of them. So, we had a working relationship with the producer Rick Berman, and by the time Voyager came around my contact came to me and said, ‘will you come in and read for this role?’”
When asked whether the casting process is difficult, all three stars agreed: the casting experience is traumatic.
“Casting is traumatic,” said Ethan. “Because you’re always risking rejection. If you screw it up you feel like you had one shot and you blew it. So there’s a little bit of pressure, yeah.”
Ethan remembers that the casting process for the character of Neelix was quite long and that he was one of the last people brought in after many many auditions. He joked that he only got the role because the casting director was tired of auditioning so many people.
“I bet they saw almost every character actor in New York and LA. I was at the very end. It was probably 600 people [who auditioned before me]. I was at the end of the line, and I think they were just exhausted! It was, ‘Fiiine. You’ll do’.
I didn’t hear for a month and a half whether I’d gotten the job. But I remember where I was when I heard. I was in a phone booth, and I called my manager. I said, ‘Have you heard anything from Star Trek?’ And he said ‘uh, no we haven’t heard anything yet, but I wouldn’t, you know, worry about it anymore.’ And he says ‘wait a minute, I have a call’ and he put me on hold. He said ‘that was Paramount. You just got the job’”.
From the sound of it, though, Garrett Wang had the most traumatic casting experience when he was, as he puts it, verbally abused by the casting director.
“It was the most difficult [for me] because I was a novice actor; I didn’t have a huge resume. I walked in, and the casting director was Nan Dutton. Nan Dutton, to put it into a few words, is a very obsessive compulsive person. She had an ashtray on her desk that was the size of a Frisbee with probably about 400 cigarette butts in there.
So, I start the reading with her, and she goes ‘Stop! Stop! What is it with you actors?’ And, I’m looking at her like ‘what the heck did I do?’ She goes ‘You. Are you prepared? Did you memorize your lines? I said ‘this is my first reading with you’. And, then she starts to give me this whole story about Andy Garcia saying, ‘when he came in to his first audition, do you think he was unprepared like you? He was prepared! He memorized everything! That’s what makes him a star and you not!”
The casting director ended up telling Garrett to leave, memorize his lines, and come back in 15 minutes. As he left the room he remembers saying to Nan’s assistant, “She hates me! She told me I’m not Andy Garcia and he’s a star and I’m not!”
The assistant replied, “She told you to what? Oh, that means she loves you!”
Data, LaForge, and Crusher Return to the Enterprise D for the 50th Anniversary
The second panel of actors included Star Trek: The Next Generation’s LeVar Burton (Geordi LaForge), Gates McFadden (Dr. Beverly Crusher), and Brent Spiner (Data) in a panel moderated by Access Hollywood’s Scott Mantz. The trio were asked what their first impression was when they heard that a new Star Trek show was being planned in the mid-1980s. Spiner had wondered why another series would be made, while Burton noted he was a huge fan and wondered if Roddenberry would be involved. McFadden did not watch Star Trek, but ended up auditioning for all three female roles on the new series.
Spiner revealed an interesting policy Roddenberry had implemented during the first read-through of “Encounter at Farpoint” where Patrick Stewart pronounced Data (Day-tah) with his British accent. Spiner had interrupted, thinking that his name was pronounced Data (Dat-ah). Roddenberry decided that the first actor to pronounce a name, whether it be a character, race, prop, etc., would establish the precedent for how that name would be pronounced in the series. Spiner felt that Stewart’s pronunciation has made its way into the vernacular.
McFadden recalled that Roddenberry had told her that this would be a different series, where Crusher would be a mother and a scientist, an idea that very much appealed to her.
The trio agreed that The Next Generation’s first season failed to catch on. Spiner felt that many viewed The Next Generation in its first season as pretending to be The Original Series. The Trio agreed that the show began to find its legs in season two. Before the beginning of the second season, Spiner recalled that executive producer Rick Berman had called him to break the news that they were bringing in a big movie star for a recurring role in the second season: Whoopi Goldberg. Spiner was floored by the news, as Goldberg was a huge star at the time. Burton revealed that Goldberg had been pressing him to get her a role on The Next Generation. He joked that none of the producers believed him when he told them that Goldberg wanted to join the show.
When asked about their favorite episodes, McFadden recalled season four’s “The Host,” which had been penned by a homosexual writer. McFadden felt that the episode posed some interesting questions about the nature of love. She also loved season four’s “First Contact,” which she felt was an amazing example of Starfleet’s mission of exploration clashing with the prime directive.
Spiner pointed to season two’s “The Measure of a Man,” noting that it was brilliantly written. Spiner believed that our society would have to deal with similar questions one day. The trio discussed season three’s “The Offspring,” which was the first The Next Generation episode directed by a member of the cast: Jonathan Frakes.
Burton said that Frakes had put in so much time and dedication in going to school to learn how to direct, to sitting in on scoring sessions. Spiner noted that the entire cast was jazzed that one of their own was directing, which made them all want to work harder so that Frakes would succeed. Burton believed that Frakes set the template whereby Berman allowed other actors to go to school to learn how to direct. McFadden interjected, however, that Berman did not let the show’s female cast members learn how to direct. She was offended by this, especially since she had prior directorial experience. She was happy that she finally got a chance to direct season seven’s “Genesis.”
Everyone loved season three’s epic cliffhanger, “The Best of Both Worlds.” Spiner pointed out that, in most instances, the cast was so exhausted by episode 26 that they just wanted to finish the season and go on break. Stewart used to joke after shooting on the first episode of a season ended, “only 25 to go!” “The Best of Both Worlds” was different for the entire cast, however, because no one knew what the resolution to the story would be. Spiner and McFadden felt that the Borg were such a wonderful villain on the show.
When asked how it felt when The Next Generation was followed by other spinoffs, Spiner pointed out that he loves whenever there is a new Trek. He feels that Star Trek is a great American epic that has no end in sight. McFadden pointed out that Trek is so appealing because it has something for everyone in the family.
Finally, the trio discussed the series finale, “All Good Things…” Everyone agreed that the cast was absolutely exhausted when the time came to shoot the finale, but that did not stop them from taking in the emotional weight of the show ending. Spiner was blown away by the script, which was penned by Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore, and was so happy the series was ending on such a high noted. McFadden shared a personal story about her son’s reaction to Star Trek: Generations. He had grown up running around the sets and started crying when he saw the Enterprise D destroyed in the film.
The Women of DS9 (And Ira Steven Behr)
Terry Farrell (Jadzia Dax), Nana Visitor (Kira Nerys), Nicole de Boer (Ezri Dax), and DS9 showrunner Ira Steven Behr ended the day with a discussion of their time on our favorite space station. Behr came out with blue roses for the three women, which just happened to match his blue goatee.
When asked initially how they felt about Trek’s 50th anniversary, Visitor said that she cannot imagine life without Trek and felt that she was part of the most incredible, global club.
Reflecting on the first season, Behr felt that the writers fell back on what they knew, which was writing episodes for The Next Generation. While the co-creator had put together an amazing bible for the series, the writers simply could not make the show work. Behr believes that DS9 found its legs during the season one finale, “In the Hands of the Prophets.” Behr pointed to Star Trek’s first three-part episode, the second season opener “The Circle,” as the moment he knew the direction the series would take.
De Boer, reflecting on her entry in season seven, felt that she would have been terrified to come onto the show had she watched it in its entirety. She conceded that she only watched the pilot, but wanted the role of Ezri so bad because she felt it was so quintessentially her. As she got to know more about her character, she was absolutely blown away by the concept of Dax, a centuries-old symbiont passing from host to host. Ezri was particularly fun to play for de Boer, as she could come off as cute and pixie-like, but possessed such wisdom due to the Dax symbiont. De Boer declared that Trills were essentially transgender, as the symbiont past to both male and female hosts. She said that, although the writers gave her plenty to do during her one season on the show, she would love to know what Ezri is up to now.
Farrell felt that Dax was pansexual. As a person who had lived for centuries, Dax did not judge people and would befriend, and date, species that other characters found repulsive. Farrell was proud that the show never labeled Dax’s sexuality, rather it simply presented it for what it was. Farrell said that what truly matters in life is that your authentic self is all you need to be. When Farrell took on the role of Jadzia Dax, she said that she studied various religions and philosophies to figure out exactly how a 300-year old person would behave. Farrell, who did not have much experience acting before DS9, admitted that the show, and Behr specifically, helped her to grow up.
Discussing Farrell’s departure from the show at the end of season six, Behr conceded that no one believed that Terry was going to leave the show. When it happened, however, Behr felt that they hit gold in developing the character of Ezri and casting de Boer. Farrell jokingly asked whether Jadzia would return, just like Spock did, had DS9 had an eighth season, to which Behr yelled “now she wants to come back!”
Reflecting on her character and whether she was a freedom fighter or a terrorist, depending on your perspective, Visitor felt that Kira suffered from post traumatic stress following her experiences during the Cardassian occupation. Visitor believed that Kira took years to overcome her post traumatic stress, and only felt safe and okay by the end of the show. When asked about standout episodes, Visitor immediately pointed to season one’s “Duet,” which actually made Visitor question her own worldview.
Finally, Behr addressed some of the maligned Ferengi-centric episodes, which he felt were difficult to come off well. As many of the main characters were heroes, Behr wanted the Ferengi to represent modern-day humans living in the 24th century. He wanted to have characters who were not completely heroic. However, Behr noted, in hindsight, that he should have cut back on the number of Ferengi-centric episodes. Behr did not believe the comedy came naturally, and pointed out that it was difficult to find directors who could do comedy well.