Meeting Star Trek Face-to-Face
Having been a fan of Star Trek since I was a child, meeting those who brought Star Trek to life has always been on my list of things to do in life.
The first cast member I saw in person was George Takei in New York City, around 1987. He was speaking at the NYC Comic Book Convention (that’s what they were called at the time). In the order of speakers, he followed Jonathan Harris from Lost in Space. Takei spoke of being an Asian American actor in the 1960s, and many anecdotes from the set of Star Trek. What a speaker!
At that same convention, my friend and I were getting on the elevator after George Takei spoke. There were three of us on the elevator: my friend, myself, and a gentleman with somewhat greying hair standing in front of me. I remember very vividly that I could only see this person’s partial profile from behind their left ear. I looked over at my friend and nodded in this man’s direction. My friend shrugged his shoulders. Again, I nodded my head, he glanced over and shook his head no. I leaned over and whispered, “He looks familiar, but I can’t get a good look”; my friend mouthed, “Don’t know.” The elevator stopped, the gentleman exited and stopped. As the doors closed, he turned around, waved and winked. It was Walter Koenig! What a moment!
Another time in New York, now called a “Star Trek Convention”, I met James Doohan. What a great person! No matter how long the line, no matter how many people, he had time for everyone! He signed autographs on pictures, memorabilia, shirts, anything anyone had. He posed for pictures with every fan that asked for one. You were able to sit right down next to him! I remember we spoke of his doing voice-over work on numerous Star Trek audiobooks. When my time was done, I stood up, shook his hand and thanked him. He gave my hand one more shake and said, with such a humble, gracious and genuine tone, “Thank you!” What a gentleman!
The time had come in life, married and with three sons; my wife and I decided it was time to take our sons to a (now called) New York Comic Con! We were near the main aisle, which was quite full. Then, it suddenly got strangely quiet and the crowd backed up on each side of the aisle. No security, no direction, they just did it on their own. It was respect, pure unadulterated respect. Nichelle Nichols passed through the crowd and they parted like the Red Sea and the crowd was awestruck! She strode down the aisle with no air about her, but an aura of regality emanated from her. Like a queen among her people. And traffic did not resume until she exited. This woman who had achieved so much by her mere presence on the bridge of the Enterprise. This woman, this African-American woman, who at a time of social unrest in our history became an integral part of a prime television series, and would grow into a pop icon, and an inspiration to so many… It was we who were graced with her presence! What a moment!
My family and I also met William Shatner, the Captain himself. I have to admit it was not the moment I had hoped it would be. It was at another NYC Comic Con. As we entered, the announcement was made: “Attention, guests! William Shatner will be appearing at booth (whatever the number was) in ten minutes.” We looked up and saw that booth was only about twenty yards away, and the line didn’t look that long. After we got in line, we found out you had to buy a picture for an autograph. We asked what if we only wanted to meet him. We pretty much got the “no gas, no free squeegee” routine, so we bought a picture. Ten minutes went by, twenty, thirty… The people in the booth said it was like this all weekend. Later that day, we passed to see him pop out and sit down, so we jumped in line. We got our autograph and were moved along. We got “Shat” on at Comic Con.
Brent Spiner has had to be the coolest cast member to see. We’ve seen him at multiple Comic Cons and in multiple cities. He is genuine, pleasant, approachable, has a sense of humor and is an all-around great person to be around. He shows up early and stays late. In Rhode Island, when he “closed shop for the day,” he exited behind the curtain and came back out somewhere else. He donned his jacket and cap, and strolled through the crowd, chatting with people along the way.
No fan would ever be disappointed to meet Brent Spiner, no matter where you meet him. He talks to you like you’ve already known him for some time. He is a star who still has a touch of the common man yet treats everyone with respect and such a friendly tone you don’t think twice while shaking his hand, to pat his shoulder, and say, “Nice to meet you,” because you’ll receive the same in return! What a guy!
I met Dave Rossi, who worked as an assistant on Star Trek: The Next Generation, an Associate Producer on Enterprise, and (how I came to know him) as a Visual Effects Producer on the digitally remastered version of The Original Series. He is a “regular guy” and I am always floored at how easily he can discuss such impressive and important roles he has had in the Star Trek universe. What genuineness!
I’ve collected pictures and previously signed memorabilia from the two people I would have had liked to have met before they passed: DeForest Kelley, and Leonard Nimoy. Kelley was also quite the writer, which I relate to. Nimoy’s body of work has so many volumes it cannot be addressed here. But his work as Spock and beyond had a profound impact on me. I’ll leave it that.
Those who know me sometimes say, “Live long, and prosper.” To them and all of you, I wish “peace, and long life.”
Charles Byrne is a 20+ year veteran educator who teaches 6th-grade English, a published poet, and, since the start of the pandemic, a fledgling YouTuber. Charles states he has been a Star Trek fan and friend for nearly both of their existences. Star Trek has been a driving force and integral part of his life. Check out his YouTube channel here or his Twitter page here.