Star Trek: Must-Watch TV, Pulling People from the Darkness

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Star Trek alumni Garrett Wang, Ethan Phillips, Walter Koenig, and John de Lancie gathered in the Marriott Atrium Ballroom on Friday to share some memories of their time with the Star Trek franchise. The intriguing hour began with a simple declaration by Trek Track director and panel moderator Wang: “Dragon Con is THE best convention to attend in this world.”

Wang was just getting started. He pointed out during the introduction that both his last name (Wang) and Koenig’s last name means “King.” Thus he and Koenig are the “Kings of Star Trek!” Wang, as well as a significant part of the audience, had a small heart attack when Koenig also jumped off the stage to go into the audience to try to get us to be silent when Phillips was introduced. It was only the beginning of an hour full of those kinds of shenanigans.

Time and again during the panel, members began their moment with the microphone by paying their respects to Walter Koenig as the elder statesman only to then ask a question of a different panelist. Wang summed up the phenomenon when he said members were treating Koenig like The Godfather, paying respect before actually asking their questions.

de Lancie had a particularly Q-like moment while answering a question about whether he thought Q might ever feel remorse for what he did to Picard. He leaned into the microphone, and with a devilish smile said, “Remorse for Picard… no, I don’t think so!”

An audience member asked the panelists to reflect on Star Trek fandom and in particular identify what, if anything, surprised them. For Phillips, the fact that he’d never met a Star Trek fan who was a cynic was, in his view, a testament to the fans’ humanity. De Lancie finds himself constantly surprised and amazed that a show “would create such a large umbrella.” He finds Star Trek people really nice and kind, a kindness he sees on con weekends, and in that he sees hope for the future. Koenig, as the senior member of the panel, began his remarks by pointing out that once one enters their eighth decade (as he has) you tend to do a lot of reflecting. He is struck by his good fortune. He has enjoyed an affiliation with a single show that carried him for 55 years. The fandom, “you folks” as well as “your parents and grandparents,” have been there wherever he has gone. Koenig noted the degree of respect, the kindness and fundamental humanity fans show toward the actors and one another. For Wang, first ST:Voyager actor to attend a con and veteran of 17 cons before another Voyager actor joined him, it’s been amazing to consider, and be told, that Star Trek is a show that can lift someone from the darkness of depression and give them a degree of hope.

Listening to these actors reflect on how Star Trek has shaped the texture and tapestry of their lives was fascinating. Doing voiceover work in Star Trek Online as Neelix was easy for Phillips because acting is the “relaxed revelation of who you are.” For de Lancie, who only did nine episodes as Q over three shows, he had the chance to get to know the audience and really enjoyed “once a year” coming in to play a role with that audience in mind. Koenig, who said he has struggled with self-esteem issues, has been buoyed by a life defined by Star Trek, and for Wang, he became the “Yoda” of conventions and for the last nine years has served as Trek Track Director at Dragon Con. He remains the only actor to have gone behind the scenes to become a volunteer track director at a convention.

Few shows can lay claim to being able to shape, transform, and save lives while simultaneously giving everyone involved—actors and audience—hope. Star Trek is indeed must-watch TV.

About the authors

Maggie Birge-Caracappa By day, Maggie Birge-Caracappa is the editorial director at a medical communications company in Yardley, PA. The rest of the time, Maggie sees to the needs of her kitty overlords; polices the grammar on all kinds of published material including signage, menus, and food packaging; and cuddles with her wife while watching her favorite shows (Killjoys, Game of Thrones, and Doctor Who among them). She continues to be far too excited to be working for the Daily Dragon.

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