Destination Star Trek London: Disorganized Chaos
Destination Star Trek London – Earth, Stardate -310200.55264622555 (October 19, 2012)
I’d never been to a Star Trek convention before, and this particular event was promoted as being huge – the first official Star Trek convention in the UK for 10 years, to be exact. So, obviously, I was expecting big things. I also imagined it might end with a bang, but what I didn’t imagine was being escorted from the premises on the last day, like the rebel I am. Oh dear…
Over 17,000 people flocked to the event last weekend, which lasted three days and consisted of actor/writer/producer talks, photoshoots, stunt shows, autograph signing, costume fun, a Klingon wedding ceremony, a memorabilia ‘museum’, merchandise, a LOT of queuing and some very disgruntled fans.
In actuality, the whole thing was a bit of a shambles from start to finish. Disorganised and oversold, some fans queued for over two hours for talks they didn’t even get into. Refunds were refused for clashing tickets which had been sold weeks or even months before the schedule had been announced, and staff were described by many as ‘very rude’. One fan said “the whole thing put me off Star Trek a bit” while another labelled the staff as ‘fascists’ and said they’d been “herded like cattle”. Another frequenter of these kinds of conventions described it as the worst con they’ve ever been to. Nice, eh?
Of course, DSTL had its moments, like anything does – such as the Patrick Stewart talk, the Klingon wedding, and many of the wonderful and very gracious actors involved, who were forced to undergo 600+ photos not one but two days in a row. In fact, the actors barely got a break, and the queues seemed hellish, with people being rushed through in order to fit as many autographs in as possible. All about the money? Either way, it didn’t give me a lot of opportunity to talk to the actors themselves, and being a journalist, I did what most journalists worth their salt would do and headed, with an accomplice, to the green room.
Okay, so it was a bit naughty, but it was the last day, and after having talked to one of the actors (who is actually a friend of mine) and established where we were going, it seemed like it was full steam ahead. We entered, took a look around and sat down to assess the situation, with actors such as Michael Dorn and John de Lancie around us. Some of the captains, including William Shatner and Kate Mulgrew then walked in, and that was when we were approached by security and asked to leave. We left happily, but were then followed down the corridor by an official-looking fellow who demanded to see my press pass, before saying “I’m going to have to take this, and you won’t get it back.” On the way back down we saw Scott Bakula, who was complaining about how hard the stairs seemed to be getting. We were then given a jolly good talking to by members of the press team, before being escorted out of the premises like shamed criminals.
Having a spare weekend pass which belonged to a friend who wasn’t attending that day, I was able to enter again (admittedly changing my top to seem less noticeable), feeling very much like Captain Picard did in that scene in First Contact, when he decides to go back into the Borg Hive on the Enterprise. I was going back in, because there was one last thing I had to do… and that was to see this thing out ‘til the end.
Along with the day events, there were two balls which occurred on the Friday and Saturday evenings. One person who attended the Klingon Monster Ball on Friday night, which sold for £25 ($40) a ticket, described it as “terrible” with basically a small, ground floor DJ box, an aircraft hanger, some garden furniture, and drinks at £6 a pop – which sounds more than a little disappointing.
Disgruntled fans headed towards the forums to complain, and according to one source, negative feedback, especially towards the organisers, was actually being deleted as it came in.
Of course, like I said above, it wasn’t all bad. Here are some of my highlights from the convention:
There were two opening ceremonies to start off the con. There was the big one, featuring the five Star Trek captains and hosted by John Barrowman, and then there was the “alternative” ceremony, which was free and hosted by Connor Trinneer and Dominic Keating. Everyone seemed in top spirits for both ceremonies, and some of the actors appeared to even consumed some spirits – either way, everyone was very jolly and psyched up for the con ahead of them.
John de Lancie (to the audience) at the ‘alternative ceremony’: “I like you guys better!”
Brent Spiner: “It’s always been my dream to come to Canary Wharf, and at last, I’m alive!”
“How do you handle a smashed Klingon?!” – Not sure who said that one, but as you can see in the photo below, he refused to get up.
As you would expect for such an event, there were a delightful amount of varied and colourful costumes in true Trekkie style, including Klingons, Romulans, Vulcans, Borg, Ferengi, green people (not sure what they’re called), and plenty others, including this odd chap below. Check it out.
The Five Captains Talk
The special moment most fans had been waiting for…
There was a murmur of worry at the press photocall when Sir Patrick Stewart (AKA Captain Jean-Luc Picard) was a no-show, but luckily he got on stage for the Q&A which a lot of fans paid the hefty price of £95 to see. Essentially, it was a nostalgia trip of the highest order for Trek fans, as well as giving them the opportunity to ask the great five their questions.
It turned out to be an entertaining time, and one of the best moments of the whole shebang – after all, it had been heavily promoted and was the main selling point of the event. And any rivalry between the Starfleet captains? Not according to William Shatner, who described the relationship between them as being all “good friends”.
All the captains also admitted to believing in alien life out there… Interesting.
On the Friday, Swedish couple Jossie Sockertopp and Sonnie Gustavsson got hitched in a traditional Klingon wedding ceremony, based on a ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ episode.
“We saw the clip from the series…and we thought it was very romantic about beating hearts and a battle for each other. We really liked it, that’s why we want to do this,” Sockertopp said (via NYDailyNews.com)
Although it wasn’t the actual legal ceremony (which took place the day before at a registry office), it was still a special occasion and took around three months to plan, as Britain’s first wedding ceremony to be conducted in Klingon. The cake was pretty good, too, and looked like a Borg cube. Om nom nom.
Patrick Stewart Talk
Sir Patrick Stewart has a certain presence and grace about him that always makes his talks a special event. The queue for Patrick was almost out the door of the extremely generously-sized ExCel Centre, and when he came on stage, he didn’t let anyone down. Some of the most memorable parts of his talk including his appreciation for Croydon, and his advice to young actors to accept and celebrate themselves instead of hiding behind their characters, coming from experience. Of course, it seems hard to believe that Patrick couldn’t see his own greatness, but at one time apparently that was true. He added, “now, I know that was bullshit.”
He also talked about how for a long time, he really didn’t think he’d get the job as Picard, since Gene Roddenberry didn’t seem to want him. Apparently his name kept coming up again and again, and in the end it was down to himself and another actor. The story went that Roddenberry finally got sick of hearing Patrick’s name and sent a memo round never to mention it again – Stewart still doesn’t know what eventually swung it for him.
Brent Spiner Talk
Brent’s talks are usually one of the highlights of these types of events, and that was true of ‘Destination Star Trek London’ especially. Brent talked on both Saturday and Sunday, and although Sunday’s talk seemed to go especially quickly, with mostly a lot of the same, usual Trek questions the actors usually answer, I was able to grab the opportunity to ask Brent a question of my own:
“You know how the name ‘Spiner’ is similar to the common arachnoid name ‘spider’? Well, if you were to suddenly find yourself hideously mutating into a big, ugly, hairy, scary, eight-legged freakshow nightmare – but with your own head, so basically, a giant, mutated spider with the head of Brent Spiner… would you then do the decent thing and change your name to Brent Spider?”
Apparently he would, and it’s something he thinks about often…
Everyone loves Avery, and he was a pleasure to watch on the main stage. A couple of the best quotes went like this: “I would rather play a president than be one,” and: “The question is not genius… It’s what we DO with genius. We have to acknowledge when it’s here.” – Quite right, sir. Quite right.
One of the most looked forward to talks, William Shatner did his usual thing – which he’s very good at, by the way. After all, he’s been doing it for years. One of the best quotes from Shatner went a little something like this: “Although there is life after Star Trek, right now we’re celebrating life with Star Trek.” – The 81-year-old actor was also quick to praise his replacement, Chris Pine, who plays Kirk in the latest movies.
Bakula, Bakula, sounds like Dracula. And like the famous vampire, a fan was curious as to why the star doesn’t seem to be aging. It had us all pondering; could he in fact, be immortal? His answer: “First of all, thank you. Second of all, you might want to see an eye doctor.”
The convention didn’t end with a bang. It ended with a slow fizzle, like a glass of Coca Cola that’d been left out too long. Although, some fans did manage to enjoy themselves at the con (and with the highlights above, I suppose it is possible to look past the chaos and disorganisation, as well as the sky-high prices), I left feeling like if I had forked out for a ticket with many of the added extras they were charging through the roof for – I’d feel… well, I’d feel a bit ‘conned’. (Get it? Conned?)
Some more photos: