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A Weekend At Holodiction - Part 1

By Caillan Davenport
Posted at July 2, 2001 - 11:09 AM GMT

On June 8th, 9th, 10th, Penny Clark, Janette Maxwell and Caillan Davenport attended the Holodiction Odyssey Convention in Sydney, Australia. Guests at the convention were Robert Picardo (The Holodoc), Roxann Dawson (B'Elanna Torres), Garrett Wang (Harry Kim), Tim Russ (Tuvok), J.G. Hertzler (Martok) and Robert O'Reilly (Gowron).

A Date With The Stars

It was Saturday morning and in less than an hour I would be meeting some of the stars of Star Trek: Voyager over lunch. Despite Penny and Janette's reassurances, I felt sure that it would be an incredibly nerve-racking experience, culminating in drenching them in orange juice or something equally embarassing.

Soon it was approaching midday, and I had to go down to the restaurant. Bidding a fond farewell to Penny and Janette, and feeling like a lamb going to the slaughterhouse, I moved towards the lifts. Suddenly, another thought struck me - what if one of them got into the lift with me? Would I run out for dear life? Say hello? Or maybe fall to the floor and beg Garrett Wang for forgiveness for all those bad reviews I'd given him. I later found out that J.G. Hertzler was staying on our floor, but at this time, paranoia reigned supreme.

When I reached the main convention room, Peter, the M.C., was in full swing, exhorting the crowd to buy a signed version of Claudia Christian's CD. The fact that this CD also appeared the next day seemed to be a subtle hint that the audience wasn't too fond of Ms. Christian's warblings. Nevertheless, Peter proceeded to plug each auction item with gusto. The inevitable lateness announcement soon arrived, with the news that the lunch would be delayed by half an hour.

At the lunch, I availed myself of the excellent buffet (and the food was extremely good throughout the whole weekend), and went and sat with some other fans. One thing that came across to me throughout the whole weekend is just how friendly Trek fans are; it makes a change from the mud-slinging at all the message boards.

Slowly, the number of people at the lunch began to dwindle. But what about the guests? We were promised Voyager stars! My mind began to turn to massive letter-writing campaigns to the NSW Bureau of Fair Trading. Fortunately, one of the organisers appeared to tell us that they'd be along in 15 minutes. 15 Minutes! What was I going to do in that time? My lunch would be finished with by then, and I'd have nothing to fiddle with when the actors came by. I turned to the lady next to me, and asked if she'd like some coffee. There's nothing like The Icon's brew to steel the nerves.

So I got up and made my way to the coffee table, only to see Tim Russ and Garrett Wang lining up for food. Any moment now, Garrett would come striding up to me, confronting me about my review of 'The Disease,' and I certainly couldn't hide behind the coffee urn. Fortunately, I was suffering from delusions of grandeur and I scurried back with the coffee to my table.

Tim Russ was soon sauntering around amongst all the tables, talking to everyone. Before I knew what was happening, he was standing in front of us. "No one has come to you guys yet, eh?" he said good-naturedly. I'm sure some sort of gulping noise came out, followed by "No, we seem to have been neglected" and a what you'd probably define as a laugh. However, within a moment or two, I was completely at ease. It's an odd feeling to describe - all your fears simply evaporate away. We chatted to time briefly about Australia and his music, before he had to move on to the next table.

After Tim had left, I spotted Roxann Dawson over at another table, with not many people sitting there. I grabbed my stuff and went on over, asking if I could join in, basking in my new-found confidence. Roxann had such a wonderful presence, friendly, yet authoritative. The first part of our conversation went something like this:

Roxann: So, none of you guys have seen the final episode yet?
Everyone else: No, no.
Caillan (aka Mr Big Mouth): Actually, I have.

Suddenly, Roxann was giving me her full attention.

Roxann: Did you like it?
Caillan: (babbling) I loved it, I really loved it.
Roxann: Excellent. Wasn't Kate fabulous?
Caillan: Wonderful, just wonderful.

