Review: WeekendTrek '08

I’d only done one SF/TV convention abroad before, and that was many years ago. This summer the opportunity appeared to do one again. WeekendTrek ‘08 (12 - 14 September) in Seville, Spain, had been advertised on the Star Trek New Voyages Forums.

Having previously been on the Star Trek – New Voyages (now Star Trek – Phase II) set, it would be a chance to meet up with James Cawley (Kirk) again and a new cast member, as well as catch the World premiere of the final cut of the new episode “Blood and Fire - Part 1”. It was also a chance to visit Spain for the first time as, incredibly, having visited well over ten other countries in Europe, Spain was a significant omission. With adding a few days extra afterwards to explore Seville and nearby Cadiz it seemed a no-brainer.

A potential downside to getting there was that it was to take four buses to get from Seville Airport to the hotel, 20km to the west. As I can speak very little Spanish, and I would be arriving shortly before dusk, I didn’t fancy this. On querying the cost of taxis I was astounded to get this reply back from Rubén at WeekendTrek:

“With regard to the buses ... we see the possibility of being going to gather him (you) to the airport”. Yes, they were willing to collect me from the airport. Can anybody think of any event where the organisers would have the time to do this for an attendee? I gather this goes back to the days of the very first Cult TV Weekender in 1994, when a minibus was laid on to pick attendees up from Great Yarmouth train station and transport them to Hemsby. As it happens, this was the start of even better things to come.

I arrived in Seville and was collected by not one, but two of the production team from CSTSE (Club Star Trek Sevilla) - www.cstse.es

Fortunately, they both spoke excellent English. I hadn’t expected the conversation to turn so quickly to Torchwood and Doctor Who. Despite a lack of SF on Spanish TV, there are other ways to get what you want to really see in Spain - and at the same time master the English language!

On checking in at the hotel I was further taken aback by the invasion of the same British and US shows that the Cult TV audience tune into, throughout the hotel reception. Another member of the crew had clearly done his research and had produced large-sized brightly illustrated coloured write-ups (in Spanish) on every show you can think off. Participants could read about The Prisoner, Space: 1999 and all the other Anderson shows, Doctor Who (including a write-up about creator Sydney Newman), the Irwin Allen shows, Farscape – the list goes on and on. Cult TV lives on - in Spain!

Weekend Trek 08

What’s great about overseas conventions is that as you have something in common, the reason for you all being there, that’s what you start talking about. Once you’ve broken the ice you can then move on to other subjects. It makes visiting the country concerned so much more than a traditional holiday, as you can really do get to know the locals. This was certainly the case at WeekendTrek.

This wasn’t to be a big event - just over 100 attendees, running noon Friday to noon Sunday. I was the only attendee not from the Iberian peninsula. As things got busy on the Friday morning there was the chance to start interacting. I had to say “¿Habla Inglés?” a lot - everyone I chatted to was pleased to meet someone from the UK at their convention. There was clearly a family atmosphere, and I soon felt at home.

Over breakfast Friday morning I was introduced to the other New Voyages cast member who had flown in the previous day. Bobby Rice, an up and coming actor, plays the newly introduced regular character of Ensign Peter Kirk (Captain Kirk’s nephew). I took the chance to learn more about his time on the New Voyages set. I also found out that James Cawley had missed his flight from New York and, despite frantic phone calls by the production crew, it was not possible for him to travel later, so sadly he was to be a no-show. There was an understandable disappointment on many of the production crew’s faces. Bobby was also concerned as all the attendees knew who James Cawley was, but until “Blood and Fire - Part 1” was screened, they wouldn’t know who Bobby Rice was.

The convention started off in a typical Spanish way: 12 noon – Registration opens; 2 pm – Lunch; 3.30 pm - Siesta (what else?). Eventually, the Opening Ceremony happened and Bobby was warmly greeted. Dinner came and went. Afterwards we got to see the new Star Trek spoof fan film: “HispaTrek II” (www.cstse.es/?cat=24) which fortunately I was able to follow, as there were English sub-titles (how thoughtful). At midnight there was a chance to see the Moon, Saturn and other objects in the night sky through telescopes. It had been a good day, but something happened around midnight that should never ever happen at a convention, not that early – the bar shut!

