Final report on Las Vegas’ “55 Year Mission”…

“But first, some scenes from Part 1…”

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

Creation Entertainment rebranded their annual Star Trek Las Vegas convention into “The 55 Year Mission.”

Creation Entertainment, which has traditionally held the license to host “official” Star Trek conventions was forced to rebrand their world-famous Star Trek convention in Las Vegas this year, after losing the official Star Trek license to ReedPop. ReedPop will now host the official Star Trek Convention next year, in Chicago. The 55-Year Mission convention in Las Vegas was plagued by a swarm of last minute guest cancellations (including Jeri Ryan, Nichelle Nichols, Sonequa Martin-Green, and many others), yet it still managed to create some memorable Star Trek fandom moments, despite the turmoil…

“And now the conclusion…”

Despite some curiously renamed attractions at the convention (the Borg alcove photo op set was awkwardly rebranded as the “Threll Teleportation Terminal”), there were still a few points of interest scattered throughout the 55 Year Mission to appeal to the convention’s core audience of Trek fans.

Panoramic view of the Roddenberry Dealer Hall; while a bit less full than in previous years, there’s still enough merchandise and autographs available to sate your average Ferengi.
Stunning recreation of the “Ten Forward” bar, from the USS Enterprise-D (Star Trek-TNG). While the Rio hotel’s carpet may not be such a great match, the other appointments are meticulously recreated to match the famous starship’s hub of social activity. Just glad it wasn’t renamed the “The Threll Thirst Center” or some other bizarre thing…
A series of panels from theoatmeal.com depict a real-life plane crash that took place in Calcutta, in June of 1947, back when Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was a commercial airline pilot. Roddenberry’s quick thinking saved the lives of the passengers.
This vendor’s wares would go very well with the Ten Forward set seen above: a representative from Star Trek Wines gives all the backstories of his elegantly bottled Star Trek wines, including Chateau Picard (from an actual coincidentally named Chateau Picard in France!) as well as Cardassian Canar, Andorian Blue, and other exotic alien intoxicants, from startrekwines.com
Who knew that the former Klingon commander would retire to Las Vegas and open a Korean BBQ at the Rio hotel?

“And the stars are still there, Bones…”

Despite the onslaught of cancellations, a number of celebrity guests still made appearances, such as William Shatner and George Takei of TOS Star Trek, as well as actors Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman, Noah Averbach-Katz, Rainn Wilson, Patrick Kwok-Choon and Kenneth Mitchell, of Star Trek: Discovery. Also on deck was one of my personal favorite stars in science fiction TV right now; Shohreh Aghdashloo, who played the acid-tongued UN Secretary General Chrisjen Avasarala in “The Expanse.” Many other actors from the other Star Trek series were autographing in the Dealer Hall as well.

William Shatner (“Captain Kirk”) takes questions from the audience. He very patiently answered a question from a disabled fan who had difficulty speaking. You see a great diversity of fans in Star Trek conventions, and that’s one of the things that attracts me to these events–for a week, or even just a weekend, we can all pretend we’re in Star Trek’s better world, where size, shape, color, or ability makes no difference.
Willam Shatner answers questions at a panel; when a questioner identifies as “Randy”, Shatner replied he’s ‘randy’ as well, which leads to trouble. Gotta say, Shatner is surprisingly robust and vigorous for a man of 90!
Shohreh Aghdashloo onstage to discuss fleeing Iran during the revolution as a young woman, seeing “Annie Hall” in the late 1970s, and being inspired to stake a claim for herself playing strong female characters (including Chrisjen Avasarala of “The Expanse”). Aghdashloo said that even the act of wearing a tailored hand-me-down suit from her father to a meeting with a director sent a message that she wanted to be treated on equal parity with any male actor. Even when playing a prostitute in an early film role, she did her best to present a strong character.
Shohreh Aghdashloo also joked about her daughter’s infatuation with actor Chris Pine; Aghdashloo and Pine shot additional scenes for 2016’s “Star Trek Beyond” where she was added as “Commodore Paris” to provide another strong female character for the film, which director Justin Lin felt the earlier version lacked. Aghdashloo was delightful and cultured–a very refined but earthy lady. My friend George called her a “force of nature.”
Star Trek actors Dominic Keating (“Malcolm Reed” from “Star Trek: Enterprise”), Garrett Wang (“Harry Kim” from “Star Trek: Voyager”) and Anthony Montgomery (“Travis Mayweather” from Star Trek: Enterprise), pose with a fan. I’ve met each of these actors myself, and I always enjoy seeing other fans get their moments as well. Anthony Montgomery is also a graphic novelist (“Miles Away”).

“And dress you in the same metal fabric they wear?”