Naturally, I'd take any chance to praise the wonderful Kate Mulgrew. The next question was less easy:

Roxann: How did you get to see it?
Caillan: (accompanied by nervous laughter) I have my sources.
Roxann: Oooh. I see.

Fortunately, she laughed, which was a good thing, and we moved on to other matters. Roxann talked about her make-up, and how she misses her daughters, before she was whisked away to another table by the convention organisers. I sat there, content in the knowledge that I had communicated my love for Voyager to one of the stars.

We were soon told that the talks would be starting in a few minutes, so we all scooped up our bags and left. On our way out, we saw Garrett. Uh oh, this is it, I thought, pay back time for that 'Favourite Son' review. Again, my overactive imagination was put to rest when he waved and said hello to us all.

On the way down in the lift I hit some sort of "Voyager high." For the first time in my life, I had met some of the wonderful people who had brought Voyager to life for the last seven years, and it was even more amazing that I had thought it would be.

Roxann Dawson

The hall was almost full by the time I got there, and I had to jump over a few people to get to my seat. Almost at once it struck me how hot the room was, and the thought of spending three hours in that sauna didn't seem particularly welcoming. Peter was still up on stage blathering about Buffy or Angel - poor guy, he has such a tough job, but really, I couldn't have cared less. But soon, the moment we'd all been waiting for arrived - Roxann Dawson was coming into the room.

Suddenly, I was struck by a wave of euphoria as Roxann walked down the aisle, waving. I quickly joined the chorus of flashes that lit up the room like the Southern lights, as we all tried to capture that perfect shot. Roxann bounded up on stage and took the microphone from Peter to rapturous applause. Roxann Dawson - copyright Caillan Davenport

Roxann started to tell the audience about how wonderful it was to be in Australia, as she'd never been here before. She joked about the fact that no one would recognise her because she didn't have her forehead on. "No one dressed as me," she said, scanning the audience for any B'Elanna wannabes. Later in the day we'd come face to face with an aspiring Borg - 3 and a half of 9.

The stars had been in Melbourne last week, and so had become acquainted with the traditional Sydney/Melbourne rivalry. Roxann didn't understand where this had come from, so she asked the audience. This, of course, opened a whole can of worms as various members tried to tell her about the fact that both cities wanted to be the capital, but in the end the honour was given to Canberra. Bemused, Roxann joked "I thought this was the country of love!" She also tried to mock the Aussie accent (not very successfully I might add), saying "I'm not very good at your language."

After this, Roxann asked the audience if they'd enjoyed Voyager. Massive cheers went up throughout the room, and I basked in the love for Voyager. Boy, it felt good! "It's been a great seven year run," Roxann said. "I felt extremely blessed to play a character given as much as mine." Of course, talk then turned to the finale, and one of the audience members held up a photo that had been sold for autographs - with B'Elanna, her baby and the Doctor. Roxann chastised those who had revealed the spoilers: "I could be holding someone else's baby," she said playfully. Then, my moment of glory came. "I didn't think any of you had seen the finale except for one guy at my table earlier," she said. Roxann had remembered me! I waved to her, but then some smarty-pants in the Luxury VIP seats stole my moment of glory by saying they'd seen it too. What cheek! Just because they had paid $1430 to sit right under her nose!

Because of this heinous spoiler dropping, Roxann was able to tell us a funny story about the baby's make-up. Because the child was obviously too young to have the make-up glued to her head, her little ridges (made out of cottage cheese) were glued on with honey. However, when they came to shoot the scene, the ridges kept sliding down the baby's forehead. Therefore, they shot two versions - one with the ridges, and one without. All this talk of babies brought Roxann back to earth. "I'm missing my children now," she said.

Of course, Roxann compared the experience to when she was really pregnant, during the show's fourth season. The writers, in a lame attempt to cover her growing belly, gave her that special "Engineering Smock" to wear, which just made her pregnancy even more obvious. "Why can't B'Elanna have an eating disorder?" Roxann jokingly said she asked the writers. "She could have been hiding turkey legs behind the warp core!"

