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DESTINATION STAR TREK 3 - A Review By Chris Hewer

destination star trek london 3

October 3rd-5th 2014 saw the third Star Trek event from Showmasters/Media 10 within the past few years and the second to be held in the Excel Centre, London. I was fortunate to have attended the original 2012 show and loved every minute.

 When it was announced there would be a return to the UK for the next show, I had not expected to be able to make it this time.  Having already budgeted and booked London Film and Comic Con in July my budget was already stretched.  However, then came further details and guest line up and for myself and my mate, Rob, the words James Darren and Party were enough to start asking the question.  How do we make this event happen? Well, we did make it happen and I am so glad that we did. Here is a breakdown of our weekend at Destination Star Trek 3.

After our previous trip to London Comic Con in the summer of 2014, we had discovered that getting there was most certainly NOT half the fun.  But we had used that event to do a test run of what attending a Friday preview day would be like, what to expect in terms of crowds and how much more time it would allow over a full weekend of events to make everything feel less rushed and more relaxed.  This was to be our template so to speak for DSTL3.

Rule one then, get there early with plenty of time to spare when both travelling and attending an event on the same day!  Our coach set off from South Wales at 8.10am to arrive at 11.15am in London giving us a window of four hours before we needed to be at the event for my first photo shoot of the weekend. All went well on the journey so by around 2pm, we were washed, changed and on our way across the Excel for the start of a Star Trek filled weekend of fun!

As we made our way across to the Excel, Rob and I saw the expected Cosplay crowds, impressing with their Starfleet uniforms and Ferengi ears to the stranger alien creatures from across the Trek Universe.  As ever, a lot of fantastic costumes from the dedicated fans - we ourselves would be stepping into uniform but not until Saturday.

I had forgotten how huge the Excel building is and as we made our way along what seemed to be miles of hallway, eventually we found the hanger where the entrance queues are formed for the event. Noticeably quieter than at DSTL in 2012 (we never attended a Friday before this though), we joined the back of a snaking queue waiting to enter. We had just standard entry tickets for the weekend having not taken up any of the special packages available to purchase. Separate queues in the hanger were dedicated to the different package types and priority entry would be given to the more expensive pass holders. Despite always looking as if you will wait hours to actually get in, these huge queues are generally managed quite well (queue jumping morons aside) and you are always into the event in next to no time.

First thing, I wanted to buy some additional photo shoot tickets.  As ever, I tend to pre-order the bulk of my photo shoot tickets in advance so as not to get caught up on the day but some additional cash had come my way so I wanted to get as many shoots as I could. This year, having the full guest line up and timetable available so early online allowed for some superb planning to fit as much in as comfortably as possible without the worry of clashes occurring. A great idea on the organiser’s part.

Additional tickets purchased with a new system of filling in a form indicating your choices, (not entirely convinced it was necessary to do this).  Rob and I split up to get a full idea of the layout of the event and get our bearings.  I will say that the overall layout of this event compared to 2 years previous was far better and more spread out with seating available and even bean bags to lounge on and relax while watching old episodes from the show!

I had about half an hour or so until my first photo shoot with TNG girls, Marina Sirtis, Gates McFadden and Denise Crosby and I began to get that nervous feeling of meeting these iconic actors from the past 20 or so years of my life.  Anyone who has ever had a photo shoot at one of these type of events I am sure will understand what I mean!!  The queue for the shoot was not huge so I was relatively near to the front as I waited, sweating palms, for the stars to show up. This year, regardless of your ticket number, there was no priority of calling by number order as had been at previous DSTL, which I think make things a little easier in that you weren't fighting to get though crowds as your batch number was called. Simply join the end of the queue. Priority as ever and quite rightly though was given to package holders and disabled fans at the front of the queue.

