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'Voyager: The Return',  Norbreck Castle Hotel, Blackpool, England.  27-29 July 2001

Organised by Wolf Events

All photos and text in this report are copyright © Rowan Green.  Please do not link to them or publish elsewhere in any form without permission.  You are welcome to download for personal use, and to link to my main page.

Guest List: Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway), Robert Picardo (The Doctor), Robert Duncan McNeill (Tom Paris), Tim Russ (Tuvok), Ethan Phillips (Neelix), Alice Krige (The Borg Queen), Vaughn Armstrong (Various), Keegan de Lancie ('Q2'), Rob LaBelle (Various), Richard Herd (Admiral Paris), Fintan McKeown (Michael Sullivan), Lolita Fatjo (Script Coordinator), Tim Gaskill (Editor,, Jackie Edwards (Personal Assistant to Patrick Stewart)

In the StarQuest UK fair (a.k.a. the dealers room): Chase Masterson (Leeta, DS9), Dave Prowse (Darth Vader), Brent Strait (Rev Bem, Andromeda), Manu Intirayami (Icheb), Teryl Rothery (Janet, Stargate)

Report index / page 1 / page 2 / page 3 / page 4 / page 5 / page 6 / page 7 / page 8 / page 9


I bought the ticket in June 2000. 13 months ahead of time. I guess it wasn't really surprising that I didn't sleep well for a couple of weeks before! I can't blame it all on excitement and 'planning' (constantly): a noisy neighbour didn't help either. But as the day approached adrenaline was certainly building. Anyway, finally it was the day, and after only 4 hours sleep I got up and headed for the station to get my train. Over a year after buying my ticket, I was finally on my way!

The journey was pretty uneventful. I got through the London tube system before rush hour really got started. Then it was a few hours and a cheap Virgin train to Preston. I was lucky: it seems a few people in the reserved seats had missed it. So I got 4 seats and a table all to myself! I was raised in Cheshire, so as the train headed north it was nice to see the familiar countryside. Gently rolling, with a patchwork of small, lush fields, thick hedges centuries old and little woods. And livestock grazing in the fields. I saw no sign of the 'devastation' of foot and mouth disease.

The train from Preston to Blackpool was delayed though. By then there were a gang of trekkies waiting. In fact we declined the first couple of trains that did come as they were rammed full. Finally we were on, with me sitting opposite a couple of adorable little girls. They were piled in one seat even though they had the option of sitting in two. The countryside changed to the windswept, low-tree-ed, big-skied emptiness of the coast. I spotted Blackpool tower first and got ridiculously exited. I asked the girls if they could see it, and the youngest answered 'Yes.... and moo cows'. There were indeed many moo cows visible from the train...

Outside my hotel, looking south

I walked from the station to the hotel. A long walk... It must have been a mile or so. Not fun with a heavy bag. The first section was through what looked pretty much like any ordinary town, with all the usual shops. Then I reached the Promenade and turned north. I passed the Tower (a deceptively small front for what is in effect an amusement park in one building), North Pier and lots of shops. Blackpool Rock, seaside postcards, fancy dress and rude novelties overflowed onto the pavement every few yards. As the road began to climb, they gave way to hotels and guesthouses. I don't think there was a single private house. And of course all this was opposite the wide expanse of fresh creamy sand, shining slightly where the sun caught it. And the sea as clear and as still as I have ever seen it.

Finally I reached my hotel, and I was able to drop my big bag... in the hall, since it was still pre-check in time. I got the tram to the Norbreck, feeling much lighter. All the hotels I'd considered had been a bit vague about the distance to the Norbreck, generally saying '20 minute walk'. It seems I'd chosen the longest 20 minute walk judging by the familiar names the tram passed as it rattled along several miles of promenade! I arrived at the Norbreck with some time to spare before registration opened. But there were already people queuing across the car park and not long after I arrived they were out of the gate as well.

Thus started the nightmare of registration.... they split us into groups by the alphabet, then we stood in the burning sun, and didn't move at all for well over an hour. People were getting pretty upset, especially as one of the queues did seem to be moving. Eventually it was explained that that was the only direct queue, and the rest of us would be taken inside in groups when there was space available. Apparently each registration queue had a massive line inside the hotel already. A moment of hilarity was caused when one of the head stewards, in the process of trying to explain what was happening, finally lost patience with being constantly interrupted by his head phones. 'Yes Bryan, you are coming through loud and clear... and constantly'. Everyone laughed. We needed it. Even when we did finally start moving it seemed some lines went faster than others though...  Finally I was in the next group to be led inside... to another queue in a very hot hallway.

Eventually I got my wristband (no 218 out of 3500!), and my autograph ticket: a card with the guests listed. I was also one of the ones who elected to keep my event ticket, though it had to be 'crossed'. It's sort of special to me. When I first came out of hospital with amnesia, I remembered that I had a red ticket to a convention, but not where I'd put it or when the event was. For all I knew it could have been days away! I tore my flat to pieces looking for it, only to find it was still 8 months in the future! After 13 months and that, I would have raised hell if they'd tried to take that ticket off me, because in a sense it's one of the first memories I have.

Registration complete, I went in search of the lovely Katherine. She organises the press, and I'd arranged by e-mail to be able to sit in the reserved seats at the front of the hall so I could hopefully get some decent pictures. I didn't get a press pass (I later found out that would have got me into the green room - it would have been quite worrying if they'd given that to someone they didn't know much about!), but I got a 'complementary' pass, which got me what I wanted! Well, many of my pictures are still not brilliant... but there are some I wouldn't have got without it. Then I went to queue for my photo session tickets. People in the registration queues had been panicking, but they were all still available, though Bob and then Robbie sold out soon after. I was told I wouldn't be able to come back later so I got tickets for all the main cast plus Alice and Keegan! 6 in all! And my raffle ticket for Kate's session of course!

By then it was 4.30 pm, and I headed off to the seafront opposite to see if anyone from the Wolf message board had made the arranged meeting. It seems there was only me and Claire. Perhaps the others were still in the registration queues, which were still massive.

Registration was a nightmare, and I ended up with severe sunburn from standing in the sun. But it only took a couple of hours, and I actually had a good natter with people in the queue. Everyone was friendly and in good spirits. I've heard plenty of horror stories of cons with 5-hour autograph queues. One of the stewards told me a story of a con with autograph queues several hours long. The guests were doing two-hour shifts, and then changing over. That meant he had to tell people in the queue that certain guests were signing then... so they definitely wouldn't get their autograph! Though it wasn't nice, registration was by far the worst part of The Return. That over, fun could commence!

My first appointment was for a photo session with Ethan. It was a bit more relaxed than other sessions I have been to. Ethan took the time to say hi and shake my hand. (I also later heard someone exclaiming about how cute and cuddly he is in real life. Seems Ethan won his share of the hearts at the event!) Robbie was also doing a session (my ticket for him was for a later session). Someone on a message board had made a comment about him being 'very blond', and it was true! The first thing that struck me was his now baby-blond hair. I was also struck by how hairy he is! Never noticed that onscreen…

Then I rushed back to my hotel, just in time for tea! In fact, I didn't even have time to take my stuff up to my room! The veg at the hotel tended to be a over-steamed, and the portions were small (though they did seem to get larger as the weekend went on...), but it was tasty enough. After eating I headed up to my room. None of the furniture matched, the wallpaper was scratched and the curtains didn't really fit the window, which looked out onto the well between buildings and didn't give much light. But it was clean, with a big stack of fresh white towels waiting and a very comfortable bed. In fact, I had a double bed and two bunk beds in my 'single' room! I also found out as the weekend progressed that the place was livened up by a very camp gay waiter with a very rude sense of humour. I'm not sure I would give 'The President' a glowing recommendation, but if you want a cheap place to stay, it serves very well. Judging by some of the stories I heard about the Norbreck, which cost considerably more and apparently was pretty dirty, I guess I did fine.

Autographs, Autographs… 

Then back to the Norbreck.... With my ticket number I knew I was pretty certain to be in on Friday for the autographs. While waiting I had my first look around the dealer's room, where I said hi to Chase, who was one of the ones signing there. I don't think she really remembered me, but when I said I was James's friend, she asked me to pass on her love. Back in the main hall they were showing 'Endgame'. Even though I'd seen it, as it got towards the end I found myself sitting down and becoming engrossed. It became a toss-up whether it would get to the end or I would be called to the autograph line first. The message calling tickets up to 210 scrolled across the bottom of the screen... but I got to watch it to the end. The audience erupted at.. um... the climatic special effects shot (not giving away anything!) and raised the rafters with applause over the end credits. I could see heads peering over the balcony at the side of the hall where the guests were signing. I'm glad they got to hear that response. Some people on the Internet have been very vocally negative about the episode. But I think there is no doubt that the response at 'The Return' was overwhelmingly positive.

Then the screen went off... and with it the means of calling people to the autograph queue... Anyway, at the door they decided to take numbers up to 250, so up I went.... I had my cast poster to be signed by the Voyager main cast, and bought individual shots for everyone not on that. So mostly I just had one item each. The allowance was 1 personal and 2 official, so I don't feel guilty that I was a little naughty in one case...

