Destination: Star Trek London

It’s a nice day for a Klingon wedding

This week I boldly went to the ExCel in Docklands for ‘Destination: Star Trek London’, the first UK Star Trek convention in more than a decade.

On the way there my carriage on the DLR contained a couple of excited Vulcans, a Captain Picard and two Borg drones. I felt distinctly underdressed.

Menu at the Klingon Zone bar (Photo: Catherine Lawson)

Inside the ExCel, among all the velour and nylon, I was puzzled by how many Star Trek fans had apparently chosen to dress as fire-fighters.

Having assumed that said Trekkies (or Trekkers, depending on where you stand in the never-ending semantic debate) were merely wearing some kind of deluxe Enterprise boiler suits, I was enlightened by a sign announcing the ‘London Fire Brigade International Extrication Challenge’ was also taking place in the ExCel. A-ha

I proceeded to my destination (Gate S9, which surely should have been renamed DS9 for the occasion) Surak-like, calm in the knowledge that should any engines blow, we’d be safely extricated.

Like any hack worth their salt I grabbed my press pass and headed straight for the press room/VIP area to grab a free cup of coffee and a chocolate biscuit. Because the organisers had run out of souvenir lanyards I shoved my pass into my coat pocket.

The VIP area (Photo: Catherine Lawson)

Now, a freelance journalist’s working life has a lot in common with an actor’s. You’re always competing for work with people who are younger, better-looking, more energetic and maybe more talented than you. You have periods of unemployment — actors call it “resting”, we call it “working on my novel” — during which you alternate between feelings of extreme boredom and raging paranoia that you’ll never work again.

Then you get a job, which usually involves a lot of standing around waiting for something to happen, followed by a few minutes of bright lights, action and cameramen shouting at you. And then it’s back to hanging around again.

At big events like ‘DSTL’, both groups are always on the look-out for networking opportunities. Which is how I came to be wedged in the VIP area with a fellow freelancer and a bunch of confused Star Trek veterans who thought I might be someone useful.

I was lurking near the coffee table when Avery Brooks (Captain Sisko, DS9) came in and sat down next to me. Then William Shatner (Captain Kirk himself!) came in and sat down in a corner of the room.

Photo call for William Shatner and Avery Brooks (Photo: Catherine Lawson)

There was a frisson of excitement among the assembled hacks, several of whom asked for an autograph and/or a quote. Shatner’s minder politely moved people away and a PR woman went around asking people with press passes to leave the room.

As she was doing this I was deep in conversation at the back with a journalist/Star Trek fan. Perhaps because I wasn’t wearing my press pass, and his was obscured by a different, official-looking pass, we were left unmolested. We decided to stick together.

It’s entirely possible that afterwards lots of people looked through photos taken in the VIP area asking “who the f*** are those two in the background?”

More actors and producers arrived and the room started to fill up. Some of the younger actors were chatting knowledgeably about wine, and Michael Dorn (Worf, TNG), asked me where he could hang up his coat. I didn’t know.

Walter Koenig (Chekov) hovered around the now biscuit-less coffee table on his own.

We mingled with a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of actors and writers from just about every branch of the Star Trek franchise. Ronald D. Moore talked about his approach to drama, Denise Crosby confided that the NextGen jumpsuits made everyone sweat bucketloads … Frankly, my inner Trekkie’s head was exploding.

At one stage my new friend Scott (no, not Bakula) and I were followed across the arena floor by a small gaggle of actors who thought we were taking them to where they were supposed to be. We weren’t, of course. We were just having a look around before the doors opened, and he happened to be holding a clipboard. Ever professional, they took it very well.

The Klingon Zone bar made me long for Quark’s Bar in Las Vegas (Photo: Catherine Lawson)

One of the best things about a convention like ‘DSTL’ is that, in addition to the stars, you get to meet some other really interesting people, whether they be fans of the show or people who worked on it.

I listened to a great talk given by airbrushing guru Paul Olsen, who riffed on Procul Harum and San Francisco in the ’60s, and on an unnamed studio head accidentally damaging the film model of the starship Enterprise when he was showing off to a girlfriend.

Paul even brought a meteorite with him so that fans could hold an ancient piece of rock that used to hang in the sky somewhere near Jupiter. Now that’s groovy, man.

In a panel session discussing which Star Trek film is the best, the knowledgeable crowd voted for First Contact as clear winner. Runner-up was Wrath of Khan, and Undiscovered Country came in third.

By popular demand, honourable mention was given to Galaxy Quest, which was included for being more than just a Star Trek parody. The question was asked: Could ‘Galaxy Quest’ even be the best ‘Star Trek’ film? Now there’s a thought …

As I sat nursing a plastic glassful of “Blood Wine” (a sinus-clearing blend of tequila, cranberry juice and Tabasco) in the Klingon Zone bar a crowd of photographers ran in and started jostling for position in front of the throne.

Unphased by the phalanx of shutterbugs right next to her, a woman from cake-meisters Choccywoccydoodah was calmly installing a brilliant three-tiered cake based on the Borg cubes chasing the Enterprise in First Contact. It could only mean one thing: the first official Klingon wedding in the UK was about to take place.

The happy couple about to have their cake (Photo: Catherine Lawson)

I hate to rain on a parade, but for me Jossie Sockertopp and Sonnie Gustavsson’s nuptials were disappointing. I’d been expecting a gang of huge Klingon warriors in fur and leather, and lots of guttural shouting and growling. Instead, we got a very sweet young couple in matching outfits and jewelled diadems who seemed over-awed by the occasion and the banks of photographers and journalists around them.

Let’s face it: I wasn’t the only one who was gutted that Worf didn’t show up as MC. We got a human celebrant in a suit instead. However, when I bumped into Jossie and Sonnie later on they said they’d had a good time. Which was all that mattered, I suppose. It was a nice day for a Klingon wedding.

Follow me on Twitter: @TVClaw


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