|Destination Star Trek London
by Ulrike Borchert and Carolin Kopplin
19-21 October 2012
Ulrike's report first appeared in Far Beyond the Stars, the Official Newsletter for Alexander Siddig, Nana Visitor, Armin Shimerman, Andy Robinson and Fans of DS9, issue 79, November 2012, and is used with permission, and with our thanks to Ulrike and FBTS editor Carol Reeg.
I had a great time at the con. Met some friends very early on Friday. We were the first in the queue to pick up our tickets which never happened to me before. The organizers were a bit unorganized as it took ages to hand out the tickets to everyone. They had totally underestimated the number of people who would turn up. Friday was quite nice as it was not that crowed as expected (and as Saturday). Got to chat to all actors except Shatner (who at least smiled politely at everyone). I got to spend a couple of minutes at Cirroc Lofton's table because only few people were there in the morning. (Only the "Captains" were busy.) Ira Steven Behr wrote "DS9 rules!" on my DS9 pic which I thought was great!
Scott Bakula is just a cuddly guy. Just can't phrase it differently. Such a nice guy.
It was quite relaxed on Friday. Saturday was packed. Since I got all my autographs on Friday I went with a friend to grab some free talk tickets. In the queue I ran into Dani and we had a quick chat. (It's amazing. 15,000 people and the first thing you do is run into someone you know. :))The DS9 talk was a bit short. I think it was only 25 minutes and the mod kept asking most of the questions.
One guy was asking René something about make-up. He said it was very boring and so early in the morning he often fell asleep. He went on saying that the one time Colm Meaney had to be transformed into a Klingon he was "whining" a lot. There he got joined by Andy saying the same. It was hilarious. :)That was basically all I remember from the Saturday talk. There was a lot of buzzing in the hall and it was pretty hard to follow what was said.
On Sunday they had about 40 minutes to talk which was a lot better. Cirroc revealed that he has a one-year-old daughter. That resulted in Nana giving him an enthusiastic hug because she hadn't known that. And Chase Masterson was shouting "he was only 13 years old!" Cirroc also told us that he has a restaurant now. Another question was about which episode they would recommend to someone who doesn't know the show. Andy said "The Wire" because of the content and because "I was great in it!" :), Cirroc said "The Visitor", Nana's was "Duet". René hadn't heard the question and was trying to figure it out by listening to answers. At the end he just said the others had named enough and he agrees. There was lots more but I'm afraid I don't remember any more details.
I had a lot of fun there. Laughing a lot even while standing in a queue with my friends.
Many people were really looking forward to this mega convention because all five captains would be there for all three days as well as other Star Trek icons, such as Brent Spiner, René Auberjonois, Andrew Robinson or Walter Koenig. There was to be an extravagant opening ceremony, captains' talks, theme parties, and much more. The event took place at the ExCel Arena near Canning Town, in East London, and about 17,000 people attended, many of them in costume.
This convention was unique in more ways than one. It was a gigantic all-Star Trek con, the first Star Trek con in the UK for over ten years, and run entirely according to the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition. A lot of fun could be had if you were willing to pay the price as you were charged extra for all of the top events. It was also a disorganized shambles managed by incompetents. The staff, mainly inexperienced volunteers, often behaved like communist civil servants when asked a question, and the lack of communication was astonishing. To be quite honest, I had more fun at my colonoscopy a few years back than at this con. At least I got loads of free chocolate cookies once the procedure was over. At the con they would have charged me for a drop of water.
The low point of this disorganized mess was definitely the queue management. There were various entry ticket lines on Friday. No matter where you lined up, you were told by staff that you were in the wrong queue. Then there was an "all-purpose" queue on Saturday, the busiest day, which covered everything - photo ops, autographs paid for by credit card, paid-for talks and free talks. Once I saw the queue on Saturday I realized that I wouldn't get into any of the free talks that interested me, which made me wonder why I had paid for the expensive weekend pass in the first place. On Sunday we were herded into a sort of corral before I experienced the "mystery" queue. Say, you are in the John de Lancie queue, and all of a sudden the queue changes into something else, for a different talk, because all of the free tickets are gone. Of course nobody bothered to inform us that we were queuing for something that had become unavailable so other free talks became unavailable to us as well while we were queuing for an already unavailable talk. I know that queuing is a national sport in the UK but this was taking it too far.
