Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Star Trek 40th: The Seattle Celebration

by William S. Kowinski

Some long overdue notes on the Planet Xpo Star Trek 40th Anniversary Celebration at the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle, which began on the actual 40th anniversary: Friday, September 8, 2006… This is not meant to be a complete report. Fortunately, Amy Ulen has written about many of the events I missed or don’t need to report on because she did, at, here and here. So this is a selective personal log, and it begins in the Blue Room.


First, a little context. I was invited to moderate a panel discussion on (Kowincidentally) the Soul of Star Trek, and in exchange I got access to all the events for the three days (except the banquet on Saturday), and got to hang out with the other participants in what was called the Blue Room, a lounge and staging area on the fourth floor of the Museum. It had a circle of sofas and chairs, a bar (though all I had was water, and I don’t think they stocked much else), a TV monitor and a view overlooking the soaring Sky Church, the main auditorium: it begins on the second floor, but its ceiling was high above us. There were also events in the JPL Room on the first floor, and various autograph and photo sessions on Level 3 (also the dealers room) and the first floor “Ten Forward.”

Most of the program participants—including the actors, the scientists and writers on the panels as well as the convention staff—passed through the Blue Room at one time or another. Because I wasn’t there as a reporter, I’m choosing to err on the side of discretion in reporting conversations, etc. I hope I’m not violating any confidences in what I do say. But the Blue Room was a major part of my experience. My participation was kind of unique: unlike the other writers, I was on only one panel, but I also was at the event totally on my own dime. Since my dime is not made of latinum, I couldn’t stay at the same hotel as other participants or buy a ticket to the banquet, so my opportunities for socializing were pretty much restricted to the Museum and in particular, to the Blue Room.

Because of its nature and its location, the Blue Room was itself a unique way to experience the convention. At any given time, there was an event going on in the Sky Church—actors, panels, films—which were often also on the video monitor. We could look down and watch the fans responding to and interacting with whoever was on stage. Meanwhile, there was the mix in the Blue Room itself. There was one surreal moment when I was chatting with Marina Sirtis while she ate her salad before her Sky Church appearance with Jonathan Frakes, while on the other side of me I could hear fragments of a totally separate and highly learned conversation on the history of rocketry.

[text continues after photos]


Gary Farber said...

I'd consider noting that what they called the "Blue Room" has always, for a bazillion conventions, tv shows, stages, and every other sort of presentation, been called the "green room," were it not for the fact that if you're calling your primary event stage the "Sky Room," you've got more on your plate.

No, sorry, Sky Church. Um. (Trying to avoid hurling here.)

Captain Future said...

The area where performers prepare for the performance has traditionally been called The Green Room, in theatre for centuries, and more recently in other venues, though there is apparently no consensus on how the term originated. I never found out why it's called the Blue Room at the Science Fiction Museum, although the relationship to blue sky and the Sky Church is a good bet.

The Sky Church is apparently named by the Museum, not by the Trek convention, and it probably refers to the cathedral high ceiling. Some religious people do consider earth and sky to be churches, and I suppose it also is a metaphor for the sense of awe that, whatever their beliefs, scientists--and sci-fi fans--feel when confronting the "heavens."