Vegas Star Trek 2: The Wrap-up of Con

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Well, the annual Vegas Star Trek convention for 2017 ended Sunday, and I got home early Monday morning; and while I meant to file this one a day or so ago, life stuff happened (lots of little things that needed attention seemingly snowballed into a big pile of things to do once I got home).  Not to mention that I spent a couple of eons editing a humongous  Flickr photo album of the whole convention right here (link below); arranged in chronological order and fully captioned for ease of perusal:

Star Trek convention, Las Vegas, August 2-6th, 2017

And for those who want every bit of the experience?  There are 360 pics in that album (about 100 more than I took last year) and even a brief video of the Enterprise bridge (from a tour video made at the  USS Enterprise exhibit in Ticonderoga, New York).

And since they are arranged in chronological order, there’s really no need for me to recap day-by-day; it’s all laid out in the Flickr album, so…I’m going to do things a bit differently this time.

I’m just going to list my personal highlights of the convention, with attached pics in no particular ranking or order (I loathe arbitrary rankings).

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^ I may need to jump through the Guardian of Forever to jog my memory a bit… I’m getting pretty senile these days.

Here we go…

 

* The Star Trek The Next Generation reunion panel.  

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This went down on Saturday night (Aug. 5th) and I missed the first few minutes waiting for a mile-long herd of fans to get into their seats (the line was literally backed up way into the hotel’s casino…), after which I simply walked in, found plenty of empty seats near the back, and sat down to listen (occasionally running outside to take closeup pics of the cast off of the monitors near the entranceway; much clearer and brighter than the big but dim monitors inside the auditorium).    The panel was a BLAST.   Despite Jonathan Frakes (Riker) being unable to attend, the rest of the cast were in attendance.   Sir Patrick Stewart (Picard), Brent Spiner (Data), LeVar Burton (LaForge), Gates McFadden (Dr. Crusher), Marina Sirtis (Troi), Michael Dorn (Worf), Denise Crosby (Tasha) and even John de Lancie (Q).   Marina Sirtis was easily the funniest of the group (as always; she is NOTHING like her buttoned-up ship’s counselor) as was Brent Spiner, the most sardonic of the group.   The 77 year old Stewart’s voice was a bit frail-sounding (he attributed it to jet-lag and a sore throat), so he had a bit of fun playing the daft ‘old man’ version of himself, with other cast members ribbing him about his age and memory (he took it in the spirit it was intended).   Michael Dorn talked about going from playing Worf in TNG to Deep Space Nine, and how he tried to bring some of the humor he loved so much with his TNG friends to the DS9 cast (who were a lot more serious in his opinion).    LeVar Burton gave an wonderfully uplifting and optimistic answer to a fan’s question about how we get from our current political/social quagmire to the utopian vision of Roddenberry’s 24th century.   It’s really hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since this show first premiered (!).  The warmth and chemistry of this cast hasn’t dimmed a bit.

* The panels on the forthcoming series “Discovery”

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^ The cast of “Star Trek Discovery”; Wilson Cruz (Dr. Hugh Culber), Sam Vartholomeos (Ensign Connor), Kenneth Mitchell (“Kol”, from the House of Kor; a Klingon from the original series and Mary Chieffo (“L’Rell”; a Klingon battlecruiser commander).

I attended three of the four panels on the forthcoming CBS-All Access streaming series’ “Star Trek Discovery” on my first day of the convention (Weds. the 2nd).  I would’ve attended the fourth, but arthritis in my hips and legs told me that three was enough).  At any rate, the panels did the trick; they got me really psyched for the show (seeing the props and costumes at Comic Con last month helped as well).   The first panel I saw was with writers Akiva Goldsman (yes, “Beautiful Mind”’s Oscar-winning Akiva Goldsman; who called “Discovery” his dream job), Kirsten Beyer (who’s written some of the better Star Trek novels, including books chronicling the starship Voyager’s return to Earth), and Ted Sullivan.  They didn’t talk spoilers per se, but they talked more about the process.  Equally compelling.

