Saturday - January 4, 2003
Please do not repost or reproduce
Many Thanks to P. Rowen for her convention report!
By P. Rowen
Why would any mother travel with her two children from their home in a South coast seaside resort - sea views, countryside within easy access - to stay in London in January in a hotel room with a 'romantic' view of a flyover and a tube station?
The answer has to be to attend the Star Trek convention held in that city during the first weekend of 2003.
Featured stars included (in order of appearance) Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn, Alexander Siddig, Kate Mulgrew and William Shatner. All were quality speakers and all were well worth seeing.
The audience was asked at one point by the organisers, Creation, how they heard of the convention. We did not put up our hands, because the only internet site they mentioned was their own and the children and I heard of it from Totally Kate. For that reason, Kate is the focus of this report.
As the final speaker on the Saturday, Kate did not actually have the opportunity to speak for as long as the audience had been led to believe by looking at the programme. On each day, the auction finished late (can't tell you what time it started!), and the guest speaker was encouraged to finish at the advertised time, despite starting their talk later than expected. Of the three, William actually finished two minutes (or near enough) after he got the two minute warning, while both Kate and Michael (who followed Gates who followed the Friday auction) managed to squeeze in a few more people than perhaps the organisers had intended.
My point of view on this is that, as a family, we paid the money to attend the convention so that we could hear the speakers: probably this is true for other members of the audience as well. The gentleman in the seat in front of my daughter, for example, only occupied his seat for the second half of the Saturday afternoon, leading to much speculation on our part that he had come to the convention specifically to hear Kate. If the speakers started late because the auctions or other events overran, then please could the later guests be allowed to speak for the amount of time on the program. This would seem to be only fair both to the guest speaker and the audience and is onlyone of only three minor quibbles in an otherwise excellent and well-organised weekend.
Mind you, according to William Shatner, based on his experiences in the States, fans come to conventions not to see the stars, but to see each other! (I think he was teasing ...).
When Kate was talking to a young lady from the Philippines, who had given gifts both for Kate and her family, Kate was trying to draw the fan out totalk about herself. The fan responded that the convention was about speakers, not about the audience; to which Kate replied that it was in fact principally all about the fans. She had also previously paid tribute to the high quality of the fans who follow Star Trek.
Some people might say this was a diplomatic answer from a politician's wife, given who was in the audience (Star Trek fans!). Indeed, she had already highlighted her husband, Tim Hagan's, presence in the hall: he actually got a question of his own from a fan, as to whether he intended to run for governor again in the future - being a politician, he avoided giving a direct answer, although Kate said of course he would run again! - but the tributes Kate gave to fans were sincere and heartfelt.
Tim's political campaign featured highly in the report Kate gave of her activities last year, which also included Tea at Five in a variety of US cities, as well as the Cleveland Extravaganza, the latter forming part of Tim's fund-raising campaign. She told the London audience about Tim's tribute to the quality of friends she had made during her years with StarTrek as reflected in their willingness to attend the Extravaganza and the level of commitment they brought to it.
For the future, she announced that Tea at Five will be in New York in February. The first question she took from the audience asked if she would bring Tea at Five to the UK and, given the level of support within theauditorium for that idea, she said that she would definitely talk to her producers on her return to the US with a view to bringing the play over. Here's hoping it works out!
In response to another question, she also confirmed that she will be making a convention appearance in Germany in October.
When asked if she would be willing to do more Star Trek if approached, she said a definite yes! Kate also pointed out to the audience that now she has been promoted to an admiral in the film, Nemesis, there is no going back with the rank.
During the early part of the weekend, there were various questions to other guest speakers (including Richard Arnold, a former assistant of Gene Roddenberry's) about possibilities for future Star Trek films and series. The general consensus was that the possibility of another film depended very much on the box office success of Nemesis, which had had a disappointing reception in the US: due, it was believed, to its release just five daysbefore the second part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
It was also felt that the advertising slogan that Nemesis is a generation's final journey might well end up as being true and that any future film would include a selection of characters from the various different series.
