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Phoenix Comicon 13 – A Con for the Record books!
The numbers are in and Phoenix Comicon has joined the ranks of the biggest and baddest Comic Con’s that are held across the country! According to Publisher’s Weekly, Phoenix’s largest pop culture event is the seventh largest Comic convention in the United States, beating Anaheim’s Wondercon and is hot on the trail of Seattle’s Emerald City Con. With over 55,313 people in attendance for Phoenix Comicon 13 Arizona’s con even bested Atlanta’s mega Labor Day event DragonCon.
This year’s event packed the crowds in with an impressive line-up of guests. The highlight was a fourteen person panel marking the 20th anniversary of the launch of “Babylon 5.” This event along with other “Babylon” panels throughout the day had the crowds packing into the Phoenix Convention Center like sardines on Saturday which kept the security and the crowd management teams busy.
This year both the Hyatt Regency and Renaissance Downtown opened up all of their convention spaces for the con to help with con attendee overflow issues. Each hotel took on different activities in order to better manage crowd-flow in the main convention center.
Being a TV sci-fi junky, my focus at the con is to always attend the TV/movie celebrity panels. Even without counting the “Babylon 5” members Phoenix still had seventeen other amazing celebs attending the event, that was even in lieu of four cancellations.
I always try my best to attend on Fridays. Getting your ticket first thing in the morning on Fridays is always easier than fighting crowds on the weekends: read – no lines and happy staff members who have yet become frazzled. If there aren’t any panels first thing in the morning that get me excited, Friday mornings are a great time to queue up and get autographs. The stars that are there for the whole weekend are always fresh, happy, and are very excited to see you. This year however, the Con had great panels starting from the very beginning so off my Dad and I went to find seats for Walter Koenig’s panel.
This winter I’d managed to see Walter up at Emerald City Con in Seattle and was happy to see him again. After decades of experience with fielding questions from fans Walter is a pro at coming up with answers on the fly and is a gracious and fascinating man. When it came to talking about “Star Trek” you could tell that although Walter certainly enjoyed his character and his time on the series and looks back on it fondly, in hindsight he was left at times with the series often left him a little on the bored side. He often talked about flipping through episode scripts and sighing upon only seeing a few lines per each episode. His character so infrequently had much to say that he opted to star in a play during the beginning of season 3 and missed 3 episodes. Apparently, no one even noticed he wasn’t around.
Walter rather enjoyed his time on “Babylon 5” because his character was actually an active member of the series and he was given meaty material to work with in developing the character.
When asked about the his thoughts on the new “Star Trek” films which were fresh in everyone’s mind as “Star Trek into Darkness” had just opened, Walter shrugged and said that for what they were he thought they were good movies. They were flashy, action packed, and thrilling to watch. He stated several times that if they had the kinds of FX that are available today when they were shooting the original series he suspected that FX would’ve been a big focus on series and would’ve detracted from the storytelling. Although he enjoyed the new films, he felt that they lacked heart and a message which were the two things that helped to make the original series endure.
Walter and the rest of the original cast were invited to the premiere of the first new film and he didn’t know what his feelings would be towards the new Checkov. Finally he decided that with fifty years having passed between the two, there wasn’t any reason for him to feel threatened or jealous and as a result he was able to watch and enjoy the film.
Ever gracious and delightful, he made everyone’s day by saying fan favorite line “I’m looking for the nuclear vessels!
Regarding his accent, people have come up to him over the years and told him that he was being disrespectful and making fun of Russians. This always left him confused because his own father who was a Russian immigrant sounded just like how he portrayed Checkov’s voice. At one con a few years a back a couple of ladies came up to him and thanked him for his portrayal and while they were speaking they were talking in his character’s accent. He said, “Alright, if you don’t like how I do it that’s fine, but you don’t have to make fun of it!” The ladies looked at him confused and asked, “What are you talking about? We’re Russian.”
Below you can watch the entire panel: