“The 55 Year Mission” in Las Vegas is a Star Trek convention by any other name…

Invasion Of The Threll…?

The current COVID pandemic cancelled last year’s annual Star Trek Convention at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, but just in time for the franchise’s 55 year anniversary, the convention has returned. However, a few things have been changed. Creation Entertainment, which has run the convention for decades, apparently lost its Star Trek licensing to host the ‘official’ convention, which will be held in Chicago next year. This lost licensing resulted in a slightly bizarre, “Orville/Galaxy Quest”-like generification of the long-running convention’s usual displays, nomenclature and overall vibe. There was also an at-times awkward insertion of an ersatz-Borg mythology with “the Threll,” who are an apparent cross between Federation Unity (“We Are One And One Are We”) and the villainous Borg (?). I won’t pretend to understand it, but it’s clearly a quickly conjured attempt to maintain a Trek feel, despite the lack of licensing. That said, the Las Vegas “55 Year Mission” still felt like a Star Trek convention; the soul was there, even if things were a little bit different. Since the convention is ongoing, I’m going to keep this ‘log entry’ somewhat brief–mainly captioning photos–until I can offer my recap of the entire experience when I’m back (with the full resources of my cozy home office).

The Threll: “We Are One One Are We”; an erstatz-Borg/Federation collective, courtesy of lost official Star Trek licensing. The convention, struggling admirably to function despite the current COVID pandemic, had to deal with a rash of cancellations and a lack of official Star Trek licensing. The convention this year reminds me of Star Trek TOS’ own third season; generally lackluster but with some great moments.
What used to be the Borg Alcove display at Star Trek Las Vegas has been awkwardly rebranded and re-lit in blue as the “Threll Teleportation Terminal.” One of the side-effects of Creation Entertainment losing their license as the ‘official’ Star Trek convention.
One of the few pieces of Star Trek that managed to survive the convention’s curious “Threll” rebranding is the beautiful recreation of the USS Enterprise bridge, which is used for cast member photo ops and for fans like myself to gaze upon in fannish awe (as well as my very banner for this site!). I’m so glad they bring this out every year, and I’m grateful that it wasn’t redressed as a “Threll Control Chamber” or some other thing. While perhaps not as perfectly appointed as the Star Trek Tour in Ticonderoga, New York, this bridge mockup still does the trick for me every time…

“Merchandising!”

…to quote the ever-wise Yogurt in “Spaceballs.” The one thing that typifies sci-fi conventions is, of course, the opportunity to hit the dealer halls and find rare merchandise from many different sci-fi franchises. While there was a bit more exposed carpet this year (either due to cancellations or for COVID-safety spacing), there were still some interesting goodies to be found…

Hero Props Booth, featuring gorgeous, lavishly appointed replicas of spacesuits, Sleestaks (from “Land of the Lost”) and other items, including an ALIEN egg, a Gremlin, Loki’s helmet, and Judge Dredd (the Sylvester Stallone 1995 version).
Buy a mint-condition piece of your childhood. A bit pricey, but considering the nearly 1974-state of these Mego Star Trek figures and play set? It’s as close as we older fans might ever get to our own “Guardian of Forever.” I had Kirk and Spock Mego figures when I was a kid as well (complete with curious, bright turquoise landing party gear). While it’d be nice to reclaim this lost piece of childhood, my cozy little home’s lack of available space (and my own advancing years) have put my best collecting days behind me, I’m afraid.

Close Encounters.

While I didn’t seek too many autographs this year, due to both budget as well as the heavy influx of last minute cancellations (Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Jeri Ryan, etc), there were two that I very much had my heart set on. I was determined to finally get autographs from actor//writer/producer and human rights activist George Takei (“Mr. Sulu” on TOS Star Trek) and Shohreh Aghdashloo, whom I’ve become a huge fan of, due to her amazing role of UN Secretary General “Chrisjen Avasarala” on AmazonPrime’s “The Expanse.”

I had George Takei autograph ticket number 66…the year of Star Trek’s debut and my own birth! While I wasn’t allowed to take a pic at our face-to-face encounter (photo ops are separate and cost extra), I did manage to get a pic of him from his later stage appearance. I’m glad that I finally had the chance to meet this man whom I’ve so admired through his work on Star Trek, as well as other projects, such as his graphic novel “The Called Us Enemy”; a chronicling of his early childhood spent in a Japanese-American interment camp during World War 2. During his stage show, Takei spoke of the parallels between his own interment and the treatment of Muslim Americans after 9/11. Takei is also a passionate supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, particularly after his own coming out in 2005.
This is fellow Star Trek fan Shelton. With the hours-long line to meet-and-greet George Takei ground to a halt, she asked me if I’d keep her place in line so that she could check out the dealer hall. She offered earlier to do the same for my friend George and I. However, just as she left to the Dealer Hall across the corridor, the line suddenly sprang to life! The convention staff began calling ALL remaining ticket holders to come forward and get in the final queue. I asked the person ahead of me to hold MY place in line, while I ran back to get her. Luckily, we ran into each other (I didn’t know her name, but I knew her on sight). Long story short, mission accomplished–we both got our autographs, and she was very grateful. It’s always good to pay it forward at Star Trek conventions, and even better to make line buddies. She later came to check and make sure that I got in line to meet Shohreh Aghdashloo, whom I told her I was hoping to see after the Takei signing event. Fans like Shelton make these events so supportive; you could lose your wallet at a Star Trek convention and you’d most likely get it returned with all the cash and credit cards inside.
Meeting Shohreh Aghdashloo, who plays “Chrisjen Avasarala” in “The Expanse”; I’ve been a fan of hers since I began watching the show several years ago; it has since become an immediate favorite of mine. I’ve often joked that the hard-cursing Chrisjen is my spirit animal–I just love her! On social media, Aghdashloo gave my wife and I a nice bit of advice regarding our anniversary trip to Santa Barbara two months ago– recommending a scenic stop at the local Botanical Gardens (which we did). She was also kind enough to wish us a happy anniversary, too. Lovely woman. Not sure exactly how I kept from fainting, but I managed to keep it together (haha). What a voice…!
A masked me, posing with writer/producer Mark Altman (left) and visual effects artist/illustrator Daren Dochterman (right). Altman is the coauthor (along with Ed Gross) of some excellent behind-the-scenes books, including “So Say We All,” “Secrets of the Force” and “The Fifty Year Mission,” books 1 and 2. Dochterman worked on the brilliant restoration of “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (1979/2001), which is currently being readied for a new HD release soon. Altman was also the writer/producer of the 1999 comedy “Free Enterprise; a romantic, loving salute to fandom. “Free Enterprise” is a delightful film that portrays Trek/scif-fi fandom in a far more broad and less-stereotypical light than “The Big Bang Theory,” for which “Free Enterprise” arguably opened the door. My wife and I adore the film, as it relates some of our own love story as well…

Cosplay.

One of my favorite aspects of conventioneering is the fan-generated cosplay. The current COVID pandemic, with its recent dangerous surge, has meant that all attendees to the convention are under a mask mandate, which curtailed some traditional cosplay makeups and other accoutrements fans use in their creations. However, some cosplayers manage to make masks part of their cosplay, or simply choose costumes where the wearing of a mask didn’t significantly alter their overall effect. Without further ado, here’s a few of my favorites…

“Two Orions and an Andorian walk into a casino…” These cool cosplayers smartly worked their masks in with their green and blue makeups. Love the “pon farr” t-shirt; a reference to the Vulcan mating drive first seen in TOS Star Trek’s “Amok Time.”
Hail! Hail! Fire and snow…” The “Gorgon” from the TOS Star Trek episode, “And the Children Shall Lead”–this was easily the most clever and inventive cosplay I’ve seen this week. I also appreciated that the Gorgon’s companion was dressed as the episode’s “Tommy Starnes” (who was originally played by actor/musician Craig Huxley, who also did some music for “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock”). “Starnes” even mimicked the boy’s odd arm-slamming gesture (save the dirty jokes, please…), which was used to wield the Gorgon’s power over the Enterprise crew.
Nice recreation of the Mirror Universe’s “Captain Killy” (a ruthless, cold-blooded variation of the Prime Universe’s sweet-natured Sylvia Tilly), as seen in the last few episodes of Star Trek: Discovery’s first season, which saw the starship Discovery wind up in the dark dimension…
Star Trek cosplayers bring their brilliant, homemade replica of the mutated “Nomad” space probe, from the TOS Star Trek episode, “The Changeling.” The cosplayers’ costumes are from both TOS Star Trek and The Next Generation (the dress uniforms seen in both the TNG movies and Deep Space Nine).
This cosplayer did a great recreation of the seductive male outfit from Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Season 1 episode, “Angel One.” He and I had a nice chat about our mutual love for TNG’s often awkward, but wildly experimental first season; which has since become a camp classic in the 34 years since it debuted.
A “Thermian” cosplayer from 1999’s classic (and beloved) Star Trek fandom parody, “Galaxy Quest”! The Thermians were extraterrestrials who worshipped the stars of a defunct sci-fi series in the mold of Star Trek. I absolutely LOVE Galaxy Quest, which is (like “Free Enterprise”) both a spoof and affectionate love letter to the passion and creativity of Star Trek fandom.

The Wrap-Up Of Con 2021: Coming Soon…

I will have more photos and stories after the convention wraps this Sunday, and you can expect a followup to this story as soon as the event concludes. In the meantime, enjoy this virtual tour of the Las Vegas “55 Year Mission” and please keep yourselves safe (and vaccinated) so that we can turn the tide on the COVID pandemic, and events like these can resume at full warp power. Here’s a link to my Flickr photo album of the event (with daily updates through Sunday the 15th): The 55 Year Mission, on Flickr.

George Takei takes to the stage at the Leonard Nimoy Theatre, at the Rio hotel.

Continue Living Long and Prospering.

All Photos: Author.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Paul Bowler says:

    Looks like amazing event, great cosplayer costumes as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. charlesfwh says:

    A great read. We’ve got Destination Star Trek happening in the UK (hopefully) in November and looking forward to meeting Kate and George. Going to be a little different from other conventions but hopefully still a positive experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’ll have a good time.

      The pandemic naturally put a damper on some aspects of Star Trek Las Vegas, but there were still a few memorable moments to be had, and I loved seeing fan creativity in dealing with mandated masks–Star Trek cosplayers are an ingenious lot!

      Thanks again for reading, Charles!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s