So you never know, characters from TNG, DS9 and Voyager might well appear together on the silver screen ... if Nemesis is well supported!
Kate told the audience that she had not yet seen Nemesis, although she was delighted when the audience told her that she was included in the trailer.
The reason Kate gave for not yet seeing Nemesis was a reluctance to see her own work, which she said other actors shared. Certainly Alexander Siddig,seeing his picture on the banners on the stage, commented that one reason for not looking at early DS9 episodes, first screened ten years ago, was that it would show how much he had aged ...
Yet this, in turn, illustrates the longevity of Star Trek. When three guest stars from the Original Series, Celeste Yarnall, Barbara Luna and France Nuyen spoke together on the Saturday, they were asked if they had realised during the 1960s when they made their episodes that they would still be talking about Star Trek nearly 35 years later. Indeed, one (I can't rememberwhich!) said that, whatever else she did, which included a variety of quality roles with high calibre stars, the conversation would always return to Star Trek ...
An aside on this is that a character's appeal may not mean long term work for the actor. On the Friday, Carolyn Seymour, who appeared in various episodes of both Next Generation and Voyager, confirmed to the audience that she had been given to understand that the Romulan woman commander in Nemesis had been very much modelled on Toreth, a Romulan commander Carolyn hadportrayed in Face of the Enemy (TNG). However, she also had heard that she was considered too old to play the role herself. Hmmm ....
In her talk, Carolyn also commented on Kate's motherly character, saying that while filming on Voyager portraying Mrs Templeton (Persistence of Vision), she had not wanted Kate to know that she was actually suffering from blood poisoning and was due back in hospital, because she did not wanta fuss to be made.
Carolyn also said that it was the star who set the tenor for the whole show, talking in this instance about working with Scott Bakula on Quantum Leap.This could certainly be observed through the guest speakers at the London convention.
Richard Arnold had reported that the set in the Original Series had been full of fun and laughter, producing slides to illustrate this. William Shatner bore this out by reporting a prank that he had played on DeForrest Kelley, hiding the toast that DeForrest had been preparing for his breakfast.
Michael Dorn told the audience that in bridge scenes when Patrick Stewart turned his back on the screen and walked back to his seat, he was actually pulling a series of faces, making it difficult for the actors facing the camera not to burst out with laughter. Gates bore out the report of fun onthe set by, at the audience's request, recounting a prank she had pulled on Patrick Stewart, completely redressing the bridge during the filming of Descent (Part 2).
Asked to compare and contrast working on DS9 with TNG, Michael said that while the set at TNG was full of fun, DS9 was rather more serious, performing a monk's chant to illustrate this point. Alexander confirmed this, attributing it to the theatre background of many of his co-stars. Alexander himself clearly has a wonderful sense of humour, as there was more laughter during his talk than any of the others, despite Michael's build-up as a very funny personality.
Obviously, Kate could hardly comment on herself. When asked about the people she had worked with on Voyager, she had high praise for several of them, especially Ethan Phillips. When asked about practical jokes on the set, she did not go into details but implied there had been a great deal of fun.
Kate was asked if there was anything not covered in Star Trek which she would have like to have seen included and made the point that so far there have been no gay characters, although discrimination based on gender and race appears to be a thing of the past in the Star Trek universe. She said that a gay senior officer was something she would very much like to see.
As on every other occasion I have heard her speak, Kate also made the point that girls today have a wide range of opportunities and encouraged them to make full use of them - leading to the question later that evening from my son about why this point was raised. I get the impression that he would appreciate some encouragement for boys to reach their dreams as well as their sisters!
Things have changed in recent years. Celeste Yarnall, during her talk, had made the point that one of the things she had enjoyed about doing Star Trek had been that she had been allowed to participate in a fight scene, which was unusual in the 1960s for a woman. Gates McFadden also commented that shehad been told in the early days by Gene Roddenberry that her character of Doctor Crusher was a strong personality, yet she felt that this had beenwatered down in later years as the programme developers had already beenlooking toward the days when there was a woman captain and were saving their thunder for the future.