One of my favorite aspects of conventioneering is the fan-made cosplay. The current COVID-19 pandemic, with its recent Delta and Lambda variants, has meant that all attendees to the convention were under a mask mandate. That mandate curtailed some traditional cosplay makeups and other facial 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. The creativity of the fans never ceases to amaze me…

Cosplayers dressed as characters from “Star Trek: Lower Decks.” Left to right; “Dr. T’Ana,” “Ensign Boimler,” “Captain Carol Freeman,” “Commander Jack Ransom,” and an Andorian character. I’ll confess, I’m not exactly the greatest fan of “Lower Decks,” but I very much appreciate the opportunities it presents for fans to partake in bright, colorful cosplay.
BEST COSPLAY OF THE ENTIRE CONVENTION!
A cosplayer dressed as the puppet version of “Balok” from the TOS Star Trek episode “The Corbomite Maneuver” recreates a still from the end credits of TOS. In all my years of convention-going, I’ve never seen anyone cosplay as the end credits of a TV show! And he held that custom-cut, TV screen shaped piece of plexiglass over his face the entire time I saw him–even while walking! That takes commitment.
A mashup “Geisha Gorn,” inspired by the TOS Star Trek episode “Arena.” Lots of parody or mashup cosplays involving the reptilian Gorn race. Something about their immobile, toothy grimaces seems to inspire fans to poke fun at these laughable lizard people!
Once again, a Gorn taunts a hapless 24th century Starfleet officer… and being a smart Starfleet officer, he wears his regulation mask as well! Many cosplayers found ways to either work their mandated COVID-19 safety masks into their existing cosplays, or they would wear full head coverings (like the pullover Gorn mask) that negated the need for separate cloth masks.
“Fish heads! Fish heads! Roly-poly fish heads…!”
Something very ‘fishy’ about this “Antedian” cosplayer from the Star Trek: TNG episode, “Manhunt”…
“They are for you, Lt. D’Amato!”
A cosplayer as Lee Meriweather’s “Losira” from the TOS Star Trek episode, “That Which Survives” and another as the late Persis Khambatta’s “Lt. Ilia” from “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.”
“Resistance is finger-lickin’-good!”
Colonel Sanders gets Kentucky Fried by the Borg! Once again, fan creativity and humor can make even the most repressed Vulcan break out in a big grin.
An almost invisible cosplay of “Dr. Nichols” from “Plexicorp”, as seen in “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”; I only recognized it because of the “I QUIT SMOKING” button. Very clever!

Reunions.

One of my favorite aspects of these events is reconnecting with friends and even with favorite celebrities. I spent a sizable portion of the convention just hanging out with my camera-shy midwestern buddy George, whom I hadn’t seen since the 2019 Star Trek Las Vegas convention, as well as seeing a few other familiar and memorable (sometimes masked) faces.

Wearing my “Stone Trek” cosplay (a Flintstones/Star Trek mashup), I once again met the delightful Chase Masterson (“Deep Space Nine”), who founded Pop Culture Hero Coalition; a nonprofit committed to stopping bullying by allowing kids to relate to (and emulate) the more positive aspects of their sci-fi role models and heroes. She is always great to see at conventions. I interviewed Chase three years ago for Trekcore.com as well: “Deep Space Nine”’s Chase Masterson Trekcore interview
Two “Thermians” from “Galaxy Quest”; I’d met these two at Gallifrey One 2018 in Los Angeles, and they’d recognized me. They also appeared in the documentary on “Galaxy Quest” fandom called “Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary” (2019).
This was my first encounter with these in-character Thermian cosplayers, back in Los Angeles at the Doctor Who convention Gallifrey One. I was impressed by their ability to maintain character the entire time…

Conclusion.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, a slew of cancellations, and the loss of the official Star Trek license, Creation’s 55-Year Mission felt a bit waning this year. Nevertheless, there were still some pleasant surprises, intriguing guests, and enough creative cosplayers to make it worth a Trek fan’s time. From information given in the online program for the event, next year’s Star Trek Las Vegas convention (under whatever new name is chosen) will be moved to Bally’s Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, which is just down the street from the convention’s current location at the Rio Hotel. Hopefully, if more people obey current mask recommendations and/or get their vaccinations, the current COVID-19 pandemic will not play such a dominant role in next year’s event. That said, I applaud Creation Entertainment for having a mask mandate and on-site COVID testing for all convention participants. COVID-19 has killed over four million people worldwide, with 618,000 of those deaths in the United States, so the precaution is certainly understandable. The lingering sense of mortality underlining this year’s event did drain some of its spirit, but certainly not all of it. Star Trek fans can also be a plucky and resourceful bunch.

All of my photos from the 55 Year Mission convention in Las Vegas can be seen here: “The 55 Year Mission”/Flickr.com. See you next year. Live long and prosper!

Images: Author, CBS/Paramount

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