While standing in a queue during the last Destination Star Trek at the Birmingham NEC, I got chatting to the people next to me, who advised me to go to the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention. They said that they do everything better there and I would really enjoy it.
Fast forward to summer 2017, and I’m there, with my other (some would say better) half at the Rio Suites Hotel Las Vegas for my first taste of a non-UK convention. While the convention ran for five days, I was only attending on the Saturday, but also attended the Next Generation 30 Year Reunion talk on Friday night, and also sampled the free to all Klingon Karaoke on Thursday night.
From the get-go, this looked very different to what I was used to. Upon entering the convention area of the hotel, we were greeted by a huge Star Trek Delta Shield, which I had seen pictures of online before, but in person it was really impressive. It was bold and really stood out, making you feel like you were making the transition from everything outside into a world of pure Star Trek. Around the entrance area, were lit banners, welcoming you to the convention, some of which featured mirror universe style images of the Next Generation crew, who were taking centre stage at this year’s event.
As we made our way around, it was clear that a lot of effort had gone into creating an immersive Star Trek experience featuring holographic logos on walls, Star Trek art, and entrances to rooms which were bordered with lit up images from the shows, an example of which is the “DeForest Kelley Theatre” which had pictures of Bones McCoy surrounding the entrance doors.
I must mention Quark’s Bar here. I personally loved this area of the convention. It served as a place to sit down, rest, and get to know other con’ attendees. Again, decorated with lit up images on the walls, and the type of things that you’d expect to see at a real Quark’s, with a big screen showing entertaining images and iconic Star Trek sounds. The atmosphere here was relaxed, and it was great to talk to other attendees who were all very open and welcome. Where I think Quark’s shines though is in the food and drink on offer. They had really catered for everyone’s needs. As a very health conscious person, I almost never find any food at conventions that suit my dietary requirements, and therefore usually take food with me. The food here though was varied and delicious. I can’t imagine anyone not finding food to their liking. We’re not talking three course meals, but refreshments and snacks such as a wide variety of sandwiches and salad boxes, and a well priced tea and coffee area. It was great to be able to pick up a couple of pieces of fruit here as well as the usual snacks you’d expect to be on offer. There wasn’t a break from the everything Star Trek theme here either as even the price tags for the sandwiches had pictures of Captain Picard and Captain Kirk on them!
The main talk area was an impressive room and great venue for high profile talks. Again, no detail was missed as the lighting in this room was well thought out. Dark enough to create an atmosphere, with enough light to clearly see where you are going and tasteful multi-colour lighting around the room on the walls, making you feel like you’re really in a sci-fi world. The guests enter on to the main stage through a Next Generation style cargo bay door, usually accompanied by a well made up character or two from the Star Trek universe. If you’re not close enough to the front to see the stars up close, two big screens either side of the stage allow you to get a zoomed in view of what is going on, and throughout all of the talks we watched, the sound was excellent and clear. Something I thought was a nice touch on the Saturday, was that there was a live band that would play on stage to keep everyone entertained during breaks in talks.
Many people attend conventions to meet the stars of the show for autographs and photo ops. While I didn’t partake in any photo ops, I did walk past a few that were happening and it was clear that everything was well organised, well signed and orderly. The big difference that I could see compared to photo ops at UK conventions, was that you don’t get your photo printed right away, you have to go to a collection area and pick it up later in the day. Autograph opportunities were also well organised. The sides of the main stage room were used as autograph tables, which was an excellent use of space as it prevented other areas from becoming overcrowded when a high profile guest was signing. Many of the over 100 guests had their tables set up in the main dealers room, meaning that you could interact with them easily in a relaxed atmosphere. The dealers room itself was everything you would expect, featuring a vast array of Star Trek collectibles. There were things I had not seen on sale before such as tables in the shape of the Delta Shield and the Enterprise D. Surprisingly, there was one stand selling quite a lot of Star Wars merchandise-it certainly didn’t seem like there was any cross-franchise animosity here as there was even a fully functioning R2D2 roaming around the hallways at one point!
As well as the main attractions, the convention featured some impressively re-created set pieces. The Original Series Bridge, 10 Forward, a Transporter, the Guardian of Forever and a Borg Regeneration Chamber were all dotted around, some of which you could take a photo on or with for free. There was a Next Generation gallery, which had images from the making of the show, and the most impressive collection of props I have ever seen at a convention-Data’s arm and the Borg Queen’s skull and spinal column from Star Trek: First Contact being among my favourites. the layout of these attractions had been very well thought out. They were spread out very nicely and because of there being so many things on offer for all of the attendees to do, it never felt like any one area of the convention ever got particularly crowded.
Only being at the convention for a short time, there were several things that I didn’t get chance to do such as explore the information on offer regarding the new Discovery show, but with everything I did have time to do being so well done, it didn’t feel like I had missed out on anything.
Before bringing this article to a close, I must comment on something that really made this the best Star Trek convention that I have ever attended, and it can be summed up in one word: community.
Everywhere I went in the convention, there was a feeling of community and friendship. People greeted me, introduced themselves and engaged me in conversation and you could tell that people attended the convention year after year and created this tangible community spirit. The convention was attended by people from all over the USA and in fact from all over the world, no one was left out, and people with disabilities were well catered for. Inside the Rio Suites Hotel in Las Vegas, a community had been created which was all inclusive and welcoming in its diversity. If there is any message that Star Trek tries to get across, it is that this is possible for us, and was truly amazing to see it in action. When meeting Terry Farrell at her autograph table, I told her how I felt that the way in which she dealt with a difficult question at a UK convention talk was everything that Star Trek was about. It’s clear that many people who played a part in Star Trek really understand its underlying messages. When celebrity guests, organisers, sellers and fans come together to create this kind of environment, it creates memories which go beyond what is on offer in the event programme. With that in mind, I must thank Richard, Greg, Dolphin and Shashank for making my Star Trek Las Vegas experience truly one to remember and I look forward to the continuing voyages of the friendships we have formed!
All in all, if you are a big Star Trek fan, I highly recommend a trip to the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention. I would recommend planning ahead far in advance, not only for the convention itself and everything you might want to do there, but also for everything else a trip to Las Vegas entails including food, travel and hotel costs. If you do decide to attend, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.