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The Grand Slam Show VIII: Celebrating Sci-Fi and Star Trek

Fans use convention as platform to voice support for Captain Sulu.

By Anna L. Kaplan     April 10, 2000

Creation Convention's eighth Grand Slam STAR TREK and Sci-Fi convention, held the weekend of March 31st through April 2nd, 2000, offered something for everyone. In the main auditorium, actors from every incarnation of TREK appeared. This included VOYAGER's Ethan Phillips (Neelix), Tim Russ (Tuvok), Robert Picardo (the Doctor), Robert Duncan McNeill (Tom Paris), Garrett Wang (Harry Kim), and Scarlett Pomers (Naomi Wildman), DEEP SPACE NINE's Terry Farrell (Jadzia Dax), Nicole deBoer (Ezri Dax), J.G. Hertzler (Martok), Marc Alaimo (Dukat), Louise Fletcher (Kai Winn), Michael Dorn (Worf), Salome Jens (Female shapeshifter) and Casey Biggs (Damar), THE NEXT GENERATION's Marina Sirtis (Troi), LeVar Burton (Geordi La Forge) and Robert O'Reilly (Gowron), and from the original series, Walter Koenig (Chekov), Nichelle Nichols (Uhura), George Takei (Sulu), and William Shatner (Captain Kirk). From BABYLON 5, Jerry Doyle (Garibaldi) and Jeff Conaway (Zack) graced the stage. James Marsters (Spike) from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER visited, and so did Lance Hendriksen (MILLENNIUM, ALIENS).

The little auditorium a featured tribute to ALIEN NATION and appearances by many assorted stars of classic sci-fi television shows, past and current. To get to the little auditorium, convention attendees entered the main dealers' room, where every kind of merchandise imaginable was on sale. Going on past the dealers took you to 'The Famous Autograph Room' where such stars and guest stars were available to sign autographs and memorabilia as June Lockhart (LOST IN SPACE), Gary Lockwood (2001, 'Where No Man Has Gone Before'), Gary Graham (ALIEN NATION), Frank Gorshin (BATMAN series' The Riddler), Kent and Cody Wetherill (the twin Borgs on VOYAGER), from classic TREK, guest stars Barbara Luna, Arlene Martel, Frances Nguyen, FARSCAPE's Kent McCord, both Robert O'Reilly and J.G. Hertzler representing the Klingon Empire, and many more.

From there, a few steps away in the little theater on Sunday, the EXCELSIOR campaign got into full swing. Spearheaded by Russ Haslage, founder of the International Federation of Trekkers, the EXCELSIOR campaign focuses on the hope of bringing back Captain Sulu (George Takei) as seen in STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY to make the next STAR TREK series. IFT has thousands of members, who have already started a letter writing campaign to Paramount Television, sending some 2300 letters. These fans believe that a television show featuring Captain Sulu and his adventures after STAR TREK VI would bring back the ideals of Gene Roddenberry to the franchise. They have the support of Takei, as well as Grace Lee Whitney (Janice Rand), Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, and James Doohan (Scotty).

During Sunday's press conference, Haslage took the stage. He introduced Takei, Whitney, and Susan Sackett, who was Gene Roddenberry's executive assistant for 17 years. He then said, 'I would love to be able to come up and say, 'For the last two and a half months we've been pushing away, and Paramount said yes.' But they are not quite there yet. In the mean time, after two and a half months we have had a great deal of progress. We have 2300 fans involved in the campaign, and more joining this weekend. George and Grace Lee have been talking about this wherever they are going. Those of you who aren't involved, we have some flyers to show you where the website is, and how to get involved. The EXCELSIOR website is full of information on what we are doing, what we've done, what's coming up.'

Making reference to the VOYAGER episode 'Flashback,' in which Tuvok relived his time on the Excelsior, Haslage continued, 'On VOYAGER during sweeps week, to boost the ratings, they brought our crew from Excelsior on. Of course we have all seen Excelsior in STAR TREK VI. Actually the Excelsior saved the day, if I recall correctly. In our two and a half months of doing the EXCELSIOR campaign, we've gained a lot of momentum, and we've also had a lot of questions from the fans. I asked George and Grace Lee if they would answer the fans questions for us.'