Next morning, nothing much happened until after breakfast, which finished at 11am. I had arisen early and sat outside, topping up my non-existent tan. I was approached by a small group concerned that I hadn’t been interacting enough! I was asked if I had packed my swimming trunks as there was to be a game in the swimming pool a little later. Fortunately I had, and I guess there might be some shots of me in Speedos somewhere in cyberspace now!

There was an unexpected gap mid-afternoon where there had been something scheduled on comics, so I offered to fill the gap with a selection of photos from my New Voyages set visit. This was now scheduled just 30 minutes beforehand and with an impromptu siesta underway. In the event I presented to a group that reached around 15 come the end of the hour. It came complete with and English to Spanish translation (thanks, Ignacio).

Straight afterwards we had “Who wants to be a Trekkie?” Despite being in Spanish, Juan from the crew was able to translate as he went along, stating at the beginning that he was doing so just for Bobby Rice and their visitor from the UK. This was much appreciated by me, and very much in keeping with the warmth of the welcome I was receiving. I later discovered that downstairs at the hotel there were some break-out rooms used for screenings and other activities.

There was also a meeting for representatives of each of the Spanish Star Trek groups attending. If you know the history of Cult TV, you’ll recognise similarities in what follows. There had been a parting of the ways amongst the organisers of earlier events and a number had moved on, taking some of their fan base with them. WeekendTrek ‘08 was clearly a success, but new agreements were put in place and all future decisions will be taken on a democratic basis, which hadn’t been the case in the past. For future WeekendTreks, local groups have to put forward a detailed plan for the next year and they are then voted on, in the same way Olympic host cities are decided upon. This is very much how it used to be in the UK, when groups placed bid two years prior, to host one of the Biannual “British Trek” cons. WeekendTrek ‘09 is likely to be in either Madrid or Barcelona. All the groups are asked to provide an item for the programme schedule.

Two things had still been a concern on Saturday: How were the organisers going to show the new episode as it hadn’t travelled out with James, and Bobby was not looking forward to talking about New Voyages on his own. Fortunately the joys of a fast broadband connection solved the former and Skype™ the latter. Before the screening, James Cawley appeared on screen to the assembled attendees and crew and entered into a very entertaining Q&A session. Unfortunately, I learned that we were not to see the final cut, as one section of CGI featuring “blood worms” was outstanding, but everything else was in place. I’d love to tell you about the episode but it’s difficult to without providing spoilers, so visit www.startreknewvoyages.com and see what they have put in print. I can say that the episode keeps up the extraordinary quality of what we’ve seen before, and is certain to be another well received episode by New Voyages fans. Bobby was now very relaxed and was able to do a great Q&A session himself.

A quick and onwards to perhaps the highlight of the weekend – the Gala dinner. In smart dress or Star Trek costumes we enjoyed hors d’œuvres and drink on tap in the hotel garden before entering the dining room. Some cabaret by one the groups was staged, and then we dined until after midnight. There were no issues with the bar closing early this time, as drinks at the Gala dinner were included in the cost of the event. Yes you did read that right: free booze! Cocktails were also made to order in the garden.

In summary, I had a great time at WeekendTrek ’08, and recommend next year to you all in whatever city it’s located it. As I’ve not been to any of the front running cities before, I’m certain to be heading back to Spain to meet some new-found friends. I can say that I’ve never been made more welcome at any other event before. It’s great way to meet some really friendly Spanish and Portuguese people. Things can sometimes not quite run to time, but then this is Spain! I said I’d try to bring along some of my English friends, so think a smaller version of Cult TV with a dose of Star Trek, a couple of guests flown in, lots of sun, a swimming pool and a very big welcome to any who go.

Do check out www.weekendtrek.es for information on 2009, when it arrives, and photos from 2008.

On leaving on the Sunday I headed into central Seville. I hadn’t done my homework fully, as I had been informed that the Plaza de Espana had been used in the filming on “Star Wars: Attack of the Clones”, doubling for the planet of Naboo.

More here:

Star Wars Locations - Link 1

Star Wars Locations - Link 2

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