Con Report: New Jersey Star Trek Convention with Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton & More

Star Trek fans from all corners of the galaxy gathered together last weekend for Creation Entertainment’s Official Star Trek Conventionin Cherry Hill, New Jersey just outside Philadelphia. Several TNG actors were on hand, including Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner and LeVar Burton to kick off the 25th Anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation celebration this year.

On Saturday, the guest of honor, Patrick Stewart stepped on stage to a standing ovation. Wearing a t-shirt that proclaimed “Magneto was right!” and looking as fit as ever. Stewart told the audience he enjoys being a “Sir” and has a new movie that will go into production this June. Stewart said he plans to re-focus on his film and television career after about 8 years of satisfying theatrical work. He also revealed that he has written a series of essays that he may organize into a loose sort of autobiography at some point, although he found the process of writing them “laborious.”

In addition to theater and writing, he said he enjoys some amateur astronomy viewing planets and stars on his property in rural England. Throughout his presentation, Patrick engaged in a continued faux putdown of Canadians, which included a fake shock at the “revelation” that Bill Shatner is Canadian. A more serious revelation was his admission that he was Bob Justman’s pick for Captain Picard, but not Gene Roddenberry’s. Fortunately, Bob, Rick Berman and others convinced Gene to agree with their choice. What Patrick enjoyed the most about his seven years of filming TNG was the continual examination of thoughts and ideas regarding human nature. He said the recurring motif of his TNG tenure was laughter while filming and having a great time while getting the job done.

Patrick Stewart wearing his "Magneto was right" t-shirt
Patrick Stewart wearing his "Magneto was right" t-shirt

Stewart went on to share some insight into his time on TNG along with the success he’s found over his career.

“I don’t quite know how this came about. I know I like it.” Stewart said laughing. “I work very hard. I was actually too dedicated to my work. I overlooked family — often, and I regret That. I now try to make that up with my grandchildren.”

Earlier in the weekend, Suzie Plakson who played Worf’s mate, K’Ehleyr, on TNG, greeted the fans. She shared that she keeps in touch with several Trek cast members but particularly enjoyed working with Michael Dorn. “He was a doll,” Ms. Plakson said. Initially, she was asked to try out for a Vulcan doctor and she played Dr. Selar in “The Schizoid Man . Ms. Plakson even wore Vulcan makeup when casting producer Junie Lowry spotted her. Out of that came the opportunity to play Worf’s half Human, half Klingon love interest in “The Emissary” and again in the episode “Reunion.” The one thing she was not completely pleased with was her Q costume for her role as the The Female Q in the Voyager episode “The Q and the Grey,” which she thought should have had more “boobage!”. Ms. Plakson has also played Tarah, an Andorian in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “Cease Fire.”

Richard Arnold, who was a long-time assistant to Gene Rodenberry, presented comprehensive presentation on the history and production of TNG. Arnold showed archival images of several of the cast as directors, including Gates McFadden, Patrick Stewart, LeVar Burton and Jonathan Frakes and discussed budgeting problems for TNG, especially as the show was approaching its finale and Deep Space Nine was about to start. He also told stories about Whoopi Goldberg’s participation, which often resulted in a virtual lockdown for the cast and crew because she was so rarely available that, whenever she was, all work with her had to be done.

Gary Graham of Star trek: Enterprise and Alien Nation
Gary Graham of Star trek: Enterprise and Alien Nation

Gary Graham, who played the Vulcan Ambassador Soval on Enterprise, shared stories from his time on Star Trek, including his satisfaction with the Soval character, because his conflict with his own belief system transformed him into a heroic character. Gary recently got cast as Matt Sykes on Alien Nation, after it went down to just him and the comedian Colin Quinn. Gary had worked with Ken Johnson on an episode of The Incredible Hulk and he felt confident about the casting meeting and first audition.

The next guest was Morgan Gendel, who wrote the TNG favorite “The Inner Light,” an episode where Captain Picard lives a completely different life, experiences romance and has the memories of a man from a different race beamed into his mind. The memories beamed into his mind may have represented an idealized version of the alien society whose lifestyle he had the opportunity to experience, Gendel analyzed, much like we may send out an informational video into space revealing the best and proudest moments of human society. In writing the episode, Morgan was inspired by his observation of the Fuji blimp which he extrapolated into the probe n the episode. The writer explained that he had to pitch the concept to Michael Piller five times before the episode was fleshed out. He also presented an exclusive peek at his new graphic novel. Morgan’s appearance ended with a wonderful video homage to 45 years of Star Trek set to John Chattaway’s timeless music piece for this episode.

Star Trek: Voyager's Tim Russ
Star Trek: Voyager's Tim Russ

Tim Russ, who fans remember as Tuvok on Voyager, said that he relates to his character very much, especially when he is at airports around the world with illogical directional signs. Once, when traveling to a convention in England, he was in fact so confused that he had an embarrassing time explaining to a customs officer where he was staying and who was picking him up. Tim Russ currently plays the principal on iCarly.

Robin Curtis and Eric Menyuk
Robin Curtis and Eric Menyuk

Following this scholarly presentation, Eric Menyuk and Robin Curtis appropriately performed a hilarious spoof dressed as nerdy Trek fans in TOS uniforms and Spock ears. After searching the audience for their “seats,” they settled on stage and began a reminiscence of the Trek celebrities they had seen at conventions: for example, Robin Curtis, who had a restraining order against Nerdy Robin. Nerdy Eric found another celebrity, pulling a poor member of the audience on stage, declaring him “the blob from Season 3” and proceeded to declare that this man “gushed with blobbiness!” They also asked the audience some funny trivia questions in a hopeless “battle of the sexes” and later engaged in a duel with baguettes placed between their legs.

On Sunday, LeVar Burton was greeted with a standing ovation. Like Patrick Stewart, LeVar said that filming TNG combined work with laughter (“we were always laughing”) and answered several questions about TNG and his character’s famous visor. Then, he suddenly had a fan repeat the same question in a suspiciously irritating nasal voice. The “fan” turned to be no other than Brent Spiner who proceeded to ask if LeVar was the actor he had seen in the TV show “Ritz.” LeVar said yes, he had appeared in Roots. SGF said that he could identify with Kunta Kinte because he was a black man, too. As the audience was roaring, a raucous Jonathan Frakes asked whether Patrick Stewart’s accent was real or fake and LeVar reported it was fake.

LeVar Burton talks TNG and the all-new Reading Rainbow
LeVar Burton talks TNG and the all-new Reading Rainbow

LeVar is currently working on Perception, a new TNT series with Eric McCormack from Will & Grace, coming to TNT. His educational show Reading Rainbow is also returning, this time as a free app for the tablet, and eventually for Android mobile devices. The app will offer a subscription-based financial model, with hundreds of book titles available each month for parents to download for their kids.

While on stage, a fan asked him if he thought Rick Berman had honored the original vision of Star Trek after Gene Roddenberry’s passing in 1991.

“I think he stayed very true to Gene’s vision and honored the template that Gene had established,” said Burton

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Leeta, Chase Masterson
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Leeta, Chase Masterson

Chase Masterson spoke about her role as Leeta on Deep Space Nine. She loved working Max Grodenchik, who played the fans’ favorite Ferengi, Rom. It turns out that Max, quite a baseball player, had to play left-handed in order to actually appear awkward player for the episode “Take “Me Out to The Holosuite,” where the Enterprise crew engages in an epic baseball battle against a sturdy and cold-blooded Vulcan team. Chase also revealed that at the close of the series, she got a hold of Dr. Bashir’s medicine cabinet (which would have gone into the trash). Chase told the fans that she has recently done some Shakespeare plays, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She provided quite a treat with some of her beautiful song stylings, including Peggy Lee’s “Fever” and “Pure Imagination” and spoke about her charitable work with several challenged-children’s groups.

LeVar Burton, Brent Spiner and Jonathan Frakes
LeVar Burton, Brent Spiner and Jonathan Frakes

Finally, the time had come for the much-anticipated finale: Jonathan Frakes and Brent Spiner as a comic duo, which never fails to entertain. After Frakes walked in singing “Volare,” which the audience answered in turn, Spiner started a long series of Patrick Stewart putdowns, all in Patrick’s distinct voice. Frakes and Spiner also managed to answer some “serious” questions about TNG and even discussed the famous personalities who had visited them during their seven-year tenure, including Madeleine Albright, Stephen Hawking, Ronald Reagan and Mick Fleetwood. Then, out of nowhere, a nerdy voice called out to Spiner and said his favorite episodes of TNG featured Geordi: LeVar Burton joined the duo and added to the continuous barbs aimed at Patrick Stewart. A standing ovation saw off the trio.

Jonathan Frakes answers a fan's question
Jonathan Frakes answers a fan's question

The Convention concluded with a showing of Gene Roddenberry’s personal TOS blooper reel. A final presentation involved the audience in discussing possible plots for the next Star Trek film.

Next year, Creation’s Northeast convention returns to the Crowne Plaza in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, May 3-5, 2013, to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Deep Space Nine.

We’ll be posting tons of additional photos from the weekend to our Facebook page. Become a fan today at facebook.com/treknews.

7 Comments Join the Conversation →


  • I’m a Doctor

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Kane

    Aside from the yearly Vegas con and the TNG reunion in Calgary, this sounds pretty damn great.

  • Kal-El

    Amazing photos!

  • J. Gardner

    “I think he stayed very true to Gene’s vision and honored the template that Gene had established,” said Burton
    WHAAAAAT?!

  • xfiler93

    Love this “canon” of Trek. Not really that crazy about the new “timeline” Trek of the movie.

  • Ryan

    Great stuff, Brian!  It was great running into you at the con on Saturday.

    • Brian

      Thanks Ryan. Great meeting you and Seth, as well!