My husband is a Star Trek fan. He took me to the Las Vegas Hilton Star Trek experience twice. I walked through the original sets when they were on display in Long Beach, CA. I have endured repeated viewings of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (his favorite) as well as late night re-runs of The Next Generation, Voyager, and Enterprise. We have also been in costume for Halloween. The only adventure we had not taken in the Star Trek universe is actually attending a convention together. Yes, he has been many times. Just not with me. His boyish excitement about the franchise is quite frankly, one of the things I love about him. So when he asked me to come with him, I couldn’t say no. Plus, it would be a new adventure to share.
I was a little weary, though. I had this vision of – forgive me – crowds of extremely dedicated fans, in costume, ready to elbow their way to see their favorite actors. I admire that level of devotion, but feared I would be out of my league. The oddball in a sea of Trek followers. Yet, when we got there on Saturday, February 16th, my uneasiness melted away. The Burbank Marriott Hotel & Convention Center was not overcrowded. I didn’t get elbowed once. There were costumes, but not that many. There were lines, but they moved fairly quickly. This might be fun.
There was a lot of merchandise. I mean it. Memorabilia of all kinds including replica pieces, original props, art inspired by the series, jewelry, and there was even a costume-maker on-hand. And that rivalry between Star Trek and Star Wars – well, if it truly exists, it was wasn’t here. I was delighted to see some old friends of mine rolling around the summit. R2D2 chirped his way through the crowd and Wall-E even sweetly called me “Eeeevahhhh”. Apparently, I am a sucker for small robots.
While the focus of the weekend is Star Trek, a variety of other Sci-Fi shows and movies were represented. Stephenie Meyers’ The Host had a booth and previews of the March movie were on display. There were actors from The Vampire Diaries, Smallville, and Teen Wolf. Thus, the summit was a bit more well-rounded. I liked that.
My first official stop was a hello to Dominic Keating who played Lt. Malcolm Reed on Star Trek: Enterprise. I was immediately taken by his British accent and sharp whit. When I told him that this was not only my first time to a Star Trek event, but he was the first Star Trek actor I had ever spoken with, he insisted that I commemorate the moment with a kiss. I bowed in respect and obliged the charming man. I was now in the fold. Next, I chatted with Connor Trinneer who played Trip of the same series. He was also very friendly and even more handsome in person. Trip was my favorite in that series. I had always hoped that he and his Vulcan love interest, T’Pol, would have ended up together.
On the main stage, I listened to James Marsters speak about his experience as Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He said he never considered Spike as good or evil. Previously a stage actor doing classic theater, characters are not always considered in those simple terms. He enjoyed the risks the character brought him and even loved the musical episode, however frightening it was to test his vocal skills. As an actor, James saw himself as a magician or a con artist. He invites the audience to experience a complex world and convinces them to believe in the fantasy.
The main event – for me, at least – was seeing Sir Patrick Stewart. When he entered the room, the audience came alive. Poise and a vast body of great work make this man a true captain of the Trek universe. In a hoody and sneakers, the Star Trek icon suddenly seemed like an old friend. The previous Cotswolds resident shared about the day he was knighted by the queen. He said it was a “very emotional” experience. Seeing Her Majesty with a sword in her hand, the ceremony was just “unreal”. He joked that within 36 hours, pictures of the ceremony were photoshopped with a bat’leth in place of the sword. The man calls William Shatner a “charming” and “special friend” who has a keen ability to draw information from you in an interview. When asked about Star Trek: Nemesis and how he once said it was the best Trek film, Stewart playfully noted that he was simply lying. It was a press tour – of course, he was going to say it was the best. Truthfully, he feels First Contact is the best film in the series. Speaking of films, in a few weeks he will be working on the next X-Men movie. He teased that it can be quite the “hardship” sharing the make-up trailer with beautiful female co-stars every morning. He also has two plays coming up, sharing the stage with Sir Ian McKellen, and two independent films, Hunting Elephants and Match. In a serious moment, Stewart shared about his work as the patron of the U.K. charity, Refuge. Stewart grew up in a violent household and Refuge fights violence against women. Refuge aims to expose domestic violence, reduce its occurrence, and provide safe houses for those escaping its hold. Stewart notes that it is not shameful to be a victim and a very simple way to fight it is to just plain talk about it. This type of violence happens behind closed doors. No more secrets. Proof that Stewart is not just an actor, but a real doer. In a final thought, an audience member asked if Stewart would consider appearing in the re-imagined Star Trek film series. He said it was not likely. The torch had been passed and while it would be “cute” to make a cameo, well, Stewart doesn’t do cute. Sir Patrick Stewart is clearly a charming and giving man. Potentially, the perfect man to helm any ship.
Alas, my experience at Grand Slam: The Star Trek Sci-Fi Summit was downright delightful. My fear of over-the-top fans was silly and ignorant. The actors were warm, welcoming, and sincere. And the overall sense of the weekend was appreciation. People enjoyed the various lives of the Star Trek franchise and the Sci-Fi world as a whole is a cool universe to explore. I could definitely tell that this convention was going to leave its mark on me. Besides, somewhere Dominic Keating was walking around with my lipstick on his hand. However temporary, I got to leave my mark too. I think I like visiting this galaxy. Star Trek, we will meet again.