Takei wisdom at San Francisco's 'Star Trek' convention

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George Takei greets his fans at the convention.
Photo by Sean McCourt

Bay Area Trekkers (don’t call them “Trekkies”!) set their coordinates for the city this past weekend as the official 2012 San Francisco Star Trek Convention took over the Westin St. Francis in Union Square, filling the hotel and the surrounding area with a galaxy’s worth of creative costumes, collectibles vendors, parties, and an impressive slate of stars from the franchise’s 46 year and counting history.

Several of the most esteemed names in the Trek universe made appearances over the course of the three day fete, including George Takei and Walter Koenig (Sulu and Chekov from the original series), along with Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, and Martina Sirtis (Data, Geordi, Worf, and Counselor Troi from The Next Generation).

Fans enthusiastically listened to behind the scenes stories and heard the actors share their thoughts on being part of the Star Trek universe, and also asked about some of their other projects and outside work.

Burton got the crowd going on Sunday morning, charging up the cheering throngs with stories about playing the blind engineer Geordi La Forge, along with reminiscing on the 35th anniversary of the TV mini-series Roots, which was his first starring role. He even elicited a spontaneous group sing-along when he asked if there were any Reading Rainbow fans in the audience, and started singing the theme song to the 1980s literacy-encouraging PBS program that he hosted in the 1980s.

Throughout the weekend’s talks, cast members of The Next Generation — who were celebrating that show’s 25th anniversary, and clearly are all still friends—would sneak up and tease one another during each other’s programs, with Spiner suddenly popping up at an audience microphone during Burton’s Q&A session and asking about the new “Reading Rainbow” iPad app and whether or not it featured a variety of made up of book titles in a nerdy voice.

Burton returned the favor when Spiner took the stage later in the afternoon, as did Sirtis, who proceeded to show off her still-limber body by doing the splits in front of man who played an emotionless robot on the show, but was visibly impressed by her heat, and was hilarious when answering questions from fans.

The keynote speaker for the convention however, was George Takei, who has become a figurehead in Hollywood for LGBT rights over the past several years, after coming out and marrying his long time partner in 2007. After receiving a standing ovation upon his introduction, the 75 year actor charmed the crowd with his signature smooth voice, and went on the emphasize the importance of the Star Trek fan community as a continuing inspiration for him in his current personal and professional endeavors.

“This longevity was created by you fans, of all generations, and I personally am so indebted to you, because my career has been a great blessing,” he said.

Echoing the original sentiments of creator Gene Roddenberry, who wove many of the pressing social issues of the 1960s into the fabric of the Star Trek ethos, Takei urged fans to take the spirit of unity and collaboration that forged the fictional "Federation of Planets" and put it into action in their own lives.

“I am very confident that Star Trek is going to continue to be strong base for making America a better nation, and building a better future for the world, working together.”