Robbie was first in line. As I waited he was trying to get a little girl to talk to him, but she wouldn't come out from where she was hiding behind her mother. It was rather sweet. Then it was my turn, and time to be cheeky! I'd had a dilemma with Robbie, as not only did I have my cast poster, but also my '30 Days' (well, it actually says 'Down Deep' on the cover...) script. Since it was a Paris episode, I really wanted Robbie to sign it. So I asked him if it counted as 'official' since I got it off.... Well, he did sign it, plus my poster, though I don't actually know if mentioning who I bought it from swung it. Since I had less than my ration of 3 items even so, I reckon it was between me and Robbie whether he signed it, and I'm very grateful to him that he did.

All the guests were friendly, and I gave all of them a business card for my website (actually got organised this time!) For the mainliners I'd done special ones with a message on the back:

'Dear xxxx, Thank you for seven years entertainment. Good luck in the future. Yours, ...Rowan.'

Not much, but they do say it's the thought that counts!

Everyone was friendly, though I sort of got the impression that Richard Herd was wishing things would speed up a bit (not that he was rude to me, he did chat a bit about his pictures). When I got to Bob I told him I was doing a report for his fan club, and he asked me to say hi to Cristy (who runs his fan club). Then added as an afterthought 'even though I'm seeing her next week'. Then he surprised me by carrying on talking. It's my experience that aside from pleasantries, guests doing signings don't usually initiate conversation. Apparently, though he doesn't really read the fan fiction, he does like to read the reports in the fan club magazine, ACTIVATE! He mentioned one from Scotland last year with photos, which he liked, so kudos to whoever wrote that!

Lets see... all the available photos of Vaughn were of him in makeup, so it was interesting matching him to the Klingon one I had! Rob as well... though there were some of him without. Keegan looks just like he did on screen. Fintan actually is, in my opinion, much better looking in real life than in 'Fair Haven'. So much so that I didn't recognise him for a moment. When I got to Alice, I did the classic sad line; 'So that's what you look like without makeup!' Anyway, she didn't seem to mind! Alice does not look like a Borg queen! She has long curly dark hair, and is slender with an ethereal quality to her. She seems a lovely person too. I actually bumped into her and chatted briefly at another point. I also sort of noticed something missing... no Tim! Apparently he had been put on a plane from LA, but had not been seen since. His brother Mike had arrived...

Anyway, by then they were winding things up for the evening. Robbie walked past saying 'Bye Alice!' (in real life he has strong drawl, which I found quite a surprise!), and us last few were sent out by a second set of stairs (the ones usually used having been closed). Well, we got out eventually. I started down the stairs and had to run back up again being chased by the wheelchair lift! It was a lovely, relaxed signing line. Only thing was, with only 250 out of 3500 through, I couldn't help feeling sorry for those with higher ticket numbers. And though he wasn't the only offender (people choosing their pictures was also slowing things down), I feel they may have made a mistake putting someone as relaxed as Robbie first in line... in fact, I heard they did put him last on Sunday!

...And Parteee!

Chase and Lolita at the party

Outside in the hall the party was just getting started. I met up with a friend from Heathrow: the woman who had watched the play rehearsal with us. The DJ was the same as at that convention (Marwan and mates, The Spice Bunnies), and needless to say the song list was not cool. Chase and Lolita were there. Chase had on a pair of strappy heels, which she pretty soon took off and danced barefoot. They were also doing the matching outfit thing again, so I asked them (shouting above the music) if they'd been raiding kids shops again. They said yes. The highlight of the evening for me was my first time seeing 'Star Trekkin' done the proper way. I get the impression it was Chase's first time too, as she watched open jawed! She does do 'shocked' cutely. Not sure about Lolita, but she definitely seemed to be enjoying it. I joined in, though they didn't. Well, Chase's footwear would not have been suitable.

Caption contest anyone?

Everyone formed a big circle holding hands around the dance floor. I stayed in the circle, but in some cases there were separate actions done by people going into the middle:

'There's Klingons on the starboard bow': people run around the middle doing aeroplanes while those in the circle point at them.

'It's life Jim, but not as we know it': Everyone stands in the circle doing wiggly Vulcan ears.

'We come in peace, shoot to kill': Fire imaginary phasers

'It's worse than that, he's dead Jim': people in the centre throw themselves on their backs with arms and legs in the air

'You canna change the laws of physics': everyone does a Scottish jig.

And of course, the chorus... 'Star Trekkin, across the universe...' everyone in the circle, still holding hands, runs full pelt into the centre, then backwards out again. Then repeats... Probably potentially dangerous as everyone crashes into each other in the centre, but great fun!

