The second day of Mission: New York kicked off on the main stage with a reunion of the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast including LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, and Marina Sirtis. Kelvin Timeline-stars Peter Weller and Bruce Greenwood
The most-anticipated panel of the convention was on Star Trek: Discovery with series consulting producer and writer Nicholas Meyer along with writer Kirsten Beyer. Beyer revealed that DSC would be a cross-media production involving television, novels, and comics.
The Next Generation
LeVar Burton, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn, and Marina Sirtis addressed a packed house at the Star Trek: The Next Generation panel on Saturday afternoon, with Adam Nimoy sitting in the front row watching. Once they got rolling, they tapped into that energy and camaraderie that this group is famous for, as they reminisced, teased each other, and answered questions from fans.
Sirtis talked about how Gene Roddenberry told her that in the 24th century, mental health would be as important as physical health, which is why he wanted a counselor on the ship–to de stigmatize it. She admitted that when she got the role, she bought herself a subscription to Psychology Today, and all she learned was that Deanna Troi was Freudian, since all she ever said to anyone was, “How does that make you feel?” She laughed. “I never gave a piece of advice in seven years!”
The group was asked what they’d like to Bryan Fuller to know as he’s working on Star Trek: Discovery. Frakes declared “We’re not dead!” (which got a round of approving applause) and Sirtis said she’d like to appear on the show as Lwaxana Troi’s grandmother. She also said, emphatically, that she’d like to be the computer voice, to “keep it in the family. Are you listening CBS?” she asked, and the audience appeared to agree.
Dorn admitted that the project he’d been pitching about Worf as a captain is gone. He said Star Trek: Discovery was the nail in its coffin; they don’t need another Star Trek TV project at the same time. Frakes talked about playing trombone with Phish, which has given him a gold record, and McFadden shared her memories of working with David Bowie on Labyrinth.
But it was when they were reminiscing about their days on TNG that things got fun. Dorn talked about Jonathan Frakes bouncing off the wall to the point that he went right through one, and all he could see was “these two little legs sticking out.” Sirtis said that there was one director who did two episodes in the first season and then said he was never coming back because they were “too rowdy.” Dorn has talked a lot about the difference between the mood on the TNG set and Deep Space 9, but this time Sirtis chimed in, describing it as so quiet when she stopped by to visit pal Terry Farrell on the DS9 set, that she asked her, “Did someone die?”
They admitted that none one member of cast knew what “Masks” was about, Dorn’s overacting, and the joy of having their episodes directed by Frakes.
The best fan question was about their least favorite merchandise that featured their own likenesses. Dorn’s was a plastic lunchbox that you opened up to hear his voice, and headless bodies on top. If you held it by the handle, you looked like you were holding Worf’s hair. Sirtis and McFadden complained that all of their action figures were unbearably ugly. McFadden liked her action figure, though, because when her son was two, she was looking at it,and he said, “Oh, a mommy doll!” Burton admitted he was happy with his, because “…they didn’t have Roots action figures.” Bottom line: they all loved being immortalized in Pez.
Frakes talked about going to his first convention in Syracuse in the 80s, and seeing the other characters for $40 and $50 and the rest in a pile with the sign, “Buy any action figure, and get Riker free.”
Trek Talks: Feminist Fandom
The Feminist Fandom panel was helmed by professional fan girls Amy Imhoff (Shoes & Starships; Legion of Leia), Angelique Roche (Ms. Foundation for Women and Black Girl Nerds) , Laurie Ulster (TrekMovie.com), and Holly Amos (CBS).
Unfortunately the panel directly conflicted with the Star Trek: Discovery panel, but the passion exhibited by the panel and audience members proves that the fandom is strong and speaks to everyone.
Speaking of a fandom for all, a discussion arose about how women often have to make their own cosplay because it has only been very recently that fandom merchandise has been available in female cuts and plus sizes. In fact, the founder of HerUniverse started her site because of the dearth of female-geared fandom products.
But one fan commented that she’s been coming to scifi conventions for 15 years, and she was thrilled to see how attendance among women has grown.
But the point was made that we now have so much more power through social media to express our love of Star Trek and other fandoms and that we should use that voice to influence the industry.
This wasn’t always the case. Women might have watched but they weren’t involved in the decision making process. There has been much contention over the last 50 years of Trek about the treatment of women, especially those of color. Kirk kissed women of practically every alien color, but when he kissed an human woman of color there was outrage and censorship in some parts of the country.
Many of the women of Trek have incredibly traumatic experiences that shaped their characters: Tasha Yar and the rape gangs of her home world, Kira Nerys and Ro Laren grew up under Cardassian cruelties, etc., but there are few male characters with comparable backgrounds.
However, we cannot forget the prominence that is given to Majel Barrett in the franchise. The studio might have refused to make her the first officer of TOS, but she WAS the ship. Later she was such a force as to intimidate Captain Picard and Constable Odo.
The various incarnations of Star Trek have always been a product of their times and dealt with the social issues at the forefront of people’s thoughts: TOS aired the first interracial kiss during a tumultuous time during the civil rights era, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was inspired by the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Bryan Fuller has announced that Discovery will feature an LGBT character.
Star Trek is often defined by its bravery in advancing the boundaries of society and has often faced pushback from the powers that be. But the PTBs are changing, and we can expect Star Trek to raise awareness and continue the conversation about what it means to be human in all its infinite combinations.
Trek’s Hollywood Stars: Bruce Greenwood and Peter Weller
The Kelvin Timeline films made their presence felt Saturday afternoon when actors Bruce Greenwood and Peter Weller stepped onstage to talk about their long careers and experiences working on Star Trek.
When asked if he’s had a chance to see Star Trek Beyond yet, Greenwood quipped, “I saw it this weekend. It’s missing a character!”.
He spoke about how he approached the role of Christopher Pike and how his chemistry with Chris Pine informed the relationship between Pike and Kirk:
He started on the page. There’s lots of history. A lot of it had to do with the vibe Chris and I had. When you have that thing going on with another actor you can flesh things out.
Weller said that while Admiral Marcus is one of the villains of Star Trek Into Darkness, the character doesn’t think of himself that way:
In truth when you’re looking at script objectively…he (JJ) put it best – the deal with Marcus is that he’s not really the villain. He’s undone by his own hubris.
They both spoke poignantly about the recent loss of Anton Yelchin. Weller spoke of his personality:
Gifted intelligence and charm. I was immediately taken with the guy. He was an inspiring cat to be around. He was remarkablke. It’s sad.
Greenwood is still trying to cope with the loss:
Too surreal. He was one of those people who touched everyone around. It was stunning that he was suddenly not there anymore. It was just heartbreaking and continues to be.
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