What a weekend! I've just got back from London where Destination Star Trek London was being held at the Excel. I met all five captains, had numerous photos taken with the actors, got several autographs, helped break the world record for the most amount of Star Trek fans in costume, listened to talks by some of the actors, enjoyed parties and so much more. But how did it all go? Was it organised? Did the organisers hit it off, or did they sink quicker than Riker in the Skin Of Evil?
I had a two day pass for the Saturday and Sunday (along with a press pass so I could sneak into the talks.) I was joined by four others, my wife and three friends, one of whom, namely Chris, kindly did all the organising and booking. Myself and Chris were in full costume. I was sporting an Enterprise jumpsuit while Chris wore a rather fine Captains suit from Star Trek II.
We arrived at the Excel at around 8:15 for a 9am start. The crowds were already gathering. We were all told to wait in a huge empty hall or more like a hangar it was that big. The wait seemed longer as we were eager to get in but the queues were orderly and we were amongst Star Trek fans so conversation was easy. The hangar was completely empty and I think it wouldn't have cost that much to set-up a few monitors with Star Trek clips playing, or a few members of staff walking up and down the long lines giving advice on what to do when you get in. This would have been especially useful as the day before we were told by people who had been there on the Friday to make sure you head over to the ticket place to make sure you get your tickets for the photo shoots even though you have tickets already. This turned out to be wrong as the tickets we had were our allocated tickets so we wasted a bit of time there. Anyway, eventually the lines of people started moving and before we knew it we were in. Now the busy schedule.
So what did we have on? Well the Saturday was our busiest day. We were worried as there were so many Trek fans leading up to the event on forums saying about the lack of organisation, that we may have bitten off more than we could chew. We booked to have our photos taken with all five captains along with other guests. My schedule for the Saturday went like this.
9:55 - Scott Bakula, 11:30 - Avery Brooks, 13:25 - Kate Mulgrew, 13:50 - John De Lancie, 15:35 - William Shatner, 16:00 - Rene Auberjonois, 16:40 - Patrick Stewart, 17:55 - Jeffrey Combs, 18:00 - World Record Attempt, 20:00 - TNG Party.
Chris had more or less the same except for a Klingon photo shoot at 10:20. Sunday was a much quieter day, in fact the only event I had booked in was to have my photo taken on a mock up of the old Enterprise bridge. Otherwise it was a chance to see everything else going on. There was a potential problem for Chris though. The time table had been published after he booked the bus back and he noticed that Nina Visitor and Rene Auberjonois for him were booked after four, which is the time we needed to leave. He had just resigned to the fact that he may miss these two and would ask if there was anything they could do when he got there.
You were all allocated numbers on your tickets for the photoshoots. The staff at each photoshoot area would shout out numbers in batches. If you were one of those you joined the queue for your photo. I found the staff helpful and on the ball. The crowds for the bigger shoots such as Williams Shatner and Patrick Stewart were huge, and the staff didn't at at anytime look overwhelmed. One said he did this every week so was used to it. It showed. Once in the queue they were long but they were moving constantly. When you got nearer to the your photo-taking area, you could (thankfully) leave any bags you had at the bag drop off area. Then in we went for our photo. First was Scott Bakula. He was very friendly shaking my hand and asking how I was and also pointing out my costume. Photo taken he shook my hand again, smiled and said thank you. Going outside again my photo was more or less ready instantly. Pick up my bag and thats it. First one done! Thats how it went for the rest of the photoshoots but there were a few problems.
Kate Mulgrew at 13:25 and John De Lancie at 13:50. That's going to be tight. Well my ticket number for Janeway was quite high so I asked the staff and they said go and have your photo taken with Q first as my number was low and come back. So I did. John De Lancie's photo shoot was swift. Back over to Kate Mulgrew but there was a problem. They had stopped taking any more photos for Mulgrew and moved on to Shatner. I joined the queue for that. The staff reassured me that they will be doing another shoot later on to mop up any that hadn't had their photos yet with Mulgrew. In the end it all came good and after a few reschedulings by the organisers everyone managed to get their photos taken. Chris enquired about his two he would miss on the Sunday and they moved him with no issues to the Saturday. Chris told me:
"I went up to a young woman in photo shoot b and asked how the photo shoots work. Given great advice based on the number on my ticket and what would be the best to do including when you have clashes. As soon as I explained the Kira/Odo situation, she immediately asked for my tickets and crossed off the Sunday date and wrote Saturday and in brackets"can't make Sunday shoot" and signed CJ Burns. Job done. No hesitation or questioning. Incredibly pleasant and helpful. And that in general sums up all my experiences with the staff across the 2 days. "
As a result of a bit of resceduling, the costume world record attempt was put back to seven instead of six. Our plans of going back to the hotel to freshen up before the party went out of the wormhole but thats a small price to pay to make sure everything was done.
Between photo shoot times there was time to either get something to eat, of which I must say the facilities of the Excel are amazing. Just outside the main area there is a mile long mall filled with food vendors, shops and toilets every hundred yards or so. With over twelve thousand people there on the Saturday it was pleasing to know that at any time I could get a coffee or freshen up without having to queue. There were also plenty of seats to sit down and enjoy that well earned break. While sat at one of the tables just opposite enjoying his dinner was Ronald D Moore.
After a quick coffee I wandered over to one of the talks that was taking place in the main hall. A security guard on the door was stopping anyone getting in unless you had a prepaid ticket. I showed my press pass and he let me in. Not taking advantage I sat on the end and listened first off to Mr Avery Brooks. A deep philosophical man who's passion for his music is obvious to see. Throughout the day I managed to pop in to the hall and listen to Patrick Stewart who was so good with the crowd and had them clapping and cheering when he said he would do Star Trek again if given the chance. William Shatner talked about previous acquaintances and again a deeper answer given with each question. My favourite was Scott Bakula who seemed so down to earth with the fans. He talked about Quantum Leap, Enterprise, and one bit I found particularly interesting is how he explained he was trying to get interest in a new sci-fi idea pitch to a studio,when they said we can't do this Scott because we want you to be the captain of our new Star Trek show. Of course he accepted. He also gave a great message saying that be careful how you treat people, as you never know when you'll meet them again. When he was working on Quantum leap he explained that a lot of the crew he became friends with, and years later those friends became bosses of Paramount and other TV studios.
There was also time to visit the autograph area. But first I headed over to a vendor that was selling 10x8 photos of all the cast that were there. I bought eight for £20. First port of call was Jeffrey Combs. No queues, just walk up and pay £15. He personalised the photo for myself and Rachel, my wife. Throughout the weekend I managed to get John De Lancie, Andrew Robinson, Robert O'Reilly, Chase Masterson, Mark Alaimo, Rene Auberjonois, Nana Visitor, Connor Trinneer (my wife's favourite), Anthony Montgomery and Dominic Keating, who talked to me about his audition for Enterprise and how he went in there with a heavy english northern accent and how the producers thought it was Welsh or Scottish. They told him to put a more upper class accent on.
After all our photos and autographs Chris and myself headed over to the main hall for the world record attempt. We were in costume along with a thousand other fans. Filling in a small form to make sure they had all the official data they need for the record we headed into the hall. We had to stay in there for ten minutes and take off our glasses. It was touch and go for a minute as we needed twelve more to break the record. Everytime someone in costume walked in a huge roar from the crowd would envelop the hall. In the end we did it easily. 1083 costume-clad Star Trek fans breaking the previous record of 1040. The atmosphere was incredible and I don't think I will experience anything like that again. So much Star Trek love all in one place. As we left there were media and cameras capturing the moment.
Still on a high we all piled into the Star Trek party just a bit further down the mall. A huge bar serving Romulan Ale along with more traditional drinks lit up the one side of the hall. There was a bumper car ride at the back and then the main stage in the middle. First we had Avery Brooks take to the stage to show off his talents as a jazz/blues singer. Anthony Montgomery came on next and improvised a bit of rapping. Dominic Keating was next and performed his stand up comedy routine which although very rude was actually very funny. Last and by no mean least we had Chase Masterson who's voice is easy to listen to and performed a few songs that Vic Fontaine sang on Deep Space Nine. A great way to end the day.
Still in costume we headed back to the hotel and hit the bar.. A group came over and asked if they could have their photo taken with us. It was after 3 in the morning before we headed to our rooms but not before we tried re-enacting the Cantina scene with Han, Ben and Luke looking for a ship. Yes, Star Wars in Star Trek outfits. Problem is, Derek who was Chewie had questionable skills at mimicking a wookie.
Up the following morning, no wait it was already morning. A few hours later we were heading back to the Excel for a more leisurely day. A stroll through the Klingon area where there was a chance to have your photos taken with a few friendly klingons. No Gak was being served though. We headed over to the bridge mock up of the original series. All five of us on the bridge with a photographer taking our photo at different positions. This was a bit rushed and as a result the photos could have been better. Some of us were hidden behind the other and one of the photos was of us moving into position.
After we picked up our photos, the SFX team were on stage doing a Q&A session. Here was my chance to take the mic and ask them a very important question. What is your favourite John Williams soundtrack? I recorded the answer and you can watch the video for the answer.
The rest of the day was looking around the stalls and having our photo taken on the transporter on the CBS Action stall with our Iphone app.
We came away exhausted but happy. The venue was geared up for a large event such as this one. The staff were knowledgeable and had plenty of patience. The queues were long but were flowing. If I had to change anything, I would have wished for a few more chairs inside the event. There was so much standing up that our legs and back felt like they had been hit with pain sticks. The rescheduling we found out from word of mouth, and I think use of the PA system at the event should have been used a bit more. Also, at the party in the night, although the atmosphere was great and the performances top quality, I felt that the disco and the DJ should have played music related to Star Trek and not pop music. These are minor gripes and overall considering how big this event was it was well organised and I can't wait to go again. I want more!
The Bearded Trio
Watch the two day experience in our 30 minute video. A few laughs along the way too and a Star Wars reference.
Watch the two day experience in our 30 minute video. A few laughs along the way too and a Star Wars reference.