Creation Star Trek Boston 2013 convention report

On Saturday, 8 June 2013, I met former co-worker and fellow blogger Ken G. at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston for the Creation Star Trek show. While I’ve been to several genre entertainment events in the past few years, this was the first purely Trek gathering in some time.

There were relatively few vendors at the con, partly because the space opera franchise hasn’t had many new installments lately, the Star Trek: Into Darkness reboot sequel notwithstanding. Most of the fans we met preferred the original continuity, from the short-lived 1960s television series through Star Trek: Nemesis and Enterprise.

We went to lunch at CafĂ© Jaffa, from where we could watch people gathering for Boston’s Pride Parade, for which Star Trek: the Next Generation alumna Denise Crosby (Lt. Tasha Yar) was the marshal. I may have been in a Deep Space Nine/First Contact uniform, but I felt underdressed amid the colorful costumes.

Back at the con, Ken and I sat in on writer Morgan Gendel’s panel on the Next Generation episode “The Inner Light,” which I appreciated more after learning how the show won a Hugo Award. As I’ve noted before, The Next Generation is still my favorite TV Trek because of its professional but idealistic crew that became a surrogate family. “The Inner Light” was a good example of the strength of allegorical and episodic storytelling, compared with today’s arc-dominated dramas.

We also attended the costume contest, where numerous Trekkies or Trekkers showed off their creativity in representing various series. I cheered the cosplayer dressed as an Andorian, but I have to admit that the fan dressed as Capt. Montgomery “Scotty” Scott was a ringer for the late James Doohan.

After that, Michael Dorn and Suzie Plakson regaled the audience with stories from their time playing ill-fated Klingon lovers Worf and K’Ehleyr. They also politely but firmly declined to return to those roles, saying that too much time has passed.

We hung out for a short time during the auction, and then enjoyed seeing George Takei, a.k.a. Capt. Hikaru Sulu. He responded to a question about his favorite movie featuring the original series cast with Star Trek VI: the Undiscovered Country, in which Sulu got to be in the opening and closing scenes as captain of the Excelsior. Takei also noted that John Cho did a fine job in J.J. Abrams’ recent films.

In addition, Takei acknowledged that he has help with his popular Facebook posts, which cover sci-fi, humor, and politics. As an Asian-American and a speculative fiction fan, I appreciate Takei’s activism and roles. Trek continues to have a fan base that’s wonderfully diverse in terms of age, gender, and ethnicity, and I hope that the movies can become more heroic and restore the franchise’s popularity.

Brent Spiner and Gates McFadden then took the stage to talk about their time as android Data and Dr. Beverly Crusher on Star Trek: the Next Generation and various theatrical roles. I had seen most of the actors at this con before, but never so many in person together.

Ken and I grabbed dinner at Tossed in the Shops at Prudential Center. Back at the con, we had photo ops with Mr. Takei and LeVar Burton, a.k.a. Geordi LaForge. I didn’t get autographs this time around, but the photo ops were personalized souvenirs.

With Geordi LaForge
Ken, LeVar, and Gene

I was glad that we were able to get tickets to the headline event of the con, a reunion of much of the Next Generation cast, with William Shatner serving as moderator! Apparently, Patrick Stewart (Capt. Jean-Luc Picard), Jonathan Frakes (Capt. Will T. Riker), and Wil Wheaton (En. Wesley Crusher) weren’t available, but I’d seen two out of the three before anyway.

Shatner may have a big ego, but he has aged surprisingly gracefully and has been a good interviewer. His charisma and sense of humor helped the unruly crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701D and E in conversation. Everyone made fun of Sir Patrick’s initial pretensions as a Shakespearean actor.

Crosby, McFadden, and Marina Sirtis (Counselor Deanna Troi) talked about their struggles with sexism in the first season of the show in 1987. Despite creator Gene Roddenberry’s humanism, The Next Generation had a less-than-auspicious start, leading to McFadden and Crosby’s departures. McFadden eventually returned, and Crosby made some memorable cameos.

Snarky Spiner and deep-voiced Dorn demonstrated how they and Frakes would joke around with their costars on the set, leading to several frustrated directors. With prompting from Shatner and Sirtis, who vied for control, earnest Burton and Dorn recounted how the “Code of Honor” episode was terribly racist, but they stuck with the show, which gradually improved. All of the actors said they liked fond spoof Galaxy Quest.

Ken returned to the convention the next day to get more autographs. Also in attendance were Nichelle Nichols, the original Lt. Nyota Uhura, and Deep Space Nine‘s Rene Auberjonois (Odo) and Nana Visitor (Maj. Kira Nerys). The only living members of the core casts of the original series and Next Gen whom I haven’t yet met are Leonard “I’m not Spock” Nimoy and Wheaton.

The convention might have been pricey, but I enjoyed it more than Into Darkness and was pleased to learn that Creation plans on holding it again next year. In the meantime, live long and prosper!

