Actor Robert Picardo Tells Tales of 'Star Trek' at the St. Louis Science Center
The star of stage, screen and TV will take questions from the audience and show two of his favorite "Star Trek: Voyager" episodes.
“Since I can reconfigure the magnetic containment field that creates the illusion of my body, to either allow matter to pass through it or be stopped, you don’t really know," Picardo said by phone from Los Angeles, where he lives. "Just coming up and trying to pass your hands through my chest is no longer a sufficient test. Actually, now that I think about it, I suppose that it is. I don’t recommend it though.”
During the Science Center’s First Friday activities, Picardo will discuss his experiences as an actor in Star Trek: Voyager and the film Star Trek: First Contact.
A galaxy of roles
Picardo, whose TV pedigree goes back to Kojakin the 1970s and includes a a long list of television and film appearances, saw his life change after joining Star Trek’s pantheon of characters.
“The way I used to describe it when they first started airing the Voyager episodes, and people who were loyal fans of the Star Trek franchise became accustomed to the new faces of our cast, is that there’s a certain amount of fear as to whether or not they’ll embrace the show, and like it, and stick with it,” he said.
“But once they do embrace it, you feel a little bit like you’re boarding a bus that’s already going 80 miles per hour. It’s kind of a shock to jump on, but then it’s a nice ride once you’re there.”
The ride starts right away.
“One of the odd things about getting a Star Trek role that doesn’t have anything to do with any other kind of television show is that the moment your agent calls and says, ‘Well, you got the part,’ you also got your first two convention offers,” Picardo said.
“I don’t know if it’s just science fiction fans, or specifically Star Trek (fans), that they like to meet the actors as well as just watch the show.”
Serious about the show
Star Trek fans love entertainment, as long as they aren’t the butt of the joke. Just ask William Shatner, who played original U.S.S. Enterprise Capt. James Kirk, and famously lampooned Star Trek fans in a Saturday Night Live sketch.
“A lot of the fans were angry at him, for a number of years, because he was poking fun at them in such a public way,” Picardo said. “Had he done that at a convention, I think he would’ve gotten a warm and amused response.”
Picardo respects the zeal true fans have for the show.
“What I’ve learned is you can make fun of yourself, and Star Trek fans react well to that,” he said. “You can make fun of pretty much anything, except their interest in the show. You don’t want to belittle their interest in the show, because it means something serious to them.”
Picardo said Star Trek fans appreciate the theme of hope for a bright future, and they also find the crew’s prime directive--not getting involved unless asked for help--appealing.
“Those are great moral standards that Star Trek promoted that you can also feel nostalgic about,” he said.
What it takes
Picardo is pleased that he had the right stuff to be a part of the show.
“In order to get cast in Star Trek, you need three things,” he said. “You need an interesting voice, because most Star Trek actors, particularly if you look at the captains, the captains have interesting, well-placed, theater-trained voices."
Interesting hair--or lack thereof--Picardo said.
“Fortunately, (having) no hair qualifies as interesting hair,” he said.
And, with the form-fitting uniforms favored on the show, a good backside is also important.
“It’s nice to see a bunch of people in tight clothes whose butts look good,” Picardo said, laughing. “Those are the three characteristics you will find through all five Star Trek casts, and indeed into the new movie cast.”
The First Friday lineup
In addition to his talk at the Science Center, the evening will also include screenings in the Omnimax theater of two of Picardo’s favorite Star Trek: Voyager episodes.
First is “One Small Step,” a moving tribute to early space exploration that Picardo directed.
The other is “Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy,” in which the holographic doctor’s experiment to understand human daydreaming gets comically out of hand. The short film “Rocketboy,” about keeping your dreams about space alive, will also be shown.
- First Friday runs 6-10 p.m. at the St. Louis Science Center
- Tickets prices are $14 adults ($7 members), $12 seniors ($6 members), and $10 children ages 5-12 ($6 members).
- Picardo will speak at 8 p.m. and introduce his shows at 10 p.m.
- There will be an opportunity to win lunch the next day with Picardo.
- He will also sign autographs Friday night and 1:30-3:30 p.m. Saturday for a $25 cash only fee.