When B'Elanna had to wear the smock, which Roxann sarcastically described as "lovely," she would have to walk along the corridors sticking her hand in the pocket and holding it out in front in order to hide the bulge. When she and Robbie [Duncan McNeill] were shooting the kissing in the car scene in 'Vis a Vis,' he couldn't get close enough to Roxann to actually make contact with her.

In real life, Roxann and Robbie's babies were only born a week apart. When an audience member said that they might have been wondering whose child was which, another attendee shouted out that Roxann's would have Torres's temper. "Well, you should have seen Robbie's wife," joked Roxann, stating that they were great friends. Roxann had just learnt to ride a motorcycle before getting pregnant too, so it came at just the wrong time!

About this time, Roxann started calling for questions from the floor. Someone asked her about working with Kate Mulgrew, who plays Captain Janeway. "I adore Kate, we're very close to each other," she said. "We have a hard time not laughing." Roxann related the story regarding season one's 'Parallax,' in which B'Elanna and Janeway had to shout "warp particles" at each other in the Briefing Room. Of course, now whenever they had a scene together, they would turn to each other, say "warp particles," and then laugh.

The next question was in regards to directing. Roxann said it was an "honour" to direct for the series, adding that she had never directed for TV before. She said that 'Workforce, Part II,' the second episode she directed (after 'Riddles' in season six) was very different in scope. Telling the audience that she would be directing for the new series, Enterprise in August, Roxann said she was "very excited" and that she hoped it would be part of her future.

Roxann was actually one of the first to 'go to school' to direct on the series, and she followed around various production personnel, including directors, set designers, editors, in order to learn the craft. She told the audience that directing was "all in the preparation" and about "doing it on time and under budget."

Another audience member asked about Roxann's writing work. She has been working for the last six years on a trilogy of novels - 'The Tenebrea Trilogy,' with writer Daniel Graham. Simon & Schuster had come to Roxann to ask her if she was interested in writing a book for them, with the only proviso that there be a strong central female character, and a futuristic setting. She had faxed off the last pages of the third novel whilst on the way to the airport. Currently, the second book is due out in August, with the third in October. "We're hoping that it will be a film script someday," Roxann said.

One of the attendees had obviously been doing their research, as they asked what it was like to play a 'Lieutenant Torres' in two series. Roxann laughed at this. "I did a pilot that never went to series because it wasn't very good," she said. The series was called NYPD Mounted, and, incredibly, starred Dennis Franz. It centred around a group of mounted police in Central Park, New York, and Roxann played a Lt. Torres. For those of you who have been living in a cave for the last ten years, Franz later starred in the far more successful series, NYPD Blue.

It was 3 and a half of 9's turn next, as she stood up on her chair to ask Roxann about how to become an actress. "I have so many responses, but none of them your ears should hear," laughed Roxann. "Study hard, work hard and listen to your parents." Taking a slightly more serious tone, she said that "you have to fight to hold on to your sanity. [You should] only go into the professions if you truly, truly want it."

"What was it like being a drone?" called out a guy sitting near the back. "What do you think it was like being a drone?" Roxann shot back sarcastically. It turned out, however, that her make-up as the assimilated B'Elanna in 'Unimatrix Zero' only took 45 minutes, while her usual B'Elanna forehead took two and a half hours, because it had to be so precise. It was difficult, too, because it was 95 degrees F, and they were in a full leather suit, and Roxann had just had knee surgery. Throughout all of 'Unimatrix Zero, Part I' they could only shoot B'Elanna from the waist up because of it.

Following this, Roxann was asked if she had taken any 'souvenirs' from the set. "I put the warp core in my purse," she replied drily. However, it turned out that Bob Picardo had taken the bars around the warp core during a midnight stealth operation. It will now form part of his wine bar in his new home. Kate Mulgrew managed to get her uniform and a communicator. "I didn't think about stealing enough!" Roxann joked, saying that she did get an Engineering panel.

