FedCon held its 25th convention last weekend in Bonn, Germany when first-time convention attendee Tobi Fier finally got to see what all the fuss is about. Read on for highlights of Chase Masterson, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Terry Ferrel, William Shatner, and more.
Star Trek has been and hopefully always will be the nerd love of my life.
Star Trek fascinated me as a kid, and, as I grew up to be the young adult that I am today, my feelings for this franchise kept on growing and changing. To this day, however, there has been one thing that I had not really experienced: the community of fans. But that all changed this Saturday, when I visited my first convention.
I soon came to understand that the fan base is not only the loyal followers of the franchise, young and old, new and veteran, but also the ones who bring Trek to life: the actors. They, just as I was today, are a part of this community, or as the lovely Chase Masterson put it: this “family”.
Even though FedCon was visited by many thousands of people, I personally could still feel a certain warmth between all of us. A certain respect and a feel of community that comes from loving the same thing, which is Star Trek, or even Science Fiction in general. Throughout the whole day, I could not have imagined a better place for me to be.
So how did it all start? Arriving at 9:30 in the morning, the halls of the Maritim Hotel in Bonn, Germany were already buzzing with fans and cosplay of all sorts: Stormtroopers passing by Cylons, WarMachines and the many many different kinds of Starfleet Uniforms, Klingons, and Vulcans.
And there were many of them. The Maritim in Bonn has a lot of corners and different salons by which the convention area was separated, and if you didn’t watch out you could find yourself pinned in between a fan in a full plastic Iron Man suit and a fully fledged Klingon.
Costumed Trekkies at FedCon 2016 (photo: Hermann Darnell)
Scientist Hubert Zitt
Without much hesitation I searched for the next big room to flee to and found myself in the Main Event Room where up to 3000 visitors could find a place to sit and listen to the many presentations and Q&A sessions that were to follow during the next days. I sat down and began to listen to Hubert Zitt was addressing the audience.
As a student at the University of Bonn, I must admit to at first being a little confused about what was happening on stage. Did I accidentally stumble into a lecture hall? But instead of being confronted with agricultural problems of the European Union, I was treated to a discussion of the development of Star Trek and it’s influence on the American society and the society of the World in general. Hubert Zitt, who is a docent at the University of applied sciences in Kaiserslautern, gave a great and reminiscing presentation about all the little things that made Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek of the 60s and the years to follow such an important factor and landmark in how a TV show can change the world, step by step, provocation by provocation.
And Zitt was not the only “real” scientist who was presenting on FedCon. A huge demand seems to have developed for FedCon’s show runners to put more weight on the Science part of this Science Fiction event. The ESA mission “Rosetta” was covered by a variety of panels and Q&As, which where met with filled Rooms and many interested ears (some a little more pointy than others).
Saturday at FedCon was filled with great star guests, beginning with Mr. George Takei in the morning, following Zitt’s presentation. And I can’t say it surprised me that Mr. Takei was the “early bird” of panelists. Hard at work to win the “birthday collection” contest he has with his grandmother, he revealed his fitness practices of 80 sit-ups and 100 push-ups every morning, which, to be honest, made me feel a little bad about my lazy 22 year old self.
This was confirmed by other panelists who mentioned that, at a lot of conventions in the past, George would always go out and explore the convention city on foot in the morning. I was amazed by his dedication to his health and felt inspired to give way more attention to my health than I have been doing in the past.
But fitness was not his only topic. After reminiscing about his time on TOS and the movies, Mr. Takei also discussed his activism and engagement in equality movements and his immense popularity on social media, and I was truly inspired by his aura and energy.
Mr. Takei was not the only one to talk that day. It was really great for me to see how different each and every one of the actors who worked on the different shows is. We got to hear from Robert Beltran, who is a very humorous and charming man on stage, packing stories from the set into funny anecdotes while nailing voice imitations of Janeway and Tuvok.