Takei took the group of two to three hundred, cheering people in attendance through his version of TREK history, saying, 'Live long and prosper. That Vulcan greeting has proved to be so prophetic in so many ways. STAR TREK has lived much, much longer than we ever dreamed, and we have prospered in so many countless ways. One of the greatest treasures that we have gained over the years with the longevity of STAR TREK, I think, is the fans, and it's the fans that really are the owners of this STAR TREK phenomenon. We were cancelled after three seasons, despite the fact that at the beginning of each episode we announced that we were on a five year mission. We discovered that the most destructive Klingons weren't the ones that we met on the episodes, but the Klingons that resided in the executive corridors at NBC. But the nemesis of those Klingons at the NBC executive corridors were the fans. The fans started up the 'STAR TREK Lives' campaign. The lady who spear headed that is right here, Bjo Trimble, fan par excellence. It was she who spear headed that 'STAR TREK Lives' campaign, despite the fact that Paramount said, STAR TREK is dead, NBC said, STAR TREK is gone and over. You fans persisted, and you were relentless, and you were dedicated, and you were creative, and you prevailed. You showed the Klingons at NBC who the real bosses are. It took ten years, but ten years later, STAR TREK came back. But even with that achievement, Paramount said, 'This is going to be the only STAR TREK movie. It went way over budget, way over schedule, it's too expensive, it will never make its money back. But you again showed them, because the box office exploded. You again showed who the real bosses of STAR TREK are. So they decided to do the sequel, and one sequel after another, until we had now STAR TREK, the motion picture series. However, when we were going celebrate the 25th anniversary - and that was something undreamed of - 25 years of STAR TREK, we were going to have a movie to celebrate that with - STAR TREK VI. But again, these know-it-alls came up with an idea that they were going to sell you on. Their idea for STAR TREK VI was actually a flashback story to our days at Starfleet Academy. They were going to recast all the characters that you know and love with young actors that resemble us. The bosses said, no, no, no. No! That is not the way to celebrate 25 years, with people that were never there at all. There again, you prevailed. You told them what kind of STAR TREK should be done, and so they did what I consider the best STAR TREK yet, STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY. How did that begin? With the Excelsior. Who came to the rescue but the Excelsior. How did it end? It ended with the Excelsior. You saw the Excelsior go off and Dr. McCoy says, 'By God, that's a big ship,' and Scotty chimes in and says, 'Aye, but not so big as her captain.' The logical thing to do after that, the intelligent thing to do after that, the imminently simple thing to do after that, Paramount didn't do. Now again, you bosses have to tell them how to do STAR TREK. You guys have been the bosses, you have been the guide, you have been the driver of the STAR TREK phenomenon. We feel very grateful for the fact that over the past 35 years, one of the greatest riches has been this family of fans that we've gathered. We want to thank you for the support that you have given us through those four decades, and we thank you particularly for this new phenomenon, this new generation of STAR TREK support, the EXCELSIOR Campaign.'

Many of the fans who spoke during the press conference said that they thought a Captain Sulu series would bring back a view of the future more in keeping with Gene Roddenberry's ideals. Sackett offered, 'I think that without Gene here to tell people at Paramount, this is STAR TREK, this isn't STAR TREK, they kind of lost their rudder a bit. I think that one of the great things about EXCELSIOR is the chance to go back to Gene's optimistic future, which was what STAR TREK was about. He did not particularly like the idea of a crew that didn't get along with each other. He wanted them to put that behind them, whereas the people who took over from him felt that conflict should come from the crew as well as the people that they meet. Gene's feeling was that they all get along, they all care about each other, they like each other. Let's have the conflict from the people they encounter and the adventures that they encounter. But let's show how in the future we have a mixture of races, we have a mixture of men, women, aliens, whatever. That was the first thing that attracted me when I first saw STAR TREK. I think that somehow that has gotten away from them. This is a chance to go back to those Roddenberry-type themes.'

Sackett added, 'I was at Paramount for fifteen years. They call STAR TREK the franchise, and the bottom line is dollars. Let them know that Excelsior is important. It carries the Gene Roddenberry message of STAR TREK, the one that we all watched and loved from the beginning. If they know that there is an audience, who have money, who are willing to purchase the products that the sponsors have, they will be out there producing it very fast. You just have to let them know.'

As noted, Bjo Trimble was in attendance, sitting in the front row. STAR TREK's first lady of fandom had some advice for people going to the demonstration, or wanting to help this campaign. She said, 'Every one of you asks ten other people to write a letter. They ask ten people. Those ten people tell ten people. If you go and ask ten people this afternoon when you get home, how many people at the end of next week will you personally have reached? Think about it. It doesn't end. Once it gets started, it goes forever, and by April 22nd we will have a gang of people there. And I'll come say hi to you. I'll be there too. Bring water, sunscreen, hats. This is Auntie Bjo talking.'

Both Takei and Haslage clearly stated that no one involved with the campaign had spoken to anyone at Paramount. Said Takei, 'There has not been any contact from Paramount with any of us. So and I've talked with both Walter and Nichelle, and they've indicated that they have received no contacts either.'

Brannon Braga, VOYAGER's executive producer, who is working on the next television series concept along with honcho Rick Berman, spoke in vague terms about the fifth show on Saturday but gave no indication there was a genuine chance for a Captain Sulu show. None of this diminished the enthusiasm of the fans, who came from as far away as Japan and Brazil. After the press conference, Richard Arnold gave a tribute to Gene Roddenberry in the main theater. Then Takei and Nichelle Nichols took the stage, both singing the praises of a Captain Sulu show.

The appearance at the Grand Slam Convention is only part of the campaign waged by IFT, which is asking fans to communicate with Paramount by attending a rally in support of the proposed EXCELSIOR series. 'On Saturday April 22nd, the day before Easter, we are going to have a big rally in front of Paramount Pictures in promotion of the EXCELSIOR idea, the EXCELSIOR campaign,' according to Haslage. 'If you are from the area or within a few hours drive from the area, meet us in front of Paramount and let's show them exactly what we mean.'

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