Next up was a question about everyone's favourite practical joker on set, Tim Russ. "Have you ever been a victim?" asked an audience member. "Oh, we've all been a victim," replied Roxann. She then proceeded to tell the story about the scene in 'Waking Moments' where the crew had to look surprised when Tuvok walked on to the Bridge naked. Tim, ever the funnyman, had managed to procure a large - erm, 'enhancement' to his manhood, which he attached to himself. So, when the camera started rolling, Tim opened his dressing gown and let it all hang out. Thus, whenever you see that scene, those are the cast's genuine reactions to Tim's 'appendage.' Roxann said that because of this he earned the nickname 'Tripod.' Roxann Dawson - copyright Caillan Davenport

Roxann then told an interesting story about the episode, 'Faces,' in which she played B'Elanna's Klingon and Human halves. "I loved 'Faces' as an opportunity to discover her," she said. Roxann had been really looking forward to her parents' reaction, so when she rang up her mother after the episode had aired and all they said was "very good," she felt rather disappointed. Several months later, when they were talking about it with some friends over dinner, Roxann's mother exclaimed "But I really liked the girl who played the Klingon!" "I probably should have been flattered," Roxann laughed.

Inevitably, the next person asked Roxann for her most embarrassing moment. This happened during a first season episode, directed by LeVar Burton, in which Roxann had only one line. There was also a reporter on set the same day. And Roxann turned up full of confidence, yet she couldn't get that one line right. Eventually, LeVar walked her around the Bridge, and told her she could do it. Roxann commented that the reporter was probably writing down what a great director LeVar was, helping this actress who couldn't say her one line.

Roxann also spoke briefly about her appearance on the UPN series, Seven Days. One audience member asked if she had modelled her performance on Mulgrew's Janeway, but Roxann joked that she couldn't see the resemblance. During the shooting, they had given her a baseball cap to wear, but it was too big and kept sliding down face. They refused to change the cap, because these were real Navy caps, and they'd get offended if they weren't on the show. So they had to stick some stuff into the back of the hat to stick it on.

The talk rounded off with some thoughts on Voyager and the show's end. Roxann said that it felt like the end had started at the beginning of season seven, because of all the press about it being the show's last season. And when it came to shoot the actual finale, it never actually seemed real until they started tearing the sets down. Fortunately for Roxann, her last day of shooting was a memorable one, because she got to hold the baby in her arms - the culmination of B'Elanna's character arc over the last seven years.

Just before the Engineering set was dismantled, Roxann said she just stood there and looked at the warp core, remembering way back when Rick Kolbe (director of 'Caretaker') had given her a tour of the set. At that time, Kolbe had pointed to the warp core and said "Over there is where you're going to be shovelling coal." Roxann, not knowing anything about Star Trek, went home to her husband that night and said "Did you know they've got me shovelling coal??"

A member of the audience asked whether there were any behind the scenes difficulties. Roxann said that with nine actors, you always can't be first up, but everyone deserved a piece of the pie. "Our cast gets along, we have from the beginning. The press likes to create things that aren't really there," she said. "There really isn't any dirt. I can't imagine being given this gift on another television show. I loved the way this character was developed."

Roxann said that she had fought for some character conflict with Seven, because everyone on Voyager was treating her so nicely, which was a little unrealistic, she thought. The writers wanted Seven to be 'accepted.' However, after Roxann had fought for this conflict, they agreed with her in hindsight that it was a good road to take.

Last, but not least, Roxann revealed the reason why Star Trek actors are paid so much. Apparently, when she first got her communicator, she kept missing it when trying to contact someone. "I had a bruise right here," she said, pointing at the area above her chest. "It's why they pay us the big bucks."

And then it was over - Roxann was whisked off stage to tumultuous applause and another round of flashing lights. I had just experienced my first convention talk, and it was incredible. Roxann was always gracious, very witty, and put her heart and soul into her performance. But there were still two more performers to come that day, and Garrett Wang was about to give 'Ensign Eager' a new twist.

Garrett Wang

"Hello everyone. I'm Robert Picardo," said Garrett Wang after he bounded up on stage, doing a more than passable imitation of everyone's favourite Doctor. Little did we know that this would be a precursor of things to come, as Garrett proceeded to spend the next hour bounding down the aisles, all over the stage and shaking various bodily extremities in our direction. Garrett Wang - copyright Caillan Davenport

First off, he launched into the aisles to pose for people's pictures. During this photo opportunity, which seemed more akin to the flash of lightning across the sky, Garrett tried to keep the audience entertained by humming the Voyager theme tune, and then giving a rousing rendition of 'Waltzing Matilda.' I'm surprised he wasn't blinded during the experience.

