Though traditionally the province of the United States, particularly Las Vegas, the Star Trek convention circuit over the last few years has broken out with expanding scope and grandeur to Western Europe and this year, with Destination Star Trek 2018 at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre, the pinnacle was perhaps reached. Billed as “the world’s biggest Star Trek convention”, DST didn’t disappoint.
While the 2016 event was an impressive spectacle, lining up a small galaxy of Star Trek stars from across the decades, DST really pushed the boat out this year, particularly to coincide with a singular Star Trek celebration – the 25th anniversary of Deep Space Nine, perhaps the least loved but most critically adored of the Trek sequel shows. Aside from surviving stars of the 1960’s Original Series such as William Shatner (the original Captain Kirk himself), Walter Koenig (Chekov) & Nichelle Nichols (Uhura), DST threw in a few The Next Generation players (Marina Sirtis & Gates McFadden), one or two from Voyager (Kate Mulgrew & Jeri Ryan), but really went to town with DS9 and Trek’s newest incarnation, Discovery.
DST managed to assemble almost all of the major players from Deep Space Nine, with the notable exception of leading man Avery Brooks (Sisko), who by all accounts has said all he intends to say on the franchise, and the entire main cast of Discovery, having flown them over in the middle of filming the upcoming Season Two of the popular Netflix series. Both of these were quite the coup, not to mention alongside the DS9 actors you had the presence of showrunner Ira Steven Behr (a Trek icon in his own right) and the world premiere of What We Left Behind, a 25th anniversary documentary funded primarily by Indiegogo backers who were both in the audience and invited to hob nob with the stars on the red carpet. We were lucky enough to be there covering this premiere event.
Aside from the biggest draw of any convention for fans, the opportunity to get an autograph, and/or a personal photograph, and chat to the stars of these Star Trek series, Destination Star Trek’s other boon are in the panels which take place across three stages – appropriately named Enterprise, Voyager & Excelsior respectively – which featured many of the actors discussing their time in Star Trek and taking questions from the audience.
We caught quite a few of these – entertaining one man offerings from William Shatner (who was briefly baffled by Jason Isaacs crashing the stage and embracing him, taking an opportunity to bury the Twitter hatchet) and the hugely charismatic & funny Kate Mulgrew, enjoyable chats about writing tie-in fiction from novelists James Swallow & Una McCormack, plus full cast panels with the Discovery and DS9 crews. I was thrilled to ask the final question of the DS9 panel which gathered applause from the audience when I dropped in how DS9 was, in my opinion, the best Trek series. Prove me wrong, guys!
An even greater personal thrill was to actually be involved in two of these panels on the Excelsior stage, both with celebrated social history author & friend Duncan Barrett firstly hosting a discussion with him about his book Star Trek: The Human Frontier, in which we talked about the nautical inspirations for Gene Roddenberry’s series, and later part of the panel for a discussion about Star Trek & History, specifically WW2, as an extension of the podcast on the Trek FM network he and I created called Primitive Culture.
I am a less frequent co-host these days so on the panel was fellow co-host & podcaster Clara Cook (also a Set The Tape writer), The Nerd Party podcaster & Scottish film journalist Lee Hutchison (also a former Set The Tape contributor) and Larry Nemecek, a well-known figure in Star Trek lore, having a story credit on Star Trek: Voyager, known as ‘Dr Trek’. It was a fascinating chat with a receptive audience who enjoyed talking with us before and after the show.
Beyond the panels, Destination Star Trek was simply a cornucopia of all things Trek, with a great deal more to do than in the last show two years ago. You could play a range of Star Trek video games alongside fellow guests, everything from Atari joystick games to the immersive PlayStation VR Bridge Crew (though you’d be lucky to get a go as it was super popular). You could play tabletop Star Trek board games such as Frontiers or Ascendancy. There was the props and costumes museum to visit, with a whole range of exhibits from all the series and films, up to and including Discovery.
If you fancied a photograph, numerous sets were re-created for photo opportunities, including Quark’s Bar, a Klingon bridge, and most excitingly the original bridges from the 60’s USS Enterprise and the Enterprise-D from The Next Generation – both of which also proved hugely popular. Finally, if you weren’t in the market for picking up something from the vast array of merchandise stalls or grab a bite to eat from half a dozen street and fast food venues—plus the NEC canteen—you could enjoy the Screening Room which on the hour held screenings of Star Trek episodes from across all of the TV series.
In short, Destination Star Trek always had something for fans to do – whether that’s queuing for hours to speak to every star on the roster, buy a ton of Star Trek paraphernalia, play games or listen to informative panels. You could fill up the three days quite easily with a range of activities – before adjourning to the nearby Hilton Metropole hotel for, on the Friday and Saturday nights, Star Trek themed parties for you to dance the night away dressed as Starfleet or the galaxy’s finest. Personally, given I had a bunch of friends old and new, I just chilled at the bar and admired the cosplay at work from devoted Trekkies who really go to town for conventions such as this – it felt a bit like Starfleet Academy on shore leave at one point!
A resounding success on numerous levels, from the scope, the litany of guests, activities on offer and the sheer organisation of an event literally twice as big as the last one, Destination Star Trek cemented itself this year as *the* Star Trek convention outside of America that is essential to attend. It’s back next year, rather than in two years time, and frankly I can’t wait to beam down again for another mission.
Did you attend Destination Star Trek? Let us know what you did when you were there!