Star Trek Mission Chicago – 50th Anniversary Report, Part 1 (Thursday and Friday)

From Thursday evening through Sunday late afternoon, I was in Chicago to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of my favorite franchise – Star Trek.  To see the full lineup, visit here.  This report isn’t meant to challenge anyone else’s views of the franchise, the actors, or politics; it is simply an honest report of my experience and the things that I enjoyed.

I bought my Silver Weekend Package months in advance.  I shouldn’t have gone as I had a trip planned to Peru for May-June 2016 and really couldn’t afford both.  But, after viewing the list of special guests, I had to go!

I arrived in Chicago at 7:30pm on Thursday evening.  I organized my hotel room and rested for a bit before I visited convention registration to got my badges.  The vendors that had arrived were open for a preview and purchasing.  I went ahead and purchased images for those whose my Silver Weekend Package gave me for free, as I didn’t have images of them already to sign (except William Shatner).  Those are Nana Visitor (Kira, DS9), Casey Biggs, Vaughn Armstrong (Admiral Forrest, Enterprise), and Jeffrey Combs (Shran of Enterprise and Wayoun and Brunt of DS9).  I also picked up an event schedule.  I returned to my hotel room and planned out my coming days at the convention; which panels to see, when to get my photo ops, and when to eat meals.  While doing so, I watched Star Trek: First Contact, a TNG movie I’d not seen in quite some time.  And, to celebrate International Literacy Day, I began reading The Entropy Effect by McIntyre*.

Friday is when the convention action really got underway.  It is no surprise to those that know me that I slept in too late.  I arrived just in time to see the Armin Shimerman (Quark, DS9) panel.  A live band opened for Armin Shimerman, playing a Tears for Fears song, which was really unexpected.  This was the first Star Trek convention that opened for all of their major guests with a live band performing.  Most of his discussion was crowd-led since he took questions from almost the beginning.  Among the things I learned during his talk were that he was a fan of Star Trek: The Original Series so landing a role on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was like a dream for him; he felt he’d won the lottery.

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He recounted when he and his and his DS9 cast mates went to the theater together to see the Star Trek parody film Galaxy Quest.  Many of the other people in the theater recognized the cast and he and other cast mates noticed regularly that many people looked at them throughout the movie to see their reactions.   He says this is one of his most favorite films!

The most interesting tidbits I learned in his discussion, are that the Ferengi were meant to replace the Klingons for the TNG universe as the evil, warrior-like foes.  He starred in an episode of TNG that first introduced us to this alien race.  He blames a low budget and his own representation of the Ferengi for the redefining of the Ferengi culture as we knew it in Deep Space Nine.  The second interesting tidbit was that Deep Space Nine was based on the contemporary Serbian/Bosnian conflict, which is why it has a darker tone than the previous Star Trek series.

He spoke at length about his love of Shakespeare and his stage work.  These comments  sparked my favorite audience question throughout the whole weekend: “As a theater actor would you agree that Shakespeare is better in the original Klingon?”  This got a really big laugh from everyone in the audience.  He admits, he’s never read Shakespeare in Klingon.

After Shimerman left the stage, Casey Biggs and Vaughn Armstrong took the stage.  They clearly are on stage together quite often as they had a natural rapport and played off each other’s jokes quite well.  There was a little less content to this particular panel; however, they did play some parody Star Trek songs they’d created together.  Photos below!

After their panel, I walked around and did a bit of browsing in the vendors’ area trying to determine which items to purchase.  Always a tough task as almost everything was awesome.  I came prepared and had brought with me an organized list of all of the collectibles and comic books that I already owned so I’d not accidentally buy dupes.

Afterwards, I went to on Friday was the Yes/No Trivia Game.  I was too scared to go up knowing that there were people here that knew way more about Star Trek than me.  While I am quite a Trekkie, I don’t bother to memorize episode names and minute details.  However, while there, I found my favorite cosplayer of the weekend – Nautical Data from Star Trek Generations.

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After lunch, I went to the Nana Visitor (Kira, DS9) and Rene Auberjonois (Odo, DS9) panel. A favorite questions by the audience were questions about the relationship between their characters.  They began discussing romantic scenes between the two of them and she was commenting on how talented Rene was and ended with this following comment:

(To Rene Auberjonois) “You had this romance scene where you were a mist and we made love. You were great.”

One of my favorite comments by Nana was that she felt it was very important to show non-romantic relationships between men and women on television.  As a tomboy, I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment!

Rene reminisced about being cast in The Patriot along with Mel Gibson and spoke briefly about Heath Ledger and how his death was such a loss.  He also talked about his support of Doctors Without Borders after a question from the audience, saying he thinks they do great work and a lot of the convention money he gets goes to them.

Is it just me or is Nana still stunning?

The last discussion that I attended was the Leonard Nimoy Presentation by Richard Arnold, a personal assistant to Gene Roddenberry and who starred in minor roles in various movies and series.  It was a photographic history of Leonard throughout his life with brief commentary.  I’m including what I feel are the best photos from that presentation for your enjoyment.

Among the information that I learned about Leonard Nimoy in this presentation is that he received numerous death threats while filming TOS because he was Jewish and it was for this reason, that he delayed so long in going to Germany for conventions.  He eventually overcame this fear and had a great time at Star Trek conventions in Germany.  Also, in the first season, he only made 1/4 the salary that William Shatner did and he refused to return for the second season unless his salary was increased.

After getting autographs from Vaughn Armstrong, Casey Biggs, Jeffrey Combs, and Nana Visitor, I returned to my room and watched 50 Years of Star Trek, a special on the History Channel, and read Planet of the Apes (Boom Studios), Volume 1.

– The McNabbist

Coming soon, Part 2 of this report (covering Saturday of the convention).

*See a previous post on this blog’s celebration of the 50th Anniversary, which includes an online reading club!

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