NEC, Birmingham October 7th – 9th 2016
A certain fictitious character, a Vulcan no less, once said: ‘The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few – or the one’ and although the positive memories I have outweigh the negative there were lots of things that were an absolute disgrace and for someone who boasts about their event being: ‘the largest official Star Trek convention celebrating 50 years’, one thing about all else clearly was dismissed: the fan, the Trekkie, the people that have kept Star Trek alive for 5 decades.
Yes, there were many big names associated with the franchise but for those of us who also come to a convention to browse endless stalls, pick up some unique stuff and/or a bargain this convention was a real let down and in total there must have been less than a dozen vendors. On the Friday afternoon, after having to queue for nearly two hours to get a wristband for entrance over the next three days, an empty hall awaited us. Apart from a single Borg – regeneration station and a few gongs that marked the ‘Klingon zone’ almost everything else cost extra.
For the (paid) talks there were massive queues on the Saturday and they were all over the place and badly managed, which meant your best bet would be not to move from your spot for an hour at least. The events often also started late and I heard many people complain that they have paid for a talk but due to delays it now clashes with a photoshoot for which they had paid for and so they couldn’t actually attend the talk/panel or had to leave much earlier than anticipated.
Personally, I have no issue with the people who worked there, the ‘crew’ as they called themselves, as many remained friendly enough even under the rightful barrage of attendees who couldn’t find their way around with all the confusing, different types of queues.
I was allowed by staff twice to just walk up to Garrett Wang and Robert O’Reilly respectively just to shake their hands while they were otherwise busy signing autographs (on pictures that one needed to purchase as well) but was surprised on the other hand that we weren’t allowed to take pictures of all the actors even from a discreet distance (at least on the Sunday) and Gates McFadden even shielded her face with her hands when she spotted our mobile phones turned cameras – wouldn’t that be another reason to go to a convention to see all your favourite actors and maybe go home with a snapshot of some of them??
Glancing at the many models of ships etc I thought most prices were decent enough but was surprised to see a ‘Star Trek’ (2009) Blu Ray being sold for £25 when you get the DVD for less than £5 at any ‘Amazon’ outlet and I doubt that a Blu-Ray would warrant that price.
While waiting for the William Shatner photo shoot on Sunday we overheard a crew manager making a phone call asking someone how many people would roughly attend the Shatner photo shoot on the classic bridge (if you could call it that, see pictures below) and then repeating the number out loud: 220 – that would mean that over 200 people would have to be rushed through and get about 5 seconds with Mr. Shatner (and a precious photograph) and for £70 a piece that would create a £15.400 revenue in under an hour – would it not be fair enough for all the money they’ve made to have more vendors or, like at other conventions I’ve attended, to have some professionally dressed up people role playing with fans for instance? The gorgeous Borg girl and the perfect grand Nagus guy were, as it turned out, just fans, too.
But, as mentioned earlier, not all was bad: There were some free panels on the Voyager stage with some of my favourite actors and the panels/talks (paid for events) were full of great looking, well dressed up fans and the actors on stage were very generous with their time and candid with their answers. By Sunday everything was a bit more relaxed and the queuing system was in working order and many great conversations happened between perfect strangers all revolving around our favourite topic: Star Trek.
I left the event happy after meeting (for maybe 20 seconds) the legendary James Tiberius Kirk at the photo shoot, glimpsing at Sulu, Gates McFadden, ‘Shut up Wesley’ Will Wheaton while they were busy chatting to fans and signing autographs and listening and seeing many of my favourite Star Trek characters on stage and price-wise for £50 for three days plus the additional costs for talk and photo shoot it was ok.
Many people who came there were very disappointed by the lack of interest in creating a Star Trek feel in the hall which would have made such a difference given that this was a three day event and judging by the comments on the various Facebook pages many people weren’t happy about the things I mentioned earlier but in the vein of Trek we were and are all very forgiving and grateful that Star Trek is still around and will continue and ‘boldly go where no man has gone before’ – Kapla (as Gowron said to me when I shook his hand).