Robert Beltran (photo by @AussenLinie)
Walter Koenig, a man who I learned to be very wise man, gave a great insight on what his work on the early Star Trek felt like and what difficulties he faced not being challenged enough as an actor by the role of Chekov. We got an insight into his thoughts on what direction modern filmmaking is taking and what he would like it to be. I was a great honor seeing Walter on stage as he was a pioneer guest at one of the very first FedCons back in the 90s, and having him back for this 25th anniversary of the convention and the 50th Birthday of Star Trek was an amazing experience.
George Takei and Walter Koenig on stage at FedCon (photo by @Gwenny74656)
The beautiful Terry Farrell had her Q&A session discussing life as an actress, a mother, and her experiences as Jadzia Dax. Jadzia’s (no Dax) return in the future episode of Tim Russ’ Renegades also has me intrigued, so I will certainly be keeping an eye out for that. Farrell mentioned to be very excited about the script she had just finished reading and guaranteed that it would be a “day and night” difference compared to the first one.
And of course the main event of the evening, the great entertainer: William ‘Bill’ Shatner. That man walked on stage and had the hall in his hand. The questions in his panel “flowed” well, and he knew how to play with the audience and bend the questions to his will, sometimes avoiding hot topics like American politics and sometimes creating comedy gold. You could see that this man has seen a lot of conventions and knows what he can do with the fans.
Now, to one of my favorite panelists of the day: Connor Trinneer. His panel was held in a smaller hall, which only held around 400 people. That was not enough. So many people were sitting on floors and standing in the back, all giving a warm welcome. And because it was a smaller hall, who was right in the middle of all of them in the beginning? Connor himself, waiting to be called up on stage. The feel I got from that and the panel is that he is such a down to earth kind of guy, talking to us, the fans.
And it was at that point that I realized a very important thing. Not one year ago I was sitting in front of my monitor watching videos from these panels on YouTube. At that time I did not know FedCon would be right in front of my doorstep the year after, so I thought to myself: “Man, visiting a panel and seeing one of these people live, that would be the greatest thing in the world.” And don’t get me wrong, seeing Bill Shatner and all the others was certainly fulfilling a great dream of mine. But, it was at Connor’s panel that I realized, “Hey… they are just people like us… there is no reason to put them on a pedestal that is so high that they seem unreachable.”
Connor talked about his character, his life, and how he came to be an actor, and all of this just made me feel … related. Like it is not only us, the fans, who take so much joy and inspiration from these actors’ performances, but it is also they who can get so much back from us.
And this takes me to the biggest surprise of that day, which was to me the panel of Robin Curtis. To be honest with you, I did not recognize her. I did not know who she was or who she played in Star Trek. So I looked her up and found out that she had played Saavik in Star Trek III and IV. At first I put it of as a little “side” panel, a little extra to fill the guest list, but man, was I wrong. She showed me how much an actress, even if she had only a little part in the whole thing that is Star Trek, can get from these conventions and fan meetings and just how very much she loved being there that day. She cared about each and every one of us, and she made the audience feel as if they were treated to a one on one with her, rather than being just a face in a crowd. I felt like she saw us all as this great big family I mentioned earlier.
So with this I want to apologize for not knowing who you were, Ms. Curtis, and thank you so much for helping me realize much more than I did before: that the actors are not just doing this for money, but also love being there and sharing time with us, the people who love them back for it.
Robin Curtis talks The Search for Spock a FedCon 2016 (photo by @rjmlaird)
With me getting all emotional now I don’t want to forget someone really important. Someone who brought so much energy and happiness into her moderation. The lovely Chase Masterson, who just seemed to be so engaged and also just so happy to be there. Sporting so many different outfits on stage I lost track of counting, she made my day at FedCon an amazing and unforgettable experience.
This was probably just a fraction of what I could have told. This short experience at FedCon 25 opened my eyes to how awesome these conventions are. And in the future, I will take every opportunity to spend more time with my great Star Trek family.