Back on stage, Garrett flung himself into something akin to a stand-up comedy routine - a hodgepodge of memories, impressions and parodies. He revealed that he and "Beltran" (his affectionate term for the actor who plays Voyager's first officer) also practice the Janeway/Torres "warp particles" scene, but I got the feeling that it would have been slightly more over the top.

"I don't feel much of anything now that Voyager's over," he said. "I don't think it will truly hit me until the new show airs." This spurred another parody routine - Kate Mulgrew lording over Scott Bakula. "He's not the best Captain. I am!" he cried, accentuating the worst qualities of Mulgrew's voice as much as possible. But the Kate parodies didn't stop there - next up was a wrestling fight between Janeway and Seven of Nine. "You're lucky I don't have my Bun Of Steel or I'd use it as a battering ram," cried the Garrett-Kate hybrid.

Garrett didn't forget to pay tribute to the long-running Voyager theme of "family," either. "Yeah, we're a family," he said. "Janeway's the mum, Chakotay's the step-dad, Tuvok is the oldest adopted son, Paris, the middle son, Kim, the youngest adopted son, Torres the daughter, Seven the step-daughter, Doc, the wacky uncle, and Neelix, the exchange student." Garrett Wang - copyright Caillan Davenport

Once when Garrett and Jeri Ryan were rehearsing a scene, Garrett reached back to grab Jeri's elbow, but actually grabbed her left breast. "Goobie, you grabbed my boob!" Jeri cried, at least according to Garrett. Later on that day, Jeri could be seen walking around the set with two post-it notes attached to her costume. One, on her arm, said 'elbow,' the other, on her chest, said 'not an elbow.' Garrett appeared very humble about the whole experience.

Next up, it was question time. First off the rank was the old stand-by: "What's your favourite episode?" Garrett said that his favourites were 'Scorpion,' 'Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy' and 'Timeless,' which he said was "very well written." He also added that he thought 'Caretaker' was the best Trek pilot yet.

Talk soon turned to the inevitable promotion discussion. "I'm the oldest ensign alive," he cried, saying that it would be cool to open a Voyager movie with Ensign Kim's promotion. He felt that the 'promotion' that he got in 'Endgame' was "a bit of a cop-out."

When asked about 'Fury,' the episode that saw the return of Jennifer Lien as Kes, Garrett said that it was "really odd." "It was almost as if they were trying to write an episode to make her feel better for not being on the show," he said. "I don't think Jenny wanted to do it. [But] Jennifer is very talented, she'll be fine." He also confirmed that Kes was actually written out of the show by the producers.

A large amount of Garrett's talk was mainly witty banter about a variety of subjects. Topics covered included Aussie Rules, which he described as a "free for all circus," people coming up to him on the street and asking if he was in a Kung Fu movie, and the look-a-like playing golf at the beginning of "Independence Day."

A running joke throughout the weekend was the fact that Garrett can do impressions of all the other cast members, except for Roxann. "I love Bob, he's the best accent to do," he said. "Roxann's voice is very nondescript. It's boring. There's nothing to it." On Sunday, Roxann's statement that "Garrett can't do me," turned into an unintended double entendre for the lively Aussie audience.

One of the more interesting questions asked that day was what impact the change of Executive Producers had on the show. In the nicest possible way, Garrett explained how he'd gotten on very well with Brannon Braga whilst he was in charge, but Ken Biller had come in with a bit of an "attitude" and wouldn't fulfill some of Braga's promises, such as the opportunity to write and direct. Although Garrett said he liked Biller as a writer, overall he described it as a "bad change."

