Fans of "Star Trek" aren't like fans of other television programs.
They're not afraid to tell people they're fans. They get goose bumps when Captain Picard orders "Engage," and they don't have hang-ups about slapping on purple makeup and a rubber forehead prosthesis to make themselves resemble Klingons.
"I dress like this because I like the Klingons," said Jim Pohl, 28, who was marching around Marriott's Hunt Valley Inn yesterday dressed in the full battle regalia of the series' hulking warrior race.
"And I'm from the Klingon ship Prang," he added, his face remaining deadly serious. Mr. Pohl, who's really from Norristown, Pa., decided to venture a little farther out into the galaxy and attend the Star Trek Association of Towson's 16th annual convention in Baltimore County.
More than 3,000 Trekkers are expected to attend the convention which continues through tomorrow, and if the cars in the parking lot with "Starfleet Academy" window stickers are any indication, the fans are still legion and the enthusiasm still hasn't flagged, even with the end of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" series.
The convention, named Shore Leave 16, brings together fans and dealers of "Star Trek" collectibles from across the nation. It's a chance to exchange the latest "Star Trek" gossip, and load up on"Star Trek"-inspired merchandise. Need a Starfleet Admiral's uniform? Find it there. A sheepskin diploma from the Vulcan Academy? Find it there. And for the die-hard fan, there's even "Star Trek" soap.
Shore Leave 16, according to Rosanna Kroll, an association official, will also sponsor a blood drive, writing workshops and screenings of favorite "Star Trek" films and episodes from each of the television series. Although most of the participants are adults, there will also be educational activities for children, Ms. Kroll said.
The convention also boasts a ball tonight, where fans come dressed in extra-terrestrial-style fancy dress, drink Romulan ale, and shoulder-roll just like Captain Kirk.
Speaking and signing autographs will be actress Terry Farrell, who portrays beautiful and brainy Science Officer Dax on the "Deep Space Nine" TV series, and actor Tony Todd, who portrays K'Urn, Lieutenant Worf's ever-snarling kid brother on "The Next Generation."
"The conventions put you face to face with the fans and let you see the results of your work. But at the convention, it's reversed. I'm not in makeup and the fans usually are," said Mr. Todd.
His sixth convention, Shore Leave 16 gives the 38-year-old actor more opportunities to be involved in "Star Trek" outside the studio.
And for Ginny Frederick, 44, of Owings Mills, the Shore Leave conventions give her a chance to catch up with old friends she hasn't seen since the last gathering, and to celebrate the show's enduring message that, at least in this quasi-utopian version of tomorrow, humankind doesn't blow itself up.
"I'd like to think that there's a future like that for my children," said Ms. Frederick.
But she then gets giddy when the talk turns to the convention -- and the show -- itself: "If you just come here with an open mind, this is just hundreds and hundreds of people having a good time. "I've been watching the program since it started, and I would love to be hopping around the galaxy."
What: Shore Leave 16, "Star Trek" convention, sponsored by the Star Trek Association of Towson
When: 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. today; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. tomorrow
Where: Marriott's Hunt Valley Inn, Shawan Road East and Interstate 83
Cost: $25 for today or tomorrow; $45 for both days
Call: (410) 821-5563