At Wizard World Philadelphia, Star Trek fans gathered for a momentous occasion: the gathering of the 5 Captains. William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, and Scott Bakula were on hand throughout the weekend to meet with fans, sign autographs, and take pictures, but it was Saturday’s Q&A panel that drew the most attention.
Sir Patrick, Mr. Shatner, and Ms. Mulgrew arrived in a surprising fashion, tooling around the aisles on a golf cart, much like a sight out of Mario Kart: Double Dash, immediately letting the crowd know what kind of an event they had just walked into.
Scott Bakula: [taps mic] Check. Check. The panel has been cancelled. Please arrest the drunk drivers wherever you see them. [laughter] And no one let Shatner in, whatever happens. [laughter] There’s another guy with a funny hat, I think he’s from England… [laughter]
Clare Kramer: Welcome, everyone. This is a monumental occasion. I’m Clare Kramer, and I will be hosting.
William Shatner: Clare, you are a monumental occasion.
CK: As are you. How about one more round of applause for the Captains. [applause] I know everyone probably has a plethora of questions. We’ll start it off up here and then we’ll go to the audience in a little bit. I hope you enjoy the 5 Captains Panel!
WS: You guys, back there, should come down in front here so we can see you. Come on down. Fill it up.
CK: I have a question for you, Mr. Shatner.
WS: For me?
CK: I do.
WS: My telephone number is… [laughter]
CK: When you were first approached…
WS: When I was first approached…
CK: …to do Star Trek…
CK: There had been a pilot…
WS: The pilot had not sold.
CK: …and you received a call. What was your reaction to them approaching you for this role in this series?
WS: I was enormously enthused…to be offered a job. [laughter] The well-recounted story, that I’m sure most people know by now, is that I was in New York City doing something, and I received a call from Gene Roddenberry, who asked me to come to Los Angeles to look at a pilot called Star Trek, starring Jeffrey Hunter. So I came to Los Angeles and saw this wonderful piece of film that I thought needed a little adjustment here and there, but was really terrific, and I agreed to be in it. Then, some people made their suggestions, and I made some of mine, and we made the second pilot, which sold. That’s essentially the story.
CK: And that was the start of history.
WS: And we’re still making it. [applause]
CK: Patrick, I have a question for you.
Patrick Stewart: [pretends to be woken up abruptly] [laughter]
SB: I’m going to interpret for him. [laughter]
CK: Patrick, you’re known as the classically trained actor, but I read an interesting quote saying that you learned how to do good work and also have fun at the same time while filming [The Next Generation]. Can you tell us a little about how you were able to transition? [Bakula whispers in Stewart’s ear]
PS: Actually, Scott was asking me about my love life. Was that your question? [laughter] Well, it was like this… I was a pain in the butt when we started shooting the series, and for one simple reason: I was scared, and I was scared all the time. Scared that I wouldn’t be able to do the job, scared they would fire me, scared that I would show up one day and wouldn’t know my lines. So, I overreacted to that fear by taking it all so terribly seriously. And now, there is the, now almost legendary, afternoon when I called the principle actors of Next Generation together and, as I had the role of the captain, and was certainly the oldest actor in the group, I thought it was my responsibility to straighten a few things out. So, I told the guys I thought we were fooling around too much and having too much of a good time. There was too much messing about, and we didn’t understand that although we got days off from time to time, the crew and the staff were there five days a week, for 12, 14, 16-hour days. And I went on in this tone at length, and you should have seen the rolling eyes, the raised eyebrows, and the sighs, until Denise Crosby said, “Patrick! We’ve got to have some fun!” And I said, quite famously, “WE ARE NOT HERE TO HAVE FUN!!” [laughter] I blush, I’m ashamed. However, the cast straightened me out.
SB: They broke you.
PS: Exactly! Did you hear what Scott said? They broke me. They broke me and they did indeed teach me that you can do good work and have a great time as well. And my lasting memory of Next Generation is laughter. [applause]
CK: Mr. Avery… [applause] The famous Sisko stare. But, I have a serious question. You were quoted, I think by TV Guide, saying that the young, African American male generation really didn’t see their future past 19 or 20, and that you felt your character gave them foresight, and gave them something to look to. Can you expand on that, and also, do you see any roles in today’s television programming that liken to your character?
