Thursday, February 21, 2013

ST:TNG Cast Reunion

Karen and I started going to Star Trek (ST) conventions (“cons”) in the mid-1970s, when they were small homegrown affairs held in the basement of the LAX Marriott hotel. In those days, the fans mostly just watched film versions of ST episodes projected on a screen at the front of a large ballroom (long before the show was universally syndicated) and sold unique memorabilia to each other (decades before eBay). But then Star Wars happened and science fiction cons were never the same. In the 1980s/90s, convention halls and other large venues, like the historic Shrine Auditorium, were often overrun by thousands of ST fans, many of whom wore costumes and spent entire weekends attending events. This was in the glory days of the Star Trek franchise, when new episodes of three of the most popular post-“original series” shows were still being broadcast on TV.

It’s been many years since I’ve attended a Star Trek convention. Nevertheless, my old fervor was piqued when I heard that the cast of Star Trek: the Next Generation (ST:TNG), my favorite of all the ST shows, was reuniting at a con in Burbank last weekend. Karen and I went.

We’d been to other fan conventions at the Burbank Marriott and so knew the space well. Still, we were surprised at how cramped everything was, despite the relatively small turnout (I’m guessing far less than 500 people). This almost felt like the cons of yore, except the merchandise was now selling for hundreds of dollars; plus the stars demanded a separate $20-$80 fee for every autograph and photo. Even Bobby Clark, one of the guys who played the cheesy Gorn monster on the original Star Trek series, had a booth and was selling photos and autograph opportunities. I stuck to shooting pictures of inanimate objects, like banners, but Karen managed to sneak a couple of good snaps of some of the celebrities.
Bobby Clark with his Gorn head

Jasika Nicole, signing autographs

This was a science fiction convention (i.e., not exclusively Trek), so we got to see non-ST people, too, including Jasika Nicole (Astrid from our fave TV show, Fringe) and James Marsters (Spike from Buffy, the Vampire-Slayer). The highlight, though, was the TNG reunion, Saturday night, which (of course) required a separate admission fee.

Banner of Captain Jean Luc Picard

Unlike the crew of the original series, who almost all famously hated each other, the TNG cast members have remained good friends, even though the show went off the air nearly 20 years ago. There was a lot of good-natured on-stage bantering, as the stars answered questions from a moderator and then the audience. I’m no longer plugged into the ST universe, so was interested to learn that:

Sir Patrick Stewart (Captain Picard) and his friend Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings series)—both highly regarded Shakespearian actors—will be performing together in a Harold Pinter play later this year in a so-far-undisclosed theater in California (yay!)

• The two-part “The Best of Both Worlds,” one of the most acclaimed TNG episodes, is being released as a movie on DVD and will be shown in theaters on April 25 (already on my calendar!)

Michael Dorn (Worf the Klingon) is now the sexy voice of Velveeta Cheese (!)

• And, according to Jonathan Frakes (who played Will Riker and is now one of TV’s leading directors), Paramount studio has absolutely no intention of reviving Star Trek as a TV show. Instead, they’re keeping the franchise alive through the new “re-boot” movies, the 2nd of which opens May 17 (definitely on my calendar!)

We were happy we went. But now I’m counting the days till May 17, when I’ll no doubt have to wait on line—just like the old days!—to see the new ST movie, Star Trek: Into Darkness. Check back on May 18 for my review!

Star Wars in the house: 
a self-propelled R2D2 operated by a small girl inside -
the best costume we saw all day!

No comments: