When he was four years old, Neil Stephen was channel surfing, and happened to catch an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was the beginning of a lifetime love of the Star Trek universe.
“It was a scene from the second episode where Data is so quickly putting all the isolinear chips back into engineering,” Stephen said.
“I thought that was the coolest thing because I was four years old and easily impressed. But then I watched the next episode and next. I saw these people who were relying on science and on leadership, honour and integrity exploring the universe and having all kinds of fun with it.”
Fast forward three decades, and Stephen is now the commanding officer of Imperial Klingon Vessel Crimson Fox, Sudbury's Klingon Assault Group chapter.
The Klingon Assault Group is a worldwide group of cosplayers who are mainly centered around the culture of the fictional aliens of Star Trek — the Klingon Empire.
When in costume, Stephen goes by the Klingon name 'IwnoH, which translates to “Blood War.”
While most Klingons have a “son of” or “daughter of” surname (like Worf, son of Mogh), Stephen laughs that in his case, 'IwnoH, son of Dave doesn't sound too imposing.
He said he identifies with the Klingons because they're proud, honourable warriors. Stephen, who completed his nursing degree last year and just got a job in his field, is also a reservist with the navy.
Even so, he said his favourite character is actually Captain Picard, who commanded the Enterprise D (and later E) on the Next Generation.
He said he got involved in Klingon cosplay because he's friends with some of the members of the Crimson Dawn Klingon group in Timmins, a very active group that appeared at Graphic-Con in Sudbury last year.
He quickly made himself a Klingon outfit (on a student budget) so he could participate alongside the Timmins group in 2017. That's how he got recruited to start a Klingon cosplay group here in Sudbury.
Crimson Fox will participate in this year's Graphic-Con, which takes place June 9 at the Sudbury Arena, alongside the Timmins Klingon cosplayers.
While Crimson Fox only currently has five members, Stephen said he's hoping more people will join once they realize there's a Sudbury-based Klingon group.
Karen Hutchison, the founder of the Timmins Klingon group, said in a press release it's a “great honour” to attend Graphic-Con.
“It shows how our silliness and community involvement has caught the attention of people well beyond the borders of Timmins, and that what we’ve been doing is valued,” she said.
The two groups will be joining forces at the convention to help raise funds for Rainbow Camp, a Northern Ontario-based summer program for LGBTQ2+ youth and allies ages 12 to 18 that focuses on teaching social justice and self-actualization in a safe, supportive and fun environment.
The concept of “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations” has been at the heart of Star Trek since its beginning in 1966, the press release said.
Klingon Assault Group also accepts cosplayers from any other alien race, Star Trek based or not, provided they pledge their loyalty to the Klingon Empire.
An example is Lexi Whitehead, who's one of the few members of the Crimson Fox group here in Sudbury.
At last year's Graphic-Con, she dressed up as a Vulcan (in case you're reading this and aren't a Trekkie, that's the same pointy-eared alien race as Spock). She also turned her small son's stroller into the Enterprise.
“It's fun,” said Whitehead, who said her favourite Star Trek series is the original series, and her favourite character is Spock, and will be dressing as a Vulcan again at this year's Graphic-Con.
“I love Star Trek. I've always loved Star Trek. (The Klingon group) gives me a reason to dress up with something from Star Trek, and I get to hang out with people who like the same things.”
If you're interested in learning more or potentially joining Imperial Klingon Vessel Crimson Fox, you can visit with the group in person at Graphic-Con June 9, or else check out their Facebook page or email them at email@example.com.