Monday, August 08, 2016

Star Trek 50th Anniversary Convention

One of 50 artworks celebrating the 50th
anniversary of Star Trek
The TV show Star Trek (known to fans as TOS) has spawned three prime-time sequelsStar Trek: the Next Generation (TNG), Deep Space Nine, and Voyager—a prequel series, Enterprise, and 13 movies, including the recent "reboot" films set in an alternate universe and starring a new cast, playing younger versions of the original, now iconic, characters. The entire pantheon is, without a doubt, a cultural phenomenon. I've been a fan since 1966, when the very first TV episode aired on September 8.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the franchise, Creation, which has been organizing pop culture gatherings since 1971, decided to expand this year's annual Star Trek convention (i.e., "con") to an unprecedented five days. Always held in Las Vegas, the event claimed to be the biggest, most glorious celebration of all things "Star Trek" ever assembled.

Although Karen and I have been to many Star Trek cons over the years, we had never attended the one in Las Vegas. Too damn hot, for one thing! But this promised to be historic: almost every major cast member of every Trek series was scheduled to appear. Plus, of course, there would be lots of opportunities to buy one-of-a-kind commemorative merchandise. The convention was held last week. We bought our tickets way back in December.

After driving five hours to Vegas, arriving
at the con, at last

An over-sized Starfleet insignia
greeted all con attendees

  All fake weapons had to be inspected

No real weapons allowed
Trek conventions are legendary. Parodied in the past for being the one place where geeks can let their freak flags fly, in more recent times the cons have actually become much more mainstream, attracting mostly long-time fans (i.e., folks our age) who live relatively normal lives. Because the shows and films embrace diversity, they are loved by people of all ethnicities, physical abilities, sexualities, and races. Indeed, the conventions are a wonderful hodgepodge of beings, all sharing the same belief in a brighter and more humane future. 

Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock
So what's it like going to a Star Trek convention? Six thousand people purportedly attended last week's event, so at times it was crowded and crazy, especially when trying to get from one program to another. At other times, however, it was peaceful and solitary, like when I paid homage to a replica of the original bridge of the starship Enterprise. Displayed in a dark room at the end of a long and busy hallway, fans approached the bridge almost reverently, in hushed tones. It was me and the security guard when I first entered—a nice respite from all the hub-bub outside. I didn't want to leave.

 Control panels on the bridge

The bridge replica

Me, pretending to be captain on a different faux bridge
Costumes are a big part of the convention. Many people dress like their favorite charactersthe more obscure the better—but most (like me) just wear t-shirts proclaiming their allegiance to a particular aspect of Star Trek. I did get up especially early, on Saturday, to see the costume parade at 8:30AM—a real hoot!—and silently judged the costume contest that night. (My favorite did not win.) What fun to see people express their love for Trek so openly and creatively!

 A "drunk" Klingon as Batman

Fans dressed as various TOS characters on stage

 Starfleet cadets (officers?)



Captain Kirk's nemesis, Khan

Female Vulcan

Harry Mudd, a popular character
from TOS

Covered in tribbles!

Orion slave boys

Kamin, from my favorite TNG
episode, "The Inner Light"
The main part of the convention, however, is the celebrity appearances, where major and even minor stars of the shows speak and answer audience questions. For the first time ever, we bought reserved seats in the event auditorium: "copper-level," which put us about 3/4 of the way back from the stage. The actors looked like ants, from where we sat, but then again we paid only a third of what the "gold-level" fans paid for their up-close-and-personal seats. Thank goodness for large-screen video. My favorite speakers were Bill Shatner, the original
Captain Kirk of the starship Enterprise, and Kate Mulgrew, the first and only female captain of all the shows. We also viewed previously "lost" footage from TOS, which will soon be available on DVD, and learned that the long-overdue revision of the Star Trek Encyclopedia will finally be released in October. I've already placed my order.

Bill Shatner

Adam Nimoy, paying tribute to his dad, Leonard
(Mr. Spock), who died last year
Lots of other things were happening, too. There was a wonderful art exhibit, called "50 Artists, 50 Years," displaying some fabulous renderings of characters and scenes from the various TV shows and movies. Fans could also take their pictures in front of some of the more famous scenes from fave episodes (e.g., "Trouble with Tribbles") and/or could buy photos—and tons more merchandise—in the dealers room. Saturday night, the Nevada Pops orchestra performed a two-hour concert of music from all the series and most popular movies. No wonder we were exhausted by the time we returned home on Sunday.

Artist's rendering of the TNG cast


Andorian science officer next to a Starfleet poster,
recruiting Andorians

 Me and Karen being assimilated into the Borg

Plenty of merchandise to buy, including tribbles

Me having trouble with tribbles
It was an amazing convention, celebrating a truly epic fictional world. We may just have to go back to Las Vegas again next year for the 30th anniversary of  Star Trek: the Next Generation. Make it so!

Other activities: Klingon karaoke, Friday night

Cake decorating: Q

Salt vampire from "The Man Trap" (TOS)

Fans were invited to sign a farewell to Anton Yelchin, who
was tragically killed earlier this year


Me returning home through the Guardian of Forever
(from my favorite TOS episode, "City on the Edge of Forever") 

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