Fans of the space adventure franchise "Star Trek" assembled in Beijing on Saturday for the first official activity of its kind to be held in mainland China.
Paramount's multimedia sensation has a niche following in China, although interest in the science-fiction genre has grown with the recent success of several domestic hits.
"Star Trek Day" is celebrated each year on September 8 to commemorate the 1966 debut of the original US series, which has an ardent global fanbase.
AFP spoke to several fans who gathered at the venue in a central Beijing mall, many clad in the brand's galactic travel uniforms or the pointed ears of its fictional "Vulcan" species.
"I think it has a kind of space utopia feeling," said Ma Yuanyuan, 36, a translator and long-time fan.
She said the main appeal of "Star Trek" was the nostalgia it evokes for the early days of space exploration.
"It expresses the best imagination of mankind at that time about the future... For people of that generation, it wasn't about work or making money, but rather about self-realisation and achieving goals," Ma said.
- Sci-fi prospers -
China has produced several of its own smash hits with scientific and interplanetary themes, including the 2019 film "The Wandering Earth" based on a novella by award-winning author Liu Cixin.
Liu's work, including the wildly popular novel "The Three Body Problem", has driven Chinese interest in science fiction to new heights with several major film and TV adaptations.
Saturday's gathering showed interest in foreign productions was also on the rise.
Attendees were ushered through a narrow passageway where they could take pictures with cardboard cutouts of "Star Trek" stars and admire collectible action figures in glass boxes.
Inside the main event hall, fans vied for prizes in themed trivia quizzes and watched previews for an upcoming series to be streamed by official Chinese partner Youku, a subsidiary of financial services and media giant Alibaba.
Zhou Yi, 42, said "Star Trek" had gained popularity especially with female audiences.
"The social atmosphere is quite rational. You can chat about anything," Zhou told AFP.
- Fans cling on -
What China's fanbase lacks in scale it makes up for in commitment -- some attendees travelled from as far away as the central city of Wuhan and the southwestern city of Chongqing.
A well-received segment featured pre-recorded videos of Chinese fans talking about their favourite aspects of "Star Trek". One spoke in fluent Klingon, a constructed language from the fictional world.
Luna Liang said she first became aware of the franchise because it was referenced frequently in the popular US television show "The Big Bang Theory".
"I fell in love with it from then on," she said.
Liang has participated in previous fan gatherings in China but "Star Trek" had a special meaning.
"That's why I'm particularly looking forward to see what level can be reached at an official fan day."