Wednesday, May 13, 2015

10 years and counting: the last trek of a Prime Enterprise

It's been 10 years since the world last traveled aboard an Enterprise of the Prime Universe .... May 13, 2005. My, where's a decade gone?

Well, it's gone to many places where no one had gone before ... the dimensions have been ever-evolving and ever-surprising, and one might say ever-alternate ... but for now, let's take a moment and recall that day.

Actually, 5/13/05 was the main date the world will remember for this media creature's memorial. For many of us closer to the patient, the final day had actually been March 8, when first-unit filming famously wrapped on the Enterprise series—ending with a guest-laden, DS9-style "last day" for cast, crew and guest celebrities—including a very grateful yours truly.

I shared that day back in my old Endgame column in official Star Trek Magazine  (the pre-US's UK version)... and I have "reprinted" that column here, below the fold. But first, a couple of visual bookmarks for you from that finale, "These Are The Voyages..."—a regretted episode that is hardly beloved for its TNG envelope concept and death of Trip, and yet at the same time can't help but be bittersweet for so many reasons—as the end of a series, and the end of an era.

In that spirit, here's two never-published shots from my archive: the "final day" of guest extras as seen through the eyes of, yes, the guest extras' shoes....(can you spot the extras who did not make it on camera?) ....


... and, as taken on April 1, 2005 (no foolin'), outside Stages 8-9 on old "Star Trek row"...the glimmers of a starship already going in mothballs:


If you catch me at a con this summer, I may well be sharing more of these memories as we mark 10 years without Trek on TV.

I know you all agree with me: It's been way too long without. The mnid-2005 meme of Trek being too "old and tired" and even dying, has since been blown out of the sky. So what gives?

Well, while we wait— here as promised: the full column I penned for Star Trek Magazine for the November 2005 issue (my manuscript version), about that last day:


There’s been a lot of critical brickbats tossed about regarding “These Are the Voyages…,” the finale for Enterprise—and I can’t say as how I’d even toss a few myself. But the episode will always carry a bittersweet memory, personally, since it was the show where, after 13 years of working around the Paramount lot, I finally broke down and asked to be a guest extra.

I just missed the chance to be a Tellarite in the “Demons”/”Terra Prime” two-parter, but then won a reprieve for this all-human scene—and the cream-colored suit I’d be wearing had been donned by Avery “Sisko” Brooks as 1950s writer Benny Russell in DS9’s “Far Beyond the Stars”!

Writer and fellow “human VIP” Judith-Reeves Stevens had the same experience: she wound up in the dark-green affair that Gates “Beverly Crusher” McFadden had worn to the funeral in TNG’s “Sub Rosa.” The NX-01’s uniforms, spruced up to reflect six years of age, now bore MACO-like name tags, most after staffers; Judith’s husband, fellow writer Gar Reeves-Stevens, was actually “Crewman Brad Yacobian,” the veteran line producer.

Everyone looked so fine in their duds— legendary Star Trek fan, Oscar winner and staff illustrator Doug Drexler in updated Starfleet togs, as was assistant editor (and former Brannon Braga assistant) Mike O’Halloran, my seatmate. For the civilians, there was associate producer Dave Rossi and his then still-fiance, Lili; first assistant director Dave Trotti and his wife and longtime extra/stand-in Amy Kate (in matching maroon accents!), writer Andre Bormanis, script coordinator Juan Fernandes, Donna Rooney, assistant to Manny Coto—and of course, Admiral Coto himself, enjoying what would be his climax to 18 months in professional Star Trek. (Check out the photo here to see who’s who in the main scene). Mike Sussman was the only writer staffer not in costume, aside from Brannon; he was down to watch and rib us, but Mike had already taken a turn as a dead Defiant “redshirt” for “In a Mirror, Darkly” Part 2—and in turn for that had worn David Gerrold’s guest-cameo uniform from DS9’s “Trials and Tribble-ations!”

So it was, outside the old Stage 8-9 entrance, as all these bodies—no strangers to Star Trek, but not in an on-camera role—snapped pics and reminisced, along with many of the “regular” Enterprise regulars as well. Star Trek’s familiar ban on cameras had long gone out the window as the final weeks and days wound down.

According to my call sheet—now covered with signatures, like a senior’s yearbook—we finally trooped onstage at 11 a.m. after a 9:45 makeup call. You never saw 90% of it, but we spent much time blocking, rehearsing and shooting an elaborate walk-in sequence for the “VIPs” as Reed, Hoshi and Travis chat from their front-row balcony seats. In my own subtext, I was a civilian military contractor pleased that Starfleet would be staffing up—and thus the reason for my sitting just two down from “Admiral” Coto!

I had wondered for some time how this day would feel—not as to be truly “playing” on camera, but just the air of the wrap. With memories still fresh from Deep Space Nine’s storied last day of guest extras on the Vic’s set, it was much the same—although a lot less time-consuming. A “surprise” guest was Majel Roddenberry, accompanied by son Rod, who made a thank-you to cast and crew as she had on the final day of every series since Gene’s death in 1991.

Still, the big scene was only half a day and we were done by 3 p.m.—though I hung on far into the night, like many others, determined to see it through to final wrap. Even so, I gave up at 1 a.m., after the T’Pol-Trip shuttlepod scene and during the run-up to Archer’s speech. The evening bore moment after moment of private little farewells among actors and crew alike, and just like fans everywhere they too all speculated on how long Star Trek’s hibernation would last.

The crisp March night air greeted me as, for the last time for whoknows how long, I left a Star Trek soundstage and headed home. As with us all, the past of Enterprise and its run cut short came back to me, knowing this “last day” would be just as much a tangle of emotions and memories as the series itself.

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