Field Report from The Sci-Fi Universe Awards by Barry Caldwell
BEVERLY HILLS -- Friday, October 18, 1996, was the night and the historic El Rey Theatre in Beverly Hills was the place as the sci-fi faithful gathered to honor their own in the 2nd Annual Sci-Fi Universe Readers' Choice Awards. Sponsored by Sci-Fi Universe Magazine, SegaSoft and American Cybercast, the ceremony was held to honor outstanding achievement in genre motion picture, television and multi-media entertainment.
Bruce Boxleitner and Kristen Cloke hosted the awards ceremony. The event drew a modest crowd of celebrities and behind-the-scene-ers, mostly from the television nominees. Very few of the motion picture nominees were on hand to accept their awards, the exception being those for the big winner, ID4. The megablockbuster's creators, Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, were in attendance to accept the eight awards given to their film, far and away the big winner of the night. ID4 was the readers' choice for Best Writing, Direction, Cinematography, Score, Special FX, Actor (Will Smith), Supporting Actress (Vivica Fox), and Best Science Fiction Film.
Other winners from the world of motion pictures were 12 MONKEYS, which won Best Actress (Madeline Stowe) and Best Supporting Actor (Brad Pitt), TOY STORY (Best Fantasy Film) and SEVEN (Best Horror Film).
The television awards were a little more interesting, given that there were no obvious winners in any of the categories. BABYLON 5 took home the most trophies with five wins including Best TV Series, Best Actor (Bruce Boxleitner), Best Supporting Actor (Peter Jurasik), Best Supporting Actress (Mira Furlan) and Best Special FX. THE X-FILES didn't do as well as expected, only winning two awards, Best Guest Actor and Actress, (Peter Boyle and Bobbie Phillips, respectively). The big loser of the evening was the Star Trek franchise, which only managed to bring home one award out of twelve nominations for Best Multimedia Computer Game (STAR TREK: KLINGON).
The big surprise of the evening, and the entire reason for this article's existence, was SPACE: ABOVE AND BEYOND. This critically acclaimed show, which won the hearts of fans worldwide in its lone season before being prematurely cancelled by the Fox Network, brought home three awards including Best Actress (Kristen Cloke), Best Writing (Glen Morgan and James Wong, for the episode "Who Monitors the Birds?"), and Best Director (David Nutter, for the Pilot Episode). SPACE was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor (James Morrison), Best Special FX and Best TV Series.
As co-host of the awards, Kristen Cloke was a natural, handling the poorly written material with all the grace of a classic leading lady. A last minute replacement for original co-host Marina Sirtis, she traded several lighthearted jabs at the industry with Bruce Boxleitner, including several stingers directed at Fox for the not-so-brilliant decision to cancel her show. Her co-stars from SPACE, Lanei Chapman, Joel De La Fuente and Rodney Rowland, presented the Technical Awards for Motion Pictures, all of which were given to ID4. Other presenters included Chase Masterson, Brannon Braga, Julie Newmar, Marc Singer, Steven Williams, Bobbie Phillips, Nicolas Lea, and Walter Koenig along with many others from the casts of DEEP SPACE 9, VOYAGER, PROFILER, ALIEN NATION and BABYLON 5.
Upon accepting her award for Best Actress, Kristen got more than a little choked up and thanked the fans of the show along with her co-stars and crew, whom she referred to as her family. She said that she "misses the show so much."
Kristen also presented the award for Best Supporting Actor in a Genre Film, and when winner Brad Pitt was a no-show, she said in her best sultry voice, "I'll personally deliver this award to Brad Pitt."
Glen Morgan and James Wong, the creators of SPACE, in addition to accepting their writing award, also accepted the Best Direction award on behalf of David Nutter, who couldn't make it due to his new job directing a little show called ER. Glen thanked all the fans for stuffing the ballot box, specifically naming the 59th and the 92nd. Making reference to "Who Monitors the Birds?" he said that when he first saw Rodney Rowland, he knew he would be great if they didn't give him any lines. (Note to the newbie: "Who Monitors the Birds?" was a mostly dialogue-free episode and featured Rodney's character, Cooper Hawkes).
There were several video presentations used as interstitial material between show segments, all put together very well. BABYLON 5, DEEP SPACE 9, THE X- FILES and SPACE: ABOVE AND BEYOND were all featured quite prominently.
As award shows go, this one was no different. It seems like an industry-wide rule that every presenter must tell a really bad joke before saying, "And the nominees are...." The opening sequence with Kristen and Bruce was funny, but after they left the stage it went downhill fast with too many redshirt jokes and other typically unfunny fare. The only exception was Brannan Braga, who talked the statuesque Julie Newmar into scratching his back by offering her a role as a Klingon.
Majel Barrett Rodenberry introduced the "Salute to Star Trek" video segment. Ms. Rodenberry looked as classy and stunning as ever and gave a very moving, eloquent speech about her late husband. On the downside, I could be exaggerating, but I think they included a clip from every single episode of all four Trek series as well as all eight movies. In other words, it seemed to go on forever.
It seemed that the stage manager was either asleep or never showed up at all, because on several occasions, after a winner gave his thank-you's, there would be an incredibly long silence with an empty stage, then the next presenter would come running from the back of the room to tell his bad joke and list the nominees for the next award. The overall pacing of the show was a little off in that the big climax of the evening was the award for Best Science Fiction Film, which of course went to ID4.
Then, as a sort of encore, they presented the Editor's Choice Award for Lifetime Achievement to Sid & Marty Krofft, which was introduced by comedian Pauly Shore, who was horribly out of place and very nervous and, as expected, made the typical ass out of himself by uttering the only profanity of the evening. About 20 minutes into this segment, H.R. Pufenstuff put in an appearance, but by now, people were starting to leave.
Then, when you really thought you could go home, it was time for The Gene L. Coon Award for Excellence in Science Fiction Writing. This award was introduced by the cast of ALIEN NATION, which was appropriate, since the award was presented to Kenneth Johnson, creator of ALIEN NATION, as well as V, THE INCREDIBLE HULK and several other genre television productions. But first, we were treated to Gene L. Coon's life story, then Kenneth Johnson's resume, then his speech about the current state of affairs in sci-fi television, which we had already heard an hour earlier when J. Michael Straczynski accepted BABYLON 5's award for Best TV Series.
At last, the awards show was over, and it was time for the post-Awards party. While several celebrities managed to sneak out during the final two awards, many chose to stay and mingle. Those who did stay seemed very relaxed and more than willing to chat with fans. The post-show food however was about as good as the jokes told during the awards.
On a final note, the 12-page program, which contained only 3 pages of real information about the awards, was filled with ads congratulating the nominees, mostly paid for by the studios and software companies. The only exception was the ad congratulating SPACE: ABOVE AND BEYOND, taken out by the 59th Ready Reserve, the only fanclub to place an ad in the program. A copy of the ad, autographed by the nominees from S:AAB, can be viewed at the Mission Status Web Site.
To put it mildly, when Glen Morgan and the gang first saw the ad, they were completely floored. They all send their best to the fans and wish them well and give a wholehearted thanks for all the support.
Though James Morrison was not present at this event, he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in a Genre TV Series. Unfortunately, Peter Jurasik won the award for his portrayal of Londo Molari in BABYLON 5. James Morrison did not have to face his defeat, however, as he was in Princeton performing at the McCarter Theatre in a play written by Marina Carr and directed by Emily Mann entitled THE MAI.