A FIFTY YEAR PHENOMENA
by Ann Evans
Photos by Rob Tysall, Tysall’s Photography
It began with American television screen writer and producer, Gene Roddenberry creating a futuristic world set in deep space, centred around the starship Enterprise, a 23rd century exploration vessel captained by James T. Kirk. Around the year 2260 the ship and its crew embarked on a five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.
As Star Trek recently celebrated its 50th anniversary it’s clear that the 5-year mission travels on into infinity. And as part of the golden anniversary celebrations Destination Star Trek Europe beamed down into the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham in October bringing with it a whole galaxy of stars.
William Shatner alias Captain Kirk headed the line up of celebrities appearing at the show, along with George Takei who played Mr Sulu and Walter Koenig who played Chekov in the original series; Marina Surtis – counsellor Deanna Troi in Star Trek:The Next Generation; Armin Shimerman who took the part of Quark in Star Trek:Deep Space Nine and dozens of other actors from the series and films – plus behind the scenes members of the Star Trek crew. There was also an appearance of Leonard Nimoy’s son, Adam an actor, director and writer. Leonard Nimoy of course played science officer Spock. Sadly, he died in February 2015.
During the press conference asked whether he would change anything about Star Trek, William Shatner said: “Star Trek is a figment of the imagination. The reality is that we are here to celebrate a 50 year phenomena. Fifty years ago it went on the air and 50 years later we are still talking about it. This show has enough magic to entice you all to come here and celebrate it. So no, I would not change anything as it might interfere with its longevity.”
A number of the celebrities who took to the stage likened the ethos of the show to the way we should all be living our lives. Marina Sirtis spoke of an American school who are following the Star Trek principles of believing in peace, hope and unity as the Enterprise crew did.
Asked how they felt about new actors now playing the roles that they made famous. George Takei said: “Actor John Cho called me when he was cast in the role of Hikaru Sulu in the new film, Star Trek: Beyond, he was very concerned about the intensity of Star Trek fans and how they would take to the change. I assured him that the fans would be fine about it, and that they don’t bite. And of course the fans were wonderful and very supportive, and now John knows it too.”
Walter Koenig – Chekov, talked about how it feels to be celebrating 50 years. He said: “It feels terrific, this is my second trip to the UK this year. I’ve also been in Germany and Italy and all over the States talking about Star Trek and being Chekov. It is extraordinary to feel we still have some significance to the public. And it’s amazing that we are still received so well.”
In addition to the stars, fans could get the autographs of numerous celebrities involved in the Star Trek series and films, and it was interesting to meet actor and stunt performer Bobby Clark the man inside the green Gorn captain costume who fought with Captain Kirk in the Arena episode made in November 1966.
We also chatted to Michael W Moore, Director of HMS Creative Productions Inc., who have made numerous props and costumes for Star Trek and there was a great display of costumes weapons and accessories provided by the Prop and Costume Museum. Amongst the gadgets Michael showed us was a Mk 9 Tricorder used by the crew on practically everything from The Next Generation to Deep Space Nine and onwards.
Michael said: “Whenever the designer gives us something to make from their one-dimensional drawing, we have usually just 3 or 4 days to get it made – 5 days maximum! And often there are many changes that need to be done.”
He has worked on props for numerous films including Masters of the Universe, Beetle Juice, The Next Generation, Dancing with Wolves and many others. He added: “It is exciting though to see the prop you’ve made actually in the movie or on TV, although sometimes you only see it for a fleeting second somewhere in the background – blink and you’ve missed it!”
There were talks and interactive exhibits, stalls selling official Star Trek merchandise; stands representing local Star Trek and sci fi clubs. One such club was USS Iceni who are based in the London and South East. Their club activities as well as being fun, are geared to raise money for charities. They support Starlight and the Foundation UK plus Crohn’s & Colitis UK. Since Matthew and Lorna Bergin started the club in 2013 they have raised well over £8,000 for charity.
However, clearly Star Trek had a lot to answer for. Lorna explained that she was bidding on an on-line auction for a signed photo of actor René Auberjonis, who played Odo in Star Trek:Deep Space Nine. Eventually the person bidding against her stopped bidding. By chance after Lorna met Matthew, they discovered they had been bidding against one another. Matthew said with a smile, “I got the photo in the end but had to marry her first!”
Another local club was USS Ranger, a West Midlands Star Trek and sci fi club. They raise money for the West Midlands Air Ambulance. This years sees the club’s 20th anniversary and their members range from people in their 60s down to a 2-month old baby.
With all this talk of galaxies, visitors were bound to get hungry. Fortunately The Custom Cupcake Company were there with Star Trek cupcakes which looked fantastic and tasted even better than they looked. Baker, Kenny Daniels said: “It was harder to think up the cake names than to make them!”
He did a great job however, and you could choose from a selection of fudges or cupcakes with the appropriate names of Kirk-ish Delight, Death by Spock-let, Mission to Mars, Batten-Borg, Captain’s Log and Cream me up Scotty.
Throughout the three days there were talks and panel events in the three auditoriums – the Enterprise Stage, the Voyager stage and the Excelsior stage. On the Friday evening there was a chance for fans to get dressed up in their best Star Trek attire and party till the wee small hours. Saturday was the official 50th anniversary party. William Shatner staged his show – Shatner’s World, and live entertainment came from Star Trek’s very own Rat Pack – Armin Shimerman, Casey Bggs, Vaughn Armstrong, Jeffrey Combs and Max Grodenchik. And naturally there just had to be a 50th anniversary cake, with Kirk, Spock and the Gord captain back in the arena, only this time in fondant icing!