Then, there they were. Marina, Denise and Gates.  In position ready for the shoot to begin and as we started to move quickly through the numbers, you could see the ladies having a great time with each other and the fans during the shoot.  You really felt how closely they connect with each other having been colleagues and friends through the years.  Friendly, chatty and fun! My turn, I walked up, squashed myself in between Gates and Denise, a quick few words and smiles and bang, it was over.  Within a minute, I had my first photo of the weekend in my hands, a great quality picture and a memory for the rest of my life.

Time to move on, a little more time spare until my next shoot with Nick Meyer together with Rob but I needed to see if I could achieve a little mission to do with a certain Captain of the Enterprise and a possible big ask...

Friday 3rd was my 6th Wedding Anniversary and where was I - at a Star Trek con while my partner was at home. Oops! Though this really wasn't a problem, I had decided I wanted to try and get Patrick Stewart to dedicate an autograph to mark our anniversary and as my other half is a huge X-Men fan, who better than Jean Luc/ Professor X to drop us a little message.
 Before queueing to purchase an autograph token, I needed to make sure he would be willing to sign such a dedication. After speaking to a friendly member of Media 10 staff, I was directed to a group of management to seek their advice on the matter. As I explained to them, they said Patrick would be happy to dedicate such a message so I headed across to the token booth, then to pick up a picture for Patrick to sign followed by joining the main autograph queue. All in all, this took me around 30 minutes to achieve which I was extremely happy about and I had my dedicated autograph,


After a double photo with Rob and Nick Meyer, I had an hour to fully explore before my photo with Brent Spiner, Levar Burton and Michael Dorn.  I took the opportunity of the fewer crowds to enjoy the many stalls selling merchandise (again, a lot more than the first DSTL), the museum (far bigger than the first event), and a relaxed coffee and bite to eat.  But time got away from me and for the first time ever, I lost track of time before realising it was 5.05pm and my photo shoot FINISHED at this time....
I sprinted fast as possible across to the photo area, panicking, that I was too late. As I arrived, Michael, Levar and Brent were just leaving the area!!  Fortunately one of the ever great Showmasters crew called them back where I very apologetically posed with TNG guys. They were great about it all and after Levar wished me a good weekend, I collected my picture and still a little embarrassed about arriving late, left.  A little too rushed here but nobody but myself to blame. I am incredibly grateful they were happy to come back to allow this photo shoot with me.

A few more photos with Voyager stars Tim Russ and Ethan Phillips, both incredibly chatty and friendly, and it was soon time for the official opening ceremony.  For 90 minutes, we watched each of the guests introduced to the main stage by Jonathan Ross . I enjoyed this far more than I thought as I am not a fan of Mr Ross but he was really very good with the stars, I guess because he is a Trekkie himself!

Finally, for the evening, a few well deserved pints in the bar of the hotel across from the Excel (where we snuck in, in the hope of seeing a few of the guests - which we did, James Darren, Tim Russ and Nick Meyer to name a few) before heading to the evening party at The Fox pub.  A great venue with an amazing atmosphere even if the prices caused a bit of a warp core breach in my budget!!

That was Friday done where, shattered after a long day, we headed back to our hotel and ended up with a few more beers before the main and busiest day to come....

Me enjoying a coffee before
the main event.
Rob doing some final checks
After an early rise, we were in our Trek outfits to enjoy a little bit of Cosplay ourselves for today. Always a great deal of fun to do. My outfit was as I had previously worn 2 years earlier, The Wrath Of Khan Starfleet outfit. Rob wore the Enterprise NX01 uniform. Time for a quick stop off in the nearby cafe for some breakfast and a few strange looks first before heading into Excel for day 2.

