Following last years fan frenzy that was the London Comic-Con, I was sent to cover the opening day of the first official Star Trek event in London for a decade; “Destination Star Trek London”. (cue warp speed sound effect)
While fan events happen all the time, this was set to be different, as not only was there going to be the first ever UK Klingon wedding but as a world, and universal, first, all five of the Star Trek television captains would be appearing together for a photo call. (cue teleportation sound effect) With this year marking 25 years since the first broadcast of “Star Trek: The Next Generation“, I had a definite sense of growing old. I can so clearly remember watching the first episode, aged eleven, on BBC 2 at 6pm while I had my dinner. I is old.
As I’ve written in a previous blog post on this kind of event, it’s very easy to sneer and make fun of those who attend these type of conventions, but what’s the difference between this and a sports fan? They pay a chunk of money every single season to dress up like their hero in a replica shirt, pay vast amounts on season tickets and travel costs, to watch what they love and if they met a footballer they loved, they’d be over there with a marker pen and their chest exposed in a split second. Now just because these guys happen to like a tv programme instead and want to dress like their heroes, travel to see the stars and get their autographs, they’re seen as nerds and social oddities. Having said that, don’t expect to see me in a Star Fleet uniform too soon. Just because I understand their passions doesn’t mean I’m destined for a name change.
The first photo call of the day was the red carpet arrivals, which saw an eclectic selection of Star Trek legends and random supporting actors posing up for the gathered media. While some were obvious, the vast percentage ended up with the well-worn “Over here, Sir!” until you could work out who the hell they were. In the end, my favourite pictures from this part came from Bobby Clark who played a lizard from a species called “The Gorn”. Having spent his moment of Trek fame hidden beneath an inch of rubber, it could have been any old dude that they drafted in to sign autographs, but he certainly enjoyed his camera time.
One element that I know for a fact that I’m going to struggle to phrase correctly, is the issue of media accreditation. At this event, the press pass list was epic. It put J.K. Rowling to shame. It had chapters and an index. While you may think that it was a good thing because the worlds media was desperate to provide coverage, the problem was that the majority of those given press passes were writing for their blog or newsletter. Yes, I can already hear how some of your minds are working, with “elitism in the media” and “freedom of the press” etc, but there has to be some kind of line. One good example would be the thing that everyone else uses; the valid press card. As it was, I was blocked from getting a shot on one of the photo calls because the fully-accredited guy next to me was taking pictures on his phone for his website. As I said above, I know that this can be interpreted as me calling for preferential treatment everywhere I go (which actually would be kind of nice) but it’s just basic media management. I have no issue whatsoever with giving press access to hardcore enthusiasts and those who have fan blogs, but when photographers from major international and national agencies including AFP, Getty, Reuters and PA all end up trying to squeeze into spots behind people shooting for their website, it’s safe to say that the international coverage that the event will receive may take a bit of a hit. If a PR company wants the publicity, look at who is going to get the story out to the widest audience.
The main aim of this convention was definitely to assist in the “prosper” element of “Live Long and Prosper” for the stars involved. After paying the admission fee of between £29 and £2,999 (yes, you did read that correctly), fans who opted for the lower priced tickets joined the queues to buy 10″x8″ prints of their favourite characters before joining another queue to pay between £15 and £40 to get an autograph from the cast member of their choice. The hall was criss-crossed with line after line. Sadly, these lines weren’t that evenly spread, so while hoards lined up for a taste of Shatner, those who’d played smaller roles were left to tuck into their lunch packs and stare at a very desolate queue area. Ouch.
Once the big moment of the day was upon us, the photographers were led across the venue to the area where the five captains would finally meet. Expecting to be led into the main hall, doubts were raised when we were directed to a tiny roped-off section in the middle of the public area. With the pen already full of members of the public with camera phones, we were told to stand behind them. No. That’s not going to happen. After squeezing into a gap at the front on the floor, the wait began. After a forty five minute delay, the PRs began to fluster (there MUST be a better term for PR panic) and the captains began to appear. It’s Janeway! It’s Sisko! It’s that guy off Quantum Leap! It’s Shatner! It’s… erm… it’s… not Patrick Stewart. To the confusion of all, including the four visible captains, Patrick Stewart decided he didn’t want to take part. Brilliant. Stood within sight but off to one side, he refused to be involved in the main highlight of the day for photographers. Why agree to turn up to an event to celebrate your tv programme and then refuse to take part in the main event? As the bemused captains left the area to rejoin petulant Picard, they were ushered through into the main area for their Q&A session. What could have been a great entertainment picture that went all around the world ended up a damp galactic squib. (cue Patrick Stewart sound effect)
On a totally unrelated subject, I feel like watching this clip again…
Just to add a nice sense of completion to this uplifting tale, in researching names for the blog, I found out that someone’s been telling astral porkies. Check out the date on that story. This wouldn’t have been the first time even if his holiness had bothered to pose up. Brilliant.