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Monday, May 02, 2016

Calgary Expo 2016

A few months back, Sean asked if I was going to Calgary Expo. He and a friend were going down, and I decided that since this year marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and a lot of the guests acted on the various Star Trek shows and movies, it was an opportune year to head to Calgary.

On the drive down, I stopped in Red Deer to fortify myself with a burger from the new Peters' Drive-In location. It serves food every bit as good as the original Calgary location, with fewer parking hassles.
The economic downturn has hit Calgary pretty hard, which is perhaps the reason why I was able to book this sweet room at Le Germain downtown for about half the normal price.
I've decided that I really need one of these rain shower heads. So relaxing.

I didn't take any photos of the Expo itself the first night, opting instead to observe the camera etiquette. It turns out I needn't have worried; practically everyone was snapping photos left and right, careful to observe the rule prohibiting flash photography during panels. A high ISO setting takes care of that easily enough, but I learned too late to get any pictures of the one panel I attended Thursday night: a spotlight on Connor Trineer, who played Charles "Trip" Tucker on Star Trek: Enterprise. Star Trek: Voyager's Garret Wang hosted, and coaxed Trineer into telling a number of funny and fascinating stories about the short-lived spinoff, as well as his early days as a football player and budding stage actor.
I spent the next morning wandering the BMO Centre, examining the merchandise of hundreds of vendors who packed the halls to overflowing with geeky apparel, props, toys, books, games and art. I limited my purchases to a few grey market Lego minifigures and a couple of old Playmates Star Trek action figures to add to my collection. They're for stop motion movies, don't you know...

That's me above, waiting for the Spotlight on William Shatner panel to start. I really wasn't sure what to expect from the man made famous for playing Captain James T. Kirk; I worried that perhaps he might phone in his appearance, perhaps having grown sick of doing so many of these conventions.

But I was blown away. Shatner, as I perhaps should have expected, has incredible stage presence and charisma, and took control of the crowd the second he appeared. People make fun of Shatner's acting, but when you see him live it's easy to see he knows exactly what he's doing. He made a doubtlessly staged appearance by representatives of Canada Post appear completely ad-libbed, and reacted with seemingly genuine surprise and humility when they unveiled the new Captain Kirk stamp (available May 5 at all Canada Post outlets, by the way). Prompted by questions from the audience - most of which were about Boston Legal rather than Star Trek - Shatner waxed eloquent about filming in Canada, what it means to be Canadian, the importance of good works and taking care of our environment. It really was a marvellous performance, and that experience alone was worth the trip.
I didn't have much time to reflect on what I'd just seen, for my photo op with Shatner was scheduled right after the spotlight panel. I rushed over to the Agri-building and stood in line with hundreds of other fans. With machine-like precision, the Expo volunteers marched us along an assembly line-like path; after about an hour, I was presented with the man himself. I had only seconds to say something, and managed to say "Thank you for doing this, Mr. Shatner!" just barely in time to smile as the flash went off. Shatner winked at me and said "Pleasure," as I made way for the next guest. It was a fleeting moment, but one I'll never forget.

After that, I attended the Star Trek: Voyager spotlight with Garret Wang and Robert Duncan McNeill, or Harry Kim and Tom Paris as they were known on the show. Compared to Shatner's legendary presence, Wang and McNeill seemed almost subdued, which is unfair; they were entertaining, candid and thoughtful in their own right. Amusingly, they revealed that Tuvok and Neelix tormented their fellow crewmates by farting at every available opportunity. Wang and McNeill were delighted when discussions with the audience revealed the existence of Dildo, Newfoundland. Clearly Voyager humour is about as sophisticated as...well, mine.

Calgarian Brendan Hunter presented "So You Wanna Be a Voice Actor?", a panel I couldn't miss; I've been interested in the profession for quite some time. To my surprise, Hunter claims that with a little legwork a career in voice acting is a real possibility for anyone with the drive and desire; all you need is the ability, he says, to make sounds. Putting his audience to the test, Hunter passed around contact information and tips for those serious enough to take a stab at entering the profession. Dare I..?
Karl Urban, who plays Bones McCoy in the rebooted Star Trek films, as well as Judge Dredd in Dredd, was a great ambassador for both properties, promising plenty of the classic Spock/McCoy rivalry in the upcoming Star Trek Beyond and telling fans he's working hard to return to the role of Judge Dredd. I hope he's right; Dredd was a great action film, and there are plenty of stories left to tell in that setting.
I missed most of John Barrowman's (Dr. Who, Arrow) panel, but caught his superb finisher, a performance of a love song he wrote himself. It was so good I'm going to see if it's available for sale somewhere.
Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) was friendly and genuine, but didn't have as many good stories to tell as some of the other celebrity guests on hand; his youth might be working against him here. Still, he clearly treasures his experience playing Clark Kent, and seems earnest in his efforts to uphold the values embodied by that character.

Between panels, I spent a lot of time shopping and people watching. Here are some of the amazing costumes I saw:
Princess Jasmine in Arabian-themed Mandalorian armour.
"TV Head."
I'm not sure who she is, but the sign amused me.
A Canadian robot, perhaps inspired by Pacific Rim.
Assorted sword 'n sorcery types.
Some Stormtroopers and a Jawa.
A vile Decepticon.
The Justice League's resident magician, Zatanna.
A family of Lego super-heroes.
Lego Spider-Man vs. Dr. Octopus.
Dr. Octopus and the Lizard in mid-transformation.
And finally, Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash. Zoom!

This was the first science fiction convention I've attended since the 1990s. How things have changed. The crowds are exponentially larger and much, much more diverse, spanning all ages, cultures and, for lack of a better phrase, levels of geekhood. Calgary Expo is clearly a mainstream event, and much the better for it.

Will I go again? Absolutely, except next time I'll take Monday off, too. 

1 comment:

Stephen Fitzpatrick said...

"And finally, Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash. Zoom!"

I see what you did there...

In all honesty, I think Superman is the weakest of Routh's three comic book roles, after Evil Ex #3 from Scott Pilgrim and The Atom on Arrow/Legends of Tomorrow. He and Chris Evans should start a club or something. Did you meet any comic artists or writers?

Most importantly, glad you had a good time at the con!