One of the most surprising aspects revealed in the wake of Destination Star Trek 2018, which I covered in detail last year, was that the convention would be returning to the Birmingham NEC the following year, after a two year gap since the event in 2016. It made sense. Star Trek is very much en vogue.
Destination Star Trek 2019, which this year I attended only on the Saturday as opposed to the full Friday-Sunday event, was as a result much the same as the year before it. My convention buddy and I couldn’t figure out if the hall was bigger than the year before or smaller this time around, but there definitely felt like we had more room as visitors to move around and gather, which was welcome. It was also far closer to the train station for access which, too, elicited a thumbs up. Beyond that, you know what you’re getting now with DST. Appearances from a small galaxy of Star Trek actors signing autographs, taking photo opportunities and appearing on stage in panels, while vendors sell Trek wares to paying punters and offer everything this side of the DS9 Promenade. Here are a few highlights of the Saturday from my perspective.
Sir Pat Stew. His appearance was fleeting, popping up early on a main panel before jetting off for a comic con in Paris, but he was a delight for an hour in front of 2200 people (it was standing room only – the biggest crowd for a panel I’ve ever seen at an event). No new footage of Star Trek: Picard but some great stories and a few morsels/teases to savour about the new show. Not sure I’d have paid £25 for any panel but it was undoubtedly the talk highlight of the weekend.
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Star Trek books panel. This one was a repeat of last year with authors Una McCormack & James Swallow in conversation with John Van Citters, who is basically the CBS gaffer steering the Trek extended universe ship these days. McCormack & Swallow are always great value together, very insightful and down to earth, and alongside discussing their process of writing tie-in novels, they and Van Citters dropped a few book reveals – the most interesting being McCormack’s upcoming The Autobiography of Kathryn Janeway.
David Warner panel. This was supposed to also include actor Maurice Roeves but he took ill and, honestly, I think the panel was better for it just being Warner in the end as it allowed interviewer Tony Lee to focus in on the man and his career. I’ve been a fan of Warner for decades now, his resume is incredible when you look through it, and he’s a genuinely nice guy it seems with a lot of humility and still lots of memories and stories about genre cinema. I also got to ask him a question about Time After Time and Nicholas Meyer, which was a treat. My favourite panel of the day.
A cool touch beyond the usual collection of items and props rolled out from various Star Trek projects was a specifically designed Jean-Luc Picard Museum, including uniforms and items from the forthcoming 2020 show. Very nicely put together with a chronological tour through Picard’s life and career, with a hint or two about his post-Nemesis life.
Finally, there was a panel with Mike McMahan, the creator of the upcoming Star Trek: Lower Decks animated series, via a live Skype uplink which mercifully wasn’t nearly as tricky as you might expect. While we didn’t get any footage as hoped or new information per se, McMahan did hint at a few aspects of Lower Decks, his excitement was infectious, and he may well have convinced people unsure about this unknown entity that it’s going to be a real winner when it finally drops next year. Oh and I picked up a mug that I think was very appropriate, given how Picard-focused this DST was.
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Though it lacked some of the magic and sparkle of 2018, which benefited from the Deep Space Nine documentary premiere and presence, Destination Star Trek 2019 was a lot of fun. It was nice to catch up with some Trek-based online friends and meet a few new people, and for true Trekkies there is much to savour, with the Saturday night party, script readings, and re-created starship bridges and shuttles (plus a Borg alcove) to get photos alongside.
Next year the venue moves to London, which will probably split people down the middle as a choice, but regardless of location, DST still remains the premier UK Star Trek convention event for devoted seekers of that final frontier.