8- 10 September 2006
Wyndham O'Hare Hotel
Chicago. Illinois USA


Friday, September 8, 2006

Exactly forty years ago on this date, TOS aired for the first time on television, on the NBC network. The kick-off episode was "Mantrap", followed later by the original pilot.

The first event of this gathering was a memorable tribute to DeForest Kelley by Richard Arnold, former assistant to Gene Roddenberry. Arnold accompanied his recollections with video clips of Kelley.


Highlighted Guest #1: ETHAN PHILLIPS

The first actor guest at the convention was Ethan Phillips, who started off with a lot of stand-up comic jokes. He admitted that the 'talent' runs in his family, coming from a great uncle years back.

Commenting on the recent con in Las Vegas when asked how things were out there, he allowed that he '...lost $20 in a stamp machine."

Inevitable questions came inquiring as to his favorite recipe, which he said was in "The Star Trek Cookbook": "Mool - definitely mool. And it's quite easy to prepare. Let's see - there are fava beans..." He went on to list the in ingredients and how to prepare it.

Asked what his favorite episode was, he responded that it was "Mortal Coil", mainly because it reflected his own personal beliefs of his uncertainly of an afterlife. He stated that he also liked "Timeless". He continued that the reason he liked Star Trek and its underlying philosophy was that ST judges people on what they do, not who they are.

A question regarding did he feel that his character was used enough ("yes") also prompted the comment: "But I never got enough scenes with Seven of Nine!" (Laughter from audience)

However, he spoke quite fondly of Jennifer Lien/Kes, stating that she was a lovely person and was sorry that she was written out of the show, but understood the rational for her leaving, i.e., the character really couldn't be developed any further.

Of course questions got around to the infamous 'boys' club' horsing around the VOY set. He readily agreed that it was true, stating that the Tuvok pon farr jokes were rampant. And yes - it most certainly was true that Robert Beltran couldn't remember lines. He expounded, "He had lines posted everywhere - at the bottom of a coffee cup, on the back of the Doctor's head... Why, once I called his house and his answering machine picked up: "Hello, this is Robert... er... ah... what's my name?" (Big laugh from audience)

Questions about his make-up led him to confess that it took 3 1/2 hours to put it on and an hour to take it off; that the 'head molds' lasted 7-8 days. He stated that if you were a regular that the 'take it off' part was done much more gently than if you were a 'guest alien' - the make-up folks would just rip it off them! This story led into his commenting that you weren't allowed to sleep over in your trailers but that he had about ten times, mainly because of early make-up calls.

The mention of trailers led to a question about the cast trailers. He allowed that Kate Mulgrew's was 'just like an English cottage, with doilies and flowers and teacups all over it; it was like a cottage in the Cotswalds.' Robbie McNeill's was packed with books and DVDs. Picardo had a lot of action figures, including one of the EMH stuck to his window looking outwards, with the words 'Help me!' scrawled above it. His own had dozens of pictures drawn by kids who had sent them to him. He said (with his tongue quite firmly implanted in his cheek) that he'd lived at Jeri Ryan's trailer (big laugh) but had never seen Roxann (Dawson's). Tim Russ's place was very dark, with 'lots of purple'. "Garrett always had a lot of food - you could always find something to eat there." As for Beltran's, he said that the place always looked trashed - "I don't think it was ever cleaned out during the entire seven years!"

"Will you pet my tribble?"

Highlighted Guest #2: ROBERT PICARDO

Picardo came on stage looking trim and dapper, his pate gleaming in the spotlights. Getting into questions almost immediately, when asked about his recent role in "Stargate: Atlantis" (Richard Woolsey), he grimaced and said, "I seem to specialize in roles in which I don't socialize well." (Big audience laugh)

Several questions were posed regarding his stage work, which he adores. He mentioned the time he did Arthur Miller's play, "Broken Glass". Miller was around during rehearsals and Picardo says he shook hands with the great playwright many times, each time grinning and thinking, "I just touched the hand that touched Marilyn Monroe's bottom!" On a more serious note, he said that he considered Miller, along with Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams, the greatest American playwrights.

