Tony Black reports from Destination Star Trek: Europe 2016…
Star Trek @ 50. Why hasn’t more of a fuss been made? That’s been on many Trekkie thoughts over the course of this year. Sure, Star Trek Beyond hit cinemas and Star Trek: Discovery is about to start filming, but celebrations of the landmark birthday for, arguably, the most iconic television series in history have been surprisingly scant. Hailing Destination: Star Trek Europe, which lowered its shields for the third time since 2012 for a massive, three-day celebration of all things Star Trek at the National Exhibition Centre outside Birmingham – and I was lucky enough to snaffle a press pass & beam my way onto the bridge.
Sadly, I wasn’t quite lucky enough to be there from the press-exclusive outset due to the pesky job I have to maintain, but I did have a few Section 31 agents on the ground who I later debriefed and who gave me a basic run down of events; after William Shatner’s bizarre Good Morning Britain interview, he turned up alongside the rest of the major Trek stars from multiple series for a press conference photo call on the perfectly re-created bridge of the original, 60’s USS Enterprise… in his joggers! Press had some interviews and the stars toddled off to man their autograph booths ready for the first wave of Trekkies arriving at 2pm.
It was 5pm when I arrived at the event was in full swing. Shatner had presumably disappeared for a late afternoon nap, as maybe had George Takei and Walter Koenig, but the queues tailed back for the lovely Terry Farrell, charming Armin Shimerman, and the legendary Christopher Lloyd. No love for poor Casey Biggs (aka Deep Space Nine‘s Damar) and not enough for astronaut Al Worden, only one of twenty-four men to ever walk on the Moon! The opening ceremony was at 7pm so I busied myself looking around the merch stalls while meeting up with fellow Trekkies I’d met through the TrekFM podcast community, all of whom were wonderfully friendly and, as was I, in Trek Heaven.
That’s not to say the opening day was as shiny and precious as gold pressed latinum; even though the NEC is a huge space, the conference hall was in places that didn’t hold replica bridges of the 60’s Enterprise and The Next Generation‘s Enterprise-D surprisingly sparse. The merch stalls were impressive, mind you, with a bookseller of Trek novels selling at half price and a vendor selling authentic, talkative Tribbles among my personal favourites (yes, I did buy one. His name is Marvin. He’s already trouble). Alongside this was a pair of stages, only one of which was in use staging ‘Kirk-a-Oke’ and ‘Red Shirt Battles’, which were as enjoyable as they sound. A replica Borg alcove for photos was fun but the hyped up ‘Klingon Zone’ wasn’t much kop, especially wedged between a pair of distinctly non-Trek sandwich vans!
My biggest issue with the whole event really was how featureless it was, and not nearly geared around involving you particularly in a Trek-atmosphere. A good example was the after-party at the Hilton Metropole which was really quite poor – beyond a few United Federation of Planets posters, the venue just felt like a wedding reception with the food. It allowed for the fun sight of half-cut Trek fans dancing to the Grease megamix in Starfleet uniforms, but it’s a wonder anyone was drunk at all given there was one bar serving over a thousand people – you can imagine the queues. Admittedly the Saturday night, with a band made up of Deep Space Nine & Enterprise stars playing would have no doubt been better, but that lack of atmosphere seemed unfair for the price Trekkies were paying.
In fairness, none of this was really what people were there for – rather the chance to meet the Trek legends in person, and Destination: Star Trek provided an impressive roster of legends from Gene Roddenberry’s universe, all of whom took a bow during the opening ceremony inside the expansive Enterprise stage in an over hour-long event hosted by mega fan, Greg Grunberg. You got the sense Shatner didn’t want to be there, Lloyd was intensely jet lagged, and Grunberg’s overt American sensibility at shouting excitedly at the crowd soon grew a little wearing, but the rest of the stars were a delight. George Takei was charming & sweet as usual, while Wil Wheaton was equally charming and funny, even when gamely accepting the slightly odd Guinness World Record for oldest video game award.
All in all, Destination Star Trek Europe was an ambitious event to celebrate the 50th anniversary, especially for the strong European crowd of Trekkies. People had come not just from across the UK but as far as even Iceland, many dressed up in all kinds of costume and finery, to share their love of the franchise. Many of the stars were present, most on form and happy to engage with fans, and from all accounts, the Saturday was a real success with a range of panels and talks alongside the merchandise, autographs and photos (the two Dax’s was apparently particularly illuminating). It’s a shame, atmospherically, more effort wasn’t made to immerse fans into the world of Trek, but, as a convention for fans and stars to connect, it was about as galactic as you could imagine.