Lompoc High School graduate Jeffrey Combs part of the action at Las Vegas convention
LAS VEGAS — The Rat Pack is back.
There was no doubt about that as Jeffrey Combs, a 1972 Lompoc High School graduate, joined his fellow “Star Trek” actors Casey Biggs, Max Grodenchik and Vaughn Armstrong with a concert of jazz, rock and blues parodies. They sang, made audience members laugh and jokingly reminded them to laugh in the right places during a concert to wrap up 55-Year Mission Las Vegas.
The gathering was a “Star Trek” convention, although fans did celebrate other sci-fi productions as well, everything from “Doctor Who” to “Galaxy Quest.” One panel featured “Supernatural” actors who happened to have guest-starred on “Star Trek.”
The convention celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry with exhibits such as one honoring how Mr. Roddenberry, then a commercial jet pilot, saved the survivors of a plane crash in Syria. That was before his career as a Los Angeles police officer, then writer of TV shows such as “Have Gun, Will Travel.” From there, he created “The Lieutenant” and launched the “Star Trek” franchise that continues today to tackle social issues and embrace, as the Vulcans say, Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.
But humor also is a “Star Trek” tradition, as demonstrated by Sunday night’s Rat Pack concert at the convention site, the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino. The songs poked some fun at the characters that the actors have played.
Mr. Combs portrayed two very different ones on “Deep Space Nine” — Weyoun, the Vorta administrator/chief of staff serving the evil Dominion, and Brunt, the head of the Ferengi Commerce Authority.
Mr. Combs, who credits the PCPA theater program at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria for leading him into an acting career, told the News-Press he realized he had to play the villainous Weyoun with finesse and diplomacy. He based that on his character’s makeup.
Other “Star Trek” actors at the convention stressed how they too were able to create their characters more easily because of the excellent makeup designs by UCSB graduate Michael Westmore, part of Hollywood’s famed Westmore family of makeup artists.
Meanwhile, back at the concert, the rest of the Rat Pack kidded Mr. Combs by singing “Weyoun,” set to the music of The Beatles’ “Hey, Jude.”
The actors also jokingly expressed their resentment of being sidelined by “Enterprise’s” extended Xindi storyline by singing “Xindi” to the tune of the Association’s 1967 hit “Windy.”
Besides singing, Mr. Combs rocked out on the guitar and played percussion instruments, which included a big emphasis on cowbells in one song. The other actors joked, “We need more cowbells!”
Humor and, on the more serious side, diversity were alternating themes throughout the weekend.
Earlier during a panel on Sunday, actors on one of the newest “Star Trek” shows, “Discovery,” listened to fans who expressed gratitude for being able to see themselves in the diverse cast. One fan, who described herself as plus-size, came up to a microphone in the ballroom and thanked Mary Wiseman, who plays Ensign Silvia Tilly, for showing that people of all body sizes should be accepted. Ms. Wiseman responded that she hopes such acceptance is common in the future.
Fans have also been impressed with the fact that Ensign Tilly has evolved from an uncertain young officer to a confident, acting first officer. Ms. Wiseman said she was glad that “Discovery” story arcs allowed her character room to grow.
Fans also thanked gay actor Anthony Rapp and nonbinary actor Blu del Barrio, who Cmdr. Paul Stamets and Adira Tal respectively, for their realistic portrayals of LGBTQ characters.
As always at “Star Trek” panels, there was room for humor. The “Discovery” cast members set their phasers on pun, so to speak, and told jokes such as this one: How do frogs stay invisible?
They use a croaking device.
More humor came when “Enterprise” actors on another panel discussed the audition process that led them onto the “Star Trek” prequel series. John Billingsley said he thought his character, Dr. Phlox, might have some avian attributes, so he squawked like a bird between his lines.
After the audition, Mr. Billingsley got the role, but the producers never told him to drop the squawks.
As the cameras rolled on the first day of filming, Mr. Billingsley squawked again. The director bluntly told him to stop fooling around.
Anthony Montgomery said he got his part as helmsman Travis Mayweather by staying connected with “Star Trek” after failing to get a guest-starring spot on “Voyager.” He said a failed audition can set the stage for a successful one later.
Another panel on Sunday celebrated a show whose 20th anniversary celebration last year was delayed by the pandemic: “Voyager.”
Roxann Dawson, who played Chief Engineer B’Elanna Torres and has had a successful directing career, said she is directing episodes of the new “Foundation” series, based on Isaac Asimov’s famous novels.
And Robert Beltran and Garrett Wang, who played First Officer Chakotay and Ensign Harry Kim, took turns imitating Robert Picardo, who portrayed the holographic Doctor. Mr. Picardo wasn’t there to respond.
The panel turned serious again when one fan thanked Mr. Wang for being on “Voyager” when there were few Asian-American actors in regular roles on TV shows.
Mr. Wang noted he was, in fact, the only Asian-American actor with a regular television role when “Voyager” aired in the 1990s.
The “Voyager” cast members agreed they were proud to be on a show that reflected diversity at a time before it had become a Hollywood trend.