‘Destination Star Trek London 2012’ review

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So, an assortment of Federation officers, Klingons, Vulcans, Borg and every other race in this and every galaxy herded into Destination Star Trek London 2012’s main room for what would be sci-fi history.

The main event was undoubtedly the “Opening Ceremony”, featuring Torchwood star John Barrowman hosting a lengthy Q&A session involving actors William Shatner (Kirk), Sir Patrick Stewart (Picard), Avery Brooks (Sisco), Kate Mulgrew (Janeway) and Scott Bakula (Archer). Topics ranged from early Star Trek memories to the worst moments on set (Shatner’s stunt double’s pants split), right through to tales of fans getting their breasts out to be signed (Shatner “wrote a treatise”) and the unashamed fanboy Barrowman imploring Bakula to sign his arse cheek (like a pro, he did).

Alongside the gathering of captains, there was a successful attempt for European fans to break the world record for the most people in Star Trek costume in one room, a title previously held by the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention. Smashing the old record, a total of 1,084 fans made the effort (see the accompanying pictures for a few of the best), which was celebrated with a Next Generation-themed party on the Saturday night (following the Klingon Ball on the Friday).

For those less familiar with the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition (read: too poor to afford the extra fees for each of the costly talks with stars ranging from Michael Dorn {Worf} and Brent Spiner {Data} to Walter Koenig {Chekhov} and John De Lancie {Q}), there was a veritable geekgasm of merchandise stalls, signing and photo sessions (a slightly smaller fee!) and a fascinating museum section. Featuring memorable costumes and props from the shows and movies, the diverse selection included original uniforms, an escape pod and injured Porthos dog model from Enterprise, Borg machinery (and – yes – the actual arm of Locutus, Captain Picard’s Collective alter-ego!) and even Neelix’s forehead for good measure.

All this was well and good, though perhaps not a huge amount of entertainment for your buck when all you got for your standard not-cheap entrance fee was another opportunity to be sold things, as various online commentators uttered on social networking site Reddit’s Star Trek forums.

Of course, Trekkers famously will splash out on anything from an oversized Spock outfit to a Guinan action figure, so maybe this is par for the course. Perhaps skillfully judging the mood of some fans, fan favourite Avery Brooks, AKA Captain Benjamin Sisco, was critical of the cattle-production line of some signing sessions at events, making a point of taking his time with every fan who had paid to meet him.

Still, crass commercialism aside (seriously; who expected otherwise?), you can’t really argue against how downright cool it was for fans to hear anecdotes about how our Captain Kirk “Shatnered” himself (as one fan memorably put it) whilst suffering from gastric flu on a Broadway stage, or seeing Deep Space Nine cast members Rene Auberjonois, Nana Visitor, Cirroc Lofton, Andrew J. Robinson and Chase Masterson reunited.

Prolific Trek writer and producer Brannon Braga gave a fascinating talk about the creative process behind the show and his inspirations (The Twilight Zone a key influence), as well as the depths of his disappointment at Enterprise being cancelled (“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t devastating”). Most excitingly, Braga revealed a new comic series, Hive, set 500 years in the future of The Next Generation continuity, with Locutus attempting to reverse the Borg’s total assimilation of the universe.

Of course, no Star Trek convention would be complete without the spectacle of Michael Dorn and Brent Spiner bickering; as Dorn himself said: “I thought it would be nice to hang out with Brent for a whole weekend, but he really is the most annoying person.” Quite.

Though nice to see lesser-known favourite characters in the flesh, the gargantuan queues for two big talks said all there was to say about the real stars of the show, the series’ two most successful captains, Bill Shatner and Sir Patrick Stewart, both of whom gave an engaging performance in the main room.

Shatner’s schtick was essentially an entertaining variation on his one man show he recently toured in the US, peppered with humorous reminiscences about his ongoing feud with Leonard Nimoy over who could get in the set lunch queue first and his thoughts on the genre he made his name in: “We know that everything we know is suspect, even the speed of light.” Somehow, not one mention of TekWar.

Stewart’s stint was equally satisfying. Fans learnt he is planning to revive his one-man stage version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol one last time for this Yuletide and that his favourite comedy appearance was his guest appearance as a flamboyant opera buff in sitcom Frasier. With serious drama and action/genre film-making under his belt, it seems Stewart’s next major goal is to fully branch out into comedy. With his sometimes very funny asides and natural eye for the absurd, this was made obvious in person.

And absurd this event certainly was; be it a selection of Seven of Nines vying for attention against a male, bespectacled, catsuit-clad rival, more than £5 for a small bottle of booze (!) or the glee of watching fan after fan monkey about in a replica bridge set, the general sense of otherness turned out to be the London event’s key attraction. Trekkers from around Europe are well-aware of this mix of the silly and the profound; as long as there are somewhat geeky thinkers around willing to strap a Ginster’s pasty to their head in the name of Klingon endeavour, it seems all is right with the world.

Did you go to the event? Let us know below…