Despite expecting to see some big queues at around 8am, we were surprised that it seemed far quieter than the previous events Saturday crowds and indeed this seemed to be the case across the entire weekend. Still, this allowed for a far less manic experience and there were still a lot of fans with a lot more to arrive. We made our way to the main stage for the attempt at the Guinness World Record attempt of the most fans in Trek uniform at 8.30am. It had been expressed a great deal of times already that this seemed far too early to attempt such a feat and indeed it was as we got nowhere near to the numbers of people needed to beat the record. Still, on the plus side, we still hold the record from the previous event :-)
That done, it was time for day 2 with a lot more photo ops to do today. First off, we decided that we wanted to get the bridge photo done whilst in uniform but our tickets were valid for the Sunday for this. A quick word with the staff though and not a problem, we were through for the bridge shoot a day earlier and just before a huge queue of people joined with the same idea! I was really impressed with the actual bridge set of the Enterprise D however, not so impressed with the photos themselves. Far too dark. The positioning of the cameras/flash was not right and the result showed this. I have since seen a lot of people sharing this same view so it’s a shame this wasn't sorted out after day one. Never mind.

Photo shoot time with Rom and Nog first off in costume! As had previously happened at the first DSTL (where I had a Klingon shoot with Gowron and Martok), this time the original Ferengi actors were getting back into makeup and costume. Brilliant fun and they looked amazing as their characters.

Today was mainly about photo shoots for me - as always at this type of event really - but they were so spaced out because of the early timetables available to plan the weekend and the extra time attending Friday had allowed, there was still a lot of time to take the day at a casual pace whilst enjoying the great atmosphere that the show had to offer.
Colm Meaney was next up. A late addition to the line-up, (but a welcome one), replacing Jonathan Frakes who sadly had cancelled.  On a plus side again for me, because I had already booked a Frakes photo shoot, his cancellation automatically upgraded me to the Meaney shoot at no extra cost. I know this didn't work out well for all fans but personally, it took away the disappointment of missing Riker himself adding another member of the DS9 cast to my photo collection.  (Now only really missing Cirroc Lofton  and Nicole DeBoer from the main cast). Colm seemed a great guy, chatty and pleased to be there with his fans.

The lovely Nichelle Nichols came next.  Another classic series main cast member who again, despite some frailties, made every effort to take time out to chat and at the very least greet her fans.  Especially pleased to have met this lady. I always said to myself, you cannot pass up the opportunity here to meet Uhura!

Then came the main reason for attending DSTL3 for me, Mr James Darren, Vic Fontaine himself . Or as Rob and I now call him, Mr Cool!  Such a calm and composed guy who for his 78 years, seems in remarkable shape both physically and as we would find out that evening definitely vocally.  A real joy to stand next to him for the photo and after asking him if he was selling his CD's across the weekend, surprised and disappointed to hear him tell us, he hadn't been allowed to.  WHAT? Who made that decision?

My final photo shoots of the day were with Bruce Greenwood and Karl Urban from the JJ Abrams Trek movies.  Sadly lacking any presence at DSTL, it was great to see them represented here for DSTL3.  Bruce was incredibly friendly and I really felt he was enjoying every minute. I understand this was his first convention and from what I saw I don't expect it to be his last!

The queue for Karl Urban was the biggest I had seen all weekend (well, perhaps the Borg chamber with Jeri Ryan was equally as big) and by the time I left the Bruce photo shoot, I was at the near back of Karl's queue and a little disheartened at the length.  My feet by this point in the day were absolutely killing me - cosplay certainly isn't comfortable!  The queue was gone within half hour though and the only real downside as happens with such big guests, there is no time to really say anything other than a very quick hello - not even time for a handshake.  They work on very tight schedules but I think people earlier in the queue may just have been lucky enough to have time on their side for a little bit more of a meet with Mr Urban.  Again, I have a great photo though and at the end of the day, if you want to be able to have a chat and a handshake, the autographs are where you need to head for this opportunity.  The photo shoot is exactly what it says on the tin so I'm certainly not disappointed.