Avery Brooks: I can answer the last question first – no. It’s just the observation of it, I don’t mean anything further. The answer is clearly, “no.” When you look at the history of Star Trek, they clearly spent a lot of time thinking about what they wanted to say before they said it. So the answer is, “no.” And part of the reason, I think, is the lack of a certain kind of thoughtfulness. This idea of children not being able to see the horizon… I think that is unfortunately endemic to this part of the world, where we don’t remember what happened two weeks ago, let alone 20, or do not connect with what went before and why we are here and, therefore, where we are going. When you think about children planning their funerals, because they don’t think they will live past their teens, that’s what I was referring to, not exclusively African American children, but the notion that you could see yourself, and see yourself whole, some 400 years hence, I think is the most important part of it. [applause]
CK: Thank you, Avery.
CK: Kate, on Voyager… [applause] I noticed, while watching the series, that there was a definite contrast in your femininity from the first season to the second season. In the first, you’re almost made to be manly, and in the second, you were allowed to be a female who was in control. Can you tell us how you spoke with the producers and writers about that?
Kate Mulgrew: Yes. It speaks to Patrick’s point too. If he was terrified as the first Englishman to be Captain, can you imagine how everybody felt when the first woman stepped on the bridge? [wild applause] I mean, the people in charge were very, very nervous. Right? I was of child-bearing years, and I was a girl. I had bosoms, and I had hair. [laughter] And all of these things did not fit the demographic, do you know what I’m talking about? Mr. Stewart, with all due respect, no bosoms…no hair. [laughter] So, for the first season, they just spent all of their time, all of their energy, and all of their focus on strapping in my bosom, fixing my hair, working with my voice and my stride, and finally I went to them. I said, “Guys, listen. If you don’t leave me alone, it’s not going to work. The audience is smarter than you guys are. That’s why it is a vast, universal, and highly intelligent audience. They will trust me if you allow me to command this ship. [applause] Now, I warrant you, I missed the gas station…my mistake. [laughter] Let me correct it by being myself and let these young men come to me of their own volition.” And that’s what they did, and that’s why in the second season, I was so gloriously sexy. [laughter, applause]
CK: Scott, with Enterprise…
CK: When you were approached, I heard that you were quite nervous about following these four other captains, and then when you learned that your series was a
prequel, you were more open to accepting the role. Can you tell us about the pressures you felt?
SB: Had my series been after Kate’s, I wouldn’t have taken the job. [The producers] were expecting me to be jumping up and down saying, “Thank you for that lovely offer to do this show”, but in my head, I was thinking, “How am I going to say ‘no’?” But then they said, “The great thing about this is you’re one hundred years before Kirk”, and immediately, I was in. I knew that I wouldn’t have to follow any of these fabulous people. So, I could screw up all on my own, and you folks, who know all of our work better than we know it, wouldn’t be able to yell at me, saying, “Well, you know, when Kate would take the bridge, she would do such and such…” So, it was a chicken’s way out, but happily it worked out for me.
CK: It did work out. [applause]
CK: Okay, we’re now going to go to the audience, and we’ll start on this side.
I have to confess, I’m not a Trekkie. I’ve only seen one episode and I have two non-Trek questions for…
SB: Whose episode?! What episode have you seen?! [laughter] Be very careful with your answer.
I saw The Trouble with Tribbles. [applause] Mr. Shatner, what got you interested in horses?
WS: Horses? There’s a science fiction question for you… [laughter] I’ve always been interested in horses. They’re arguably among the most beautiful animals and I’ve always had a yen to ride, and to ride well. As I learned to ride, and as I practiced more and more, I got to be able to communicate with the animal. You think you’re communicating with it the way you would with a dog or a pet, but you’re talking to [the horse] and you know it’s listening to you or not because you’re on its back and it’s telling you. There’s an actual conversation going on between the horse and the rider. If you’re a sophisticated enough rider, you can have that conversation.
And Ms. Mulgrew, what was it like being Mrs. Strang in Equus?
KM: I don’t know because I didn’t play Mrs. Strang. [laughter] I played Hester Saloman.
