By: Laura McKnight, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
on December 03, 2012 at 5:08 AM
Their off-screen personalities shone this afternoon as three stars of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” fielded questions from a room full of fans at Comic Con in New Orleans. The Sunday, Dec. 2, question-and-answer session featured actors Brent Spiner as a fun and gentle soul, Marina Sirtis as a spirited source of sharp retorts, and LeVar Burton as a laid-back, book-loving guy.
The three entertained a Comic Con crowd with varied opinions, the occasional bit of song, and memories gleaned from years working on one of television’s most adored and obsessed-over shows.
The session started with an unusual introduction – a plea for help in finding a diamond wedding ring lost by Sirtis in a second-floor bathroom of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Sirtis said she removed the ring to wash her hands, grew distracted chatting with a fan and lost the jewelry.
The trio then began accepting questions from the audience, who seemed curious about the actors’ favorite “Star Trek” episodes, movies and scenes.
The actors mentioned “Star Trek: First Contact” and “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” but the discussion soon turned to their shared disdain for “Star Trek: Insurrection.”
“Boring,” said Sirtis, who played Counselor Deanna Troi in the television series and films.
“It’s like we go to this Renaissance Fair that they call a planet,” said Spiner, who starred as Lt. Commander Data.
The aliens there seemed to just bake bread, Spiner said. And they march off without their offspring, taking instead giant “spoons” on the long journey through the hills, Sirtis added.
“You know why? Cause there’s soup on the other side,” she joked.
Burton said the movie does include one of his favorite “Star Trek” scenes, the emotional moment when Burton’s character, Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge, sees his first real sunrise with his renewed vision. The crowd oohed in agreement.
“It does have its moments, just precious few,” Spiner said.
Spiner praised the script for 2002’s “Star Trek: Nemesis,” noting the film was written by John Logan, “the No. 1 screenwriter in the world." Logan also penned “Hugo,” “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," among others.
“It’s actually a very smart script,” but that script may not have been fully realized, Spiner said.
When asked for the most memorable episode of the television series, Spiner replied “I don’t remember” to laughter from the crowd.
Sirtis’ favorites: “A Fistful of Datas” from Season 6, because the cast got to take a field trip away from Paramount Studios for filming, and Season 7’s “Masks.”
“I don’t think we got through a scene without crying from laughter, it was so bad, especially with you being a lady,” Sirtis said to Spiner, who transforms into a goddess in that episode.
Literature got some play during the session, as Burton’s former role as host of the PBS series “Reading Rainbow” drew some questions.
A crowd member said during Season 1’s episode “The Naked Now,” Burton’s character says, “I’ve never seen a rainbow.”
The crowd member asked, “Did you pick up on the –"
“Irony?” Burton asked.
“Yes,” the man said.
“No,” Burton answered, to laughter.
An English teacher in the crowd asked about the “Reading Rainbow” iPad app released in June. The teacher mentioned that his young students are starting to use Kindles, Nooks and other electronic reading devices, which Burton encouraged.
“It doesn’t matter what you’re reading as long as you’re reading,” Burton said.
Spiner eventually burst into the theme song for “Reading Rainbow,” which prompted Burton to teach the lyrics to Sirtis, who claimed to be the only person in the United States to not know the song.
“I consider this a public service to teach you the lyrics to this song,” Burton said.
The three then led the crowd in singing the song.
Sirtis grew fiery at a few points, particularly when an audience member asked Spiner if he used Leonard Nimoy’s portrayal of Mister Spock as inspiration for Data.
“Why are you asking that?” Sirtis asked.
The crowd member said he noted similarities in the characters, which drew more angst from Sirtis, but she was cut off by the diplomatic Spiner who jumped in to say no, he did not use Spock as any basis for Data.
“I admire Leonard and his work,” Spiner offered.
Sirtis also recoiled at a question about whether the actors played “Star Trek” games online, but her softer side emerged when discussing the bonds among the “Next Generation” cast.
She described actor Patrick Stewart, who played Captain Jean-Luc Picard, as “quite serious” in the beginning.
“We pretty much beat that out of him in six months,” she said. “He’s a very silly man.”
“We melded really well,” Spiner added. “We still communicate. We’re all still really good friends.”
When someone asked if anyone ever walked offset wanting to quit, Sirtis balked.
“No. Never,” she said, describing how she paced the set after the last day of filming, even as the lights turned off. “I was devastated, desolate. That was one of the worst days of my life, the day that it was over.”