This past Halloween weekend in Tampa Florida, Star Trek The Next Generation’s LeVar Burton and Brent Spiner appeared at a Mega Con Tampa Bay 2016 Q & A panel to a full house of Star Trek fans and convention attendees. While answering questions one fan posed the intergalactic thespians and friends a very interesting question which asked both actors if playing their respective characters on STNG had also had the effect of informing and/or helping to influence each of their own respective sets of personal and moral ethics.
After listening to the question LeVar Burton clearly seemed quite impressed with the question, saying that it was by far one of the best, with an affirmatively nodding Spiner adding “Greatest!“, framed questions in the history of convention panels, which received a round of approving cheers and applause from the gathered Mega Con Tampa Bay attendees. Brent Spiner then proceeded to initially answer the question with an admittedly honest but less than Roddenberry/Federation-like answer that many deep thinking Star Trek fans would have liked or perhaps expected saying, “I’ll tell you what, I was just to busy learning lines. I didn’t even think about what it was about. Because most of what I said wasn’t about anything. I was just learning words that didn’t make any sense.”
The actor then paused momentarily before continuing as if for humorous effect saying, “. . . Pages and pages of them.” The audience however did not respond in the manner the Trek personality it would seem had anticipated, with Spiner then following up with a non-related and humorous reference to a previous fans comment which while indeed funny, and receiving a hearty enough response from the audience, the comment was almost flippant and even a little condescending with respect to the fan’s occupation as a security officer. Now to be fair, this is what these actors do, entertain us that is; but just then as perhaps some fans might have began to write off Spiner’s answer to his personal philosophical Trek perspective, the actor did give the serious Trek fans within the hall a more substantial answer to the ethical question posed by the clearly intellectually inclined Star Trek fan.
“You know what, I appreciate what Star trek had to say and I certainly think they were on the right side. And I’m proud to be a part of anything that offers the point of view that Star trek did. But, I really was just too busy and it was too difficult a part to play to think about how it was impacting me. Maybe it did and I don’t even know it, . . .” as the actor again seems to jump into his playful entertainer mode, “. . . because I’m a . . . really . . . fine . . . person.” With Spiner giving the fan a whimsical side glance as the audience again responded with a laugh.
Spiner then looked around to the panel host as well as to his fellow co-star as if searching for something more on the topic asking, “You know!? I mean do you agree . . .!?” with Burton replying in a fun and mildly mockingly manner towards Spiner saying, “Oh you are . . . among the finest!”, to the applause and laughter of the crowd.
With that the panel moderator also touched on the contemporary importance and ethical similarity of Burton’s Reading Rainbow on-line and cloud based children’s content to the ideals of Star Trek with the actor replying, “Jonathan Frakes (Cmmdr. Riker) shares a birthday with Gene Roddenberry and is fond of quoting one of Gene’s most favorite sayings, ‘In the future there will be no hunger, there will be no need and all of the children will be able to read.’” To which the entire audience simply could not agree more as enormous applause erupted throughout the hall.
Interestingly, another convention attendee shortly thereafter asked Spiner if there were any contemporary issues of diversity such as women’s empowerment or GLBT discrimination that were not covered in STNG that he would like to have seen addressed, with the actor then replying very much in the vein of a Starfleet officer, which seemed to sit very well with the audience. “I think there were some things they stayed away from for various reasons that they probably shouldn’t have.”
Seeming quite authentic Spiner then went on to touch upon the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery series from CBS saying, “But I think this new Star Trek series will cover those kinds of things,” as Burton looked at his former costar and then out across the audience shaking his head in agreement with Spiner continuing, “. . . because its a different time completely. And so much more has become accepted in the world and worthy of examination now.” As Spiner said with an enthusiastic and ethical pointing of his finger in the fans direction before finishing off in grand style by saying, “So I think; look forward to that . . . I do!” as the crowd again began to cheer and clap with a Federation style stamp of ethical approval.