My son and I booked these tickets back in May and had been looking forward to attending this event ever since. Mercifully time flies and the day finally arrived yesterday, so we ‘beamed ourselves up’ on the train all the way from Bognor Regis to London Victoria Railway Station and then another hour or so in the tube to Canning Town, where a replacement bus service transported us for the last few miles of our long trek to ExCel Centre, where the convention was taking place all weekend.
We weren’t prepared for the size of this venue and it seemed like we were leaving the planet just to get there (a tricorder would have been handy at this point). We were hoping to find lots of ‘alien’ looking people (Klingons and the like) so that we could follow them and make our journey easier, but these only appeared when we were almost on top of the venue itself. There were various queues we joined in as we saw people holding their Star Trek tickets, not willing to jump ahead of other fans. After a couple minutes somebody happened to mention that was the queue for the William Shatner talk and that if only had a standard ticket we could go right ahead to the venue. That we did, only for a steward to tell us at the entrance of venue 8 that we had to join the shorter queue nearest the wall, which we duly did. Again, we’d been there a couple of minutes when someone else pointed out to us that that was the queue for ‘Subway’ fast food retail and that we should join the other longer queue and thus we ended back where we started from. Once again, the same helpful people who sent us forward earlier on told us to ignore what the stewards said, as they didn’t have a clue about what was going on and said we should go to venue 9.
At last, after about 10 minutes fiddling about and feeling like a right pair of twits, we entered the official STDL venue and were greeted by the Star Trek museum first. This was quite interesting, full of various major and minor character outfits (including captains’), props and manikins, but it could have done with more exhibits and more space to move around, as, being such a popular event (apparently 12,000 fans turned up yesterday), there was neither much room nor time to have a good look and enjoy it properly. This small irritant was compensated by Star Trek characters walking by and being extremely friendly and happy to pose for a picture with anyone who asked, never failing to smile and making it special for you. I loved the Borg and Klingons, especially, and that is the memory I’ll take with me.
Once we saw all the exhibits at the museum, we wandered around the venue waiting for surprises and things to photograph. The first thing we encountered was the autograph signing areas, divided into main or popular characters, such as the Captains, or minor ones. We thought about having one from Kate Mulgrew, as she’s always been my favourite captain, but at £25 each was a bit too much for us.
And this was the main problem with the event: everything seemed to be overpriced and overcrowded. One of the things we really wanted to do was to have a picture taken on the bridge of the spaceship, but again that came with a price tag of £15, so I treated my son to it. We first had to queue for about 15 minutes to buy the ticket for the privilege and then wait another 20 minutes for the picture itself. At least the result was good and it made Peter’s day (a small price to pay, you might say).
While Peter was waiting for his turn to have his picture taken, I wandered around the venue and discovered the wonderful ‘Klingon Zone’, where later on we spent some time talking to a real Trekky form Glasgow who knew everything there is to know about this wonderful series and had a good laugh as we waited to have our picture taken with some of the most iconic alien races of the franchise. I was even kissed by these two amazing blokes, which actually made my day!
Before that, we also had to queue for our chance to be beamed up in the transporter, for which it was necessary to download and application on your mobile phone, which was easily done and, we had the joy of seeing ourselves appear on Peter’s mobile: very cool indeed. We now have a still photograph of this memorable time for keeps!
We also heard the standing ovation Patrick Stewart received when he appeared for his speech and we could have listened to it through the curtains of the auditorium as we didn’t have a ticket, but felt that was a sad thing to do and continued with our exploration of the place.
We thought we might buy a souvenir in the shape of a t-shirt, but even those came at the steep price of £20, and forget the proper Starfleet outfits, that were over £100.
So, to summarise, the event was very enjoyable and it was made very special by the people who made such an extraordinary effort to dress up and make it all look so real, but we were somewhat disappointed not to have seen any of the major characters in the flesh without having to pay extra (our standard ticket cost £20), partly our fault, as we had to leave the venue early in order to catch the train back home and allow 3 hours travelling time. I understand that Brent Spiner’s (Data) speech was free of charge, but that was taking place at 5.30 pm and it would have made it too late for us to make our way back to Victoria Station.
Lesson learned: next time stay till closing time and spend the night in London if necessary in order to make the most of the experience.