Dragon Con 2014 dedicated several panels to TV shows that have been off the air for a year, or even decades. Actors from shows such as Warehouse 13, Firefly, and Star Trek: The Next Generation showed up to speak with fans, share their memories about the shows, and offer a glimpse into their current and future work.
While some might complain about “washed-up celebrities” hawking signatures in the Walk of Fame, these actors gave us some of the best stories we’ve ever seen. They memorized the scripts, sat in the makeup chair at early hours, and delivered performances that thrilled us. We remember how their portrayals changed and inspired us.
I was thinking about this in relation to losing celebrities like Robin Williams. Even though we don’t know these actors personally, they have influenced our lives in a way that no parental or educational authority figure ever could. They showed us new worlds, new ways of thinking, expanded our own personal universes in ways we could never have imagined.
Star Trek gave me hope. Warehouse 13 gave me wonder. And Firefly gave me family. I learned to write from watching these shows. I learned how to talk about theme and character arcs, how to discuss social issues in a safe way by heightening reality. I found people who loved the same things I did and we became like a family.
It’s why I’m always devastated when a show I love comes to an end, as they all inevitably must. I have to say goodbye not only to the characters, but to the story, the universe, and the weekly discussions with my friends about what would happen next. I remember Eddie McClintock attending Dragon Con last year and, with tears in his eyes, speaking about his sadness on the show being over. He thought it meant an end to Warehouse 13.
Of course, we assured him that wasn’t the case. He came back this year along with most of the main cast (Alison Scagliotti, Aaron Ashmore, Saul Rubinek and Joanne Kelly) and was just as excited to see everyone as before. His infectious joy about the show and the people who loved it kept us laughing, even amidst the tears.
After that panel it occurred to me that even though the show isn’t airing new episodes, Warehouse 13 lives on. The actors who loved being in it, and the fans who loved watching it every week are keeping it alive. It’s why the actors always say thank you to the fans. The story would be stillborn without the breathe of life given to it by us. We participate in the story together, keeping it alive.
In this way, the good will always overcome the evil — even the shows that are canceled early on continue to live through its fans, who have written stories, drawn fan art, and supported Kickstarter campaigns to ensure that the best stories kept being told to new generations of fans. It’s a beautiful thing to see. So many Mal and Inara cosplayers, along with Jayne and Kaylee; dozens of Star Trek “crew” in line to speak with Walter Koenig from The Original Series or Sir Patrick Stewart from The Next Generation, or Karl Urban from the new Star Trek films. There were Star Trek and Dresden Files fan films showcased at Dragon Con, along with an Artist Gallery full of depictions of those characters who are still heroes, despite their show’s demise.
The stories we love never really die. We keep them close to us, returning to them in times of need. They are our guiding lights. They comfort us, they speak to us, they move us to be more than we are. Whenever I hear Picard’s “Make it so,” I get chills and remember watching through the show for the first time. It’s a special bond we share with these stories. They helped make us who we are. These actors, these people that we have never met, have impacted us in such a way that we share a bond with them and their characters.
Dragon Con and fans of shows no longer on the air will continue to keep our favorite stories alive. We don’t want to stop, and there’s no point in pretending that those universes no longer exist. They do, in many ways. There are lots of fan-created love letters to the shows, there are still new things to see in every viewing, and there is always someone who hasn’t seen the show yet.
Returning to Dragon Con this year reminded me of how much people care. All 65,000 of us were willing to put up with body odor, long lines, and intensely muggy weather to celebrate the stories we love most. Whether that’s philosophical science fiction like Star Trek, or wondrous adventure fantasy like Warehouse 13, or sci-fi westerns like Firefly, we’ll do what it takes to keep the stories alive.
It’s a magical experience.