Some cons sort of amp up to their main day, with a short bit of weeknight programming or a full day that’s got a lot of room to breathe. Not so for Star Trek Mission Chicago, which hit warp speed just as soon as doors opened, and is set to have some of the biggest names in Trek appearing on its main stage and in its panel rooms. We were there just as soon as doors opened and spent a lot of our day in panel rooms soaking up all the Star Trek goodness along with fans of all ages. ICYMI, here’s the scoop from day one.
To kick off our convention weekend, We caught the ever affable Wil Wheaton as he took the main stage Friday at Star Trek Mission Chicago. He talked about his past projects, including his time as precocious Wesley Crusher on The Next Generation. When the subject of the diverse nature of that show’s storylines was breached by a fan, Wheaton reflected on the lack of Freaky Friday style body swap storylines. A fan corrected Wheaton (as Star Trek fans are wont to do) to inform him that body swapping has occurred, citing the time when Seven of Nine had her body inhabited by the holographic doctor.
Wheaton responded, “I never watched Enterprise!” When Wheaton was corrected again that these characters came from Voyager and not Enterprise Wheaton laughed: “I fucked that all up!”
During fan questions, Wheaton was asked if he was able to give input on his The Next Generation character, Wesley Crusher. The short answer was “no” unfortunately, however, Wheaton wished he had the chance: “The writers didn’t really know how to write a teenager. Since I was a teenager at the time, I had a lot of personal experience that I could have brought to that character.”
Once he’d come and gone, it was time for Enterprise fans to get some love, with a lively trio of stars from the show taking the spotlight. Trip, Malcolm Reed and Travis Mayweather were incredibly endearing to fans on the screen and the panel proved no different for the actors,
While Dominic Keating and Connor Trineer repped their (great) Shuttlepod podcast , fellow cast member Anthony Montgomery stole the show–literally, taking the floor from the MC and reintroducing the cast himself. It was all in good humor, however–and you can really get the sense of chemistry between these three Enterprise cast members.
When Enterprise started, there wasn’t a pilot–they were “walking into a series” according to Trineer. In fact, they signed contracts for seven seasons, and even expected to do movies. Anthony Montgomery elaborated: “ We signed for seven years! They told us we were doing movies because they didn’t do movies with DS9. They didn’t do movies for Voyager. So they told me that the fans love Star Trek and you guys are gonna be here for at least seven years, and you’re going to be doing movies and everything. And you guys know how that all turns out.”
The audience also had a chance to help do a promotional clip for the Shuttlepod podcast by yelling “We love the Shuttlepod Podcast!” Anthony Montgomery took the opportunity to record a self promotional video with the crowd yelling their adoration of Montgomery with a hearty “We love Anthony Montgomery!” as he hammed it up to the camera, “Stop it! Stop it, too much!.”
Dominic Keating had a chance to relay some of his early acting struggles, including his adventures in a drag troupe, in which he performed in an effort to get his acting union card, a requirement in the UK at the time. In fact, he even got a card from his encouraging mom which referenced his bottomless drag outfit with her endorsement: “hope your bottom gets you to the top!”
Shortly thereafter came the truly hard choices. Every con has some panel overlap, but for the Third Coast Crew it really turns out to be a Sophie’s Choice moment when you’re considering attending the Deep Space Nine panel or the Doug Jones spotlight. So, we decided to choose both, and we’re glad we did.
The MC set the tone for the Deep Space Nine panel when she said “I grew up as a dyed in the wool TNG fan… Over the years I said The Next Generation is the best of the Star Treks, come fight me. And the only people that actually ever want to fight me are the Deep Space Nine fans.” Alexander Siddig continued her point by saying, “TNG was the best. Because the fact is that without the success of The Next Generation we wouldn’t be here… we were standing on their shoulders.”
The three went on to talk about how groundbreaking Deep Space Nine was on many different levels, from social justice to even the format of the stories. Deep Space Nine was the first serialized Star Trek, and it was done at a time when serialized television was mostly reserved for soap operas. It also featured some progressive stories, with characters like Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor) and even Dabo girl Leeta (Chase Masterson) having some meaningful moments.
On reflecting on all of the “fun things” the cast got to do in Deep Space Nine, Chase Masterson, Alexander Siddig, and Nana Visitor all unanimously agreed that more of the Bond-style episodes would have been great.
With Star Trek now available on streaming services, shows like Deep Space Nine have gotten new life, and a new audience that views the characters a little differently than audiences did during the show’s original run. Nana Visitor talked about how her character, Kira Nerys, was always seen as angry during the show’s run. However, newer audiences see that anger as justified–and Kira as a strong character. Visitor told a story about an earlier convention, around the time Deep Space Nine released on Netflix, and was surprised when a young fan admitted to having a crush on her. “I’m not too angry, I’m not threatening you in any way?” She asked him. “No, I think it’s great!”
When asked about the new Star Trek shows, and whether they’d want their character to reprise their roles, each seemed to have trepidation for their own reasons. “I can’t think of anymore story for Leeta” Chase Masterson admitted, while Nana Visitor said she’d only come back if they wrote Kira Neyrs properly–since it’s a role she holds so dear. Alexander Siddig couldn’t think of where Bashir would be, “probably retired from being a doctor, off somewhere picking flowers with Garak.” Now, that’s a lovely thought.
Meanwhile, Doug Jones greeted a packed panel room, and immediately endeared himself to them with his simultaneously softspoken and ebullient nature. Jones, as it turns out, revelled in his chance to work on Trek, and with the humility of someone just starting his career, expressed his deep gratitude for the chance to not only embody Saru, but also to be the first non human captain of a title starship. Jones talked a bit about the (very familiar to him) process of prosthetics and the necessary physicality the role demanded. Since his character is 6’8, and alien, his prosthetic shoes are not only extremely tall and painful, but also have no heel, and therefore require some actual balance and require leaning forward, though the actor revealed a “trick” used on set where he used “block” shoes that were flat when his feet weren’t in frame, to gain some respite from the demanding nature of the costume.
The nature of his character’s physicality has even led to medical conditions, when he tried to cut down on bathroom trips and decostuming by drinking the bare minimum of water, which caused him to become dehydrated. Luckily, he said, the cast and crew made sure he kept up his hydration since then, so he could avoid any further issues. Doug spoke to the powerful nature of the Trek family as a fandom and on set, telling fans that Sonequa Martin Green was the matriarch of the Star Trek Discovery family and was always available to lift the cast and crew up and check on their wellbeing.
Interestingly, Jones also revealed that he inadvertently “shipped” Saru and Ni’Var president T’Rina on the show in talking to a writer about what he thought was their path towards the romance, and the writer liked the idea so much that it was then incorporated.
We could’ve stayed in a panel with Doug Jones for another few hours, even after his panel went long, but inevitably all good things come to an end, and thus our adventures in the panel rooms at Star Trek Mission Chicago were over for the night.
Stay tuned this weekend for more from Star Trek Mission Chicago, as we boldly go where no one has gone before – Chicago’s first major Star Trek convention!
Contributing authors: Antal Bokor, Marielle Bokor