Garrett explained how Paramount often send them boxes of "goodies," full of Voyager merchandise. Robert Beltran, whose trailer was next to Garrett's, would start throwing books and dolls into his trailer. "Beltran isn't a sci-fi fan," Garrett said. "He doesn't care about this stuff." He also talked about the infamous 'fart wars' that take place on set. "Thank-god the Bridge is a fairly spacious environment. When skirmishes take place in shuttles, it's all over." But, he added, "you don't see Kate doing it." Then, donning his best Mulgrew on helium voice, he cried "I was a championship farter back in Indiana!"

Asked whether we would be seeing more of him on screen, Garrett said "I hope so. Nothing in the works right now. A few projects I'd like to produce myself. I want to be wise about the next thing I do." Of course, he couldn't depart without one final promotion remark. When a fan asked how he felt about all of Kim's death scenes, he cried "I feel I should have been promoted!"

And that was that. To thunderous applause, Garrett left the stage, soon to be replaced by The Singing Vulcan.

Tim Russ

You couldn't meet anyone more different from Tuvok than Tim Russ. I'd already seen him 'up close and personal' during the lunch, but still, it was odd seeing everyone's favourite Vulcan standing up on stage singing his heart out. And he was very good too, I might add. Tim Russ - copyright Caillan Davenport

After entertaining us all with a Voyager parody of the Gilligan's Island theme, Russ told the audience about his current projects. "I'm looking forward to unemployment," he joked, "[but] I'm keeping as busy as possible now that I'm not a prisoner of Paramount." These projects include a live-action/CGI film entitled 'Metal War,' as well as 'Bugsters,' a children's audio book.

Talking about Voyager, he said that the actual process of shooting is boring, which is why he indulged in the practice of playing practical jokes. "I couldn't help it. I had to play the straight man all the time," he said. Tim then told us the infamous 'Waking Moments' story from his point of view, as well as in incident in 'Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy' when he threw Ethan Phillips over the Mess Hall counter and "sexually molested" him. "We did have a lot of good times," he said, reflectively, adding that his favourite moment took place during the shooting of 'In The Flesh,' when Robert Beltran and Ray Walston recited a whole scene from 'Hamlet,' word for word.

Of course, the audience couldn't resist asking him about his part in the 'Fart Wars.' "I was simply defending myself," he said. Once he was stuck filming in a Jefferies Tube with Ethan Phillips for the better part of the day, and was actually behind Ethan, who he described as "merciless, rude and foul." Additionally, Tim said Ethan "enjoyed" mooning the guest starts and tourists and anyone else on the set. "I love him [Ethan] to death," Tim said. "He is just a wonderful guy. Wears his heart on his sleeve."

On the subject of Series V, Tim said that he'd been and visited the set, and that it was "pretty amazing." He talked about the "ongoing tradition" of using teleplays written by fans, saying that if you received story credit, you were paid $3,500, and $15-16,000 if you wrote the who script. Tim also mentioned that Trek X would be the last TNG film.

Tim was asked to describe his weirdest encounter with a fan. While he was in Blockbuster video on evening, there was an African man dressed up in tribal robes, and who had an innumerable number of body piercings. Tim Russ - copyright Caillan Davenport He came up to Tim, and said, very quietly, "We watch your show a lot." Tim, slightly unnerved, thanked him, and moved away.

One of the more interesting aspects of the question and answer was a query about the actors' contracts. The actors were contracted under something called a "deal memo" for four or five years, with an automatic salary bump each year. Therefore, each year, the actors were theoretically "rehired." It was a "pay or play" contract, so even if you only appeared in thirteen episodes, you were paid for all twenty-six episodes.

Finally, Tim recounted his history with Star Trek, saying that he'd originally read for Geordi La Forge, and just missed out, and then he played a terrorist in 'Starship Mine' and T'Kar on DS9, as well as the officer on the Enterprise-B in 'Generations.' "If they like you, they'll bring you back," he said. "It's a great family, and it's just not going to stop."

Saturday was a fun-filled day, but three Trek stars just weren't enough! Stay tuned for part two, featuring Robert O'Reilly, J.G.Hertzler and Robert Picardo.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Caillan Davenport is one of the TrekToday editors. His thoughts on Voyager can be found in his Briefing With Caillan column.

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