He then broke into a bit of levity with one of his delightful parody songs recalling the women of Star Trek in "A Name Like Annika", in which he bemoans not being able to find a word to rhyme with that particular name.

Asked about his opera singing on "Voyager", he allowed that his favorite piece was in "Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy": "Tuvok is a Vulcan man..."

He stated that he was abysmal in his "Voyager" audition. Following giving the line "I believe someone failed to terminate my program," he couldn't help but ad-lib, ala McCoy, "I'm a doctor, not a night light!" The rest was history.

He did meet DeForest Kelley once and said that he tried to pay homage to the role of McCoy through his portrayal of the EMH, to which Kelley retorted, "You mean you steal from the role."

Picardo reminisced at length about his first 'step' into show business, a play written and performed with a life-long friend when they were in the seventh grade. They have revived the vaudevillian skit, "Box & Cox", several times and are planning it again for a high school reunion next year, with proceeds going to charity.

Asked about his Jeckle and Hyde role in "The Darkling", he said that he based his interpretation on his role in "The Howling"; he even used the same mouthpiece to give him the jutting lower jaw look. He also wore special contact lenses that caused him to lose his peripheral vision. 'Someone always had to lead me around.'

Although he directed Voyager's episode of "One Small Step", Picardo says he'll leave the directing route to McNeill, Dawson and Russ, as he prefers acting to directing.

He launched into another parody song, "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" and closed with the comment that he was perfect 'captain material': "Shatner, Stewart, Brooks - all bald! We started warning Kate Mulgrew that she had better watch out!"


Friday's activities closed with a performance by Picardo and Phillips of their two-person show, "House Call". It was more of a glorified reading, as they worked off scripts; but with several bloops and ad-libs, they made it a unique performance. Synopsis: Neelix contacts the EMH from his asteroid home in the Delta Quadrant, where he and Dexa have married and had a son, Alex. Alex is ill and no one can figure out what's wrong, so he contacts his old Voyager pal, who is in the midst of getting ready for a date with Seven of Nine (guess that answers that question, huh?) Neelix owns a restaurant, of course, and is constantly checking in with his maitre de. One of the Doc's closing lines was pure Picardo: "I've got to make hay while the solar cells sizzle."


Saturday, September 9, 2006

The auditorium continued to fill throughout the day, anticipating the dual appearance by Shatner and Nimoy late in the afternoon.

Arnold presented a remembrance of James Doohan, much like the one he had done on Friday for Kelley. Other memories from the first show were highlighted by video clips and visits from Bobby Clark (The Gorn Captain in "The Arena"), Barbara Luna (Lt. Moreau, "Mirror, Mirror") and Tanya Lemani (Kara in "Sheep in the Fold")


Highlighted Guest #3: LEONARD NIMOY

Looking trim and relaxed, Nimoy took the stage, an example of looking much better in person than on the screen. He spoke of his rather simple upbringing (parents immigrated from Russia) in the West End of Boston - he now has a boat named "West End".

He recounted the story from his book, "I Am Not Spock" of the amazing acceptance of the character of Spock - of how the fan mail began trickling in and how he zealously read each and answered every letter; how it then became a trayful, then a bagful. Paramount finally gave him $100 a week to hire someone to handle his mail.

From comments and expression, it was evident that his favorite moments in the Trek world were with directing the two movies (ST:III and ST:IV) He said the first one was, of course, easier to do, since he was barely in it, but that "The Journey Home" was his favorite.

Highlighted Guest #4: WILLIAM SHATNER

In contrast to Nimoy's sedate entrance, Shatner did his best Shatner and blasted onto the stage - there is nothing introvert-ish about this man!

Audience questions came fast and furious about ST:XI - was he going to be in it? Had he talked with anyone? He said that he had indeed spoken with J.J Abrams ("I look at him and I think 'I'm looking at my son!'") and there is 'a strong possibility' that he will be in the movie. He grinned and said defiantly, "Star Trek is coming back!" The room went wild. He then stated that he wouldn't mind reprising the Kirk role 'one more time'.

He stated that he shared Roddenberry's social consciousness philosophy, and that he was an early member of Greenpeace.

When asked about his favorite thing on the ST sets, he diplomatically stated that it was all good. "Making Star Trek was a joyful time."


After these individual sessions, champagne was passed out to the audience and each of these two gentlemen led a toast to the 40th anniversary of Star Trek. After a brief pause, they appeared together.



You know that these two men are worlds apart the moment you see them together: Nimoy's tall, lanky body opposite Shatner's (much) shorter and stout one. Shatner's mouth is open and his eyes are darting all over the place; Nimoy, with an artist's perspective, is closed-mouthed and his eyes are taking long, slow looks of what is around. Nimoy settles into his chair onstage with a gentleman's grace; Shatner pounces onto his like a cat springing onto its prey. Oh, yes - these men are certainly two different people!

Asked about their early forays into acting, Nimoy said he started when he was eight. Turning the question on his 'partner', Shatner cracked that he couldn't really remember 'when'... but that knew that he was young, although he was always 'looking at the blondes; I was precocious.'

Both agreed that what they liked best about the early Star Trek was that it went against the current of 'science fiction always killing off the aliens', that Star Trek always strove to 'show humanity at its best.'

Nimoy fielded questions about his book, "Shekhina" and other aspects of his professional life that have been influenced by his Jewish background, including the split finger Vulcan greeting, which comes from a Jewish blessing.

When queried about their favorite Star Trek episode or film, Shatner responded that his had to be "The Trouble with Tribbles", mainly because of 'the many (different) kinds of props'. Nimoy's pick was "STIV: The Journey Home". "Everything came together in a good way," he concluded about the movie.

Shatner spoke some about his charitable work with horses for children, including its extension onto the Mideast, where he says the program is "for all children - Israeli, Palestinian, Saudi... all children of that area of the world."

Shatner told a story about a visit to Cape Canaveral in 1969 when he was invited to go inside a lunar module at the NASA center. While there, he was instructed to take a look through a sextant aboard, only to see... the Starship Enterprise! All had been 'staged' for him by several ST fan engineers at the site.

The duo was asked how they felt about their Trek characters being used as Christmas tree ornaments, as they both come from Jewish backgrounds. They laughed and said they had no qualms about this; Nimoy admitted to wanting a 'Hanukkah bush' when he was a boy.

They were asked if they sensed an on-going 'socialistic' slant to episodes of TOS. Shatner stated that he didn't know of 'any unified theory', but that the individual writers had the ideas and were very intelligent people. Nimoy continued that the concept of IDIC 'found a home with independent ideas dealing with contemporary society.' He went on to say that lacking the budget to expand on special effects, they had to dwell more with characters and social problems.

The final minutes of this session led off with a question to Shatner: "When are you going to get him (Nimoy) on 'Boston Legal' with you?" Shatner emoted and pleaded in typical Shatner fashion, but Nimoy said 'no' in many ways, stating that his acting days are behind him. More banter and a return to the request had Nimoy deftly dodging the question a few more times.


A presentation by production manager David Rossi of the soon-to-be-released re-digitalized versions of TOS episodes met with mixed audience acceptance. While promising that the 'new' format (done in conjunction with Mike and Denise Okuda) will not change anything that takes place on the Enterprise, it will 'clean up' exterior shots, views from the view screen and includes a re-recording of the original theme based on the original score but using modern recording technologies. (Ed. Note: I liked what I saw - clean, sharp pictures; defined space objects [i.e., planets, stars, etc.] An astronomer in the audience asked about the star formations and was assured that they were being kept the same.)

