(By Louis Brantmeyer)
I’m at the microphone to ask a question at his panel, and William Shatner, a surrogate father figure I’ve looked up to for almost three decades, seems to be roasting me in front of 2,500 fellow Trekkies for his planting the seed in me at a young age that sprouted into my whole life’s purpose and career…
I Tussle with William Shatner (Video here)
I’m at the microphone again, and when I open my heart to have her get how impactful Discovery just being on the air has been for my friends and family, Sonequa Martin-Green breaks down into tears…
I address a partial Discovery cast on Sunday afternoon (Video here)
I’m somewhere between terror and thrill as I walk down the winding corridors of Convention Way to approach the giant Discovery Mirror Universe Insignia that inaugurates the designated Star Trek Convention space at the Rio, where I am stunned with surprise to find my first glimpse of and my first hug from my biological father in more than a quarter century…
Louis Brantmeyer, the author (right), with his father Lou Brantmeyer (on the left).
Finally, I’m standing in the midst of an empty, pristinely cleaned suite at the Rio ready to leave for the airport. I turn my mind to address the entire Star Trek fanbase (physically absent but energetically, as present for me as Q or the Traveler might be to Picard), and as tears crawl out of my eyes – paraphrasing Sisko from “Trials and Tribble-ations” (DS9) and soliloquizing as he does in “In The Pale Moonlight” – I whisper while my voice cracks, “It’s been an honor to serve.”
My Hotel Room at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino.
It was, in short, an epic week.
These are the voyages of my experience attending the Star Trek Las Vegas Convention at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino from August 1-5, 2018, and how a profound gear shifted in my apprehension of what Trek is. This is the first time I’ve approached it with my heart completely open, and what I saw in this seemingly familiar franchise was something more profound than I’d ever seen before. During these five days, the shows and movies, the books and memorabilia, the fans and costumes…all coalesced into a distinct vision of what Star Trek really is and can be.
This wasn’t my first convention as a fan. I’d attended a Comic Con in 2014, a sci-fi convention in Jackson, Mississippi about 12 years ago, and finally another in New Orleans, Louisiana at least a decade before that. My very first memory of anything in this life was of watching the opening sequence to The Next Generation on a TV from the bottom of a playpen. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a fan of Star Trek; it’s always been one of my favorite things.
But I’ve never seen it standing here, from within the raw visceral experience of encountering the delight, compassion, connection, and familial love of so many of the actors, writers, vendors, and fans involved in the community like this.
Of all the stories I could tell…about how epic it was to go tete-a-tete with William Shatner on stage, how satisfying it was to engage with the intellectual depths of Kate Mulgrew in our Q & A session, how refreshing it was to learn of the great care and conscientiousness with which the current Discovery cast sensitively holds the profound responsibility for helming and heading up the franchise, or how profound it was to have this be the place in which to bond with and rediscover my father for the first time in 27 years…one story stands out above them all. One story will never leave me.
It’s late in the afternoon and I’m taking the elevator up to my room. I and a fellow fan (dressed in the 2nd season TNG black-and-gold uniform) are in one of the Masquerade Tower elevators with another fan who is wheelchair-bound and accompanied by his caretaker. The elevator has arrived at the wheelchair-bound fan’s floor, but the chair – one of those Stephen-Hawking-style mechanized devices – isn’t working properly and is stuck between open elevator doors. Its battery keeps dying and the caretaker becomes increasingly flustered, apologizing to myself and the TNG fan in costume.
And something so subtle and nuanced within us that most might miss it happened. Namely, nothing. He and I glanced at each other as the elevator started to make a noise from the door being held open for too long, and there was no resistance, no upset, no frustration for either of us. Just silent generosity and compassion, and a willingness to wait and help.
Soon, the mother came on the scene and fixed the chair and he was gone. After the doors had closed, I turned to my TNG friend and said, “What would Jean-Luc Picard do, ey?” It wasn’t until I’d arrived back at my room sharing on a Facebook livestream what I’d just experienced, pointing to my Voyager-era combadge, that I wept, realizing that Star Trek is this world where I am here with you, to respect and understand and bring compassion to you, no matter who you are or how you are or what kind of beliefs you have. That isn’t how the whole world is, yet. But it is what the world could be, so long as we stand for that, so long as we act on that, so long as we stand IN the vision Star Trek offers.
As Sisko’s famous monologue went in “Far Beyond The Stars” (DS9), shown on Sunday afternoon: “That future…all those people…they exist…in here, in my mind…you cannot destroy an idea!…it is REAL!” And this idea of Star Trek not only exists, not only pervades the lives of these so many people, but it also motivates us to act in our lives NOW in ways that make a real difference in how we treat other people.
It’s important that someone stand as far apart from the financial and other business considerations that make up Star Trek to consider what it is and can be, at its absolute best, in the service of humanity.
And here is my conclusion: Star Trek is more than a franchise of films and shows, more than conventions, and more than a fandom. Star Trek is a conversation for the possibility of a world that works for everyone, with no one and nothing left out. Star Trek is a vehicle for cultural, scientific, technological, and philosophical transformation, and the Star Trek community is (or can be, so long as we keep our attention on this facet) an actual lived incarnation of the utopian ideals expressed in the 52-year-old science-fiction franchise.
As I personally saw, and lived, in those moments of holding open the door and appreciating.
As I stand and look back at all that happened to me, at all that unveiled itself in this experience, I can only quote Q from the end of “All Good Things” (TNG): “For that one fraction of a second, you were open to options you had never considered. That is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence.”
May you ever do the same.
Sunset on the last day of the convention, from the 20th floor of the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV.