Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
The weekend of April 8-10, 2022, marked the inaugural Star Trek Mission, the first in a planned convention series from ReedPOP, the showrunners behind the much-vaunted C2E2 and other comic cons. In this geek endeavor ReedPOP in conjunction with Paramount Pictures hopes to do for Gene Roddenberry’s creation what the Star Wars Celebrations do for that rival galaxy. As it happens, the premier shindig was held in Chicago, a mere three hours away from our humble dwelling. Naturally we had to see…
It wouldn’t be a convention without opportunities to spend money and/or see objects inspired by, or actually used in, the source material that entertained the fandom at large. The exhibit hall wasn’t large by any convention’s definition, with not many vendors on hand, all of them phaser-focused on Trek and Trek accessories, but fascinating objets d’art surrounded fans on all sides.
We viewers of TV’s Picard were fascinated by a morbid display from the season-2 episode “Penance”, in which we met the Dark Picard of a new alt-timeline who became an intergalactic conqueror and kept a trophy room decorated with the skulls of his enemies. Some kindly, morbid soul at Paramount loaned those here for a special exhibit, possibly to remind us what’s at stake this season if Our Heroes don’t get their act together. If they would speed things up a tad, that’d also be great.
Picard fans also flocked to the booth of Propstore, a specialty auctioning firm for actual film and TV props. Some of their recent acquisitions were on hand to tantalize potential bidders who might be interested when the items go up for sale.
Still more Trek fans are excited about the upcoming series Strange New Worlds, starring Inhumans‘ Anson Mount as James Kirk’s Enterprise predecessor Captain Christopher Pike. A walled-off exhibit room of related gear was planted in the middle of the exhibit hall to showcase the latest addition to the Paramount+ lineup, which premieres May 5th and hopefully doesn’t suck. (Full disclosure: I’m unclear whether the following costumes were actually used on the show or replicas thereof.)
And then there were the vendor booths, what few there were.
Here, have a cross-section. Links are provided to each if you’d like to see more and/or thank them personally for bringing joy to the occasion. Full disclosure: none of these are affiliated links. This isn’t the kind of site where moneymaking is a primary or even a secondary objective. Enjoy carefree and without profiting me a dime!
Memorable entrepreneurs not pictured above include the fun folks at Fansets, who’ve acquired numerous pop-culture licenses and aim to do for tiny lapel pins what Funko does for bobble-heads. Anne has recently become addicted to their vast array of Trek pins and swears she can quit anytime she wants. I limited myself to two, a Boimler and a happy Badgey.
Hallmark also had a niche between booths for hawking Trek-themed Itty Bittys, their latest attempt to make America’s Next Top Stuffed Toy happen. I nabbed myself a fuzzy li’l Gorn for my geek knickknack shelves at work.
Otherwise, this vendor cross-section is more representative of the show as a whole than you might think.
The exhibit hall shopping options were minuscule compared to a typical large-scale convention. Scuttlebutt is that booth space was super expensive (even for Chicago) and that Paramount allegedly dictated only officially sanctioned Trek merchandise could be sold on the premises. That meant a crackdown on handicrafts and geek artisans, and the absence of any kind of Artists Alley full of sketchers or painters (I counted maybe one licensed painter and one IDW comics artist in the house). It also meant no traditional Trek-con wares such as bootleg Trek blooper-reel DVDs, fan films, or virtually any non-Trek collectibles of any kind except the concession stand grub. It was a complete shutout of vintage dealers and collectors who are typically genetically fused into the lifeblood of such cons and who probably could’ve used the post-pandemic income.
The end result of this heavy-handed participation curation was a disappointingly tiny dealers’ area populated by a few dozen sellers and promoters at best. That left plenty of room for wide aisles between rows, a major perk for pandemic distancing and a nagging visual metaphor of how little there was to do at Mission Chicago once you’d gotten your fill of celebrity autographs, celebrity photo ops, celebrity panels, and celebrity souvenir acquisition all machine-stamped with the “Trek” corporate seal of approval. Judging by the online commentary we’ve read, a fair number of budget-minded Trekkers left McCormick Place disappointed and mostly empty-handed after 2-3 hours of browsing and sticker shock.
Anne and I are doing okay and bought ourselves a few goodies in varying sizes beyond those mentioned above. As usual, we’ll save those for the coda.
To be concluded! Other chapters in this very special MCC miniseries: