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.
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.
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.
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..?
Between panels, I spent a lot of time shopping and people watching. Here are some of the amazing costumes I saw:
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.