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Whoopi Goldberg shares 'Next Gen' secrets at her first Star Trek convention

The actress and comedian dishes on Guinan's saucer-shaped hats, her weird on-set nickname and wanting to return to the Star Trek universe.

Nichelle Nichols and Whoopi Goldberg
Whoopi Goldberg joined a tribute celebration for Nichelle Nichols at this week's Star Trek convention.
Amanda Kooser/CNET

Whoopi Goldberg hasn't been avoiding Star Trek conventions. She's just been busy working.

She managed to fit the Star Trek 50th anniversary convention in Las Vegas into her schedule and spent time on stage Thursday with Scott Mantz, a film critic who appears on "Access Hollywood." Goldberg took the opportunity to fill fans in on her time aboard the Enterprise and what those crazy hats she wore represented.

Goldberg first appeared on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" in the show's second season in 1988. Her character, Guinan, is wise, ancient and mysterious. She runs the Ten Forward lounge on the Enterprise, acting as both a bartender and an excellent listener.

Goldberg is a huge Star Trek fan from way back. Uhura, in particular, made an impression on her.

"You could see black people on television, but you never saw black people in the future until Gene Roddenberry put a beautiful black woman on that show. And not just a beautiful black woman, but a beautiful black woman who was the communications officer. She wasn't cleaning house," Goldberg said. That's why Goldberg wanted to be part of "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

Goldberg discussed the origin of the unusual name "Guinan." Roddenberry named the character for Texas Guinan, an actress and Vaudeville performer who ran a speakeasy in New York City during Prohibition. Her standard greeting to customers was "Hello, sucker!" Goldberg never got to use that particular line.

Guinan always had colorful costumes topped with large, circular hats. Goldberg referred to the outfits as "tents."

"I loved my hats," she declared. She didn't keep any of the props, but she does point out that the round design is mean to mimic the front saucer section of the Enterprise. Those hats also inspired a nickname among the other cast members: "Shuttle-head."


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When asked to share a secret about Guinan nobody knows, Goldberg talked about how Roddenberry intended Guinan to be extremely old and that she could be the ancestor of some of the characters on the show. "I always assumed that Picard was one of my great-great-great-great-great grandkids," Goldberg said. She also says that powerful alien Q and Guinan may have dated in the long distant past.

"They may have a baby. I'm not saying," she teased.

Guinan's story may not be over. Goldberg is lobbying to join the cast of the new television series "Star Trek: Discovery."

"I'm trying to get on it," she said. " The great thing that Gene did for me was he wrote a character that can appear anytime, anywhere." She's promoting the hashtag #BringBackGuinan. There could be a chance, as Roddenberry's son Rod Roddenberry is a producer on the new show. In a panel later in the day, he promised to mention it to the showrunners, saying, "I think that would be great."

Three Guinan cosplayers join Goldberg on stage.

Amanda Kooser/CNET