Reuniting The Next Generation's cast

28-Sep-19 9:35 AM by
Filed under Star Trek; leave a comment.

Thirty-two years ago today, my dad and I watched the premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation. So I thought today would be a good day to die get the gang back together — not in the upcoming Picard series, but in my dining room.

Across years of attending E3, Super Megafest, and Star Trek conventions, I've had the good fortune to meet castmembers from every Star Trek series. Each gave me a moment of their time with conversations I'll always remember for the insight into their off-screen personalities: Jonathan Frakes is goofy and gracious; Brent Spiner is witty and wily; Denise Crosby is open and kind. These moments came as they autographed eight-by-ten glossies, which became my touchstones for these celebrities who brought to life characters that molded my upbringing and creativity.

I eventually moved into an apartment where I could display these mementos.

Of my collection, only one franchise was nearly complete: The Next Generation. And of that, only one actor was missing: Wil Wheaton.

Wheaton was the keynote speaker at the first Penny Arcade Expo East, held every year in Boston. It is also the only PAX East whose keynote speech I missed, and that weekend didn't present another opportunity to corner young Wesley Crusher.

The next possible encounter didn't come until almost a decade later, when I booked passage on the JoCo Cruise, an annual cruise of nerd celebrities: actors, sci-fi authors, podcast hosts, and comic artists. Wil Wheaton was one of the guests in 2017, so I came prepared with both one of his books and a headshot I'd bought on eBay.

On JoCo Cruise, celebrities are treated like fellow passengers, and we're asked not to stalk or harass them. Still, I felt I could acknowledge Wheaton's celebrity while still being respectful. For example, I was reading Wheaton's book by the pool when he happened to walk by, and I asked for his signature, which he graciously provided — completely natural.

That moment was happenstance, though — for the headshot, I had to be more deliberate, as I couldn't just "happen" to be walking around with his photo. On Pajama Day (I was dressed in my DS9/Voyager medical jammies), I again hung out by the pool, this time with his photo. I saw Wheaton playing a board game with friends, which I didn't want to interrupt; then, without pause, he dove into lunch with his family, which was another private moment. When he was finished eating, that was my chance.

I approached him with the photo and a Sharpie marker and asked for his autograph — which, like his castmates, he graciously provided. It somehow came up that I'm from Leominster, hometown of R.A. Salvatore, who I was surprised to learn is a friend of Wheaton's! Wheaton credited Salvatore as being a mentor during his transition from actor to writer.

I also told Wheaton that his was the last autograph I needed to complete my TNG collection. He signed it appropriately.

Wil Wheaton's autographed headshot

To Ken: Quest Complete. -Wil Wheaton

Unlike the $20–80 I'd spent for each of his castmates' autographs at conventions, Wheaton's only cost me a cruise. But it was worth it.

That was two-and-a-half years ago, and in all that time, I've never framed and displayed Wheaton's autograph. On my dining room wall, except for a few scattered superheroes and Star Wars characters on the far end, the headshots were grouped by Star Trek series, with the same franchise in each column. I didn't know how to rearrange it to make room for young Mr. Crusher. Some friends recommended I get a ladder and add an entirely new row, filling it in with non-Trek actors in my collection, but that seemed overwhelming.

But this week, I'm moving out of my apartment, and I'll no longer have room for any such displays. Today, the anniversary of TNG's debut, was my last chance to reunite Wesley with his Enterprise family.

So as all the other headshots came down, one went up.

All TNG autographed headshots together

The TNG crew is always together in my heart, and I can revisit their adventures anytime with a DVD. But today, I tied together all those personal experiences, scattered across all the years. As with all my Star Trek encounters, this was a fleeting moment, but a happy one, and one that I'll take with me in all my travels.

Rethinking Super Megafest

11-Nov-11 11:06 AM by
Filed under Celebrities, Potpourri; 2 comments.

For the past several years, I've made an annual tradition of attending the Super Megafest, a sci-fi and nostalgia convention held in Framingham, Massachusetts. It's not a massive affair, but for its size and location, it's still fairly enjoyable, with several aspects to entertain the showgoer: vendors of various geek goods; celebrities on-hand for personal autographs (not free or even cheap!); Q&A sessions with said celebrities; and more.

R2!But I found 2010 to be mildly disappointing, due to a variety of logistical decisions. The Q&A sessions are scheduled for specific times and days, but the event coordinator chooses not to publicize those schedules ahead of time, such as on the Super Megafest Web site; my email requesting this data confirmed that it is not available in advance. Although I realize celebrities' schedules often cannot be determined until the last minute, it's frustrating for me to not know if I should be at the conference on Saturday at 10 AM or 5 PM, or on Sunday. Without the Q&A, I need only an hour or two to absorb the event in its entirety; it's unreasonable to block out an entire two-day weekend for whenever the Q&As might be.

The comfort of the celebrities is of course the organizers' priority, so rather than have the stars stand for an hour during Q&A, they're allowed to sit. But the session is held in a conference room large enough that folks in the back can't see someone seated at the front. A simple riser that would elevate the celebrity would be a simple fix.

Last year, I calculated the cost of admission plus that of Christopher Lloyd's autograph and decided it was worth getting the "VIP speed pass", which included admission and autographs by Lloyd and Lea Thompson. The "speed" aspect allowed me to bypass the line for this celebrity, which would otherwise take hours to traverse. But there was no fine print indicating that this privilege was valid only from 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM! The Web site informed me only that I was paying for "a beat-the-line speed pass". Such vague terminology bordered on the deceptive.

Christopher Lloyd at the Q&A.Despite all that, I was still glad for the opportunity to meet the stars. Few people had paid for the speed pass, which also granted exclusive access to Lloyd's Q&A session, which made for an intimate setting. Everyone got to ask a question, with mine being: "Does an actor of your renown still have to audition for parts, or are they written for or handed to you?" Lloyd said that sometimes, the writers say to themselves, "Oh, this script calls for a drunk? Let's get Lloyd." But more often, he still needs to audition, as it's not always clear whether he or someone else will be right for a part. Lea Thompson never showed up, so my pass got me two Lloyd autographs instead.

I also met Marina Sirtis, better known as Deanna Troi from Star Trek: TNG. She was very friendly and fun, laughing and smiling and calling everyone "hon". When I saw the various 8"x10" glossies she had available to autograph, I chose an off-camera shot from First Contact, commenting, "You were so funny in that film!" She responded, "I was more myself in that Star Trek movie than in any other."

I had some time to kill between sessions, so I sat in on a Q&A by Kristin Bauer, who plays Pam De Beaufort on True Blood. I'd never seen this show so wasn't very interested, but she redeemed herself with the credit of playing Lt. Laneth on an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise.

I ended the show by getting Peter Mayhew's autograph. The taciturn Wookie didn't have much to say and didn't offer to personalize his signature, though he did do so after I handed it back with the request.

The headliners for this year's Super Megafest are Patrick Stewart and Sean Astin. After a month of waffling, and with just a week to spare, I coughed up the dough for another VIP speed pass. I'm a bit disenchanted with Super Megafest, though, and would not have been roped in for another expensive pass for anyone other than Captain Picard.