It all kicked off on Friday, October 7th in a leisurely fashion. The lack of panels on the opening day meant visitors were free to explore stalls, have their picture taken on either the Original or Next Generation bridges, or spend their life savings on autographs and photoshoots. These activities varied in price from the very reasonable to William-Shatner-on-the-Enterprise-Bridge expensive. Also popular was the European premiere of the frankly brilliant ‘50 years. 50 artists’ exhibition, featuring a diverse collection of specially commissioned Trek-themed art, including a submission from STARBURST’s own cover artist Mark Reihill.
Aside from the main talks, the convention’s three stages - Enterprise, Voyager and Excelsior - offered a variety of interesting events throughout the weekend, from talks on props, Trek novels, comics, and merchandise to the more bizarre. These included the Red Shirt fight off - where fans competed to be killed in the most entertaining fashion - and a Shatner-themed karaoke, which had to be heard to be believed.
The highlight of the first day was the opening ceremony on the main Enterprise stage, featuring brief appearances from the majority of the guests. The lively ceremony was hosted by Trek newcomer Greg Grunberg, who along with Voyager’s Garrett Wang hosted many of the panels.
Unfortunately, the opening day was marred with some poor organisation, with early arrivals queuing for a couple of hours to register, and similar problems for both the opening ceremony and the following party. Fortunately, us British are just as adept at dealing with queues as Picard (see what we did there?) and the following two days were a lot slicker.
Saturday morning the air turned blue courtesy of both Dominic Keating and Terry Farrell. Keating was joined for a very entertaining, sweary Enterprise panel by Connor Trinneer and Vaughn Armstrong. Farrell had three panels throughout the day, with Nicole de Boer, Robert O’Reilly (in full Gowron costume) as well as the DS9 panel, alongside Alexander Siddig, Armin Shimerman and Max Grodénchik. Farrell was also one of the surprise hits of the convention, with her brutal honestly about being let go from Deep Space Nine one of the more moving onstage moments of the weekend.
Saturday also saw popular talks from Wil Wheaton, in his only convention of the year, along with George Takei, and Adam Nimoy, who gave audiences a look into his documentary For the Love of Spock. The day also saw a new world record for the largest gathering of people dressed as Star Trek characters, with 1,137 gathering on the main stage, beating the record set at the London event four years ago.
Saturday night saw the captain himself take the stage, with the first European performance of his one-man show, Shatner’s World. The two-hour presentation sees William Shatner take audiences on a whistle-stop tour through his life and career, via anecdotes, films clips and - yes - song. Like the man himself, it’s frequently hilarious, occasionally self-indulgent, one-of-a kind, and your enjoyment of it will rely largely on your tolerance for all things Shatner (for the record, we loved it).
Rounding off day two was the second of two parties, featuring a 50th birthday cake - cut by Walter Koenig - and the musical stylings of Trek’s own Rat Pack - Armin Shimerman, Casey Biggs, Vaughn Armstrong, Jeffrey Combs, and Max Grodénchik.
The final day started on a high, with a Next Gen reunion of Marina Sirtis, Gates McFadden and Wil Wheaton. They were followed on the main stage by William Shatner - talking Trek this time - whilst an entertaining panel on the movies took place on the Voyager stage, featuring Sirtis, Alice Krige, and Christopher Lloyd.
A panel entitled 50 Years Not Out, saw the likes of Chase Masterton, Jeffrey Combs, and Apollo 15 astronaut Colonel Al Worden discussing the show’s influence whilst Greg Grunberg repeatedly plugged his very worthwhile epilepsy charity (talkaboutit.org, if you’re interested).
They were followed by Walter Koenig, who riffed on how Khan and Chekov recognised each other in Star Trek 2, spoke out against CBS’s crackdown on fan films, and resolutely refused to say ‘nuclear wessels’.
A scheduling clash meant Original Series fans were torn between Koenig and a panel discussing the upcoming Roddenberry Vault Blu-ray, which features never-before-seen footage from the series. The entertaining Voyager panel (Garrett Wang, Robert Duncan McNeill, and Martha Hackett) that followed also overlapped with the convention’s final main stage panel, featuring Koenig and Takei.
Minor quibbles regarding queueing and scheduling aside, though, (not to mention the alarming rate that money disappeared from your wallet) Destination Star Trek was a hugely enjoyable affair. The NEC’s a slightly impersonal venue for events like this, and the cavernous exhibition hall occasionally felt somewhat sparse, despite the thousands of fans and variety of exhibits. (Interesting side note, the Horse of the Year show was being held next door, resulting in lots of very confused looks from horsey people. It may also explain why horse enthusiast Shatner kept disappearing from the convention floor). It’s not often that this many of the show’s stars gather together in this country, which alone was worth the price of admission. It was also one hell of a 50th birthday party for – with apologies to assorted Jedi and Time Lords – the best damn sci-fi franchise on the planet.