Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Magic at the DS9 Guest Stars Panel

While I attended both DS9 cast panels at the Star Trek Las Vegas Convention, the guest stars panel was far and away the best. These actors (Aron Eisenberg, Max Grodenchik, Casey Biggs, Marc Alaimo, Jeffrey Combs, Andy Robinson and Chase Masterson) seemed more receptive to fans, more interested in their characters after all this time, and more interested in the series as a whole. Of course, I may be a little biased about this event because something truly magical happened at the guest stars panel.

Many questions asked at these conventions seem to repeat. They are the questions about what an actor's character might be doing today, what they did when they first found out about being cast, how familiar they were with Trek then and now. There's a lot of gushing about how much we all love them and their work. Occasionally you get a really fantastic question which is answered in a great way but at Sunday's DS9 Guest Stars Panel, it was something more than that. A sort of magic happened. A young woman approached the mic with her question written down--she was worried about being too nervous to get through it without the paper. Her voice shaking, she started her question but she was too far away from the mic. The panel moderator admonished her a bit and she ran away saying, "Never mind. I can't do it."

It was Jeffrey Combs who insisted that she come back and try again--that maybe someone else could read her question. She made her way back to the microphone and relayed a story about how when her fiancé committed suicide, she not only felt at fault, but became suicidal herself. She said that it was Star Trek: DS9 and the guest characters especially who had brought her through the most difficult time in her life, that they each had saved her many times over. She thanked them and wondered if any of them could share advice about coping with depression and suicidal thoughts for anyone who might be suffering in the audience.

Jeffrey Combs spoke directly to her about how she did exactly the right thing--that stories are what bring us through the most difficult times and finding those stories, clinging to them, is healing. Chase Masterson reassured the young woman that it wasn't her fault, that everyone, including herself has been in a dark place where they didn't want to go on but that things do get better. She went further by saying that this woman's admission about DS9 saving her life had made Chase's (and her fellow guest stars') career completely worth it--that if they had helped to save even one life, then they couldn't ask for more.

I wish I had more direct quotes for you rather than a slightly vague retelling. I wish I had taken better notes but I put down my pen to wipe away tears. When I looked around I saw that several others in the audience were doing the same. They were crying and whether they let the tears streak their cheeks or searched in their regulation Starfleet bags for tissues, I realized we were all crying for the same reason: this young woman had plucked at a string inside each of us. In that moment, we were all resonating at the same frequency.

That string had formed when something we loved--a story--and probably Star Trek had saved us. Whether we had been truly close to suicide, experienced only twinges of depression, or felt that we were alone, in an inescapable hole, Star Trek gave us hope. In a way it also gave us companionship--or at least showed us that companionship could exist. Its optimism buoyed us along until we could get back on our feet. That's the reason, beyond its entertainment value, we are so eternally grateful for its existence. That's the reason we all fly across the country, get dressed up, and sit in a hotel ballroom staring at a group of people on a stage we can barely see just to hear them reminisce about shooting a TV show two decades ago. That's the reason we were all shedding tears that day. We had all come through something deeply personal with help from the same story. And now we sat together and shared both the story and the pain.

I don't know that young woman's name. I couldn't find her again after that panel. But I wish I had. I wish I could tell her, from one fan to another, how much Star Trek had meant to me. I wish I could tell her how many men and women of all ages sat in that room, listened intently to her story, and cried. I wish I could tell her that Star Trek saved my life too but that, in some ways more importantly, this young woman herself had given me a great gift. She had given me a realization that we aren't alone. While we may have sat by ourselves, in our living rooms, experiencing the show and letting it heal us, we aren't alone anymore. We are bound together by our mutual love and appreciation of a single thing-- a story.


  1. I was also at those panels and agree with you that this panel of actors were exceptionally kind and caring of their fans. Jeffrey Combs was very gentle to this fragile girl whose fiance had died, and Chase Masterson after expressing her own problems with depression also took a poll of the audience so we could collectively make this young woman really see she was not alone.

    Sometimes I think those of us who watch all the Star Trek shows (and then rewatch them) are a bunch of people with nothing better to do. But then I conclude that we are actually using Star Trek to help satisfy our higher than average need for moral behavior; we need to see examples of the best standards and highest potential that can be reached by humans, we see so little of it in the real world, unfortunately. I think these actors, and many of the others like Kate Mulgrew who expresses it often, realize the higher level of humanity their characters represent to us and have gone on to hold themselves to higher standards in real life as a result. How can we ask for more of our favorite TV series. Long live Star Trek!

  2. Good show old chum. I have a similar story to that of the young lady you spoke about... Well done.

  3. It is stories like that, that make me happy to say I am a Star Trek fan.................the shows have done so much good for people

  4. What a wonderful and encouraging comment Carolyn! :)

  5. Wow. Now I am crying, too. Thank you for sharing this story, which resonates with me in so many ways.


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