"Reunion" Convention in Leicester, U.K., August 8-10, 2003
"Reunion" was the polar opposite of the large convention in Vegas the weekend before: probably less than 200 participants, familiar atmosphere since most people knew each other, only three actors (other than Tim they had "Admiral Nechayev" Natalija Nogulich and Zienia Merton from "Space: 1999") plus a few minor guests, parties in the evening, games, disco - lots of fun for everybody.
This was the type of convention where you are very likely to run into the guests in the elevator, sit at a table next to them at breakfast or meet them at the hotel reception while you are checking out. You get a chance to really meet them. Of course, it also meant that the actors had a lot more to do than usually: In addition to one talk each on Saturday and Sunday and autograph sessions on both days they had to appear at the Opening Ceremony Friday night, attend a small cocktail reception afterwards, pose with fans for pictures in a Photo Session, act as judges for the Costume Contest Saturday night and appear at the Closing Ceremony on Sunday. Tim also performed some of his songs after the Fancy Dress Competition.
This may sound like an exhausting schedule for the guests - but it was also very rewarding for them, since this type of convention provides them with a much better chance to actually meet their audience and to interact with us fans. Tim explicitly said on Sunday that he had enjoyed the experience greatly, as did Natalija Nogulich, who is relatively new to the convention circuit and was pleasantly surprised. Both also were very impressed with the quality of questions they got, which - in their opinion - was unusually high. ("In the States they normally ask me about my ears!" - was Tim's surprised reaction to a question along the lines of: "If your life had incidental music, what type of music would you want it to be?" After giving it some thought he settled for orchestral sound).
During the talks Tim announced that he'd be directing a short film in September, called "Roddenberry On Patrol" (about how Gene got the inspiration for Star Trek while working as a Police Officer) and said that "Bugsters!" had recently won Parenting magazine's Gold Award for Best Children's Audio Book Ages 4 And Up. This will probably be of help for a planned sequel. Right now the next step in the "Bugsters!" project is to get the first CD out in book form. Normally one does the book first and the audio book second, but they had decided to do it the other way round.
I asked then if he had ever considered doing musicals like "Phantom of the Opera" or "Man of La Mancha", since his rendition of the Mothmen-song in "Bugsters!" had left me with the impression that he would be perfect for such parts. He said he'd love to do musicals, he had in fact done one before, namely "Dream Girls", where he played the fourth male lead. Unfortunately though, there was more dialogue than singing for his part, but he enjoyed it and would like to do more musicals and probably will do so sooner or later. He also said that it requires a slightly different singing style from what he normally does.
Another question was: which genre of TV/movies etc. does he like best and would like to act in? Of course his first reaction was: Science Fiction. But then he said he also really likes medieval stuff, about knights and their culture and their code of honor etc. - though he'd probably never get a chance to do that. Comment from the audience: "Who do we have to write to?" He laughed and joked one would probably have to write it first!
He also was asked what it is like to guest-star in a series: Do the regulars accept you and welcome you or do they treat you more like a a stranger intruding upon their territory? Tim said he has always been accepted and welcomed and he can't recall any negative experiences with other actors. Then he added that Jacko (Jetto on "The Highwayman") was a bit weird to work with, though. But then, Jacko is a football player and not an actor, and in Tim's opinion Jacko should not have been allowed on a TV series. He even suspects that Jacko and Sam Jones (Highwayman) had a confrontation at one point and settled things with a fist fight.
Yet another question dealt with his experience with fans: Had he ever had any unpleasant or weird encounters? Tim couldn't think of any. He remembers having been chased in a car once by somebody who wanted him to sign a card, but he is pretty convinced that that was not a fan but an autograph hunter. Then he remembered a very memorable encounter with an unusual fan at a video store: There was this tall, dark-skinned guy, obviously African, in full regalia, like you see them on TV on occasion, but this was the real thing, and this guy greeted Tim and said: "We watch your show in Tanzania." And then there was that incident when Tim checked into a hotel and the employee showed him to the room, explained everything to him, showed him how the TV worked - and when that guy switched on the TV, by some bizarre coincidence Voyager was on and Tuvok in the picture. The employee's jaw dropped. He looked from the TV-screen to his guest and back and obviously was speechless when realization dawned on him that he was dealing with Mr. Tuvok himself!
