Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Star Trek and Me: A 50 Year Journey (Part 2)

William Shatner arrives.
So in this 50th Anniversary Year of Star Trek, I wanted to tell you what it was that recharged my passion for what may debatably be the most influential pop culture icon.  I know. I know there are others and some which are bigger and even a few, like Doctor Who, which is older, but from cultural impact, few have had the impact that Star Trek has, and the thing that reminded me of the love I have for this particular franchise was that I went to a Star Trek Convention. 

A cosplayer recreates
Captain Pike
It was not just any Star Trek convention.  I am not saying that I will start going to other Star Trek conventions, but that I was given the opportunity to go to a huge -a bucket list kind - Star Trek convention. I went to the Star Trek 50th Convention, Las Vegas. As a nerd, I go regularly to the comic con in Denver and also added to my bucket list when I went to the grand comic convention in San Diego. While I must admit I was thrilled and awed by San Diego Comic Con as I wandered through it in awestruck wonder, the Star Trek 50th in Las Vegas was very, very different. When I go to comic cons, I know some of the things going on and I also know very little or nothing about some of the other events and panels.  While I enjoy going to celebrity panels, I must admit there are some celebs that I have no idea as to how they are connected to the nerd community. It’s fun to find out, but there is plenty in the pop culture arena that I don't know about.

Star Trek Rat Pack
At Star Trek conventions, I know these people. They are my people. I get them. I've been there since the beginning. Now I admit that I am not as detailed obsessed as a few Star Trek nerds. I cannot discuss the show by episode number nor tell you who was the second camera man or the first red-shirt actor to die in Star Trek, but I get it. I get Star Trek.

To understand, let me tell you a little bit about the five days I spent at this wondrous convention.  People I did not know existed still were there, and it wasn't Q and A sessions with Star Trek actors and a cosplay contest and an auction, it was more. Yes, those things which are staples of the Star Trek conventions were also at Star Trek 50. 

Robert O'Reilly
While there were events like those above, there were also the entertainment events. It is, after all, Vegas and Vegas is about the show. Every night, there was an entertainment event. On the first night, there were the actors in full Klingon make-up. J.G. Hertzler (Martok), Robert O'Reilly (Gowron) and Gwynyth Walsh (B’Etor) were all original Klingons in Star Trek The Next Generation and Deep Space 9. Not only did they come out in full costume and make-up, but they also responded to the audience as if they were their original characters. It was funny and an astonishing exercise in improv theater as these three actors performed as if they were on an Earth-bound, Klingon talk show.

Max Grodenchik
They were not the only entertainment in full make-up and costume.  There was The FERENGIS! with Max Grodenchik (Rom) and Aron Eisenberg (Nog) from Deep Space 9. While they were a little more sedate than three Klingon's on stage, they were also moving as Aron Eisenberg talked about health problems he'd had and what make Max Grodenchik such an amazing human. 

At night, we could go to Quark's Bar. This room, which during the day was a place where attendees could buy lunch and snacks, was also the home to the Roddenberry stage which hosted each night a band called the Roddenberries and also had actress Chase Masterson from Deep Space singing old lounge songs. Yes, she can sing. Attendees could also buy real Star Trek-themed drinks in the bar each night. It was also the place where Rod Roddenberry, Gene Roddenberry's son, hosted a 50th birthday party supplying cake and champagne to every attendee in the room. 

Jonathan Frakes joins the audience.
In addition to this entertainment, there was also the night when the Nevada Pops Orchestra played music from Star Trek with one song being directed by award-winning composer Jay Chattaway. On another night there was the Star Trek Rat Pack with Max Grodenchik (lyricist and producer), Armin Shimerman, Vaughn Armstrong, Jeffrey Combs, Casey Biggs and Bill Burchell as the satiric forms of Frank Sinatra and the old Vegas gang. Add to these events like cakes decorations, or decorate your own cookie or coloring contest or learning to play Star Trek Ascendancy the board game, you get an idea of what the atmosphere was like.

Tribute banner to Anton Yelchin
To these entertainment events, we can add things like places for photo scenes and even a transporter which would make a video of the person being transported. There were astounding cosplayers. There was the art inspired by Star Trek traveling display. There were vendors and banners and even a large banner dedicated to the memory of Anton Yelchin, which attendees could sign. There were demonstrations like Oscar award winning Michael Westmore showing how a Borg is created. Last but not least, there were the panels.

Whoopi and Cosplayers
Almost any major player from every Star Trek series, with perhaps the exception of Patrick Stewart, was there. They were almost always grouped with other members of the same series. They did more than answer fan questions. They created moments for fans to remember. There was the arrival of John and Bjo Trimble who led the charge that kept Star Trek from being canceled. There was the moment that one of the actors from the original series apologized for having difficulty remembering because he was recovering from a stroke two weeks before. There was the moment when Jonathan Frakes kept roaming around the audience and hanging out with the fans. There was the introduction to the actors who had played iconic Star Trek monsters like the Gorn and the Salt Vampire. There were moments when Walter Koenig and in a later event George Takei both seemed to want to make peace with William Shatner. There was the moment that Scott Bakula came out and proved he really is deserving of his nice and genuine guy reputation. There was the moment that Whoopi Goldberg invited all the Guinan cosplayers to the stage and later came out and hugged Nichelle Nichols for her contribution to opening the door for women of color in the 1960's. There was the moment that Adam Nimoy paid tribute in film clips to his dad, Leonard "Spock" Nimoy and Rod Roddenberry's toast to his dad's creation. 

Whoopi and Nichelle
In short, the convention was not just about stuff and celebrities, but about the moments that were created for fans. Most of the questions were ones that every hardcore fan had read about, heard about, or had seen asked at other conventions. What it was that made this convention different was that fans received a gift of memories to take with them. And that is what the events of Star Trek 50 Las Vegas were like, and it is how I renewed my passion. 

So why? Star Trek and Me: A 50 Year Journey (Part 3) is coming next.