Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Destination Star Trek London

It's not very often I update this particular blog. The main reason is that my other one tends to suck up any and all time I have free for blogging. However, now and again there's something I want to write about for which this is the only real outlet I have.

A couple of weeks ago was Star Trek London, or Destination Star Trek London to give it its full and slightly ridiculous title. Quite why the 'Destination' part was necessary, I do not know, other than perhaps being able to copyright it. A lot has been said about the event - before, during and after - both pro and con (excuse the pun). Having now had a little time to reflect on the matter, here are a few of my thoughts...

The Bad.

I ordered my tickets for the event ages ago. The event was due to begin at 2pm on the Friday. When did my tickets arrive? Thursday, after having been posted on Wednesday. Ridiculous? Yes. Annoying and panic also apply. There is no excuse at all for tickets being sent out that late - especially when ones which had been ordered far later arrived much earlier than mine.

The main complaints from almost everyone about the event were queuing and cost. The only person I met who didn't complain was the guy I talked to who'd ordered a Platinum ticket who was able to queue jump for everything. He'd flown over from Hong Kong and - quite sensibly as it turned out - since he was travelling so far he wanted to ensure he was able to do everything.

Being unable to get tickets to the Captains' Opening Ceremony, we made do with the Alternate one. I thought this would be the more fun one, which... Hmm... It was hosted by the guys from Enterprise and they were really pretty terrible. They introduced each of the other guests at the event in turn, but kicked them off again before they could speak. You could tell this irked a lot of the other guests as they wanted to say hello properly. It wasn't a good start to things.

For those not lucky enough to have a Platinum pass - even those with Gold & Silver passes - spent a hell of a lot of time queuing. You queued to get in the event in a morning. Then you had to immediately join the queue to get tickets for the 'free' Stage B talks. My wife spent 2 hours on Saturday morning in the queue. Thankfully since we'd scouted the event on Friday, we knew exactly where the queue was so didn't have to wander round first. God knows how day-pass people thought, having to spend a big chunk of their only day queuing in the hope of getting a ticket to these talks.

There were no visible signs for these talks. The only way to find out what the snaking queue was for was to ask someone in the line. Quite how such a giant queue managed to build when all that was happening at the front was someone tearing off a ticket and handing it out, I do not know.

We were fortunate in that on Saturday, once you got to the front of the queue you were able to get tickets for all the Stage B talks that day. Of course by the time my wife got to the front of the queue we'd already missed one of the talks on Stage B. But still, for the rest of the day we were able to sit & simply refused to move from our seats no matter what.

On Sunday the ticketing system the changed and you had to queue for each individual Stage B talk. I don't think this system worked particularly well either. You know what would have worked? Not having walls around the stage! The talks were free, so why not allow as many people as possible to listen? Instead of having the video screens right next to the stage, why not put them outside the walled area so others could watch? There were multiple empty halls in the ExCel, why not put the talks in one of those?

Due to being in the right place at the right time, we found out that the Captain's talk tickets for the following day went on sale at 6pm the day before. Thankfully (for us) few people found this out, and at 6pm the queue to buy tickets for the Captain's had died down completely and buying them as a simple (if expensive) process.

The infamous parties. What was going on with those? Decoration? You must be joking. For the Klingon-themed party the organisers had put a few red lights around the hall. For £25 a ticket, I expected at least a little effort to be put in in this regard instead of a bare hall.

In some ways things were even worse for the 'Next Generation' party, where there was zero in the way of TNG-ness. Admittedly, some good entertainment from stars of the series but as a billed 'TNG' it was terrible.

The autograph queues were well managed, in my opinion, however there was a flaw in having a large queuing area set aside for each guest - ie most of them never had anything approaching a queue. Most of them spent a lot of their time looking bored, sat miles back and I'm sure would have welcomed people simply walking up and chatting to them. But people didn't do this for the simple reason that there were a lot of '£15' signs and large intimidating queue areas. I didn't want to get autographs from a lot of people, but if they'd been sat closer I'd have more than happily gone up to them and had a chat.

We had 3 day passes, costing £50 each. At the time I thought this was pretty good value for money. Unfortunately, we'd walked round the entire event within a very short time on Friday. There was the museum, which was nice, but done in 5 minutes. As was the Klingon area. Couple of stall holders (who weren't very happy about only being told they could only stock Trek items 2 weeks before the event & then desperately trying to find enough stock to fill a stall). And that was about it. If you weren't queuing, or at one of the talks you were at a loss for things to do.

On a passing note, why was there absolutely nothing for the new films? The event was advertised as having something for fans of all eras, but if you were only interested in the latest stuff there was nothing for you. Since this was an official event, with a large CBS/Paramount presence, it'd have been nice to have maybe a couple of minutes of footage from the upcoming film.

But onto more pleasant aspects...

The Good.

Since we were able to go to all the Stage B talks, we had a fantastic time listening to everyone. All the guests gave really good talks, but special mention must go to the Klingons who behaved exactly how you'd expect Klingons to behave. One poor guy had to leave the Klingon talk early as he had a ticket for the Kate Mulgrew talk. Oh how he was mocked! It was hilarious.

As the Captain's Opening was sold out, and figuring it'd be the only way we'd actually be able to see the captains, we bought tickets for all the captain's talks on Sunday. We didn't look at the cost, which would have made us cry. The talks, however, were really good. We sat right at the back for one of them and the view was still perfectly good. Highlight was Kate Mulgrew who, upon being told she only had 5 minutes left, declared 'I'll be the judge of that' and proceeded to carry on talking far longer that she should have.

While the parties as 'parties' were awful, there were plenty of 'stars' hanging about and chatting to people which was great. We also had the Klingon band, Avery Brooks doing jazz, Chase Masterson singing and a stand-up routine from Dominic Keating, after which we forgave him for his crappy Opening Ceremony.

I should also mention that every single person I met and talked to was really nice. One of the few plus points of standing in a queue was that you got to chat to everyone else. There was the woman from Slovenia, the guy who'd brought his dad for his birthday and countless others...

The Summary.

So, was Destination Star Trek London a good event? For us, yes, however we were incredibly lucky in being able to do everything we did. That said, having sat through so many talks in such a short period it's hard to remember exactly what was said in them all.

The constant paying out for things was very annoying, especially when combined with the queues, but there was only one guest whom I found to be less-than fantastic to meet. It's just a shame with a long queue areas, you were put off from approaching guests unless you wanted their autograph.

Would I go again? I'm not sure. I've done the captains now. Patrick Stewart did say he would return with the entire Next Generation cast, and it'd take something like that as a hook to get me back. Maybe in a few years time, after everyone has had chance to recover and learn some lessons from this event.