Ok, what was it like anyway?
KM: Well, clearly since you so enjoyed the performance… [laughter]
I never saw it. [laughter]
First, I’d like to say that I am a Trekkie… [applause] …and I appreciate the fact that all of you are such wonderful actors and have done so much outside of Star Trek too. I’d like to know if there is one dream role, whether on Broadway or on film, that you’ve always wanted to play.
AB: No. [laughter]
WS: And that’s how he teaches classes. They’ll ask him questions and he’ll answer, “…yes.” [laughter] For me, I just closed on Broadway in a one-man show. [applause] Of all the things I’ve done, because I was creating it and writing it, it was the biggest, most profound challenge that I’ve ever faced as an actor. I’m resting on the exhaustion of that escapade.
KM: I do have a bucket list, and in the last four years, I’ve hit two of them. I was Cleopatra, last year. Two years before that was Clytemnestra. Those were two of mine. [applause] And one that I’ve been wanting to play is Arkadina In Chekhov’s The Seagull.
SB: I’d like to star as William Shatner in his one-man show. [laughter, applause]
WS: The thing is, you have to sing. [to audience] No, you don’t understand, he’s a great singer.
PS: This has given me an idea. I have been, sometimes, a producer. Let me pitch this to you. [laughter] Williams Shatner’s one-man show, starring, William Shatner. But, after the opening night, no audience will ever know when they go to see the William Shatner one-man show, whether they will see William Shatner as William Shatner, or Avery Brooks as Williams Shatner! [laughter] Or Kate Mulgrew as William Shatner! Or Scott Bakula as William Shatner!
WS: OR! William Shatner as Avery Brooks! [laughter]
PS: Like Kate I have a bucket list too, but one of them is coming up, and I can’t tell you what it is, but I will just say to you, Fall 2013, Broadway. [applause]
WS: What do you mean, you can’t tell us? [laughter] It’s not going to go any further than this room. [laughter]
I have a question for Mr. Shatner.
WS: I’m a little embarrassed by getting so many questions.
What was your favorite superhero growing up?
WS: My favorite superhero? I didn’t know it, but it was Stan Lee. [laughter] I was into those comic books and all of those characters, but then I met Stan, and he has that peculiar brain.
CK: So you were a Marvel boy?
WS: I’m a Marvel Comics hero. [applause]
I know all of you have starred in things other than Star Trek, but including Star Trek, what has been your favorite role that you’ve played?
SB: William Shatner in the William Shatner one-man show. [laughter]
KM: Mine too. My run as Bill Shatner.
CK: It’s a classic.
AB: Paul Robeson [applause]
WS: He was glorious in that. [pause] Oh, it’s my turn? [laughter]
Audience: Denny Crane!
WS: Denny Crane. [laughs] For me, once you’ve done the role, it’s great. It was either fun, or not as great as you expected it to be. Maybe it was better than you expected it to be, but whatever expectations you had that were met or unmet, it’s gone. It’s ephemeral. A role, especially in the theater, is over. On film, it lasts a little bit longer, but within three or four years, people have forgotten what it was, except for things like Star Trek… [laughter] But mostly, an actor’s role is gone, and it’s the next thing that you’re looking forward to. I’d like to ask the rest of the actors on this stage what they think about that.
SB: You can’t ask us questions. [laughter]
KM: My favorite role was probably in my one-woman show, as Kathryn Hepburn. [applause]
PS: Going back to what I was saying earlier about not having fun, all of those qualities came together for me in a two-man show that I did, and I did it only about two years ago in New York. It was a play by David Mamet called Life in the Theater, and the reason why I chose that is because, I had a wonderful co-star in T.R. Knight, but in that play, which has a certain poignancy in its ending, I had more actual fun on stage than I‘ve had at any other time in my life. For that reason, only, I would put that at the top of my list.
SB: In the theater, it would be 3 Guys Naked from the Waist Down, and on television, it would be Sam Beckett [applause].
As you can see, a lot of us really like Star Trek a lot… [laughter] Kind of a shock, I know. My question to all five of you is, do you see what we see in Star Trek, or do you see it as just another TV show and we’re all just crazy? [laughter]
PS: Can I invite someone else to answer that question? I’m meditating. [laughter]
CK: Absolutely. Any takers?
WS: I can start it off by saying… [laughter] …that I differ to Mr. Brooks. [laughter] I’ve done a documentary called Get A Life in this country, and Fan Addicts in Canada. It’s a discovery of what you are all doing here at a convention, and I get into some great depth of what we’re all doing here. Star Trek becomes something far larger than what I ever thought it was. I discovered, as a result of making this documentary, that this cultural phenomenon that we know as Star Trek, and in a larger sense, science fiction, is far bigger, far more meaningful than many of us think. We are here, right now, participating in a mythological experience. That’s what Get A Life will be about. [applause]
I would like to thank the group for many wonderful years of entertainment and value while growing up. [applause] Many of you were a part of my life, and it’s a thrill to speak with you this afternoon. Thank you. One of the things that I really love about the Star Trek franchise is its ability to inspire, especially in the area of technology. The gadgets and gizmos that Star Trek first planted in our minds have grown up. We all have cell phones, which started off as communicators. We all have tablets, which started off as…well…tablets. [laughter] Is there some gadget or gizmo that you used in Star Trek that you are amazed is an actual device today, or is there something from Star Trek that you wish we had today?
PS: I increasingly struggle with the one aspect of what we do, which is now giving me such a bad time, and that is learning lines and remembering them. So, I would like to have Data’s ability of instant recall of anything he heard, or read, or saw. It would be such a help.
KM: I’d like the holodeck. [applause] That was Janeway’s only romantic/sexual relief, you know. [laughter] And they were always 5’ 4’ Irishmen. It made no sense to me. [laughter]
AB: I look forward… to beaming. [applause]
WS: I believe it is, “To Beam or Not to Beam?” [laughter] My experience would involve the people I’ve met, who, as a result of Star Trek, have had careers. We’ve all had people, like you all, come up to us and say their life course was changed by Star Trek. One that comes immediately to mind is a guy who is now heading Canada’s largest airplane manufacturing company, who became an aeronautical engineer because of Star Trek.
SB: I had the good fortune to speak for about 45 minutes with the International Space Station a few years ago. I spoke with the American on the station, and he later sent me a video of life on the station, and that was pretty great.
PS: Scott, I didn’t know you had done that. I know what a wonderful experience it was, because it happened to me too. There was only one non-Russian or non-American commander of the ISS, and he is a Belgian called Frank De Winne. Frank chose me to talk to during his time on the station and lots of amazing things happened. My first question to him was, “Why would a real astronaut, want to meet a fake astronaut?” [laughter] He held up, in front of the camera on the space station, a photograph of the current crew. There was a Canadian, two Americans, a Russian, and there was Frank from Belgium, and they were all wearing our uniforms. [laughter] And I said, “That’s great! How brilliant to be able to Photoshop all your heads…” [laughter] And Commander De Winne said, “No, no. We were wearing those.” [laughter, applause]
Mr. Stewart, I’ve been watching Star Trek since I was 12. I was at the Chris Hemsworth Q&A earlier, where a lot of girls were asking for hugs, but I would much rather hug you than Chris Hemsworth. [awwwww]
CK: I’m sorry but we can’t take hugs right now, but…
WS: It’s a hug! [laughter] It doesn’t have to be a hard hug, it can be a gentle hug.
[Patrick Stewart gets up and jumps off the stage to hug the fan] [wild applause]
PS: Now how do I get back up?! [laughter]
SB: He is so jet lagged, he has no idea where he is right now. [laughter]
WS: When you jump down there, it jars your head. You can forget everything!
My question is for all five of you. What was the most interesting part of Star Trek that you ever filmed, whether it was an episode, a single scene, or a movie?
CK: [to the panel] What was the most interesting part of an episode to film?
CK: Or creepy? [laughter]
WS: Nimoy is very creepy. [laughter]
KM: The Vidiians, the organ eaters. Very creepy.
SB: One of our most interesting times was when we recreated Mr. Shatner’s ship, uniforms, etc. and we did In a Mirror, Darkly, where it was a flip side of their world, but it was our world flipped… you guys know. [laughter] That was bizzare because people from all over the Paramount lot came to see the original bridge. People were just beside themselves to get out there and touch and look at everything. It was surreal. It was really, really cool.
PS: One night on “Planet Hell”, Stage 16, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, and I were shooting a scene in which Gates was trapped under a rock fall, or something like that. She was jammed into these rocks and we had worked out that there was one way that could free her. We had to blast something away and pull her out quickly, and I was the one who was going to pull her out, and it had to be done very abruptly. So, the moment came, “Action!”, and I reached in and I grabbed Gates by both breasts! [laughter] Accidentally! I went… [puts both hands forward] AAAHHHHHH!!!! [laughter]
SB: Maybe it was a bad idea that you started having fun on the set. [laughter]
My question is for Mr. Shatner. A couple years ago, the new Star Trek [film] came out, and it had all the portrayals of the characters from The Original Series, when they were younger, and Chris Pine, played the young Captain Kirk. What did you think of his portrayal of your character as a young man?
WS: I think Chris Pine has all the equipment, vocally, physically, and emotionally, to be a big star. I think he will be one of our big stars as time goes on. He’s got it all. I’m thrilled with what he’s doing on Star Trek.
Hi, I wanted to thank all of you for bringing so much to Star Trek, allowing it to become such a huge phenomenon, and bringing all of these people together. I’m actually waiting for a kidney transplant, and the majority of the people who are willing to donate, I’ve met through playing Star Trek Online. Star Trek has really given me hope. [applause]
CK: Where are you in the process of waiting for your transplant?
I just got on the transplant list a couple weeks ago. Hopefully, it’s coming soon. I met a guy from England, who’s willing to travel here and give me a kidney, and another from Canada, all through Star Trek.
KM: You’ll get that kidney, honey.
SB: You’ll get it. I want to say one thing, and I firmly believe this. We’re only here because you’re here. That’s the truth. We don’t have TV shows if people don’t show up to watch them, and mine got cancelled last year, so I know what I’m talking about. [laughter] So, it’s right back at you. We’re here because you’re here. This thing started forty… [counts on fingers] [laughter] six years ago, so thank you to all of you who are in this room right now. [applause]
Hi. You’re all so amazing, and I grew up with all of you, so I wanted to thank all of you. I was also wondering if you could talk about what it was like to work with Majel Barrett, since she was a constant throughout all of the Star Treks.
PS: I suppose it’s down to me. It was immensely entertaining because Majel was, not only for us on Next Generation, a significant link to The Original Series, but she was the wife of the creator of the series and she always brought onto the set outrageous energy and charming vulgarity. [laughter] And she usually gave me a pretty bad time because of the relationship between Picard and Lwaxana Troi. I enjoyed her visits for a long time, but you know, I will confess something that I’ve never confessed before, and it must not go beyond this room. [laughter] It was about three years into our series before I discovered that she was the voice of the computer. [laughter]
CK: Sadly, we have time for just one last question.
I have a deeply profound question for all of you, and Avery, I’d like for you to answer first. Is there any chance that we will see any of you on Dancing with the Stars? [laughter]
AB: No. [laughter]
WS: I…I uh, no. [laughter] I would like to say, before we go, that I did a documentary on the 5 Captains, and got to know these four people. Although it was brief, in terms of time, it was very, very substantial for me. When it comes to Patrick, I knew him very little. They are the loveliest, most talented, most giving, most vulnerable, most exciting people I know. I think of them as friends of mine now as a result of my experience on The Captains, and what you think of them as actors, is really true. They are extraordinary people, and I’m very proud to know them. [applause]
CK: Dancing with the Stars, or any other last thoughts?
KM: I’ll do the tango with you, Bill. [laughter] That should be a ratings booster.
CK: Well, ladies and gentlemen, thank you so very much for coming. [applause] Let’s hear it one more time for William, Avery, Kate, Scott, and Patrick! [applause continues]
As a Star Terk fan, it was a pleasure, an honor, and a thrill to share this time with these five actors. They have solidified their places in the history of television, science fiction, and American culture, and their work continues to entertain and inspire countless fans across the planet. Thank you, Wizard World, for the opportunity to enjoy this experience.