With regard to race, Barbara Luna made the point that Star Trek gave her the opportunity to play a character not defined by her ethnicity, also rare in the 1960s: for the first time, she was playing a character named Marlena Moreau rather than 'Carmen' or 'Lalita' and was not having to give reasonswhy she should not be talking in a Mexican accent. She called on FranceNuyen to confirm this point: France replied by describing her pleasure inreading the script for 'Elaan of Troyius' and realising that it was a reworking of 'Taming of the Shrew'.
Yet the contemporary world is perhaps not so generous as the Star Trek universe. On Sunday evening we listened as William Shatner described being delayed at Los Angeles airport because he had been recognised as a prominent personality and we laughed as he suggested to us that, instead of questioning him, the security guards should concentrate on the 'two gentlemen with a camel' - then I remembered that the previous day we had listened to Alexander Siddig, while describing the reasons he had changed his stage name, commenting that his real name is still Arabic, which led toa delay of three hours when trying to enter the United States recently,until some-one had recognised him as a famous personality - 'Why couldn't the rest of them have realised it three hours earlier?' - again to thelaughter of the audience. Humour is in the ear of the beholder ...
Talking of ethnicity, one member of the audience asked Kate if she would do an Irish accent, given Kate's Irish ancestry. There was a pause for a few moments, when we wondered what was happening: it was something creative, clearly, as Kate's comments for the next few minutes were given in a wonderful Irish accent.
This was one of the highlights of her talk, along with Kate's expressive features, which made it such a delight to try to get as many photographs of her during the talk showing as wide a range of expressions as possible, though sitting in the third row with a relatively low stage did mean it was not always possible to see the speakers clearly, especially when they were sitting, and most of my pictures from the weekend will include the hair and ears of the people in front!
Kate did ask people to come up to the microphone instead of calling out from the audience, as they had done with previous speakers, to make it easier for her to hear. Although the line concentrated on one side to begin with, a second mike was opened up and some of the queue moved over, so that one side of the audience was not mostly looking at the back of her head. Having aqueue (well, two queues!) of questioners also made it easier for her to continue talking even after being given a signal to wind up, as she gavepeople who had been waiting in line the opportunity to ask their questions.
Apart from the standard topics (Janeway & Chakotay and The Hair) and the questions discussed above, Kate received a variety of interesting questions and proved able to draw out the people talking to her. One boy asked abouther favourite piece of technology: she worked with him as she explained her reasons for preferring a tricorder to, for example, a phaser. When asked if she would violate the Prime Directive as Kate, she said absolutely she would and pointed out that Janeway had done so on several occasions.
She thought carefully when asked if she would like to go into space herself. Kate explained that, while this was something that would appeal to her, she wondered if she would actually have the courage to make the journey. She then threw the question open to the audience, asking for a show of hands from those who would like to travel in space.
All too soon, time for the talk was over and the autographs were being signed. Because of the need to convert the room for the party later that evening, Kate was signing at an extremely fast speed. As she signed my copy of the novelisation of Caretaker, I said 'Thank you very much'; she replied with exactly the same words, emphasis on the 'you'. She was clearly delighted to see Carolyn Seymour, who had just come up from the dealer's room, though Kate continued to sign autographs for her fans as she greeted Carolyn. There was a small crowd of people taking pictures of her signing autographs for others, which I joined briefly: then it was time for the family to leave in search of food, and our 'Kate experience' was over for the day.
It was a great show, with fascinating talks from all the speakers, even though some did not last as long as the printed programme had led the audience to expect. We heard about the convention in the first place through the Totally Kate website, and Kate certainly was a highlight of the show.
We were left with the hope that Kate will indeed be able to bring Tea at Five to the UK and that it will be at a time and place where we will be able to visit; and that she will return to the UK for another convention in the not too distant future. Until then ...
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