Usually, when you attend a con, the actors keep a selection of photos on their tables that people can choose from. At this con people were supposed to bring their own photos or other items to sign. However, the organizers kept this a well-guarded secret. Hardly anybody knew about it. Why post such important information on the web page directly when it can be hidden away in the forum? On Friday, many fans arrived at the actors' tables without anything to sign after having already paid for their autographs. The organizers obviously embraced this idea because it meant that they could sell their own photos to the fans with the STDL-logo printed on them - free advertising plus a small profit from each photo. They also ran two bars in the Klingon and the Starfleet Zone. The décor was different, the menus identical and dull. I was trying to get Gagh in the Klingon Zone but it was unavailable. I bet their pasties didn't taste any different though so I had a swig of vodka instead. The second time I made my way to the Klingon bar I was the only customer waiting. A lady was making coffee. She turned around and snapped at me: "Why don't you just go to the till and pay for your order first?" I just left. This snappy tone was prevalent at the con, which made the fans feel really welcome.
I did manage to see René but it was hard work. When I told him that I wouldn't be able to write a convention report for ORACLE because I couldn't get tickets for any of his panels, René immediately offered to take me to the panel he was going to right then. I accompanied him behind the stage and I could follow the event on a big screen, or through the curtain. I also met Nana again, she still remembered me from Chicago, when we had a room party for the fan club. Nana is so nice. The panel was not really extraordinary and I couldn't understand half of it because the acoustics were terrible. But here it goes:
The panel consisted of René, Nana, Chase Masterson, Cirroc Lofton, and Andy Robinson. René noticed the bad acoustics right away and told his audience: "Speak like this, close to the mike, so I can hear you." It was very noisy, too. Somebody wanted to know what the actors were doing now. Andy said he was a full-time teacher at the University of California. Nana was back in New York, working on her show "Kitchen Witches." Andy added that he actually did physical acting classes. René asked him to prove it and suggested a handstand. Andy immediately obliged and got a lot of applause. Cirroc said he had his own restaurant. René explained that he was designing clothes and doing hair. No, in reality he is interested in sculpture, visits his grandchildren and is working on his show Wolfe that would be performed in the Santa Monica Theater in two weeks. One member of the audience was interested if anybody was writing a book? Nobody was. Why did you become an actor? René said he wanted to become a character actor like Alec Guinness; that had been his dream as a kid. Nana explained that her whole family consisted of dancers and actors so it came naturally to her. Everybody danced. Chase's mother was a theater director and she loved Mel Brooks as a kid. Andy was in Stratford upon Avon in the 1960s and watched David Warner as Richard II. And on this day he had finally had the chance to tell David Warner how much he had enjoyed his performance. Did you always want to be an actor? René replied that he always wanted to act. When he was six years old it was a fantasy. Then he realized that he'd have to make a living wage as an actor, and it became real. Chase said that she had always been interested in communication. Cirroc loved The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents (the reruns) when he was a kid. The series really appealed to him, not so much the acting but the style. How was Cirroc's relationship with Avery Brooks? Cirroc replied that there was nothing fake about their relationship. Avery took him on vacations with his own family. He took him to meet Magic Johnson. It was amazing! Then there were the same questions about what influence the actors had on the script and if they were Trekkies before working on Deep Space 9. None of them had been fans of Star Trek. This concluded the panel and the actors got a big round of applause.
A bit later I went to thank René for his help. He was really nice but I didn't stay long because he was so exhausted. The con was incredibly stressful, for fans and actors alike. I am sure Brent Spiner was ready to trade places with the fictional Brent Spiner character in his web series Fresh Hell after living through that convention - he had a never-ending queue. The actors remained nice and courteous to the fans throughout. The red-shirted staff tried to discourage the busiest actors from exchanging more than one word with the fans but Scott Bakula, for example, chose to ignore them. The fans were milked until their last penny was gone. The vendors complained that people hardly bought anything because they spent all their money on photo ops, autographs and overpriced talks/events. I am sure there were enough people who had a fairly good time, simply because they got to meet their favourite actors and/or could afford the opening ceremony, the captains' talks or any other of the overpriced events. The organizers know they can get away with it and are now planning a similar event very soon so they can make wagonloads of money again. I hear the Grand Negus sent a congratulatory note.
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