Monday, November 02, 2020


"Fuck that guy!" or "How a Trek convention ruined one of my favorite series"


I don't know why this popped into my head today. I haven't turned on the television nor was there a prompting meme crawling across my social media. But as I tried to stifle my anxiety over teetering here on the cusp of election day, and the interminable days of vote counting that will follow, this memory burst forth like a magmatic belch from the surface of a deceptively still and crusted lava pool.
A few years ago my (now) husband and I attended one day of a Star Trek con in Boston. Neither of us had ever been to one and I was curious about this "other corner" of con-going fandom. We quickly agreed it was awful; the vibe insular, the atmosphere a tad mercenary. I saw not one person whom I recognized from either of our local SFF cons, Arisia or Boskone, which was weird as all other nerd events tended to have at least a little overlap, anime, SCA, medieval music, steam punk, film festivals, cult films, lecture series... In retrospect this would have been best taken as a sign.
The standout memory is, due to arrival time and our one-day membership, the only celebrity speaker we had the opportunity to see was Robert Beltran. What an unbalanced ass-hat. He was bitter and whiny, petulant and vaguely unhinged, but what stuck with me has his vanity and the cruel way he spoke about his costar Kate Mulgrew, the first woman to captain a titular starship in a Star Trek series as Captain Kathryn Janeway. He ranted about *fans (and occasionally writers) shipping Chakotay and Janeway. He kept saying, "Why would I want to get with granny???" (OK, I'm paraphrasing, but he absolutely did refer to Mulgrew/Janeway as "granny" and "grandma" multiple times and always with a tone of disgust.) He then waxed rather greasily about how much more sense it made for him (Chakotay) to pair up with Seven of Nine played by Jeri Ryan...

Here's a quick math problem.
In 1997 when Jeri Ryan joined the cast of "Star Trek: Voyager" Beltran was 44, Mulgrew was 42, and Ryan was 29.
So while two years older than "grandma" Beltran thought it was only sensible (and palatable) that he play love scenes with an actor fifteen years his junior. He played this up to the audience. Strutted about running his fingers through his shaggy gray hair all but crowing as if to prove to someone, anyone, that his bird still had a beak. But how could it possibly peck at anything... well you get the idea.

Since that day, every time I come across and episode of Voyager, a show I truly loved, I am flushed with anger and feel my fist tighten whenever Beltran appears on screen. I try to "separate the art from the artist" but given how much I liked the Chakotay character and enjoyed his interaction with Janeway it is difficult. That said, the chemistry evident in scenes between the captain and Seven of Nine, or Tuvok, or The Doctor (think hologram not Time Lord) remains a delight. Maybe in time that will tip the scales. In retrospect Beltran's antics onstage that day were as pathetic and sad as they were infuriating, maybe knowing that might help... As would news that Mulgrew has punched him.
In this age of ill-advised, inflammatory, and downright insane tweeting one need not go to a convention to hear a famous person (even another Trek fave *cough* Saavik*cough*) spout things that threaten to cast their previous work in a jaundiced light. Yet I am sticking with the choice made upon emerging from that dark corner of the convention center. No property-specific actor-peppered for-profit cons for me. I'm sticking with the volunteer-run genre and pan-fandom barn shows I know and love where at least the ass-hats are people I know and/or know to avoid, and can maybe pull aside and say, "Dude, WTF is wrong with you?"

*Full disclosure, I was one of those fans. I was not writing fan fiction but was absolutely sitting on the edge of my couch willing the writers to finally "go there".

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