I ducked out of Dragon*Con a little early Monday morning so I could beat the hurricane back home to Louisiana. For those who don’t know, Dragon*Con is the largest gathering of something or other east of the Mississippi and south of the Mason-Dixon Line. It’s big—70,000 attendees is the number I heard, but that really shouldn’t be trusted considering most of my information sources were drunk on Miller Lite and Heineken, the only two alcoholic beverages that could be had for less than $38 at the con. All told, I enjoyed myself much more than in San Diego, where the lines wrap tightly and often spill out into the hot sun. Atlanta is definitely hot (and sticky, and kind of smelly), but since Dragon*Con is spread over four hotels, most of the lines are indoors. And there are portable bar carts wheeling spirits through the crowd.
I came for the Skeptrack, a new programming event for skeptical science types like myself. Another advantage of Dragon*Con over its west coast cousin is the kind of scaled back accessibility of it all. Where the San Diego Convention Center seems to have some kind of physics-defying system of secret time tunnels to ferry around its famous guests, it wasn’t uncommon to see an object of fan wank casually strolling by you in the middle of the afternoon. I was resting my swollen calves against a cold, unconscious furry when Avery Brooks walked by two feet in front of me. I told him he was the best captain ever (though he wasn’t always a captain on the show, and both Patrick Stewart and Shatner made for better leads), and he slipped me the pistol finger topped off with a grateful “Heeeyyyyyy.” So that was my souvenir.
I saw Battlestar Galactica’s Tahmoh Penikett pass by with two armloads of bagel boxes. I’m willing to bet there weren’t really any bagels inside, but I decided not to slap them out of his fan-dodging hands and expose his little fraud. I needed to be on his good side until I could get him to sign a beefcake picture of himself, which my surprisingly hot girlfriend will use as a masturbation tool until it fades to white paper. Personally, I’d spank it over Edward James Olmos. That guy’s teeth are amazing, and I could play his cheeks like a washboard.
You know who’s kind of a dick it seems? Walter Koenig. I can’t say that I blame the guy for being a little upset at the situation. Star Trek, the figurehead of all science fiction nerdom, was cordoned off in a brassy, sweaty little airless room somewhere in the bowels of the Sheraton, the only con hotel more than a block away from everything else. The men who managed the Trek Track all used their beer guts for momentum with every step and wrapped themselves in cheap blue and black polo shirts as some kind of uniform. Because I was apparently suffering momentary Down Syndrome, I elected to see an advance screening of the new episode of the unofficial Star Trek fan show Phase II (previously New Voyages). The people responsible have constructed an exact replica of the original Enterprise bridge on a soundstage in upstate New York, where they dress up as original series characters and shoot new episodes chronicling Kirk’s second five-year mission. I’m still not sure whether the concept is a great idea or some kind of social disorder warning sign, but there’s no arguing that the product is terrible. The shows themselves, though shot faithfully and featuring pretty impressive special effects for what they are, just bury themselves in the kind of awkward plotting and stiff characterization that plagued the old show.
It’s camp imitating camp while pretending to be serious, and the worst part is that whatever trust fund is funding these things is bloated enough to pay former Star Trek cast members to reprise their roles. Granted, it’s not like Walter Koenig or Denise Crosby are doing anything else, but since when has dignity become such a malleable virtue?
So anyway, I found myself wedged between a fanny pack and a creepy meth head who spent dozens of dollars on bootleg DVDs of WKRP (“The official releases were totally butchered, man.”) while the cast and crew of Phase II sucked up gobs of misplaced adulation from their adoring fans. Meanwhile, the Trek Trak goons fumbled with the air conditioning and wondered aloud if anyone was bringing their A/V equipment so they could show the two-part crap fest we were all there to see. And what made this episode of Phase II so special? Well, its script was retooled from a rejected Next Generation teleplay that Paramount chunked due to its mentioning of homosexuality. In the new version, Kirk’s nephew, an ensign aboard the Enterprise, is involved in a gay relationship with a hunky medical officer. The filmmakers chose to ease us into this controversial area by including an incredibly long scene of pillow talk and borderline dry humping. I’m not kidding.
But before that happened, the Trek Trak had to stall while they scoured the convention for a DVD projector. Their solution? Tear George Takei and Walter Koenig away from a dinner date and force them to sit in front of the smelly throng for a few minutes. Takei was a class act—pretending this kind of indignity was totally on his schedule for the day. Koenig was more visibly annoyed, but, again, who can blame him? But his little outburst was kind of off-putting. While someone was answering a question about how wonderful and inspirational Star Trek can be, Koenig started shouting, “This cannot be tolerated! This cannot be tolerated!” It was like a scene from Rainman, and no one knew what to do. The room went silent while we tried to figure out what exactly could not be tolerated. Turns out one of the trak goons trying to untangle some audio cables in his peripheral vision set him off. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was as if the old man’s head had fallen to the table and opened up like a movie screen and inside was a silent film of dogs scratching their own skin off until they’re nothing but skeletons.
Walter Koenig is not only a dick, he’s also a little insane. I’m no doctor, but I feel comfortable with an armchair diagnosis based solely on the fact that Takei acted as if nothing had happened, which means that Koenig pulls this stuff all the time. We all have crazy friends like that—the ones you’ll find trying to burn fringe from the bottom of your couch with a Bic lighter or rolling up notebook paper and smoking it. You don’t say anything more than, “Oh, that’s old so and so”, and that’s only when you say anything at all. How long has George Takei been the keeper of Walter Koenig’s psychosis? What a burden that must be.
Actually, Takei did mention the crazy outburst a little later on. When talking about the upcoming episode of Phase II we would be “enjoying” whenever those useless boobs could figure out how to plug in cables, he described it as something that “can be tolerated.” Jesus. Not only does he have to put up with it, but he has to spin it on a verbal loom and turn it into something bordering on sane.
George Takei, you’re a better man than me.
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