Sirtis, Burton Reflect On Trek ExperienceBy Michelle
September 27, 2005 - 9:20 PM
The Next Generation stars Marina Sirtis and LeVar Burton don't really expect to put their Troi and LaForge uniforms back on - in fact, Burton believes the franchise needs "a good long rest" - but they both have nothing but affection for Star Trek and their fellow actors.
Appearing on the TrekTrak show at DragonCon, where they were interviewed by TrekTrak director Eric L. Watts, the pair named co-star Jonathan Frakes (Riker) as their favourite director and expressed their frustration with Star Trek Nemesis director Stuart Baird, whom Burton said had bragged about not having done any research from the episodes to see what had worked previously. When Watts mentioned that the film had done poorly at the box office, Burton declared, "That's because it sucked!"
"It didn't suck as much as Insurrection," Sirtis cut in, saying that she fell asleep at the ninth film's premiere. Both agreed that screenwriter John Logan should not be faulted for the tenth movie, saying Baird "knew nothing" about Star Trek...plus he kept calling Burton "Laverne." He believes that the appeal of TNG stems from the interaction of the characters, something Baird did not take into account, and Sirtis agreed: "Gene [Roddenberry] always used to say it's a people show."
When asked about another recent Star Trek installment that was less than a success among fans, Sirtis said that when she appeared in the Enterprise finale, "Personally I thought it was a good episode; I just didn't think it was a good last episode." Was the problem the script for "These Are the Voyages"? The actress didn't think so. "To be honest, and I think LeVar would agree with me on this, we read many scripts that sucked, right? And somehow managed to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. You never worry about the script sucking too much because we can usually pull something out of the bag," though Burton conceded that it wasn't always possible.
Asked whether there had been consideration of a Titan series with the Rikers, Sirtis laughed, "Don't hold your breath!" She said she and Frakes had joked about doing The Rikers In Space, a half-hour sitcom. "Star Trek, the sitcom has never been done. Our friend Geordi would come visit, and wacky uncle Data, and we'd have our little dog Worf." Reminded that her character had had an affair with that little dog, Sirtis moaned, "Don't remind me!"
While Sirtis said that she would still be on TNG if she could, "though not LeVar because he's a big-time director", she made gagging gestures at a question about whether it was true the next Star Trek feature film would be a prequel. She encouraged the audience to write to tell Paramount what they would like to see, rather than waiting for them to make a movie for "this demographic thing that hollywood is all about, these kids...Wesley Crusher syndrome multiplied by eight!"
Burton said he hoped that with new people in charge at Paramount, the TNG cast might appear together once more: "I know that given the opportunity we would love to give it one last try." He called Frakes "the horniest man in space" and remembered James Doohan as "one of a kind. Not only did he have a great sense of humor, he had a very peculiar work ethic: we never worked past 5 o'clock because Jimmy started drinking at 4:45. He will be missed."
These days Burton prefers directing to acting. He explained that as a director he needs "to be concerned with the entire thing", not just his own lines, which is where actors tend to focus. Sirtis laughed that she remembered him not noticing that her character had been promoted because he hadn't read the whole script. "'Remember last week when I sent you to your death?' 'Oh, so that's what that was about!'"
Though he had wanted to be on the show from the time Bob Justman had told him that there would be a Star Trek revival, Burton was not at all sorry to lose the VISOR, which gave him headaches. Nor was Sirtis sorry to lose the bodysuits she wore during the show's early seasons, which she said was because she weighed more during the early seasons and the spacesuit looked "lumpy" on her. After Captain Jellico ordered her to wear a proper Starfleet uniform, said Sirtis, "Not that they ever listened to me, but I wanted to stay in my spacesuit; it made me feel like really part of the crew. I had somewhere to put my pips...where were they before, tattooed on my ass?" She added as an aside to the men in the audience that they were "pathetic" for the way Voyager's ratings increased after Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine) joined the series. "It wasn't because she's a Borg!"
Burton lamented that his character's only serious love interest on the series was a recreation of Leah Brahms. "Did you ever try having sex with a hologram?" Then he teased the audience, "I see that you have!" But in all seriousness, he said that he never thought about the fact that theirs was an interracial relationship in the footsteps of Kirk's with Uhura, and Sirtis reacted with surprise when Watts asked her about Troi's relationship with Worf as well.
"Worf isn't black!" she said. "Until you brought it up it didn't even occur to me." She added that Roddenberry's response whenever anyone asked why there weren't any gay characters on Star Trek was, "How do you know? He thought should be non-issue."
Burton recalled that the network did not want Roddenberry to have a black woman, a Russian, an Asian and an alien together on the bridge, but said that the creator had fought for it, insisting that the Enterprise reflected the world in that people are all in it together. "I think we need Gene's vision now more than ever," he added when asked whether a show like the new Battlestar Galactica might be more relevant in a post-9/11 world. "What was inherent in the Trek philosophy was that there was respect for diversity. World leaders should take a page from Gene's book."