Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Las Vegas Star Trek Convention, 2010

This year’s giant Star Trek convention in Las Vegas was a crazy mixture of fans.

I sat next to one fan, a guy I’ve seen at these events for about 15 years now, who told me he had added another room to his house for his collection. “If I’d known, I would have doubled the size of that room. And it would still be too small.”

I met another fan in the Las Vegas Hilton hotel elevator. She was dressed from antenna to toe as an Andorian. She was awaiting her daughter’s arrival at the hotel. “She’s never seen me like this,” she said. Boy, she’s in for a shock, I thought.

The fans are a big part of why I go every year. I often don’t know I’m going until July, when I wake up one morning and, with a friend in tow, find myself booking tickets.

I heard the results of a few polls within the convention. Nearly half of the convention crowd had not attended the Las Vegas convention before. And a third of them had never been to a convention at all before. Lots of new fans are now coming to these things, spurred on, one would suspect, by the immense popularity of the new movie.

I was very pleased to see that there were a couple of panels featuring Deep Space Nine actors. And, gosh, they all look to be the same age as when they played these superbly defined characters some 18 years ago.

On the first panel: Casey Biggs, Marc Alaimo, Andy Robinson, Jeffrey Combs, and Salome Jens. Below are some of the things they said that I thought were noteworthy.

Casey thought the “ratings really took off in the third or fourth season when the war really got going,” and several thought the show mirrored what was happening in the U.S., overcoming predjudices. Marc: “Our show, Star Trek, particularly Deep Space Nine, had a lot to do with breaking down all those barriers. We’re gradually overcoming all of those.” Andy added, “I’ve always been opposed to violence, so it’s ironic” that his character was an anarchist. “My family was destroyed by war. What was left for Garak…must be like a German after World War II. Star Trek for me was the most effective when it was plugged in.”

Marc was asked to comment on what it meant to be a Cardassian. “One of my instincts in the very beginning was to get over the bullying. I never wanted to be a bully. One of the things about Dukat was his power and how he used it. You never saw anything on the show that he did that was cruel or bullying. I enjoyed underplaying his power and let his intellect take over.”

Casey: “The writing on the show was so good. If you’re going to play Hitler, Hitler didn’t believe he was a bad guy. You as an actor have to take these heightened situations… and find something you call can relate to. We are attacking the good guys, but in the end, the good guys become the bad guys. There are 15 different sides to everything.”

Andy commented that he compared the Cardassians to Prussians that “lived by the code, like a Japanese bushido code. The imperialism grew out of a lack of resources. That grew into absolute power corrupts absolutely.” He added about the character Garak, “He was brilliant. When you’re playing someone who’s more brilliant than you, it ups your game.”

With some prompting, Marc admitted that he was getting married “in exactly two weeks.”

The second panel featured Aron Eisenberg, Armin Shimerman, Nana Visitor, James Darren, and Rene Auberjonois.

Armin told us that, “I missed an opportunity (in preparing to play Quark). I should’ve read a lot about Chinese culture. I may be wrong. People in America say, aren’t the Ferengi the Jews? In Australia they say, aren’t the Ferengi the Chinese? Ferengis represent the other culture. Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.”

“I was never embarrassed about the culture. The culture was important to me as our culture is to us. I never saw them as comic characters.”

James Darren chimed in. “I never felt like I was different from anyone,” that everyone was so welcoming on the show. “I loved playing Cupid for Rene and Nana. I loved playing the character because it reminded me of Frank and Dean. I lived through that era quite heavily. It gave me a nice way to express myself. To me, Vic was my idol.” As for the show, “I wish it were still on.”

Rene added to the discussion. “Everyone on this stage could make that argument” that they were an outsider. “The first time I walked on that set, my mind was blown. It (the Promenade) became the heart of that show: that set. Quark’s was the saloon in town and that’s where we gathered. Armin interrupted, “And you were the sheriff.”

Aron: “I felt really connected to everybody. It was the best time of my life.”

Nana, how did you get past Odo’s rubber during your kissing scene? “Rene’s power.” Nana added, “It began as a friendship and that’s the only conclusion it could have (that Odo left).” Rene: “I think the writers always knew that Odo would be going back to where he came from.”

I saw Nana in one of her first convention appearances in Santa Rosa, California. Buster was three months old then, and I swear she looks the same now as she did then. With as much enthusiasm. She says she’s having fun in her new baking business in New Mexico, and finds it very challenging.

Other items at the convention I really enjoyed:

1. The comedy routines. I couldn’t tell you which of the three panels was funnier, among The Voyager crew, the improv routine of Dean Haglund and Claudia Christian (doing Q and Janeway, loosely), and Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner together on stage. Each one was hilarious.
2. Seeing Julie Newmar on stage. She had to be helped up on stage in a smaller room, with a smaller audience, and told some great stories. She never really answered any of our questions, but it didn’t seem to matter. Catwoman is still sharp.
3. Seeing Marc Alaimo, Jeff Combs and Casey Biggs do their Shakespeare show, a few scenes from The Bard. They weren’t on the schedule, which may be why Marc was studying his lines on the side before he joined in.
4. Bill Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. Sure, you’ve seen them before, but they’re still hilarious, especially together, and gosh, they’re still alive.
5. Little things like seeing Bill Sadler late at night, approaching some Trekkies at the Star Trek slot machine. He wanted to know how it worked. And watching a soundless “Generations” movie play on the big screen at the Starquest bar. And the big, twitter-prompted party at the bar on Sunday night; one bartender claimed it was “crazy, a madhouse, maybe 3,000 Trekkies. We should’ve had several more bartenders taking drinks.”

I would say the only disappointment was that there wasn’t anyone truly new on stage. In past years we got to see people like Stephen Collins, Malcolm McDowell, Christopher Lloyd, all great people with great stories.

But it was great seeing old-time fans like Blair, Jo Beth, Freddy, and many more. May we all live long and prosper.