Taking a Trip to Destination Star Trek
London, Destination Star Trek, 12th-14th November 2021
The first major post-Covid Star Trek convention took place in the ExCeL centre in the London Docklands and I was very excited to go. Covid had taken its toll on the event, though; several guests had pulled out and there were less traders than usual. However, there were still over twenty-six guests from all over the Star Trek Universe and covering every series, the VIP guests in attendance being George Takei, Kate Mulgrew and Marina Sirtis, but many more as well.
You could buy a day ticket from £29 to a weekend pass for £44, plus special packages – i.e., a Lieutenant package for £145 to an Admiral’s package for £2,999. I spoke to one guy who had paid for an Admiral’s package; he said his brother had paid out over £12,000 to follow England to the last World Cup and, to him, the Admiral’s package was the Star Trek equivalent to the World Cup. Do you know what? I can understand that.
There were three stages inside ExCeL: Enterprise, Voyager and Excelsior, with events held all the time, every day, so if this was your first event, there was no way you could see everything in one day. The Enterprise stage was ticketed and you could pay to see chats with George Takei, Kate Mulgrew, cast members from Star Trek: Discovery, and cast members from DS9 and Voyager, although these were fully booked out. There was also a special showing each day of the latest animated Trek series, Star Trek: Prodigy, introduced by Kate Mulgrew herself. The other stages had talks from the European Space Agency, prop auctions, quizzes, and lots and lots more. There was a prop and costume museum, a screening room where episodes from across the Trek Universe were shown, a gaming area, and lots of stalls. There was also a Voyager Bridge set, a classic Enterprise set, plus a green screen where you could get a picture of yourself on one of the many sets as a background.
Due to Covid, you were asked to keep your mask on and only take it off to eat, drink or get your photo taken. Of course, you were also asked to respect the guests and not to expect to touch or engage in handshakes. Plus, you had to show your NHS Covid pass to prove you were vaccinated to gain entry to the event which, under the circumstances, I think was fair.This was not my first event, and I got my picture taken with the Voyager cast: Kate Mulgrew, Garrett Wang, Alice Krige (aka the Borg Queen), Martha Hackett (aka Seska), and Fintan McKeown (Michael Sullivan in “Fair Haven” and “Spirit Folk”). They were all friendly and we all chatted.
However, the highlight for me was meeting John Billingsley (i.e., Doctor Phlox). The guy was ace! I chatted to him for a picture and two more times to get the picture autographed. He was so friendly, we shook hands, hugged and chatted happily. We discussed Enterprise, his love for Phlox and also how he had guest-starred in one of my fave episodes of Stargate, “The Other Guys”. John told me he’d been allowed to improvise some of the funniest lines in that episode and how he still kept in touch with most of his old Enterprise castmates, who have become more like an extended family. The only exception is Jolene Blalock, who he said sadly pretty much keeps to herself, but he has only fond memories of working with her.
Even though there were fewer stalls than in previous events, there was still plenty to interest anyone, from models of every ship in the Star Trek Universe to phasers, tricorders, DVDs, books, uniforms, games, comics, posters and pictures. I had to force myself to stop buying everything in sight, but I did fall in love with and bought my very own vibrating and cooing Tribble.
For me, the other stars of the convention were, of course, the fans themselves, especially the cosplayers, who always embrace the event and are so wonderful. I just wore my NX-01 top and my Discovery top, but I witnessed Klingons, Andorians, Vulcans, Gorn, Borg, a brilliant Neelix, and two robots from “Bride of Chaotica!”, one of my favourite Voyager episodes. Plus, of course, Starfleet-uniformed cosplayers, with guys and girls from every series. The cosplayers love to tell you about their costume, how they made it, and pose for pictures. I went on the Saturday and I would say over a third of the people attending were in costume, and they helped make the convention for me. A special nod to my Vulcan friend Toreq and his Denobulan sidekick Branion, two Federation Temporal Agents who we met on the Saturday and who both stayed in character the whole time.
On both the Friday night and the Saturday night, there was a sold-out party in the Excelsior stage, but many fans made their own parties in the various hotels that were adjacent to ExCeL, such as the Novotel and the Hilton. I’ve got to say, though, that since this was London, it was very expensive at the official event and even in the hotels. Many people who were wise to this brought their own vodka or whatever alcoholic beverage they preferred and only bought Coke as a mixer, but even these were £2.50 a can.
A few people moaned at guests who they had booked pictures with but didn’t show up, but the organisers are offering to swap these for others or for the next show. Some of the other fans complained about some stars who wouldn’t shake hands, but really… what can u expect?! We are still in the middle of a pandemic!
I think the guests were generally ace, and the support crew for the event was helpful and should be congratulated for running an event under such difficult circumstances. Overall, I really enjoyed the convention and am happily planning to go again, next time.