In keeping with ST conventions, a costume parade proceeded that evening. Missing were the multitude of Klingons and other 'aliens'-- most 'costumes' were TOS uniforms. However, the winner in the adult division was a Scotty who could have been Scotty's clone from ST:IV; you could practically 'feel' him channeling the character!

The day concluded with a bountiful dessert party. Picardo, Phillips and the yet-to-be-onstage Connor Trinneer circulated through the tables, spending a few minutes 'up close' with the guests.


Sunday, 10 September 2006

Prior to the stage appearances of John deLancie and Connor Trinneer, Richard Arnold, who had worked on TOS and TNG, presented his personal picks of the 'Top Twenty Classic Star Trek Moments'. He presented the episodes in chronological order:

    1. "Man Trap" - First ST episode aired
    2. "Charlie X" - personal reasons: his own parents were divorced when he was about Charlie's age and he identified with the angst.
    3. "Balance of Terror" - Introduction of Mark Lenard into the series
    4. "Space Seed" - Introduction of Ricardo Montalban into series
    5. "The Devil in the Dark" - Its statement that we do not always have to kill the aliens!
    6. "City on the Edge of Forever" - Its statement that sometimes we must let the 'good ones' die; that sometimes the right decisions are not the most comfortable ones
    7. "Amok Time"
    8. "Mirror, Mirror"
    9. "The Trouble with Tribbles"
    10. "Journey to Babel" - Introduction of Spock's parents
    11. "A Private Little War" (Side note: the IDIC 'jewelry' worn in this episode was designed by Gene Roddenberry, who was an amateur jeweler.)
    12. "Plato's' Stepchildren" - First interracial kiss on television
    13. "Let That be Your Last Battlefield"
    14. ST:II - the death of Spock
    15. Introduction of TNG - Introduction of Q (Arnold really liked the fact that the first and last episodes were like 'bookend' episodes with Q)
    16. "The Measure of a Man"
    17. "Who Watches the Watchers?"
    18. "Darmok"
    19. "Unification" - Death of Sarek
    20. ST:VII - "Generations" - the first two captains together


    Highlighted Guest #5: JOHN deLancie

    Urbane and witty John deLancie took the stage next. Looking stunning with a gorgeous tan and a well-trimmed beard and moustache, he launched right into what he was currently doing. "I leave from here to go to Atlanta to direct a production of (the opera) 'Tosca'". He further stated that directing operas and staging narrations with symphony orchestras is what he is primarily doing now.

    He bemoaned the fact that he loves music (his father was with the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra and he grew up with music) but that opera performers rarely know how to act so that is why he's into directing operas. As for why he initially went into acting rather than music, he stated, very Q-like: "God knows actors don't really like to work!"

    When asked about favorite ST episodes, he said he liked the writing of Michael Piller or any episode that dealt with 'weighty subjects'. As such, he said that Voyager's "Death Wish" and TNG's "All Good Things..." were favorites. His least favorite was 'that Deep Space Nine one.'

    As for his initial Trek audition, he 'blew off' the first appointment... then a second and a third. His agent told him that they really wanted him to read for the role. He showed up with ten minutes preparation and, when leaving, was stopped by 'somebody I didn't know' who said to him: "You make my words sound better than they are." He found out later that the 'somebody' was Gene Roddenberry!

    He stated that his favorite memories were episodes with confrontation with Picard/Stewart and said ST conventions were the equivalent of 'people meeting you at the stage door after a play', that he really rather enjoyed doing them.

    Asked what his dream role is, he stated that he'd just been offered it - in a production of O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey into Night" for next June. (Ed. Note - He didn't say which role, but my guess would be that of James Tyrone) "However," he said, "I turned it down. I've already got plans to be sailing to Tahiti in my boat."


    SUZIE PLAKSON (multiple roles, including Female Q) and NATALIA NOGULICH (Admiral Nechayev) appeared onstage at this time, but unfortunately I didn't see them, therefore can't add any comments here.


