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Con Reports: Star Trek, The X-Files and Project Blue Book at AlienCon 2018

Last weekend, a sci-fi-themed event called AlienCon invaded Pasadena, Calif. The convention fosters an accepting environment where science is King. Mysteries of the alien variety are discussed and dissected. Alien-themed TV shows and movies are celebrated. As are the actors who star in these popular projects.

Photo Credit: TV Goodness

The celebrations take the form of panels, autograph sessions and photo opportunities. Plus the ever-present main floor where merchandise and memorabilia are available for purchase.

The nostalgic factor was on high for the TV panels we attended. It was a time to look back fondly at groundbreaking shows like Star Trek and The X-Files. Or to discover a new series that pays homage to history like HISTORY’s upcoming UFO drama Project Blue Book.

STAR TREK

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“A Trek Through Star Trek” featured Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Gates McFadden (Dr. Beverly Crusher), Star Trek: Voyager’s Robert Picardo (The Doctor/Dr. Lewis Zimmerman) and TNG/Voyager guest star Jonathan Del Arco. Moderator: Scott Huver

It was clear the trio of actors love being a part of the Trek universe. Although some of the shows could have looked VERY different. Picardo revealed that he auditioned for Neelix on Voyager before becoming The Doctor. Del Arco said he originally tested for the role of Wesley Crusher. The part obviously went to Wil Wheaton while Del Arco ended up playing Hugh in two Borg episodes of The Next Generation.

Picardo talked about the special Star Trek fandom saying he’s “more grateful everyday for his association with this franchise.” The way he described it, it’s like: “Boarding a bus that’s already going about 80 miles an hour. Jumping on the bus is kind of like a shock to your life, but the ride is very nice once you’re on it.”

Meanwhile McFadden admitted she was once terrified of the fans. But over the years she’s grown to appreciate them and learn the importance of good role models. She told the audience the story about an encounter she had with a fan who grew up in foster homes. With each of his families, he would always sit down and watch Star Trek with them. He called McFadden “a constant” for him. She was so touched by this.

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Del Arco referred to the social media component of today’s fandom. He called Twitter “a virtual Star Trek convention.”

Picardo said he loves meeting the other actors from all across the Trek realm. He’s impressed with the caliber of actors that make their way into these projects like Star Trek: Discovery’s Jason Isaacs, who he recently met. Many “Star Trek actors have theater experience. They know how to move around. They know how to use their arms. They know how to play a stage because the bridge is a stage. And, also, they tend to have very good-looking butts. Because in those costumes…”

The whole theater erupted in laughter after that comment.

PROJECT BLUE BLOOK

HISTORY’s Project Blue Book featured Executive Producer/Showrunner Sean Jablonski, Creator/Co-Executive Producer David O’Leary, Executive Producer Jackie Levine and Paul Hynek, the son of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the Father of Ufology. It’s his story that’s being told in this new series.

Fun Fact: The boss of this operation is Academy Award winner Robert Zemeckis. You know his credits. The Back to the Future franchise. Forrest Gump. Cast Away. While he wasn’t present at the panel, he sent a video message where he introduced people to the show.

Here’s what we learned about the show:

David O’Leary: Project Blue Book is set in the early 1950s when Project Blue Book first begins. And focuses on Dr. Allen Hynek who was a brilliant astrophysicist recruited by the US government to go out there and explain to the American public what people see in the skies. Over the course of his tenure of working at Project Blue Book [he] shifted sides.

Jackie Levine: He went from being a skeptic to a believer, which is pretty cool.

Sean Jablonski: When you have an opportunity to work on something that doesn’t just feel important but timely as well…it brings together a lot of wonderful elements. And I think more than anything where it’s going, where truth and the search for truth is something we’re all — I do believe — on the front lines of. We all sort of have a responsibility now when we see things and when we hear things to try to speak to the truth of what’s really out there. And what’s great about the series now is having a hero like Dr. J. Allen Hynek who was out there trying to expose it.

Paul Hynek: Project Blue Book was not really set up to find answers but to really stop the questions, I think. It was a PR exercise to tamp down public hysteria about flying saucers. So over time my father had sort of a schism with that scientific method. And he went from a pooh-poohing skeptic to a qualified champion.