Vic Fontaine Performs
It’s time to head back to the hotel to freshen up, have a bite to eat and get ready for the party with James Darren at the Fox pub at 8pm.  We squeezed a few beers in with the stars again at the hotel before heading to the party.   I have to say, at no point did we bother any of the actors while they were relaxing in their hotel bar.  Once in the incredibly packed party venue, we settled with a beer waiting for Mr Darren to arrive on stage.  We managed to get quite a good side view of the stage so we were very close to watch the performance and it certainly did not disappoint.  A great highlight was turning to my left to see James Darren stood next to me ready to be introduced onto the stage by Casey Biggs (Damar, DS9).  Amazing. And then the performance began. I can honestly say that I have rarely felt so much happiness than at that point listening to Vic Fontaine belt out some of the greatest songs featured in Deep Space Nine and as silly as it sounds, I could have cried with joy at points during his awesome performance.  As I have mentioned, you would never believe that this man is 78 years old, listening to him, his voice was a strong as it was 20 years ago quite easily. I  could have listened to him sing for hours.  (Rob filmed around half hour of this performance and I would urge you to watch the video below).  As an added bonus, Robert Picardo, Max Grondenchik, Casey Biggs and other guests were in the crowd mingling with the fans and it was superb to see.  Where else would you get this?  As Darren left the stage, again exiting right past me,  I thanked him for an amazing performance to be greeted with a smile, thank you and a hand shake. Incredible.

Following on from James Darren, Tim Russ took to the stage to treat the crowd to his vocal talent and as much as I enjoyed listening to this, it was Darren that stole the show for me.
Hours later and still buzzing with the party atmosphere of the evening, we headed back to our hotel smiling and talking of the day and nights events.


A shorter day today as heading back to Wales around 1pm but still a few photo shoots to get with Jeri Ryan and Robert Picardo plus, after his performance last night, I wanted James Darren’s autograph.  Both Rob and I headed there first thing. As is the normal for conventions, Sunday was far, far quieter in terms of people so again, plenty of space to easily browse stalls or enjoy activities of the event. As we stood toward the front of Mr Darren’s autograph queue, it was noticeable how few guests were there signing from the beginning.
 Apparently, it is quite normal for guests to not turn up for a few hours after the event opens.  I can understand this but what I don't understand is why the event organisers allow fans to queue for hours waiting for a guest if they know they are unlikely to arrive for hours.  They could easily keep people more informed to allow them to enjoy other aspects of the convention and come back later.  Despite joining the autograph queue around 9am, it was 11am before the majority of the guests including Mr Darren began to arrive.  Little or no information regarding this was given from organisers and people were left standing and waiting.  Not good Media 10.  I left the queue to head across for my photo shoot with Robert Picardo anyway and he was great!  Despite the fact that by Sunday morning both guests and fans alike were flagging from the busy weekend, every effort was still being made from the guests to ensure a good time was had by all and I could not fault anyone that I saw across the whole event for the efforts made to please the fans.

Straight across to a photo shoot with Jeri Ryan after Picardo, and expecting to see a rather large queue, I was shocked to find I walked straight in and up to Jeri - there was no queue at all!  I have never experienced this and wish now that I had taken this opportunity to chat a little to Seven Of Nine but I am so used to these things moving so quickly, I was up, hand shake, hello, smile, thank you and gone.  Idiot that I am!! Jeri is such a lovely and bubbly person that you would never associate her with her character.  A tribute to her great acting ability.  One of the most pleasant guests of the weekend to me and also someone that I witnessed going above and beyond for her fans the entire weekend.  Lovely lady.
Finally, back across to get my James Darren autograph on the photograph I had done the previous day before wrapping up the weekend and sadly, going home . It was quite a joy to see James Darren and William Shatner sat next to each other at the autograph booths and made me smile thinking of their TJ Hooker days together!

All in all, I had an amazing time with absolutely nothing I could complain greatly about across the entire 3 days.  All the staff I met (with perhaps the exception of some of the Excel staff members), guests, fans, all were having a great time creating memories of an amazing series that spans almost 50 years now. I only hope that we will see a return to Excel London again very soon for another Destination Star Trek event. Showmasters/Media 10 - MAKE IT SO and thank you for another even more incredible 3 days!

Chris Hewer




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