There wasn’t much for Trekkies at Fan Expo this year, but there was a special Q&A with three stars of Star Trek: Voyager. Now Voyager is probably second to only Enterprise in terms of taking lumps from sci-fi fans, and being blamed in no small part for the overall decline of Trek in the late 90s. All I have to say is that if the Voyager producers let Robert Picardo, Jeri Ryan and Ethan Phillips be as funny together on the show as they were at Fan Expo, then Voyager would have been a very different experience.
The Q&A started late on Saturday morning when Picardo came out and said that he had to become the “emergency command host” owing to the fact that the panel’s moderator was running later. No problem, as it turned out, the Voyager Three didn’t need a host to keep things lively and entertaining.
“Take your hat off,” Picardo ordered Phillips when he and Ryan came out on stage. “Honestly can you tell us apart?” Picardo said to the crowd when the hats came off. “Doesn’t he look like he left me in the dryer for 10 extra minutes?”
The questions ended up covering a wide range of topics, like whether or not the actors were allowed to improvise on Star Trek. “If you had a spontaneous thought on Star Trek you had to phone it in five days in advance,” joked Picardo. “Stargate was very loosey goose,” he added comparing the two.
After a rousing chorus of “You are My Sunshine,” from Picardo and Ryan by request, the trio were asked if they were ever typecast post-Voyager. “I have no fear of being typecast, I have a fear of being not cast,” said Phillips, who noted that he had never really played any evil, even the time we was a serial killer on Criminal Minds. “I’ve played bad guys, but they’re tempered by something somewhat sympathetic. But I’ve never been malevolent.”
The next question asked for the cast’s thought on pockets, famously outlawed on Starfleet uniforms by Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. “There wasn’t a lot of room for anything else besides me in my costume,” said Ryan. “My outfit could not even be wired at all for sound, so every syllable of dialogue for every walk and talk as Seven of Nine was looped.”
“Once I put a pencil up by sleeve and I gestured and it flew out and hit Chakotay in the head,” added Picardo.
Then, someone asked Ryan what her favorite moment was as Seven of Nine. “It was any scene with Neelix,” she said jokingly. “Actually, my favorite one was so damn sad, and I hated doing and it, but it was when I broke the Doctor’s heart. It was hard, but it was also sweet.”
Someone then asked what they thought about the premise of the show, a Starfleet vessel being nearly a century away from home and forced to traverse unknown space. “I was not very Star Trek knowledgeable, but I read the script and I thought it was a really great story set up on its own,” said Picardo. “It was Gilligan’s Island in space, we went out on a three hour tour and were gone for 75 years.”
“I thought it was great that I was going to play an alien and they would pay me for it,” added Phillips, “and I was more pleased with every year.”
Challenges? There were a few. “The biggest challenge was keeping a straight face,” explained Ryan. “As you may have noticed I laugh a lot. I’m a great audience.”
In a repeat the weekend’s theme about the important of strong independent women in genre entertainment, Ryan was asked about the difference between how she appeared as Seven, and what kind of character Seven really was. “Her appearance was hyper-sexual, but the character was the complete antithesis of that which is why I liked it so much,” she said. “It’s important for girls to see every representation of woman including smart, strong women and that’s what I loved, there was such a dichotomy between the way she looked how she was.”
Although there wasn’t much room for spontaneity on the Star Trek set, the writers knew a god idea when they heard it. It was Picardo that suggested that after three seasons of stories where the Doctor was learning to be more human, that he become Seven of Nine’s teacher in the way’s of being human, when she came onboard.
“Those were always the most interesting stories to play, and I carried those stories for three years, and then I passed those over to Jeri and I became the mentor,” Picardo said. “We were both doing similar things in a totally different way I got to cheer her from the sidelines in her own growth.”
The final question of the Q&A concerned souvenirs, did the cast take any?
“Yes I did,” said Ryan. “The Borg outfit is in my game room.”
“I kept my chef’s hat,” said Philips
“I kept my communicator and I took some railing from engineering because I wanted to make a bar,” said Picardo.
And with that, it was about the only time anything associated with Star Trek: Voyager left the people wanting more.