The first season of Project Blue Book will contain ten episodes and stars Game of ThronesAidan Gillen, The Vampire DiariesMichael Malarkey and Alphas star Laura Mennell.

THE X-FILES

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The “25 Years of The X-Files” panel featured David Duchovny (Fox Mulder) and Mitch Pileggi (Walter Skinner). Moderator: Candice Heath

The first question David Duchovny and Mitch Pileggi faced was whether Season 11 was truly the end of The X-Files. After all, earlier this year Gillian Anderson let it be known she was done with creating new episodes. Duchovny’s response said it all: “F–k if we know.”

Photo Credit: TV Goodness

While there was some reflection on the 25 years of The X-Files, most of the conversation revolved around the drama’s 11th season.

On the Season 11 finale:

David Duchovny: I thought it was a really good episode. I thought [creator] Chris [Carter] did a great job directing it. It was jam-packed with stuff. The last scene we did, we ended up shooting that at about four in the morning. It was tough and cold out there.

Gillian and I didn’t have that script until that day. We were just concerned with making it as good as we wanted it to be with that short time of sitting with the material.

On Pileggi wrapping up his character:

Mitch Pileggi: Here’s the answer to that. If the show does come back, he’s not dead. If the show doesn’t come back, it’s up to your imaginations.

On the “Rm9sbG93ZXJz” episode which featured a script that required little dialogue for the actors:

Duchovny: It gave me more free time. (laughter) So away from set I wasn’t memorizing anything. It was nice. A nice ten days of…I didn’t have to go home after a day’s work and have to look at a script. I really appreciated the whole episode. It was really ballsy (of the writers) to put on an hour of television on network that had 15 to 20 lines of dialogue in it. That’s crazy. I looked forward to the time off. But I was also scared that it wouldn’t come off. And it really did. I thought it was one of our better episodes.

On finally getting Skinner backstory (in S11 Ep 6 “Kitten”):

Pileggi: When (writer) Gabe Rotter heard me whining in season ten to Chris about there not being enough Skinner in the show, this thing popped into his head that we can do an episode where we show Skinner’s backstory so he wrote this episode and it was great. I was very happy. And Haley Joel (Osment) was wonderful to work with.

Duchovny: To play a role like Skinner is rewarding. But it’s also difficult because you get two or three scenes in an episode. Skinner’s often having to play the exposition. He’s often driving story forward, it’s not usually about him. But Mitch has given hints to who the guy really is. I think it was nice for him to be able to be center stage there.

Pileggi: Thank you. It was a treat for me to be able to play that out and explain who he is, why he is the way he is, where he comes from.

Duchovny: And who’s the only writer that gave you a girlfriend, though?

Pileggi (to David): Thank you.

On the prank Duchovny played on Anderson in season ten:

Duchovny: Gillian drove a car into a pole at Riverview. It’s almost impossible to do. It was not nothing. But it also wasn’t terrible. But it was a jolt. It was really a jolt because where we were shooting there was nothing else. There was no traffic. So you didn’t expect to hit something. So the next morning I was driving in and thought about putting on a neck brace. I’m not a good practical joker so as soon as she, I just started laughing as soon as she came over.

It was pretty fantastic to sit and witness the rapport between Duchovny and Pileggi. One of the panel’s best moments: Pileggi gave Duchovny high marks when it came to his performance during this last season on FOX. “I think David did some of the best work as Mulder this season.”

Duchovny dryly replied: “I finally got it after 25 years.”

THE LADY BAM PODCAST

Battlestar Galactica met Star Trek when BSG alum Mary McDonnell (President Laura Roslin) recorded an episode of her Lady Bam podcast with the aforementioned Gates McFadden (Dr. Crusher). The two talked about the #metoo movement, being a woman in Hollywood and being a woman on sci-fi TV shows. McFadden opened up to McDonnell about her childhood, her college years, the importance of having female friends/support in their lives and the safety and power of being a part of the theater community. She also talked about some of her goals for this next phase of her career.

Go here for new episodes of The Lady Bam Podcast with Mary McDonnell.

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The next AlienCon materializes in Baltimore the weekend of Nov. 9.

The full X-Files panel

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