|Creation Star Trek Con
Las Vegas, Nevada
August 5-8, 2010
report by Mary Shaver
First impressions--BIG! My only previous convention experience had been a much smaller, more intimate affair. This was Star Trek on parade.
Aliens in the Atomic Testing Museum
I arrived Thursday afternoon in time to attend "Aliens in the Atomic Testing Museum" that evening. This was a catered dinner at the Museum and was attended by René, Armin, Casey Biggs, and Marc Alaimo. Each actor circulated around and spent time at each table. René talked about his most recent appearance on Warehouse 13. He was also asked about his time on Boston Legal and answered some questions about Deep Space Nine and Odo. He talked about how wonderful the DS9 writers were and what a joy it was to play such a complex and complicated character. Armin talked a lot about how important it was to him to flesh out his character and give Quark in particular, and Ferengis in general, more depth and breadth, making them three-dimensional. Casey talked about what he is currently doing (teaching an MFA course in New York) and also about Damar and his transformation from villain to hero. He was a real hoot and the biggest flirt! The fangirls were swooning and falling all over him! Marc talked about Dukat, and I got the sense he is still very emotionally invested in his character. I asked him about the dust-up over Dukat having a relationship with Kira and he was very touchy on the subject. He said the writers made a big mistake by not having Dukat and Kira have an affair and that it would have added another layer of complexity to both the characters (more on this later). Jeff Combs was also present at the dinner but because he wasn't an announced guest didn't engage the group. I did speak to him briefly and thanked him for his contribution to DS9.
The featured drinks served at the dinner all came courtesy of Quark's Bar.
The museum itself was fascinating, especially if you are a science geek like me. It houses the artifacts and tells the history of the Nevada Test Site. There was a brief introduction outlining the United States' effort to develop an atomic bomb during WWII. The so-called Manhattan Project (a rather ironic name, considering that the bulk of the research and development was done at Los Alamos, NM; Oakridge, TN and Hanford, WA) culminated in the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan to end the war. With the continued Soviet threat after the war, further development and refinement of a nuclear response was done, and most of the aboveground tests happened at the Nevada Test Site. There was a rather chilling video that provided the audience with the sight, sound, and feel of what it would have been like to have been on-site during a nuclear detonation.
Not surprisingly, the radioactive fallout from those beautiful and terrible mushroom clouds wafted downwind and the exponential increase of various types of cancer, especially thyroid cancer, eventually forced the government to abandon aboveground testing and move everything underground. The museum documents the way they prepared the underground facilities.
The only disappointment in an otherwise great evening was that this event was billed as a tribute to "Little Green Men." Instead of showing that episode or, for that matter, showing clips of DS9, the big screen in the banquet room only replayed TOS and TNG clips. An unfortunate oversight on the part of the organizers.
Friday Morning Breakfast
On Friday, I attended the DS9 "Beam Me Up" Breakfast with cast members Nana, Andy Robinson, Salome Jens, Jeff Combs, Aron Eisenberg, and James Darren. As with dinner the night before, the actors circulated around the room, sitting at each table and conversing with the fans. It was all pretty cyclonic, with "handlers" shuffling the actors around--way too fast, in my opinion. Highlights for me were Andy Robinson, who talked about auditioning for the part of Odo. He played it the way the character was written, as the "Clint Eastwood" type. It came down to Andy, René, and one other actor (whose name escapes me). When René got the part, Andy very nearly didn't go back to audition for the part of Garak. Needless to say, he said how happy he was that he did, and confessed that the casting director got it right, that René was perfect for Odo, and Andy was positively delighted with Garak. I asked him if he wished Garak would have become a regular instead of a recurring character, and he was adamant that he didn't want to become a regular member of the cast. His reason was that he felt the writers did such a spectacular job with Garak, both the storylines and the dialog, and he thought they wouldn't have been able to maintain that high standard if they had to write for him every week.
Jeff Combs told the story about how René lobbied for him to play Brunt and how that set him up for other roles, notably Weyoun, and what a gift that character was for him. He also talked about his one-man Edgar Allan Poe play, Nevermore. Someone asked if he would do it at one of the cons, and he said he would consider it if the con organizers were to ask.
Salome Jens gave us her take on the motivations of the Founder and that her take was the character was only ever interested in taking Odo home (this didn't quite ring true for me, but hey, she was the one breathing life into the character). Aron talked about his role as Nog and how fearful he was that he was being written out of the story when they sent him to Starfleet Academy. He also said how grateful he was for the care the writers took with his character and how Nog grew from a troublemaker into a responsible adult. James Darren said Vic Fontaine rejuvenated his career in front of the camera and also revived his interest in music. He looked fantastic and was such a gentleman.
Nana looked smashing and I couldn't help but ask her if she had a Cellular Regeneration and Entertainment Chamber (from "In the Cards") in her house. She just laughed and mentioned the two inches of makeup she was wearing. Seriously, she really looks amazing. She talked about her restaurant and how it was something she always wanted to do. Then she started talking about Kira and it was obvious she genuinely cares about her character. So I told her what Marc Alaimo said about wishing Kira and Dukat would have had a relationship, and she just went OFF!! She ranted and raved about how wrong that would have been. When I congratulated her for going to bat for Kira and keeping her out of Dukat's bed, she seemed very appreciative and said over the years she sometimes doubted her decision, but knew in the end she made the right choice. Then she was rushed off, but not before giving all of us her restaurant's business card with a personalized autograph.
DS9 Dominion Panel
The main auditorium Friday afternoon featured the DS9 Dominion Panel with Jeff Combs, Andy Robinson, Salome Jens, Marc Alaimo, and Casey Biggs.
Jeff shifted in and out of "Weyoun" mode, occasionally answering questions with statements like "The Founder is wise in all things," and he and Casey fell into the bickering we saw quite a bit of between Damar and Weyoun.
Casey likened the Cardassians to the Roman Empire, whereas the Cardassians reminded Andy of the old Prussian Dynasty. They all agreed that Cardassia's occupation of Bajor was simply an expedient to provide the food and raw materials their home planet lacked.
Salome Jens repeated her position I mentioned earlier, that the Dominion only invaded the Alpha Quadrant in order to fetch Odo home.
On a personal note, Marc announced he was getting married this month.
ORACLE Room Party
A whirlwind day and a half wasn't over for René as he graciously carved out some time to spend with ORACLE/RAFL members. He talked about his character of Hugo Miller on Warehouse 13 and how his decision to take parts was conditioned on whether he found the character captivating and interesting.
At one point during the conversation, René mentioned being part of a dinner party when he was in London that included Alan Rickman. René told Alan how popular Galaxy Quest was with the Star Trek actors, and they lamented the movie's not doing better at the box office, concluding that the title of the film may have been somewhat misleading to potential moviegoers. As he was relaying this story, it occurred to me that in all likelihood neither of these fine actors had any idea of the number of fangirls they share in common, as so many "Odophiles" later became "Snapeaholics."
DS9 Promenade Panel
Again in the main auditorium, René, Armin, Nana, James Darren, and Aron Eisenberg entertained the crowd. René, very relaxed during the room party, amped it up when he was introduced, as he and Armin yucked it up for the audience.
The first question put to the panel was which character was the most "out of place" on the station. Considering that the group consisted of four aliens and a "light bulb," it wasn't surprising that each actor thought their character was the most displaced (with the exception of Aron, who felt right at home causing mischief).
Most of the audience questions were pretty routine, but the chemistry we saw between the characters on DS9 translates into real life, because the actors' interaction with each other was electric. René and Nana discussed the evolution of Odo and Kira's relationship that first germinated in the minds of the writers after watching that fabulous last scene from "Necessary Evil."
I left the Q&A early to help set up for René's autograph session. He was really pressed for time, but managed to sign a ton of autographs as well as raising over $500 for Doctors without Borders.
Jeri Ryan appeared this year, apparently attending her first Star Trek convention. I was never a big fan of the "Borg sex kitten," but the auditorium was packed and the fanboys were drooling! I had forgotten that she had a recurring role on Boston Legal, confirming that the moniker "Star Trek Lawyers" for that show was indeed appropriate.
The Voyager Cast Reunion (Ethan Phillips, Scarlett Pomers, Garrett Wang, Robert Picardo, Tim Russ, and Jennifer Lien) was an absolute riot! They were hilarious and spent almost the entire session making jokes and taking the mickey out of each other. Not many audience questions were answered, but I don't think anyone cared. It was like the Comedy Club. Tim Russ seemed to be the main target, although no one on the stage was safe.
Shatner and Nimoy's appearance was a walk down memory lane, as these two old pros enchanted the audience with old stories, both funny--Shatner kept stealing Nimoy's bicycle when they were on TOS so, in a desperate attempt to secure his bicycle, Nimoy finally locked it in his car, and Shatner had the car towed away (!)--and sad--Shatner talked about losing his father while on the TOS set and what a stalwart friend Nimoy was during that difficult time. It was a delight to see them, and especially to see that they really appeared to be enjoying themselves and their interaction with the audience. Shatner has about a million projects going on (including a documentary called The Captains, where he has gone to the homes of all the actors who held the title in the Star Trek world; I look forward to seeing that), and Nimoy continues to insist he is "retired" from acting. His current interest is photography and he held a seminar at the convention (which I didn't attend) where he screened his latest photography project, "Secret Selves," which will be on display at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
Jonathan Frakes: what a funny and self-depreciating man! He had the audience in stitches as he made fun of the way he "strutted" on the bridge, and his character's attempt to out-do Kirk in the one-shot romance department. He impersonated all the other TNG actors (he does an especially good Picard) and joked about his one and only "date" with Marina, when she invited him to a Sting concert. His most active current project is as a recurring director on Leverage.Unfortunately for me, I was scheduled to leave on Sunday and so I missed seeing most of the Enterprise cast, as well as Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, and Michael Dorn. Next time, I won't make that mistake. My first experience with the big Las Vegas con was wonderful and exceeded all my expectations.
Report by Lynne Transue
"I'm not a spiritual person, but if you walk through life and don't interact, that's one thing, but I think, if you walk around and say 'Hi!' to people and smile, this world would grow in leaps and bounds."
Back to Convention Reports menu
(son of Gene Roddenberry--creator of Star Trek)
Obviously, the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree, because Gene Roddenberry (as we all know) is known for creating a universe where the humans (at the least) seem to be of this opinion.
I'd also like to point out that, during my several experiences meeting Mr. René Auberjonois, a wise and benevolent gentlemen who could teach us all a few things about how to treat our fellow "hu-mons," I believe he shares this ideology.
For the last several years, I have been blessed to have the opportunity to attend the Las Vegas Annual Creation Entertainment's Official Star Trek Convention, at which Mr. Auberjonois and his fans have been able to meet and share some time discussing everything from travel experiences to photography, the entertainment business, and what's going on not only in our favorite thespian's life but in ours as well. Having a room party is like getting together for a friendly chat with one's next-door neighbors or one's favorite college professor, and family. The Star Trek community can be said to be kin who share a common ideology that humanity should care for itself. I have a fond memory of a previous con where several of us were walking down one of the hallways at the Las Vegas Hilton with Mr. Auberjonois, and how often he and others would warmly greet each other.
This year, Mr. Auberjonois was at the Star Trek convention for a hectic 24 hours, in which he attended not only an almost all-night Aliens in the Atomic Testing Museum on Thursday night but also a very full day of activities on Friday, composed of an autograph session, photo ops, a panel discussion with fellow DS9 cast members, a meeting with a select group of fans set up by Creation Entertainment, and a casual get together with his invited fans from ORACLE and RAFL.
I always look forward to the Creation Con in Las Vegas when Mr. Auberjonois appears because I also get to see my fellow fans who I usually just e-mail with. I can't believe that I have been a part of the René Auberjonois fan club for seven years. Time does go fast. And so did my time enjoying the Star Trek convention.
On Friday, August 6, I went to the con and went to the last part of the Eugene Roddenberry and Roddenberry.com talk (where I heard the quote above). Then I went to the DS9 Dominion Panel with Casey Biggs, Marc Alaimo, Andy Robinson, Jeffrey Combs, and Salome Jens. I was particularly enthused to see Andy Robinson, as I had never seen him before. I am always appreciative of the fact that Star Trek always uses very talented, well-trained actors, and this panel--and the DS9 Promenade Panel with James Darren, Armin Shimerman, René Auberjonois, Nana Visitor, and Aron Eisenberg--were great examples of master craftsman in the field of acting. The panel discussions at the Star Trek con are not just for a dialogue of the mechanics of making a TV show (i.e., the makeup, costuming, set decoration, interpersonal relationships of the characters, various actions in the story line, etc.) but one element that seems to gain more prominence every year I go is the concept of how Star Trek relates to our world. I know Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek to mirror our world and to comment upon it, and that these comparisons have been discussed in part before at the con, as well as in various books, magazines, websites, etc. but I don't remember the panels going into such depth with these comparisons.
The DS9 Dominion Panel included a discussion of how the Dominion represented our world and the power struggles within. Andy Robinson discussed the idea that the Cardassians represented the Prussians, the imperialists who had limited resources and needed to stretch to survive. They then became corrupt in power, because absolute power corrupts absolutely. Mr. Robinson stated that Garak, the Cardassian spy, was a democrat. He believed that everyone should be given a chance for that power. Later on, at the DS9 Promenade Panel, when asked about his insights in playing Ferengis, and the cultural archetypes from the human race that he used to give his nuanced performance, Armin Shimerman talked about the role of the Other in human cultures.
I'd like to thank Creation Partner Adam Malin for asking such insightful questions, which got the actors speaking about these topics. I think he realized that most fans at Star Trek cons are repeat audience members and have heard the answers to, "How long did it take to put your makeup on?" many times before. I also think that, in some ways, our culture is becoming more self-analyzing and the comparisons between fiction and the reality that spawns the stories are important, much like mythology helped ancient civilizations to comprehend the world around them. That is why there are so many discussion board websites today. We all need a way to analyze our world.
A particular favorite moment for me at the DS9 panel came from an audience question posed to each panelist: "We learn a lot from our failures, probably more than from our successes. I was wondering, what type of situations happened that helped define you as an actor?" The answer that each panelist gave was like seeing the actors for who they truly are as people. During their answers, we got to see their humanity. I'd like to thank each panel member for being so truthful and for their willingness to share. In our American Idol-ized society, where magazines such as The National Enquirer, People, and Us exist, it's hard for a member of the "public" to know where the created persona ends and the real person begins. Each panelist's candor was refreshing and very informative, and shows why Star Trek is not just a work of fiction created for entertainment purposes, but is a creation that says so very much on the human condition. The actors who helped create this universe revealed the compassion that resounds in the shows.
Again another year has gone by and I've had another privileged encounter with Mr. Auberjonois. Thank you, kind sir, for being one of the great spirits of the Star Trek continuum.
Photo credits, in order from top of page:
Jo Beth Taylor, photos 1, 3, 4, 6, 8-11, 13, 15
Mike Krause, photos 2 and 7
Beth Madison, photos 5, 12, 14