aging, acting and Star Trek conventions

Michael Dorn, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, William Shatner, Marina Sirtis, Gates McFadden
Star Trek: The Next Generation Reunion, Salt Lake Comic Con FanX 2014

Even though I know that actors are not the roles they play, I often indulge in using Google to find out what happened to them. I feel like the story is continuing with them. Or maybe, I’m continuing my involvement with the story through wondering about connections between the cast member and the character. I look for clues in what the actor has experienced, considering that the character may well have gone on to meet similar challenges.

I think that’s part of the attraction of Star Trek conventions. The fun of dressing up and getting together with thousands of like-minded fans widens and prolongs the story. It enriches that passive viewing of the television program by threading into it new events, people and ideas.

I’ve gotta say, it takes some bravery for the people involved, especially the actors, to  appear at these conventions years and years later. They know their younger selves are still on display on screens everywhere. They see themselves reproduced in action figures and photographs, taken from twenty or thirty or more years ago. We are a visual species, human beings. Now that I’m in my sixties, I can attest to the unpleasant surprise of my changing image when I look in a mirror. Loss of elasticity and hair, gain of width and pains…it’s not pretty. But it is part of growing older. I use my uncomfortable awareness of time passing to help me choose. Do I do what I want to do or what I think I should do? And that is a helpful lifeskill.

These Star Trek actors who brave the cameras each year clearly want to be there. They choose to attend these conventions, to enjoy the atmosphere and prolong the story. Of course, the first thing I want to know is what do they look like now, and sometimes, it’s painful to see. I may feel consoled that I’m not the only one struggling with weight and wrinkles. But more importantly, I delight in seeing the actors joking with each other, as the characters used to. I love hearing about the silly pranks and the efforts to get a scene in the can.

Along with those actually attending, I’m once again immersed in my Star Trek world, remembering what I learned from the Kazon and Klingons, the replicators and the tricorders. Once again I feel the hope at the foundation of this story-telling franchise. I find the idea of humanity grown accepting of diversity, economic equality, and individuality immensely appealing. Nerdy it may be. Naive, possibly. And there are certainly many conflicting pressures within the various Star Trek communities that give it the lie. But I find it encouraging to connect with these people who are trying to live the dream.

It’s been 45 years since the first convention in 1972. Long may they continue!




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