Dragon Con: From Ensign to Director

Dragon Con is the largest convention in the known universe (what’s a “San Diego?”). Part of the record-breaking success is because Dragon Con is managed by fans, with the fan experience in mind. And the lines become even more blurred when Garrett Wang, Ensign Harry Kim from Star Trek: Voyager, takes the stage as a huge sci-fi fan, member of the Star Trek mythos and the Director of the Trek Track at Dragon Con.

IMG_9316Wang is instantly likeable as he saunters on stage showing off a TARDIS bag, Chakotay t-shirt, his latest jeans (much to the delight of fans in the crowd) and wastes no time taking questions from the fans. There’s a long table available, but Wang decides to pace around the stage, gesturing to the crowd and breaking into spontaneous dance as he commands the panel like a well-honed comedian in their favorite club.

A pessimistic fan opens the panel by asking Wang the hardest moment of being the Dragon Con Trek Track Director. Wang shares a story involving his first year and a surprise comment from Jonathan Frakes, Commander Will Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation, which causes one of the guest-panelists to leave the stage. Wang asks the audience not to re-share the story, though he does the next day at a different panel. Even through a negative slant, Wang turns the story humorous with his reactions, inner dialogue and impersonations of the TNG cast.

Wang is able to pull off his own take from practically anyone from the Star Trek universe. Sure he does a Shatner, but everyone can do a Shatner. He can do ‘The Doctor’ from Voyager and a spot-on Sulu. Wang shares a story where he was on stage with George Takai and stole the opportunity to say the patent-pending line, “Oh my!” in the conversation and Takai’s playful warning to never do that again. But the most startling voice to hear from Wang is that of Kate Mulgrew, Captain Janeway, during an anecdote from filming.

At the panel, fans ask various questions about working on Voyager and Wang is surprisingly forthcoming with his answers. He speaks about his own bouts with depression as his character faded from prominence on the show and his acting wasn’t challenged, “As a sci-fi fan, Voyager was great. As an actor, the role wasn’t fulfilling.” At one point, he hired a friend whose entire job was to ensure that he woke up on time and made it to work – because if Wang showed up late again, Ensign Kim might have been written off the show.

IMG_9350As a fan of Voyager, I felt the show became focused on Seven of Nine, played by Jerri Ryan, when she joined as a series regular in season 4. Apparently so did the rest of the cast. There was some bickering on set as Mulgrew’s spotlight waned and Ryan became the go-to spokeswoman with the media to promote the show. Mulgrew didn’t care for Seven of Nine, and that resentment shifted from the fictional character to the real world actor. Since then, Mulgrew admitted to Wang she was too hard on Ryan…unfortunately a fact she hasn’t shared with Ryan directly…yet.

Wang referred to the last few years of Voyager as the Captain-Doctor-Seven show…and he is right. One of his biggest regrets with the series was the rushed final episode – Wang says the first part was perfect, but that it just tried to do too much with the last episode. Instead of releasing Star Trek: Nemesis, not a popular film with the audience at Dragon Con (or anywhere), Wang petitioned for the studio to have the last episode be a cliffhanger with the finale shown in a 2-hour theatrical release, the studio didn’t like the idea; our fellow Dragon Con attendees, however, went nuts.

Wang tried his best to allow Ensign Kim a promotion on the show, but the writers wouldn’t listen to his petitions. Apparently the writers wouldn’t allow any changes to the script, no matter how minor. Even updates to scientific mumbo-jumbo that felt like a tongue twister to the actors had to be read exactly how it was written.

What else was covered? Wang spoke out about his time on set, his dream episode, meeting the ‘real’ Ensign Kim and how his love-life imitates his art plus a series of sometimes very specific questions from fans. If any of this sounds interesting, or you have your own question for the Forever Ensign, be sure to attend Dragon Con next year, and every year.

Level Up, Friends!