Anyway, even though it doesn't seem like it now, there was more to the convention than just meeting Shatner. It was the singular most unexpected thing, that's for sure, and the flashiest occurrence, but it wasn't the whole story. Not even close.
To be perfectly honest, I didn't bank on even having a chance to ask that question. I'd hoped to, but I'd planned on not getting to. And in complete honesty, as much as that man's role in Star Trek has influenced my life, I didn't even know what to think of him until just three days ago.
I went to that convention wanting to meet Ethan Phillips. Yes, you read that right. I didn't expect anything from Shatner, and as far as I was concerned, I went to the convention to meet Ethan. I adored Neelix (come on, don't hate), and always felt that the man behind that character had to be kinda awesome. I was right.
First, he seems to really have a personal appreciation for Star Trek, and he seemed to care about his character, which I think is important. That's one of the first things I always want to know about Star Trek actors: Do they care about their characters and about Trek in general? In Ethan's case, I believe the answer is a definite yes. I did get to ask him a question during his stage presentation, and what I asked was, "If you had total control of the character and his progression in the series, what would his 'end point' have been as a character?" He said he was satisfied with where Neelix ended up, but he'd wished Neelix had been given more chances to fight alongside the rest of the crew, to be a bit more of a fighter, soldier, and warrior. But in the end, Neelix ended up where he should have. It was nice hearing that from the man behind the makeup.
See, I always loved Neelix. I watched a lot of Voyager when I was stuck on the worst Army assignment I'd ever been on. Four months of complete psychological HELL, but I happened to have a block of one hour on most days, at the exact right time to catch one episode of Voyager. I won't go into it, but it was a really bad time for me. I got a lot of strength from the characters on that show. Janeway reminded me to remain strong and to keep a command attitude no matter how isolated and alone I felt. B'Elanna Torres reminded me to be a warrior, even when I felt torn between two worlds. And Neelix made me laugh. He was one of the few things that gave me a reason to laugh during those four months, and I got to thank Ethan for that. So yes, I love Neelix. He made me smile when very little else could help me.
So... my undying appreciation to Ethan Phillips.
I enjoyed listening to Vaughn Armstrong. That man has played more Star Trek character than ANYONE else, and from the impression I got, he fucking LOVES it. Seems to love Star Trek and all the geeky fun. Plays a mean ukulele. During his presentation, I asked him a question about his costumes. I wanted to know which costume, when he looked in the mirror, gave him the "OH YEAH, this is AWESOME" reaction. In other words, ignoring the amount of time spent getting the makeup done, and the discomfort of some of the costumes, which one did he think was the most fun as a costume. He discussed some of his favorites, but said he didn't really have just one. It's like deciding which of your children he loves best. The coolest part of THAT question, however, was the fact that he said nobody had EVER asked him that. Which, in my humble opinion, is awesome. I love costume questions.
Speaking of costumes, although meeting Chase Masterson was nice and all (she was very sweet), I was more enthralled by the incredible holographic-effect fabric her dress was made of. I asked if I could touch it, and she said yes, and... dude, craziest fabric I've ever seen. I want the fabric.
The Klingons who presented in costume on Sunday were hilarious. I loved it. Klingons presenting IN-CHARACTER. It was great. Everyone should get to see something like that.
The final thing, and some of you might remember me posting about this, was about the movie pitch competition. See, on Saturday, I went to the registration table to ask how the competition would work. The guy who was there happened to be the MC for the con, and also the judge of the contest, Richard Arnold The man worked with Gene Roddenberry, and... I hate to say it... he seems to have a chip on his shoulder about people who aren't true to Gene's vision. He's run this "movie plot pitch" contest at many conventions, from what he indicated. And he bemoaned how all of these plot pitches were about space battles and Klingons and Romulans and so on. And... I kinda get why it would annoy him.
Star Trek was about a certain vision -- about seeing ourselves as humans through the third-person perspective by observing alien worlds; about upholding a higher standard of ethics for ourselves; about challenging our philosophies and ideas. It's not about space battles with Klingons... although space battles with Klingons can be fun, if we're seeing it in a bigger context. Think about ST:VI Undiscovered Country as a movie. Sure, there were Klingons, battles, hostages, politics... but there was still a bigger context.
The thing he said that annoyed me was that he didn't want "the next JJ Abrams' movie." He wanted the next Star Trek movie. Well, I hate to break it to him, but the "next movie" comes after the 2009 movie. Sure, someone else is writing it. It's not as if our movie pitches were going to be used by Paramount. It was a dumb convention contest, and that's what the description of the competition was - pitch the NEXT movie. That means, "What follows the 2009 film?"
But... whatever. I listened to what the Richard had to say, and absorbed his critical, cynical, haughty rant... and I went with the age-old entertainers' philosophy: Give 'em what they want. I decided to adjust my pitch and try to encompass BOTH ideas - the new JJ Abrams' movie universe, plus the old Roddenberry vision of Star Trek. I had 45 seconds, so it had to be a very shallow plot and pitch. I had some bigger ideas, but it wouldn't have fit into 45 seconds. Here's what I gave him:
The loss of Vulcan and the attack on Earth have shaken the Federation, but in the aftermath, more planets have petitioned to enter the United Federation of Planets. Oraxis, an isolationist planet with a small core of their own colony planets, has stepped forward, offering the resources of their colony planets in exchange for the additional protection of being a Federation member. The Enterprise has been dispatched for a diplomacy and survey mission, but soon they begin to realize that the colony planets of the Oraxian homeworld are treated as raw resources to be abused in exchange for protection from the main planet, with no political power or representation, justified by a fervent religious belief in this being the natural order of things. The Oraxians fully expect to be treated as a raw resource by the Federation in exchange for protection. So close to the Neutral Zone, their need for protection is valid, and the Prime Directive demands respect for their beliefs. Kirk urges the Federation Ambassador to deny the request for membership, but in the midst of their final meetings, one of the Oraxian colony planets is attacked, leaving Kirk with the decision of how to render aid, if at all.
There were several other entries, and true to Richard's prediction, Klingons, Klingons, and more Klingons. I think I've been spoiled by the creativity of the fanfiction corner of fandom. My fellow fanfic geeks, we are a damned creative gaggle of humanoids. We really are. We crunch out unique ideas all the time. I guess mainstream Star Trek fandom isn't accustomed to that.
So, I finished reading off my pitch, and Richard looked at me and said, "That... is the closest I've ever heard to a perfect movie pitch in one of these contests."
He slapped down all the other entries with some harsh criticism, and I won a $100 gift certificate. Happy times! But more than the gift certificate... after listening to Richard's rant... I just feel vindicated. :D
The final thing I want to mention is the fanvid contest. kimuracarter and I listened to the other vids, which were often played between other events on the screens in the main event hall. I saw the piece of shit vid that won. It was painful. Seriously painful. We should have entered our vid. Next year, we'll know.
So, that's it. Fantastic time at the Trek convention. I wish I'd been there for the whole thing, but how can I regret anything? It was fun. :)