Destination Star Trek Europe, the world's largest Trek event, got off to a rousing start at the NEC in Birmingham, England. Thousands of fans, many dressed in fun, elaborate costumes, gathered from all over the map for the festivities, making day one a sold-out affair.
Prior to the doors officially opening, many of the Trek guests met the press. More than 150 journalists were on hand, as the actors were introduced one by one and they answered a few questions.
William Shatner, asked if 50 years on he'd change anything about Trek, replied, "The reality is we're here as part of a celebration of 50 years of Star Trek. It's a showbiz phenomenon. Fifty years ago, the Star Trek I was went on the air. And 50 years later, a lifetime later, we're still talking about it... But here this magical show had enough magic to it to entice you to come here and talk to me 50 years later. What could you...? How could you -- me -- be so callow as to think you could change something? So, no, I would not change anything. That might interfere with its longevity."
"I'm new to the family," said Greg Grunberg, who voiced Kirk's stepfather in Star Trek (2009), played Finnegan in Star Trek Beyond, and who is moderating most of the major DSTE panels over the weekend. "I'm honored to be here. I think the characters are something to aspire to. There's so much negativity out there, but Star Trek is about a brighter future. That's why Star Trek will never lose its popularity."
"When we see heroes who are flawed, we see ourselves," added Chase Masterson
Vaughn Armstrong added, "Star Trek is about diversity. Maybe I've got pointy ears and you've got a green head, but we can still get along, still be friends."
Following the actors' appearances on stage, they walked over to the TOS Enterprise bridge set for an epic photo. Shatner settled into the captain's chair, with George Takei and Walter Koenig at the helm, surrounded by everyone from Marina Sirtis, Connor Trinneer, Jeffrey Combs and Chase Masterson to Terry Farrell, Alice Krige, Eric Pierpoint, Eddie Paskey and others. Everybody realized they'd just witnessed something not only special, but quite possibly never to happen again.
The doors opened for the public in the afternoon, with thousands entering the massive hall featuring three stages, three bridges, a Ferengi Bazaar, a prop and costume museum and the European premiere of the 50 Artists. 50 Years. art exhibit.
StarTrek.com had a close encounter with one fan who called himself Captain K'Bragh and sported a General Martok costume so convincing we had to ask him about it. Turns out he bought part of the costume in the famous Christie's auction several years back and a snapped up other parts of his costume via other auctions. And so he had the main costume, robe, boots, disruptor and more used by J.G. Hertzler when he played Martok. "It's brilliant," Captain K'Bragh -- who built himself a full Klingon bridge at home -- told us in an accent that sounded more British than Klingon. "People see these costumes on TV, but to see the actual uniforms up close, in person, being worn, I think people get a lot of enjoyment out of it. I know that some people put their costumes and props behind glass, and I respect that, but there's something about wearing it and sharing it that I find very exciting."
As lines queued for the Star Trek actor photo ops and autographs, many fans (and some celebrities) took advantage of the other photo ops across the hall, including The Next Generation and The Original Series bridge sets, a Klingon captain's chair, a Borg regeneration chamber and a fun transporter photo op from CBS Action.
Art Exhibit and Prop & Costume Museum
The popular 50 Artists. 50 Years. exhibit is making its European debut this weekend. Each and every piece is at DSTE, and it's free to check then out.
Artist Mark Reihill was there on Friday signing prints of his contribution the striking "What Are Little Girls Made Of," and he'll be signing throughout the weekend. And on Saturday and Sunday, Paul Oz will also be on hand, signing prints of his piece, "Make It So."
The Prop and Costume Museum features such screen-used items as Data's head, assorted rifles and disruptors, and also Janeway, Neelix, O'Brien and Quark costumes.
On hand at the booth all weekend is Michael Moore, who made thousands of props for Trek during his time with the franchise, which spanned from season one of TNG to Star Trek (2009).
"To know people collect props is great," he told StarTrek.com. "To see people's joy at looking at them here and at other events and in places like the old Star Trek Experience, that's great, too. But the biggest pleasure I take is people coming up to me with props they've made. I love that our work inspired people and I love praising their work and offering suggestions to them."
The Red Shirt Fight Off welcomed fans to come up on stage, get clobbered with a rock by the Gorn and to die a righteous death. An adorable young girl, Beth, and her dad, won Friday's event, but fans will have a chance to battle the Gorn on both Saturday and Sunday on the Excelsior stage. Check out their winning performance:
The Kirk-A-Oke contest challenged contestants to sing in their best Shatner crooning style.
Niell Matthew dressed as Khan and performed a Metallica song, while Julien Pryce looked to be channeling Geordi in a red shirt and VISOR as he nailed "Rocket Man."
Steffi and Pepe, dressed as space hippies, duetted on Prince's "Kiss," and Steve Pett, sporting a Kirk command shirt, sang "Little Old Wine Drinker" by Dean Martin.
Pett won and, upon receiving his prize, a 16x20 photo of Shatner as Kirk, joked, "Who's this guy impersonating me?"
If you want to get in on the Red Shirt Fight Off or Kirk-A-Oke competitions, be sure to sign up at the Excelsior stage on Saturday and Sunday.
Opening Night Ceremony
And day one of Destination Star Trek Europe concluded with a memorable opening ceremony hosted by Greg Grunberg.
The actor, by way of introduction, noted that he'd been in that other Star... franchise, which elicited a few groans and boos, before he pointed out "they're not mutually exclusive."
Grunberg then brought out the event's guests, starting with the man himself, William Shatner.
"50 years!" he shouted. "I can't believe it! It went by like that. I don't know where 50 years went. I remember starting Star Trek. We were all so young and beautiful. Now I look in the mirror and think, 'What happened?'l
"Wow," said a dazzled Christopher Lloyd as he reacted to the cheers from the 2500 people in the room. Grunberg asked him how Trek fans compare to Back to the Future fans. Lloyd tried to dance around it, but, pressed, said "(Trek fans) are a little more intense. Perhaps a little more imagination."
Eddie Paskey greeted the crowd and said it was an "honor" to be in such distinguished company as his fellow guests.
Connor Trinneer and Dominic Keating came out together... grasping wine glasses.
Chase Masterson and Robert O'Reilly fired up the audience, with O'Reilly getting everyone to yell "Qapla!!" and Masterson countering with "Dabo!!"
Adam Nimoy graciously absorbed the love for his father, Leonard.
Walter Koenig explained that conventions never, ever get old for him. "It never gets old," he said, "because I have such an extraordinary ego that I soak this in. I lap it up. I flew 10 hours from L.A. just so I could hear you guys applaud."
George Takei marveled at the generations of Trek fans whom he meets. He says he sees parents with their kids, grandparents with the their grandchildren. "You have," he joked, "multiplied like Tribbles."
Before he departed the stage, Takei was presented by Craig Glenday of the Guinness Book of World Records with a framed citation declaring Trek "the most successful TV sci-fi franchise." Takei then walked off stage flashing both the Vulcan greeting gesture and a huge smile.
Alice Krige and Kitty Swink praised each other. And then Krige noted, "When I was given the Borg Queen, I had no idea it would become a part of my life. I'm so grateful for it."
The Star Trek Rat Pack -- Jeffrey Combs, Armin Shimerman, Vaughn Armstrong, Casey Biggs and Max Grodenchik -- crooned a few notes and then darted offstage, swearing that they were off to a rehearsal for their DSTE gig.
Martha Hackett, Eric Pierpoint and Garrett Wang greeted the crowd. And as always, Wang brought the house down with his effortless and spot-on George Takei imitation.
Terry Farrell and Nicole de Boer insisted they didn't have anything prepared for their moment on stage, so they improvised and had everyone laughing. They'll be doing a joint panel and joint photo ops this weekend and promised "a Dax sandwich," before offering a preview.
Wil Wheaton noted, "This is the only Star Trek convention I'm doing this year. And I am so happy to be here."
And once again Craig Glenday from the Guinness Book of World Records stepped on the stage, delivering to Wheaton a framed citation declaring Star Trek to be "The Longest Running Video Game Franchise," as it kicked off in 1971.
And, last but not least, local gal Marina Sirtis amped up the audience with her energy and forthrightness. "My people!!" she shouted. Then, asked to comment on Trek's 50th anniversary, she cracked, "Forget 50 years. Our TNG 30th anniversary is coming up next year. That's more important!"
Saturday's World Record Attempt
Saturday will feature the effort to break the Guinness Book of World Records record for largest gathering of people dressed as Star Trek characters, established a few years back at Destination Star Trek London. The editor-in-chief of the book, Craig Glenday, told us, "People seem to want to break the record. You go, get registered and someone well assess what you're wearing, to make sure you're totally kitted out. What we don't want is someone wearing a redshirt and some jeans. It has to be something recognizable from the shows or movies. Most people make a real proper effort. Someone from Facts on File, Eaglemoss, will be an independent witness to attest that the costumes are something Trek. So it should be fun."