Then came the next panel with the young, enthusiastic cast members; Wilson Cruz (My So-Called Life) as “Dr. Hugh Culber” (ship’s doctor), Sam Vartholomeos as Ensign Connor (pilot),  Kenneth Mitchell as “Kol” (a Klingon warrior) and Mary Chieffo as “L’Rell”; a Klingon battleship’s commander.   The cast’s enthusiasm for their roles and the show really trickled down to the audience.    Cruz was nearly moved to tears when he talked about the opportunity for “a Latino from New York and the Inland Empire” to (finally) play one of Star Trek’s first openly gay characters.  His Dr. Culber will be in a relationship with Anthony Rapp’s “Lt. Stamets” (a science officer aboard ship), and in the best ST tradition, their relationship will be as matter-of-fact as was Russian Chekov was on the original show during the height of the Cold War, or a black woman as the ship’s ranking communication officer, right around the time of The Civil Rights Act, the Watts Riots and the marches of  Dr. Martin Luther King.

^ Wilson Cruz and Sam Vartholomeos; Cruz talked about learning Star Trek tech and of the significance in playing one of Trek’s first openly gay characters in the 50+ years of the show…

Mitchell also did a line of his character’s dialogue in his ‘Klingon voice’ (impressive) and Mary Chieffo talked about playing a very different sort of Klingon.   Vartholomeos also talked about his Greek, non-English speaking grandfather knowing about Star Trek and being very excited for his young grandson getting a role in it.

The young cast bubbled with enthusiasm for the show, but were also very careful not to drop any serious spoilers.

And finally, a panel on the makeup and props of the show, with makeup FX genius Glenn Hetrick and conceptual artist Neville Page; both of whom are working on the new series as well but are also panel judges on “Face Off”; an FX makeup competition show on the SyFy channel, and my wife and I are huge fans.    Their panel was wildly informative; the amount of detailing these two have put into the props and weapons is beyond belief.

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^ Here is the ‘falling Klingon’ surrendering to glorious battle; an image that is a precursor to the original series’ Klingon delta insignia (!).

There was a detailing on the Klingon “torchbearer” suit that depicts a Christ-like Klingon with arms outstretched, falling into battle.  This design is based on (and informs) the original series Klingon logo (the curved delta).  I would NEVER have thought to look for detailing like that!   Amazing.   And Hetrick also said that “Discovery” was also the most amazing set he’s ever set foot on… and considering his career?   That is saying a HELL of a lot.   Neville Page also worked on the last three Star Trek movies and he echoed similar sentiments to Hetrick.

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Best part?  The two of them went out to a rotunda outside the auditorium after the panel and posed with fans (yes, including big old middle-aged geek moi).   Having met makeup Oscar winners Michael Westmore and Ve Neill at other conventions, this was equally thrilling (and very unexpected).   Yes, I geeked out a tiny bit and I immediately texted my “Face Off” fan wife…hehe.

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The 4th Discovery panel was on the forthcoming Discovery IDW comic books, but I didn’t stay for that one.   Too sore, too tired.

There was also an exhibit of Star Trek Discovery props and costumes, all of which I’d seen the month before, but if they ever travel to a location nearby?  I highly recommend giving them a look.

And a reminder that Discovery’s premiere episode will air on CBS network on Sept. 24th, and the regular series will be available only via streaming on CBS All Access.

 

* Meeting actor Karl Urban, who plays Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy from the last three Star Trek movies.

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Photo ops are a really rushed affair.  You are herded in a long cattle line and you get all of 7 seconds when you meet your celebrity… but hey; you meet them!   It’s kind of a cool thing to see a movie or TV show and see a person you actually took a pic with, so yeah, there’s that.

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Not to mention that Urban’s “Bones” is easily one of my favorite things about the newer Star Trek movies.   He really nailed it (especially so in “Star Trek Beyond”).   I also very much enjoyed his Judge Dredd reboot as well (2012’s simply titled “Dredd”); it was to the horrible 1995 Stallone movie what the 2003 reboot of Battlestar Galactica reboot was to the 1978 original; a quantum leap in quality, and a bold adherence to the gravity of the intrinsic story.  At any rate, the Urban photo op was expensive (I won’t list prices, but yeah, it’s enough), but I had to do it.   He canceled appearances at previous conventions, so I decided to go for it… and make a few online friends of mine VERY jealous (hehe).   And yes, I must say; he is a crazy-handsome guy, too.    I look like Humpty Dumpty standing next to a specimen like that.

 

* Cosplay… lots and lots of WONDERFUL cosplay! 

