The FED CON in Bonn, Germany
April 17-19, 1998
...not just a TV series
(Article from the German publication - “SPACE VIEW")
(Issue 4/98 - July/August 1998)
(Translated from German to English - Thanks Danah!)
Click for group photo
Once again, the “Star Trek" idea manifested itself with fans of different professional backgrounds, ages and nationalities meeting for the 6th time at the FED CON. On a weekend in April more than 3,000 fans came together in Bonn to the biggest event of its kind in Europe. Throughout these three days the Trekkers had the chance to meet fellow Trekkers and to experience some of their favorite actors/actresses live onstage.

Before the official opening ceremony began, the guests had the chance to make use of all kinds of offers. Whilst many fans immediately rushed into the dealers room to purchase the latest merchandise articles, others started their weekend on the so-called “Holodeck", where Star Trek episodes could be seen on a large screen. Those who wanted to get the latest information on “Voyager", “Deep Space Nine" and the ninth movie were brought up to date by Richard Arnold in the main hall (the “Main Bridge"). The former assistant of the “Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry is an expert in this area. He illustrated his speech with slides from the set and responded to the questions of the fans. Next Script-Coordinator Lolita Fatjo took over the stage in the Main Bridge. The guest stars had their first appearance at the press conference. The good relationship between the actors and actresses was obvious. Particularly amongst the guests of the cast of “Star Trek: Voyager", everyone could feel a familiar atmosphere, which they would emphasize even more in their later appearances.

The highlight of the first day was the opening ceremony, traditionally starting with an excellent computer animation of Tobias Richter. The presenter Marc Lee introduced all guests in his usual charming way.

The guest stars were welcomed onstage with roaring applause, saying a few welcoming words to the fans. The heart of a Convention are the appearances of the actors, which are called “panels". During their panels the guest stars told anecdotes and responded to the questions of the fans.

Tim Russ, who plays Tuvok in  “Star Trek: Voyager", was the first guest star talking to the fans. At first it was strange to see him so lively and humorous onstage, since he usually very convincingly por-trays a calm and emotionless Vulcan. He told about many tricks he played on his colleagues whilst filming and also their attempts to make him laugh when the camera is rolling. He auditioned for the part of Geordi LaForge, when the actors where chosen for “The Next Generation". In the end he lost the part to LeVar Burton, whose face was more familiar due to his part in “Roots". He unsuccessfully auditioned for “Deep Space Nine" too. But producer Rick Berman noticed his talent and enabled him several guest appearances in “Star Trek" (Devor in TNG “Starship mine", as the Klingon “T’Kar in DS9 “Invasive Procedure" and as a bridge officer in “Generations"). For his performance as the Vulcan Russ informed himself about Leonard Nimoy’s performance as Mr. Spock, but not without giving Tuvok his own individual characteristics. He is always concerned that his performance of Tuvok is true to the original concept of TOS and the movies. His sister and leader of his fan club surprised all participants, when she came onstage during one of his panels and announced, that Tim will be an uncle soon.

Max Grodenchick alias Rom appeared as the only representive of the series “Deep Space Nine". The open and pleasant actor filled the audience with enthusiasm by imitating the tone of voice and gestures of the Ferengi Rom over and over again. He also conveyed the sad news that his colleague Terry Farrell (Jadzia Dax) did not renew her contract for the next season. That’s why Dax will die at the end of the sixth season.

The heart-throb for numerous women at this Convention was Robert Beltran (Chakotay from Star Trek Voyager). The actor of Mexican heritage impressed many fans with his good looks and charming smile, which he showed quite often. He started acting at the theater during his training in law school. His family wasn’t too happy about his decision to be an actor until the time he made money with it too. Even today he considers theater work as the elemental art form for actors. Just like Tim Russ and Kate Mulgrew he emphasized the good relationship between the actors: “I have eight very good friends - friends for life, and I am very happy about that." In the beginning he wasn’t really sure, whether he wanted a main part in the series. Even though he is not too fond of Science Fiction, he liked the script for the series pilot “Caretaker", so he decided to audition.

Nichelle Nichols was welcomed onstage with a particularly sincere applause. She was the first black American, who got a main part in a TV series. She got the part due to Gene Roddenberry’s personal dedication and his vision of the future which includes that all humans should be seen as equals. Since her early childhood, her father encouraged her not to be restricted by racism and intolerance. She never forgot his words “You are just like anybody else in the universe, but you are not better than anybody else in the universe.". She proudly talks about the influence her role had on other people. She named for example Whoopie Goldberg and Mae Jemison, who is the first black woman in space. Before Nichelle started to act, she was a successful singer/dancer and music still is her passion. Whenever she finds the time, she’ll tour with her solo program “Reflections". She sang several songs a capella for the audience. She’s currently involved with another stage project with her friends George Takei (Sulu), Walter Koenig (Chekov) and James Doohan (Scotty). The “Fab Four"-Tour, with her colleagues from “Star Trek", is surprisingly successful and sold out until 1999. During her panels she only had a few interesting stories to tell that aren’t in her autobiography already. After finishing her biography, she currently writes the Science Fiction novel “Saturn’s Child", which she wants to extend to a trilogy. 

Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway/Star Trek Voyager) welcomed the fans in the German language with the words: “Ich bin verliebt in einen deutschen Mann" (I am in love with a German man) - speaking of director Winrich “Rick" Kolbe, whom she met on the set. As an actress experienced with series she auditioned for the part of the Captain of the starship Voyager, but lost the part to Genevieve Bujold. Once Bujold quit, only a few days after the filming began, Kate  quickly got the part and stood in front of the camera after only two days of preparation. Being under enormous pressure during her first few days on the set, she asked out loud, whether she would get through this alive. Patrick Stewart then told her “Of course, my dear. One day you will look back and be proud, damn proud." Nowadays Janeway isn’t just a role for her, but a way of living and she regards the four years with “Star Trek“ as the most exceptional of her life. She also shared her view on “Star Trek“: “Star Trek is such a phenomenon for a very good reason. It welcomes the opportunity for a future filled with thirst of knowledge and hope and every single day of my life I feel privileged to have the responsibility that comes with playing this role... I absolutely believe in the hope conveyed in Star Trek .“ Yet her main passion remains to be the theater, where she sees her future after “Star Trek". She doesn’t consider herself as a star, but simply has the wish to be a good actress. But Janeway will always be a part of her life: “I think I will enjoy a wonderful relationship to Kathryn Janeway until the day I die.... I will try to give you a Janeway you can love and be proud of."

In-between the panels, there was a variety of things to do. Besides a model and art exhibition, fans had the chance to present their drawings, pictures and models or see fan movies and participate in an auction of “Star Trek" products. During the obligatory autograph session, the guests had the chance to get autographs personally from the stars. The program was accompanied by the Space Disco and a concert of the Swedish electronic band “S.P.O.C.K.".

Once again many fans appeared in Starfleet uniform or alien outfits, representing many species from the Star Trek universe, whether it was a remarkable B’Elanna Torres stand-in or numerous Klingons, Romulans, Borg, Ferengis and Cardassians. Some of them participated in the costume competition, where the jury didn’t just judge the best, but also the funniest and most creative presentations. The highlight of the competition was the musical short revue of five Bajoran Vedeks, that caused enthusiastic responses from the audience in the main hall.

The Main Bridge was packed one last time for the Closing Ceremony. After another performance of the Vedeks, the announcements of the winners of the art show and a drawing of the winner of the tombola (first prize was a trip to the “Star Trek Experience" in Las Vegas) yet another surprise followed. A telephone connection was made between the hall and George Takei and the fans congratulated him on his birthday. Finally the guest stars came out to say goodbye to their fans. Max Grodenchick and his girlfriend Lolita Fatjo sang a song about signing autographs, which they wrote themselves. Robert Beltran hesitated, but kept his promise. He sang a song from Schubert, he had learned in high school. The musical highlight of the evening came from Tim Russ. Being a passionate musician, he had played guitar and sang in many bands. He delighted the audience with his fantastic voice. All actors and actresses praised the German audience and the Convention, even expressed their hope to come back to Germany before too long.

The sixth Federation Convention was successful once again, as several hundred Trekkers acknowledged by applying for the next event, FED CON VII.

At this point Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine/Voyager) and Robert Duncan McNeill (Tom Paris/Voyager)  as guest stars are being announced for 1999. Though many fans will look forward to the chance to freshen up friendships of the past years and make new friends too.

Text and photos: Torsten Karsch ad Tschiponnique Skupin, Dirk Bartholomä