Star Trek: the greatest generation

On Thursday, 29 November 2012, I met former co-worker and fellow blogger Ken G. and members of the Boston Sci-Fi Meetup for dinner, drinks, and conversation at Boston Beer Works near Fenway Park. We then went to the screening of Season 2 episodes of Star Trek: the Next Generation that have been remastered in preparation for the Blu-Ray release. I enjoyed the camaraderie, the special features, and the look back at one of the best space opera TV shows as it reached its prime 25 years ago.

Cast photo for ST:TNG Season 2
Command crew of the starship Enterprise, NCC 1701-D, as of Season 2

Q Who?” introduced the Borg, who would become one of the franchise’s greatest villains. John de Lancie’s nearly omnipotent mischief maker played off nicely against Patrick Stewart’s Capt. Jean Luc Picard and the rest of the command crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC 1701-D. The remastered special effects were clean, although the colors and lighting seemed a bit too dark at times. The audio was excellent, with the starship sounds more pronounced during the opening credits and space battles.

A Measure of a Man” included 13 minutes of restored scenes from Melinda Snodgrass’ thoughtful script. Jonathan Frakes as Cmdr. William T. Riker, Stewart, and Brent Spiner as Lt.Cmdr. Data all got to shine in their roles exploring android Data’s legal rights as a sentient being in the United Federation of Planets. The episode included references to the original 1960s TV series (TOS) and held up remarkably well. I’m glad that Snodgrass’ character moments were added back in.

Both episodes showed the crew of the Enterprise growing more comfortable with one another as the storylines improved. While I disagree with the producers and many fans who wanted darker, more conflict-driven episodes in defiance of Gene Roddenberry’s wishes, I think Next Gen‘s (TNG) middle seasons did a great job of balancing character, episodic plots, and Roddenberry’s hopeful vision of the future.

The interviews with cast members, bloopers, and glimpses at the restoration process for Seasons 1 through 3 of TNG added much insight. It was nice to see the actors still joking around, learn about why Gates MacFadden was really fired (for protesting sexist scripts), and whet our appetite for remastered versions of “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” “Sins of the Father,” “Best of Both Worlds, Part 1.”

Reunion of ST:TNG cast
Reunion of the cast of Star Trek: the Next Generation

Star Trek, including The Next Generation, helped set the template for many other genre television in the decades that have followed. Like Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Stargate, and Babylon 5 had an initially successful military space opera — TOS, the 1970s show, the 1980s movie, and the 1990s TV series, respectively. The best of these showed teams of co-workers become friends as they saved humanity and the galaxy time after time.

Each was followed by a ship-based TV revival (TNG, Ron Moore’s BSG, and Stargate SG1), a darker and more intricate stationary show (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Caprica, and Stargate: Atlantis) and a weaker return to a ship-based action series (Voyager/Enterprise, Razor/Blood & Chrome, Stargate: Universe, and Crusade, respectively). All had episodes featuring time travel or flashbacks, shared hallucinations, foes turned friends, and many other speculative fiction tropes codified by Trek.

Even space operas that didn’t have spinoffs owe a heavy debt to Roddenberry and crew, such as Andromeda, Farscape, and Firefly/Serenity. I’ve been a fan of all of these shows, but the familial relationships of TNG and Roddenberry’s heroic idealism still resonate with me more than many of that show’s peers, spinoffs, and successors.

Now that more information is becoming available for the sequel to J.J. Abrams’ reboot, I’m still cautiously optimistic. I’d prefer a less villain-driven plot, which looks to use Benedict Cumberbatch’s Khan Noonien Singh or Gary Mitchell as an analogue for Osama Bin Laden. Star Trek‘s final frontier still beckons. Live long and prosper!

Our continuing mission…

As some of you may know from my report of this past weekend’s successful steampunk festival, I collect costumes, among other things. As a longtime “Trekker/Trekkie,” I already have the boots, phaser pistol, and gold command tunics for the classic 1960s television series. In addition, I recently ordered a shirt and jacket in the style of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine/Nemesis uniforms. The space opera garb arrived from China less than two weeks after I ordered it.

Star Trek garb
These are the voyages....

The materials and stitching are good, especially for the gray yoke. I’ll have to be careful with the small zippers. I may eventually replace the red mock turtleneck with one of a heavier material and use my metal rank pips and comm badge pin rather than the plastic ones that were Velcroed or sewn on. The jacket’s sleeves are a bit short, and the cuffs are a bit wide, but that’s because of my personal proportions and can be altered by a tailor (paging Elim Garak).

Capt. Tzu Tien Lung
One to beam up!

This costume resembles my image for “Capt. Tzu Tien Lung,” the commander of the U.S.S. Tempest in a homebrew GURPS 3e Space game that Steve M.R. ran in Virginia back in the mid-1990s. Although J.J. Abrams has rebooted the movie franchise and is working on a sequel, as the Star Trek Online MMO and some tabletop campaigns have shown, many fans are interested in continuing the universe of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Sketch of Capt. Tzu
Sketch of Capt. Tzu

While I don’t have a Blu-Ray player, I am curious about the latest remastered episodes of Star Trek. I also hope that we can recover and build on real-world human spaceflight capabilities. Live long and prosper!