I didn't stay that late, as I decided I should try and get a good night's sleep…




Good news for J/Cers

Kate, Bob and Robbie…

My plans to have an early night didn't work out. I got into bed gone 1 (having dozed off in the bath!), and woke up at 6 or 7, and started hand writing this report. And then because I was so tired I ended up late for breakfast and late to head for the Norbreck. I arrived just at the end of Robbie's Q&A. Then I heard that Kate was starting signing at 10 (she'd promised to sign for everyone, and extra sessions had been put on as a result), and realised I'd left the magazine with the poster at the hotel. I was also due to go to Robbie's photo session. Then there was talk of Tim doing an extra session, perhaps at the same time as Kate, to sign for those that had missed him. So after a quick check with the stewards, and establishing that there would just be time, I went straight back down the coast to my hotel again!

I arrived back at the Norbreck: and found myself in the position of trying to queue for a photo with Robbie, an autograph with Kate, and taking notes on Bob's Q & A all at the same time! Mad! Anyway, I'll just go into the Q & A to start....

He made a few comments about C/7, saying that he was going to make Jeri pay for it!

What was the most daring prank on Voyager? Tim's big black sock. He tried to give a suitably restrained reaction. He reckoned as Tuvok's physician he had already seen it. (For anyone who hasn't heard the story… In the scene in 'Waking Moments' where Tuvok walks onto the Bridge naked, the crew's reaction would usually have been filmed without Tim there, but Tim and the others on set planned a little surprise... What appears on film is the cast's genuine reaction to Tim coming out of the Turbo Lift with nothing on except a large prop, which has apparently earned him the nickname 'Tripod')

In the final episode he thought Kate gave an acting Tour de Force. He had mixed emotions about what happens with the Doctor relationship wise. Have the audience heard about his name? Most shout yes. Then he's not going to say. If a name is a handle, then he gets a draw pull.

About being called 'Bob' on set: he is called Bob at home, though not usually at work. Robert Beltran really likes to be called Robert, so there was no messing around with that!

About being directed by friends and colleagues: because they are wonderful people, it is a wonderful experience.

At this point Robbie started to shout at him from the balcony. I was actually up there, waiting for a photo with Robbie, but as I was still some distance along I couldn't hear what he said. Bob responded by commenting 'I have a microphone, you don't'.

Bob went on to talk about Inner Space. In the scene where he stubbs a cigarette out on his hand it is real, but they put a special plate there so he wasn't burned. I think he also mentioned that he wore snakeskin underpants!?!

Some one asked him if the Doctor was inspired by the character of 'Rimmer' on 'Red Dwarf'. Bob acknowledged that the British invented the Hologram in 'Red Dwarf'. But he didn't know about the Red Dwarf character, so he didn't steal it. He did steal from the character of Dr Smith in lost in Space. But he's balder.

About Tinker, Tenor... The writers asked him what The Doctor's daydreams would be. He then hammed: 'smash cut to Dr drawing Jeri Ryan nude...' He also said that Tuvok's Pon Farr must be the most ridiculous opening of any Voyager episode.

Pets: He has 7 cats. He called one Gracie just so he could say 'Goodnight Gracie'. He also has a giant tortoise called Tilly, which lays an egg every year, even though she hasn't mated. Did you know that after a female tortoise has mated she carries around the 'you know' for 3-4 months? 'Think about it ladies.... That's what I call sentimental'.

He also has Elizabeth and Murphy, who are parrots. The African grey is amazing. It will say 'Bye Bye' when you are about to leave. He's tried saying all kinds of things to put it off, but it knows. It's also scared the hell out of him when he's been alone in the house! It can also imitate him perfectly.

At this point there was a pause, as one of the mikes for questions stops working. It seemed the woman at the mike was a little too star struck to think straight as she kept repeatedly talking into it even though there was no result, and Bob kept inviting her to shout instead. He even asked 'Did Robbie put you up to this?' Finally, they gave up and took another question!

Q: What is it like to play a hologram?

It gave a lot of freedom - he could behave in a way that was not 'Starfleet'! He could be cranky, cowardly, because the character was not well defined in Trek lore. Of course he was cowardly, but also indestructible.

Q: How does he feel about being out of the uniform?

He feels great about being out of the uniform. It didn't have pockets. If you got given a phone number just before a scene you had to put it in your mouth. If you bent over you split the crotch. Then there were the 'wedgies'. What do you call them in England? Melburns? (got to admit, I've not heard of 'melburns'. Maybe it's a regional thing).

I've got a feeling I've missed out quite a bit. Well, I was a little distracted by other things going on....

Report index / page 1 / page 2 / page 3 / page 4 / page 5 / page 6 / page 7 / page 8 / page 9

Text and photos on this page are copyright © Rowan Green.  Please do not link  or publish elsewhere without permission.

This page is part of The Borg Grail. If you have not already done so, please visit the Main Page for news and an introduction to my site.
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All original material, unless otherwise credited, is Copyright © 2000 Rowan Green. All rights reserved.