And so it's begun. At 2 p.m. on Friday the gates to Destination Star Trek London opened -- and thousands of people poured into the cavernous ExCel Centre for what promises to be one of the best and most memorable Star Trek events in ages. StarTrek.com was on hand to capture the event in both real time, via Tweets and Instagram photos, and now, in recaps form. We'll do the same thing again for tomorrow and Sunday's activities, so be sure to check back in at StarTrek.com.
Where to begin? DSTL has a distinct and sensible floor plan, spread across the space of the ExCel's convention space. There's a Main Stage for the blockbuster events, plus two smaller stages, A and B, for other events. There's a Stunt Arena, a trio of Photo Shoot areas, a trio of Autograph Areas, a Museum, a Bridge Photo Shoot Area, a wide variety of vendor booths spread across the entire space, as well as a Federation Zone and a Klingon Zone, where fans could congregate, buy food (including Romulan Ale) and just sit down and relax.
The Klingon Zone was a riot, a large open space decked out in Klingon-esque furnishings, with Klingons posing with fans first by a statue of Kahless, and later on Klingon chairs. That Bridge Photo Shoot Area is a full-size replica of the TOS Enterprise. It didn't take long at all for that particular line to swell.
Right away, many of the Trek guests who'd later appear on stage settled in to their seats for autograph signings. Those signing included Manu Intiraymi, Robin Curtis, Arlene Martel, Sean Kenney, Andy Robinson, Jeffrey Combs, Cirroc Lofton, Carolyn Seymour, David Warner, Eddie Paskey, Denise Crosby, Michael Dorn, Brent Spiner, Ira Steven Behr, Bobby Clark, Nana Visitor, John de Lancie, Walter Koenig, Rene Auberjonois, Dominic Keating, Connor Trinneer, Anthony Montgomery, Brannon Braga, Ron Moore, Lolita Fatjo, Marc Alaimo, as well as William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, Kate Mulgrew, Avery Brooks and Scott Bakula. If you're coming to DSTL on Saturday or Sunday, all of the Trek actors and producers will be signing throughout the weekend. So it's not too late to get anyone you care to get.
"This is great," Patrick Stewart told StarTrek.com during a fast hello. "I love it. And it's easy for me, too. It's a 10-minute ride in a taxi. I can sleep in my own bed tonight."
Pretty much right in the middle of the event space sits the Museum. It's filled with an unbelievably cool array of screen-used props and costumes. Just a few of the pieces we saw: Grand Nagus Zek Walking Stick, Porthos Stunt Dog, Ron Perlman's Viceroy Costume from Nemesis, Martok's Costume, a Phaser Rifle Rack (with phaser rifles), a Suliban Ship and Captain Proton's Raygun.
Over on Stage C, fans filled the room to hear from Paul Olsen, who'd airbrushed all the surfaces of the Enterprise model used in The Motion Picture. Olsen, who also worked on TMP's visual effects, recounted that the model was 8 feet long and cost approximately $350,000; it had been originally constructed for use in a Trek television project, but when the decision was made to make a movie instead the model was then destined for the film. It was shorter by about 4 feet than it would have been had it been built for a movie in the first place. Cinematographers liked to have more surface area to work with when shooting models so they didn't have to get in so close to the structure, but since this ship was already built they kept it. Olsen used an opalescent automotive paint to achieve the luminous quality we see. The painted surface had to be absolutely smooth -- no dust or any other objects could adhere to the paint or the imperfection would show on camera. The challenge to finding a dust-free environment was complicated even further due to construction on other sets that was going on simultaneously, so in the end the job took more than 3 months to complete.
The model had tens of thousands of circuits for all the lights. One night, after the model had finally been completed but before it had been shot for the film, someone decided to demonstrate the lights on the ship to a visitor on set -- and blew all the circuits on the ship because he turned them on in the wrong order. The model makers had to repair all the fried circuitry -- so Olsen had to repaint most of the top part of the dish! Olsen's Enterprise was set to be shipped off to the Air & Space Museum at the Smithsonian -- but the decision to make a second film aborted that trip. The model was put back into service for Wrath of Khan, but this time George Lucas's ILM team handled the special effects and they had a different method for photographing models. As a result, the luminous finish was painted over with a flat paint -- and the only evidence that remains of Olsen's original paint job is in the movie itself.
Over on Stage C, Trekologist Raules Davies led a debate called Trekologists vs. Trekkie Girls. The room was packed -- and vocal -- as the debaters and audience weighed in on the best Trek films. The even films, shocker, got the most support, though some people expressed affection for The Motion Picture. Ultimately, the vote options came down to First Contact, Wrath of Khan -- yes, there was a Khaaaaaaaaaaaan!!! scream from the crowd -- and The Undiscovered Country. First Contact was declared "The Official Destination Star Trek London Favorite Star Trek Movie," though Galaxy Quest received a very honorable mention. In all of the stage areas, speakers were positioned throughout the room so everyone could hear everything and video screens with clear, crisp images allowed those in the last row to see all the action just fine.
As evening approached, the Main Stage room started to fill for the day's most-eagerly awaited event: the 5 Captains Talk. StarTrek.com sat next to a man named Rob Gale, who hails from Philly but lives with his wife and kids in Malaysia. They made the, ahem, trek from Malaysia to London for the event and Gale told us, his front-row VIP ticket was a 40th birthday gift from his wife. This was Rob's first-ever Trek event/con and he was thrilled to meet 8 fellow VIP ticket holders whom he'd been keeping in touch with by Facebook. And he is a major-major Trek fan. "Star Trek impacted who I am, my personal philosophy to the extent that, the way some people say, 'What would Jesus do?' I say, 'What would Picard do?' This opportunity to be here for this event was something I couldn't pass up. It'd be like a Muslim not visiting Mecca if he or she had the chance.
Moments later, the lights dimmed. On a giant video screen up came the words Auto Destruct Sequence Engaged. A three-minute countdown started and, at the 10-second mark the crowd shouted out the seconds to go. "Good evening everybody and welcome to Destination Star Trek London," the host, Paul, said in greeting to the crowd. Paul then introduced ALL of the events guests, who took to the stage, waved, and zipped off the stage.
Paul then turned the microphone over to actor-singer and Torchwood star John Barrowman, who declared "I'm gonna have a fanboy/fangasm moment," before introducing, in order, Bakula, Brooks, Mulgrew, Stewart and Shatner, who each sat down accompanied by beam up lighting and sound effects. Stewart stood up as Shatner went to sit in his chair, a silent display of respect for the elder captain/actor. Barrowman led a spirited Q&A, alternately asking questions of his own and letting fans ask questions. In some cases, only one or two actors replied to a query and in other instances three, four or all of them replied.
Talking about his first day on set, Bakula recalled, was "spent trying to figure out where Porthos was going to pee and poop for eight years."
Asked to describe the best and worst thing about doing Trek, Mulgrew stated, "Everything about playing the first and only female captain was best," while Bakula noted, "The worst was having to follow these other captains. The best was brainwashing myself that I was the FIRST captain."
One fan, Richard, announced that it was his birthday and asked the five captains to sing "Happy Birthday" to him. Shatner, Stewart and Mulgrew enthusiastically stood to serenade Richard, while Bakula and Brooks joined in after a few moments. It was an otherworldly and unforgettable moment. Barrowman joked, "All I can say is thank God there's not Star Trek: The Musical."
The next question was What's the one thing you would have fixed or changed about your show? "We would have been renewed for another three years," Shatner said. Bakula cracked, "That would be what I'd say, too." Brooks looked straight ahead and said, "Pockets," which elicited a building chuckle from the crowd, and Mulgrew said, "I would have had Patrick's head."
Recounting his first convention, which took place in Denver, Stewart spoke of the anticipation of being escorted to the stage after NOT having gotten a glimpse of the audience. He even asked his guide if anyone was in the house. "I remember walking on stage feeling like Sting," Stewart laughed.
Asked if he'd be interested in a Deep Space Nine feature, perhaps The Search for Sisko, Brooks grinned and said, "I suppose, yes, if I could join the search, which would in part mean they'd need to pay me. They'd better hurry up, though, if that's what they have in mind. It's been 20 years."
Stewart then revealed that Brent Spiner and writer John Logan were, for a proposed post-Nemesis movie, developing a script/idea for a Trek tale that would feature all five captains. Barrowman wondered if could ever happen, prompting Bakula to joke, "I don't think I could work for Spiner."
And here it got wild. Barrowman asked about everyone's strangest fan encounter. Shatner shared an anecdote about signing a woman's breast. That led to... well, long story, but Bakula signed Barrowman's bare butt cheek. See what you missed, folks?!
When the laughter stopped, the captains commented on what they'd add, today, to their respective captain's chair. "A Twitter account" Stewart said. Shatner smiled. "I was going to say a toilet," he said. Bakula laughed and noted, "Me, too," while Mulgrew added, "Me, three!"
A woman in the crowd, from Croatia, declares that William Shatner is the sexiest man ever to walk the Enterprise. Bakula and Brooks get up and walk off the stage. Of course, they returned.
Among the last questions was this: What would you like to have been if you weren't an actor? Stewart immediately replied, "A concert pianist... who got knighted." Mulgrew said, "A doctor." Brooks said, "A doctor." Bakula replied, "A professional athlete." And, tying back to that Croatian fan’s comment, Shatner cracked, "I'd like to be Croatian, actually."
After a few more moments, Barrowman thanked the audience and the five captains. The five actors gathered at the center of the stage, arm in arm, and thanked the crowd, basking in a standing ovation.
For all that, the evening wasn't over. First, for those who didn't get a ticket for the 5 Captains Talk, an Alternative Ceremony place on Stage B. All of the actors except for the five captains greeted the crowd in that room, which was packed. And then, off in another giant space, fans joined in the fun at the Klingon Monster Ball. A DJ blasted music, while fans drank Blood Wine, danced, played indoor laser tag and prepared to hear live music by JG Hertzler and Robert O'Reilly.
So, we'll end with this: Qapla!
Visit StarTrek.com again tomorrow to read our recap of Saturday's events. And if you're in London, it's not too late to join in the fun at Destination Star Trek London. Click HERE for details. For anyone else looking to share in the experience follow us @StarTrek on Twitter and Instagram, for live updates everyday.
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