Friday, April 22, 2022

Boldly Going - For My First Time

(Guest post by Brad)

Back in the Summer of 2012, I moved to Chicago (my first of three moves in total to the area). At that point in time I worked as an intern downtown in the Amtrak rail yard. Making an intern wage rate along with living in a city where I knew no one, I had a lot of free time on my hands, which is when I first really got into Star Trek. My college roommate was a huge Trek fan and at his urging I started watching TNG. At that point in time, The Next Generation was on Netflix and I devoured the first couple of seasons during that summer and fell in love with the Trek Universe. I had seen Star Trek 2009, and growing up had occasionally seen episodes of TNG and saw First Contact and Insurrection in theaters. But Summer 2012 was the first time I really immersed myself in Trekdom.

Since then I’ve continued to love Trek. It’s the perfect combination of quality storytelling, science fiction, and just plain good television. Even beyond that, the vision that Gene Roddenberry set is one that gives me hope.

It’s fitting that on the ten year anniversary of me really connecting with Star Trek, and in the city where I first discovered and immersed myself in the Trek universe, that I attend my first Star Trek Convention.

Hands down, an unforgettable experience that reminds me of the possibility of sustainability, equality, and opportunity in a future that highlights the best of our humanity. So this month, I decided to Boldly go where no Bradley has gone before and attend Star Trek: Mission Chicago.

The Good

I don’t know that I’ve ever been around so many people at one time that love Star Trek. Here’s what stood out to me in my experience as the best parts.

Kindness. Our world is experiencing such an intense drought of empathy and kindness. I can’t tell you the amount of times I was able to engage authentically with a stranger and have kindness returned back to me. Complimenting cosplay, talking about favorite episodes or characters, or cheering together as our favorite actors came on stage or came out to their autograph booth, the convention was overflowing with kindness for one another as we celebrated our mutual love of something good. It gave me hope for the future.
Actor Engagement. I’m still smiling like an idiot when I think of the incredible opportunities I had to meet with some of the actors who played my favorite characters on the series. SOOO many of the actors in Trek know what it means to the fans and they embraced us with open arms and open hearts. Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher, TNG) complimented my Trek Shirt. I had a lovely conversation with Alexander Siddig (Dr. Bashir, DS9) about Mitt Romney of all things. I got a hug and a kiss on the cheek from Doug Jones (Saru, DIS), lovely interactions with Kate Mulgrew (Kathryn Janeway, VOY), Nana Vistor (Kira Nerys, DS9), Michelle Hurd (Raffi, PIC), and Evan Evagora (Elnor, PIC). I also enjoyed Jack Quaid’s (Brad Boimler, LD) interaction once he discovered my name was also Brad. He signed his autograph for me “From one Brad to another.” Interacting with members of the original cast like Walter Koenig (Chekov, TOS) and William Shatner (Kirk, TOS) felt like sequences from a dream. I probably spent way too much money, but they are memories and interactions I’ll remember for the rest of my life. 
Vision of the Future. Now more than ever, our world needs Star Trek. Various times throughout the weekend we remembered across panels and other one on one interactions the importance of Gene’s vision of the future and how that now more than ever, humanity needs something to believe in. 
The Endorsement from and partnership with Paramount Plus. We got to see early scenes from Strange New Worlds Season 1 (the first bridge scene aboard the Enterprise in the new series), and a cold open for Lower Decks Season 3. We were the first people in the world to see this content and it was awesome to get a sneak peak.  
The Lower Decks Panel. Lower Decks is a love letter to the fans and the visiting cast members showed up in costume and were sooo much fun to listen to.

Here’s some constructive feedback of things I wish had gone differently.

The Bad

There was not a lot of merch or vendors. Far less than I was expecting. I was still able to burn a hole in my wallet, but I am disappointed that so much of the McCormick Place floor was relatively empty. 
The Lack of TNG Cast. Outside of Wil Wheaton, there were no major characters from The Next Generation at the panels. While the panels and majority of guests made it easy to celebrate “New Trek,” and we had rock stars from TOS, DS9, and VOY all attend, I do wish we would have had more representation from TNG
More food options. The food was good, but there was not a lot of variety and this was a bit lacking.


Honestly, while a little expensive, the amount of positives I have coming from the weekend far outweigh the negative. One or two actors may have seem less than enthusiastic about being there, but the amount of hope, joy, vision, and sneak peeks we got to experience, as well as seeing the first ever live panel for Lower Decks made this three day experience unforgettable. 

I can’t wait to go again and get my Trek on. Thank you Gene for your vision and legacy. Thank you Lucille Ball for fighting to keep Star Trek on the air. Thank you to past and present cast and crew for giving we as fans something that moves us, changes us, and guides us.

Live long and prosper my fellow Trekkies.

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