As I have done the past 7 or 8 years now, I went to the Creation Entertainment Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas last month. This year was certainly special, though, as this year marks the 50th year of Star Trek’s existence. In fact, today, September 8, is the exact date the original Star Trek show aired on television back in 1966.
That’s a pretty big deal when you think about it. I can’t think right now, but is it the only franchise that’s been around that long and is still active? I think so. Surely no one knew such a thing would happen, even creator Gene Roddenberry himself. Hell, it was thought that Star Trek would be gone forever after each of its original seasons on TV. Even after the first motion picture everyone involved thought, “That’s it, man. Nobody’s going to want another film.” But lo and behold, they did. And after The Wrath of Khan, nothing would stop that train from rolling.
And good for them – and especially US. We’ve benefited from great characters, great storytelling (well, mostly – they can’t ALL be winners), and one of the most rich and hopeful Universes ever created in film and television.
I think I saw a couple of episodes of Star Trek when I was little. It would have been in syndication in the 1970’s, and then Star Wars came out and I was totally into that. So Star Trek took a back seat for a while for me. But when Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out, I knew I had to see it. And that’s when my love of Trek came about. When that film came out on VHS (Yes, THAT long ago), my sister and I watched it 3 times in one weekend that summer. My dad and step-mom were vexed because they couldn’t figure out why we were watching it yet AGAIN. “Because it’s so good!” we said. But they just shook their heads.
And that first film is the slowest one and still considered the 2nd to worst (sorry Star Trek V). These days you couldn’t get a 15-16 year old to watch that movie. And we didn’t have internet then, cable was pretty new and we certainly didn’t have social media and smart phones to help shorten our attention spans. It was engrossing, intelligent science fiction, not just a bunch of jump cuts between exploding spaceships.
And as the movies kept coming, Star Trek: The Next Generation came on TV while I was in college. I caught some of that but it felt weird at first. But I watched it as often as I could, and it grew on me. I eventually considered myself a definite fan, but never a Trekkie or Trekker. Even now I just call myself just a regular fan. I can’t tell you what episode a character said this or that, or what episode that particular Federation ship appeared in once. But I have watched every episode of every series, and all of the films. I AM a sci-fi nerd, after all.
When I went to my first Star Trek Con in Vegas, it was mostly for a lark, sort of. I mean, I was a fan, but the idea in my head of what it would be like was pretty dorky. Hundreds of people in Trek uniforms siting favorite episodes and whose the best Engineer? I wasn’t sure I was ready for all that. Surprisingly, of course, the Con turned out to be tons of fun and not quite as weird as all that. Well, some of the people were like that, but mostly it was just lots of like-minded people sharing something they love. So, here I am, after the 8th year I’ve gone to this Con because it’s such a blast.
This past year may have been my favorite yet because I met more people than ever. The Con sold out this year so there were more people than ever – so many folks just walk up and start talking to you. Everyone there feels totally comfortable doing that because you’re all there for the same reason: to share your love of Star Trek. Nobody’s a weirdo here. And if you are, then maybe you should take Shatner’s advice when he was on Saturday Night Live back in the late 80’s. Ha – I kid. Just like he was kidding. Gotta still keep a sense of humor, folks.
All of the usual suspects appear as guests on stage – all of the original series stars that are still with us – including William Shatner, most, if not all the Voyager cast, Enterprise cast, Deep Space Nine, the Next Gen cast, with the exception of Patrick Stewart this year. He was busy working on something. And many many secondary and peripheral actors, writers, directors, make-up artists, effects people, and more show up on stage or in panels. And there’s also the vendors room full of stuff to buy and autographs to get. Oh yeah, they love it when you spend money and there is no shortage of things to be tempted by.
This year, I even grabbed an autograph – Jeffrey Combs of Reanimator fame. He’s also played more characters on various Trek shows than anyone else – at least six, including one-time appearances, but at least three substantial recurring roles in two different series. And he played Edgar Allen Poe in a fantastic one-man play in Hollywood. He’s kind of a fave actor of mine.
And every night in at least one of the bars in the Rio where the Star Trek Con is held, the conventioneers all pile in and get their livers wet. Turns out it’s great to be standing around with 100 people drinking in their Star Trek cosplay. You could be standing next to a original series Starfleet officer on one side and an Andorian on the other, while a guy dressed as Captain Picard when he was on Risa (in a Speedo and robe) is waving his Horga’hn around asking for jamaharon. If you think that sounds kinda dirty, then you’re reading it right. Just Google the words you don’t know. And for the record, that last part was a real guy named Zack at this last convention. Clearly, he’s hilarious.
So yeah, turns out Star Trek fans like to party, and many of them well into the night and early morning. Lots of good people, and fun was had by all. It’s something I look forward to each year. And with the world in such a shit state recently, having some time to focus and discuss the optimism of the better future Star Trek offers is a welcome respite. One of the primary characteristics of Star Trek has always been portraying humanity’s future as one of evolving into the species we SHOULD be: smarter, abolishing greed, hate, war, and prejudice. Exploring the universe around us and being open-minded enough to meet and learn from new races we meet out there. If we ever needed more of that kind of hope, NOW is the time.
That’s why I look forward to the new Star Trek show in January. Discovery will air on CBS for the premiere, then on CBS All Access online. Kind of sucks that it won’t all be on broadcast TV, but this is the future of television, I suppose, so we better jump on board. CBS is being weirdly anti-Star Trek philosophically, but television executives are the Ferengi of the 21st Century, I guess. But I’m still going to watch it. Oh, the irony.
If you’re looking for great Star Trek reads I can recommend some great books written by Marc Cushman called These Are The Voyages. There are three books, one for each season of the original series. They are incredibly in-depth and really…fascinating. Each chapter of the books is focused on an episode of the show. And if you go to a Star Trek Con, Marc will sign them for you. He’s a swell guy, and maybe a little insane for the exhaustive research he clearly has to do for these books. He says he is going to tackle writing books for every Star Trek series. He’s going to be writing until he’s about 80 or so years old.
Oh, and now on ThinkGeek.com you can get a Next Gen communicator badge that not only makes the cool sound, but its a blue tooth, hands free talking device, too! That’s pretty cool, man. Star Trek makes technology of the future technology of the present. Win! http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/jmgi/
Go re-watch all the shows. The original series is still streaming on Netflix, and of course CBS All Access has ALL of the Star Trek series as its’ permanent home. A least it’s only $5.99 a month. Star Trek has been a lot of things to a lot of people, and it’s broken ground all more than once. When you need to feel better about the human race, or just want to escape a little, ther’s something in the Star Trek universe for you. Here’s to 50 years of Star Trek, and 50 years more.
~ Neil T Weakley, you average movie-goer, offering one piece of Star Trek trivia: Yes, that was actually Ricardo Montalban’s REAL chest in Wrath of Khan. Apparently after he had injured his hip, he worked out a lot to build up his upper body. NOT a prosthetic of any kind. This comes from Leonard Nimoy AND William Shatner’s own words. So there you have it.