Convention Fans @ Dragon*con: The William Shatner / Leonard Nimoy Panel Report
Nothing was more talked about at Dragon*con 2009 than the William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy panel. While Nimoy had been on the guest list for a number of months, Shatner had been a late addition. So late in fact, that many programming directors had already submitted their schedules. With so many big name guests already taking up the largest ballroom time slots, what in the world were they going to do with Shatner?
The answer arrived when the Dragon*con pocket program became available online. Shatner would be doing only one panel, and it would be with Nimoy at 10 a.m. Friday morning. That’s right, one of the first events of the entire convention. This news meant some fans had to readjust their travel and registration pick up plans. Fans were talking about sleeping outside the ballroom entrance just to ensure a front row seat. Dragon*con staff came back and said no lining up more than 2 hours before the event. There was confusion and frustration in abundance. On top of that, the location of the panel was changed between the printing of the schedules and the arrival of attendees.
And so, with all of this brewing, the Convention Fans crew planned to get in line for said Friday morning panel at exactly 2 hours in advance.
Now, we weren’t at the front of the line, so I can’t say for sure what transpired, but clearly people were allowed to line up more than 2 hours in advance, despite what staffers had been telling attendees. We showed up at 2 hours and 10 minutes before start time, and found ourselves in a line that went out of the Hyatt, and around two sides of the building.
We settled in, and prepared to stand there for about an hour and a half. In the past four years I’ve attended D*C, a panel has never been seated more than a half an hour in advance. So with an hour and a half to go until it started, we sent a member of our party to retrieve the camera he had forgotten.
But not five minutes later, the line began to move. They started to seat people with an hour and a half to go. Where we were in line, there were no staffers to tell us what we going on. In fact, the only staff we encountered were at the door leading into the ballroom, where we were told there was no saving seats. At this point, we were a bit perturbed. No one had said the panel would be seated early. No one had informed the line about the new no seat saving rule. Had we known, we never would have sent our friend to get his camera until after we had been seated.
Luckily, he managed to get there just as the argument with staff was reaching a head. It seems that D*C staff had finally gotten someone further back in the line giving out orders/directions, and they wouldn’t let our friend through to catch up with us. Staff finally relented, and we were all seated together. And you know what? No one would have noticed if we’d have saved a seat or not. Because once we got inside and sat down, staff virtually disappeared. But the whole experience had left a rather sour taste in our mouths.
While we waited for the next hour and a half, DC*TV was running, which was entertaining. They also filmed the DC*TV Late Late Show live in front of us, which again kept us occupied. This was all appreciated, but something we would have liked to have known in advance, so we could have avoided the earlier problems with staff.
After all of that waiting, the panel finally got started. The ballroom absolutely erupted! The epic nature of Nimoy and Shatner together on a stage was not lost on that audience. They seemed relaxed and at ease on the stage together.
The first part of the panel consisted of Nimoy and Shatner busting each other’s chops for the audience’s amusement. Shatner kept asking why he wasn’t in the new Star Trek movie, and made numerous references to his ongoing feud with George Takei (including what I would call some downright inappropriate comments). Shatner actually pretended not to know how to pronounce George’s last name correctly. But, Nimoy kept putting Shatner in his place with clever quips and observations. The audience roared with laughter.
The second portion of the panel consisted of questions from the audience. The TrekTrack crew (who handles Star Trek programming at Dragon*con) did an excellent job of screening questions and managing the lines of people. While some of the questions were a bit generic (as is to be expected), others were insightful and thought provoking. However, Nimoy and Shatner both tended to get off track, and found themselves going back to playfully picking on each other for a good five to ten minutes between questions. While this was funny for the audience, it meant there was less time for questions, which I’m sure disappointed some of the fans who had been standing in line for most of the panel.
I did learn a few things as a result of the Q&A. For one, the blooper reels from the original series have been a point of contention for some of the Star Trek cast. The bloopers were originally intended for the cast and crew Christmas parties only. However, a few years later they were being circulated around the country, and fans were paying admission to see them. Shatner told the audience that he first found out they had been circulated after someone told him they were being shown in a local bar. Nimoy explained his discomfort with the reels being available, and it was one of the few serious moments during the entire panel discussion.
We also learned that Shatner has just recently completed interviews with Larry Flint and Rush Limbaugh for his Raw Nerve show, and they should be airing soon. Shatner also stated that he still has not seen the new Star Trek movie. Nimoy chimed in on the fact that a sequel to the new Star Trek movie was in the works, but that he had not yet been contacted about it (and did not expect to have a part in it).
Overall, the panel was extremely entertaining, and totally worth waiting in line for. I will say, however, that it has firmly reinforced my opinion that William Shatner is a big jerk, and that Leonard Nimoy is one of the most wonderfully articulate and charming Star Trek actors I have ever seen. Whereas Shatner made fun of the locals and their accent, and the panel host’s beard, Nimoy was quick to call Shatner out on it all.
You can view video of the entire panel by visiting this link, which has the footage split into 7 YouTube videos.
Look for the big overall Dragon*con convention report tomorrow!