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Collectormania in Milton Keynes

By AntonyF
Posted at May 2, 2004 - 4:23 PM GMT

On May 1, 2004, I paid a visit to Collectormania, a mini-convention that takes place in the Milton Keynes shopping centre in the UK. It’s the fifth time the event has run, and the second time I’ve been to it.

Having said that, calling it “mini” is probably not fair. It’s unusual in the sense that you don’t have to pay any admission fees, but it’s certainly sizeable; it’s following a growing trend of having autograph/dealer events but with no talks etc. There are a large number of dealer stands on offer, and various actors ranging from the obscure to the mainstream (as if a con could be any other way).

On my recent visit, I first headed to see Penny Johnson Jerald (Kasidy in Deep Space Nine, and Sherry in 24. She was very nice and we chatted briefly, with Penny saying how she felt DS9 and 24 had quite a strong fan crossover. I told her that I’d stopped watching 24 (partially because her character left). Asking her if she was back in season three (as I’d heard) she had a wonderful glint in her eye and a look of “go watch it and find out”. The season three DVDs will be purchased when they’re out… just to try and work out how the warm, friendly lady I met could be that treacherous Sherry.

Moving on, I went to see John Billinglsey (Doctor Phlox). Having phone-interviewed him a couple of times for TrekToday, I thought it’d be nice to see him in person. John is every bit the gentleman he is in his interviews, taking the time to speak to each fan, shaking hands and being very welcoming indeed. I told him that I was enjoying Enterprise more now, even if I did agree with his thoughts in our last interview that effectively it’d had gone for more explosions over brains a bit of late. He said he still felt that was the case, but felt it was least giving many characters new emotional levels – even if Doctor Phlox didn’t really benefit from them. Asking him the inevitable question about Enterprise’s renewal, he explained that he’d know “in about a week” describing it as “very much a coin toss” at the moment. I said that I feel it will be renewed, and hopefully I’ll speak to him again in Enterprise’s fourth season.

Moving one table away, I went to see Robert Picardo (Voyager’s Holodoc). Everything I have heard about him was that he’s normally very funny and friendly. However, I was very disappointed with the experience – it seemed to me that he didn’t want to engage in conversation. I used my small-talk fallback plan, asking him if he was enjoying England. He talked about being stuck in the building, then without even a goodbye he just started dealing with the next person who’d worked their way forward. Overall it was the disappointment of the day for me because I really wanted to meet him, and as others who have experienced this sort of thing will know it’s actually quite upsetting. Getting an autograph is really secondary to meeting the person, this is probably your only chance to meet that actor, and you’re left with a feeling of disappointment.

The disappointed feeling, however, was juxtaposed with the highlight of my day: meeting Gates McFadden. Back in my obsessive fan-boy days of youth, when I just bought anything with the words “Star Trek” on it, I was a massive TNG fan. Beverly was always my favourite character, and I did actually dream about meeting Gates McFadden. Fast forward some years, the obsession has dissipated and having seen and interviewed various actors it’s just not as magical as when you’re young. However, some of the old fanboy blood went coursing through my veins at the thought of meeting her.

But, I had to get in line: Gates was very popular. I did feel sorry for Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar) who sat next to Gates. Whilst Denise had no one queuing, Gates’s line had virtual ticketing (where you get at ticket number and come back when called) and was up to 430. Gates definitely seemed to be one of the most popular of the event.

Meeting her was just wonderful. Firstly, she spent quite a lot of time with some fans – there was certainly not feeling of “hurry up, I want to sign the next thing.” She was extremely warm with her fans, and gave the impression that everyone was important to her. When I spoke to her, I explained how TNG was my favourite, as was she, and it was an honour to meet her. I then took the opportunity to mention the episode she directed, “Genesis”. I’ve always been a fan of the episode as it just felt so fresh after seven years of TNG, with noticeable different uses of the camera. She said to me that the script really enabled her to do something new, and that “No one else had ever used Sickbay in that way before”. I agree and pointed out a few of the camera shots that I remembered. She seemed genuinely pleased that someone had noticed this, and thanked me very much for bringing it up. I left, with a warm glow and a feeling of fan-boy elation.

I’ve met another TNG cast member at a different event, who played a certain dark-eyed Betazoid. To me, these two actresses were complete opposites. Whereas this other person just reeked of self-importance and crocodile-tears (the only thing she lacked was a cash register sitting by her side) Gates was just utterly nice, a true lady and (I must add) looking great. Anyway, enough… there are only so many ways I can say ‘Gates rules’.

So, on the whole, a nice day. Disappointing about Bob Picardo, and a lifelong fan-boy dream fulfilled in seeing the lovely Gates.

All in all Collectormania is great, the organisers have created a very nice event that pretty much anyone can enjoy with the free admission and wide range of stars. My only gripe is that they don’t tend to keep order around the queues, so it’s sometimes hard to work out what’s going on. But all in all, it’s a highly recommended event. If you’re able to go to Collectormania, I highly recommend it. Milton Keynes to me is hell on earth, a horrid, ugly, too-busy concrete monstrosity. But I will certainly go there again once Collectormania returns.

Oh, and did I say Gates was magnificent?

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AntonyF is a former news writer for The Trek Nation.

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