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^ A Gorn Miss Universe…
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^ “Feeders of Vaal” cosplayers from the original series episode “The Apple”
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^ A Starfleet captain covered with Tribbles, and a Klingon who isn’t so fond of them…
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Jaw-droppingly accurate and meticulous recreation of “Star Trek Beyond” character “Natalia”’s alien makeup  (seen near the very end of the movie). The artist responsible (off-camera) told me it took three weeks and was cast in resin. This was THE single most impressive makeup I saw at the convention all week.
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^ Me, in my Flintstones mashup cosplay with a Starfleet cosplayer from London, who wanted my photo. I posed for a LOT of pictures on the 2 days (Thursday and Saturday) that I cosplayed.
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^ Star Trek Minions… brilliant!
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^ A knife-wielding Data (with torso-phone) and Troi-as-cake from the Next Gen episode “Phantasms”…
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Costume contest winners; the devious, fish-like Antidians from the Next Gen episode “Manhunt”…

 

*  Semi-random encounters…

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^ Met Aron Eisenberg, who played “Nog” the Ferengi who eventually became a heroic Starfleet officer on “Deep Space Nine.” He was tired and on his way home, but graciously agreed to take a pic. Truly nice guy.
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Meeting writer/producer Brannon Braga, who interned on The Next Generation, and eventually became a producer on Voyager and Enterprise. He also cowrote the first two Next Gen movies, “Generations” and “First Contact” (both of which I loved). He also produced the “Cosmos” revival of 2014 (with Neil deGrasse Tyson) and is currently producing Seth McFarlane’s new space opera spoof, “Oroville” premiering this fall.
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Running into Discovery cast member Mary Chieffo (Klingon “L’Rell”) the following day after her panel on Wednesday; I wished her and the new cast luck and best wishes.
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Me, in my Stone Trek mashup cosplay, taking author/Trekspert Larry Nemecek (“The Star Trek The Next Generation Companion) prisoner…he had a nice comedic flair.
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Meeting Michael and Denise Okuda, longtime graphic artists who’ve worked on Star Trek since the mid-‘80s (movies and TV shows). They’re coauthors of “The Star Trek Encyclopedia”, so they’ve literally wrote the book on Star Trek.
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^ Makeup genius and Oscar winner Joel Harlow (“Star Trek Beyond” and many more). We chatted about the awesome “Natalia” (shell-headed girl) cosplayer around the convention; she was based on one of his character designs for ST Beyond.
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Vic Mignogna and Michele Specht of the amazing “Star Trek Continues” fan series. The 10 and 11th final episodes will appear online later this year. Some of these episodes are, in my humble opinion, some of the best Star Treks ever made. “Lolani” “Who’s the Fairest Of Them All?” and “What Ships Are For” being particular standouts. They’re also some of the sweetest, fan-friendly folks around. They treat their fans/supporters like family…

 

* Absolutely GORGEOUS recreations of the original series’ Enterprise bridge and Next Generation’s Ten-Forward lounge…

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And as the old Christmas carol says, “these are a few of my favorite things…”

Yes, there were (as you’ll see in the album) lots of wonderful panels, including Q&A with George Takei, an unexpectedly hilarious Voyager cast get together, an inspiring Kate Mulgrew panel, William Shatner (once again talking about his horses… again) and an insightful Q&A with Sir Patrick Stewart.   These were all wonderful things of themselves, but the things I’ve listed above are what made the convention for me; particularly the wildly imaginative & inventive cosplayers.

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^ An online friend of mine found an online pic of me during the Mashup Costume competition… it was a lot of fun, even though I knew I had no chance of winning.

Oh, and I actually got to participate in the Mashup Cosplay contest (with ZERO hope of winning, once I saw the utterly brilliant competition), but it marked the first time I’d ever gone onstage at a convention after 16 years of convention-going… yay, me!  Haha

And I also had a couple of opportunities at this convention to do a bit of journalism for Trekcore with people involved in Star Trek online gaming (“Star Trek Timelines” and “Star Trek Online”); covering those events was a nice change of pace.   I did a brief interview of Timelines last year as well, but the Star Trek Online people actually got me a press pass and took me backstage for interviews (* thanks again, Deanna Peter!  You’re a sweetheart *)!   That was pretty neat.   Another personal first for me at this convention…

The biggest sore spot?  My wonderful wife and partner-in-crime at conventions couldn’t attend with me this year.  She was too busy preparing her new (larger) classroom as well as preparing a new syllabus.   She sent me on ahead with her blessing, but I still missed her keenly.

Anyway, as of 8:30 am or so Monday morning (the 7th), I pulled into my garage after a smooth, 3.5 hour/235 mile drive from Las Vegas (through an absolutely beautiful early dawn Mojave desert), and completed my “voyage home”…

…no whales or time travel involved (this time).

 

 

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