    Highlighted Guest #6: CONNOR TRINNEER

    One could tell by the twinkle in his eyes when he came onto the stage that much of what this man was going to say was going to be tongue-in-cheek and glib. He had the look of a ten-year-old boy: all sweet innocence on the outside with lots of devilment inside.

    Trinneer went right into the questions. First up: Did you keep anything from the set of "Enterprise"? He gave no answer, just got this mischievous, Cheshire-cat grin on his face. Finally, he quipped, "Only what I could get on eBay."

    When asked about his (and the cast's) feelings about the cancellation of the show, he said quite bluntly that 'it sucked; everyone was kind of pissed about it.' As for the final episode itself, he said that he thought that final episodes were always hard to write. As for his character being 'killed off', he said that in a weird way, he felt like 'they [the writers/producers] were paying homage to the character [Trip].'

    His stated that his favorite personal episodes were "Similitude", "Shuttlepod One", "Cogenitor" and "Unexpected". He especially liked "Cogenitor" because Trip had to face up to the consequences of his actions, which 'he' seemed to get by with most of the time. He did not like 'the mirror universe' episode and stated that he would like to have had more episodes showing the 'buddy' relationship between Trip and Malcolm. In mentioning this, he digressed into how cold it was when they shot "Shuttlepod One". Not only was the stage temperature lowered, they were surrounded by dry ice 'and then they shot liquid nitrogen all around us... just so you could see our breaths!'

    Asked which role was the most fun, Trip on "Enterprise" or Michael on "Stargate", he said that they were both fun but that the make-up for "Stargate" isn't much fun. "Playing Trip was a complete joy!" He continued that he was pleased with the character development of Trip, that 'they got the miles out of the car.'

    A question came up about the scenes with Jolene Blalock and he said 'they were okay'... then mumbled something about having to be politically correct. With that, his eyes told you what he was about to say: "Yeah; it was hot!"

    A question came asking him if "Enterprise" had been renewed, did he think we would have seen the beginnings of a Federation war with the Romulans. He said he didn't know, but that he would like to have seen the Romulans 'blow up Paramount!' (Loud applause from audience)

    Another question brought another delightful tongue-in-cheek answer: "What did you feel being the engineering predecessor to Scotty?" Answer: "He (Scotty) had to learn somewhere! Scotty learned everything from Trip Tucker."

    He stated that Scott Bakula was the true professional on the set, setting the tone for the rest of the cast. He never raised his voice and he 'commanded and got respect'. Again jokingly: "The rest of the cast were jerks." This was quickly followed by saying they all had good working relationships and that he and Dominc (Keating) continue to be best of friends.

    Pranks on the set were minimal, although there was a spoof of Bakula's Canada Dry commercial from years ago and a 'production' of "The Rocky Horror Show".

    As for a 'dream role', he really likes stage work and wouldn't mind 'doing the Dane' ("Hamlet") sometime. When asked about an offer to do something on "Desperate Housewives", he admitted with a gleam that he wouldn't mind that: "But first, we have to get rid of that plumber..."

    Question: "Do you sing?" Answer: "Only after a few drinks and with a karaoke machine."

    Concluding comments brought to the forefront that the real number one place in his life right now is reserved for that of his son. "He's eleven months old and this close [held up two pinched-together fingers] to walking." He's a proud papa indeed!


    All three days were interspersed with auctions of various articles: autographed and annotated scripts; autographed pictures; series action figures; banners, etc. Several very well-done videos of TOS and TNG were shown, most of them having been done by fans. Other fun and games for the attendees included several on-stage elimination-type trivia contests, based mainly on TOS.

    Although this con didn't have the number of celebrities or attendees or the high glitz of the Las Vegas fortieth anniversary celebration last month, just knowing that this one directly coincided with that special night forty years ago made it more than special, especially with the appearances by Shatner and Nimoy and the lovely remembrances of Kelley and Doohan.


    All pictures by 'Mr.' Delta Story {g}

    Warp back to Trekker Treats!