Then he was asked about Robert Beltran and his well-known criticism of the show. Does Tim have similar gripes with Voyager and its producers? Tim addressed Beltran first. He said that Beltran is a purist and that theater is much more his thing than TV or movies. That at first, when Chakotay was still better written, things were not so bad, but as the series progressed, Beltran became more and more unhappy with the situation. Tim then told us about Ray Walston and Beltran reciting "Hamlet" during filming of the briefing room scene in "In The Flesh" and how amazing it was that the two just went on and on without missing a beat.
Tim then said that he himself is pretty satisfied with the writing for Tuvok, he thinks that the character was very well developed and that we did learn a lot about him and saw different aspects of him in every episode. He mentioned "Gravity" and "Riddles" as two examples how different sides of the character were explored.
Another question dealt with the various costumes actors have to wear and Tim elaborated on the Borg costume. Robert Blackman, the costume designer, does create great-looking costumes, but he has a tendency to use materials that are really uncomfortable to wear, like e.g. steel, leather, wood, rubber, chain mail.. (Tim really listed all these!) The Borg costume was a neoprene suit - which is incredibly hot and makes it hard to move- and it had all those wires and gadgets and batteries on the back to operate those. The description did indeed give the impression of an instrument of torture rather than a costume!
Another question dealt with Will Smith and "Fresh Prince of Bel Air". Tim said it was a major challenge to work on a sitcom, since the lines get constantly rewritten. Sometimes they didn't even have the corrections yet when they were about to start filming a scene!
Of course Tim also talked about all the usual stuff, like: What is it like to play Vulcan, to be the first regular Vulcan after Spock? (Tim mentioned that he had briefly encountered Leonard Nimoy in Vegas the week before, but there had not been time for much more than a brief hand shake). His favorite Tuvok episodes? "Future's End", because it was different, filming all around L.A., and "Flashback", the 30th Anniversary episode. Originally Tuvok had only been the link between Voyager and Sulu, since it was theoretically possible that he had been aboard the Excelsior, in that part of the bridge that was never seen in the movie, but during rewrites it turned into a Tuvok-episode and provided a nice background for the character. About directing: He usually likes to prepare ahead, to plan it all in detail, so that they can get started right away, since all the logistics have been figured out already.
Tim also got a chance to talk about his infamous pranks on the set and he told them all: first his prank war with Kate around the time of "Flashback" with her hiding his clothes and him decorating her trailer with pictures of his naked butt, the worms she put into his shirt, etc. Then he mentioned Tuvok molesting Neelix in "Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy" and the prop he had used when filming "Waking Moments". He also sang his two Voyager parodies and showed the Voyager bloopers on both days. Although he must have seen them countless times by now, he laughed at least as much about them as we did.
Saturday night was of course the highlight of the convention: First the Fancy Dress Competition with all the actors as judges (the winners were two very authentic looking Bajoran Vedeks), then Tim's concert performance. Since he was on his own this time, he had everything other than the guitar and the vocals on a pre-recorded track. Like in Vegas the week before he sang a selection from all his CDs. Unlike in Vegas, though, he made the audience sing the chorus "sing it one more time like that" for the song "Sing It!" He was extremely well received so that at the end he had to ask the technicians to go back and play two or three tracks that he had originally skipped, because the audience wanted more! But it was not just the audience that was awed by his performance. Zienia Merton also mentioned at the Closing Ceremony the next day how totally impressed she was with Tim's singing!
During the photo session Tim again asked me why I was paying for a picture with him, didn't I know that I could have it for free? Yes, I do know that, but I also know how hard it is for such a small convention to break even and how desperately they need every singly penny they can get - and the picture turned out great!!
The Closing Ceremony was not quite the end, since it was followed by Sunday's autograph session. When Tim saw me with the cover of his latest audio book "Genesis Force" he said he had not had time to listen to it himself, since he had only recently received his copy. I was surprised at that, since I had finished listening to mine a couple of days before going to Vegas - and I had had to mail order it from the States, so it obviously had been out for quite some time.
This convention really was very special in that it reminded me of the good old days, when there were lots of smaller, fan-run conventions, where people knew each other and interacted with each other, where we watched videos together, listened to the stars' talks and danced through half the night in the disco. I hope that more groups will be encouraged by the success of "Reunion" to revive this type of convention. It would be a pity if only the huge mass events survived!