Farewell Review of Star Trek The Experience August 6, 2008by Anthony Pascale , Filed under: Conventions/Events/Attractions,Trek Franchise , trackback
Star Trek The Experience, at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas, will close down on September 1st. While here at the Creation Las Vegas Star Trek Convention, TrekMovie decided to say goodbye and take one last run through and do our first (and last) review of the premiere Star Trek attraction.
Star Trek The Experience is much more than just motion simulator rides, It is, as the name implies, a complete ‘experience’ in the universe of Star Trek. When visiting you can, for the most part, pick and choose what parts to explore, with each one covered below
Star Trek museum
If you purchase tickets for two rides (at a price $45), you walk along a path that is the ‘Star Trek museum.’ This is broken into two components. The first is information panels such as the ‘timeline of the future’ which is a basic Trek Chronology, and it has been updated to include Enterprise, but it doesn’t get nearly the coverage as TOS and TNG get. There are also sections covering aliens, ships and weapons. The graphics are fine, but for a hardcore Trekkie there isn’t a lot of new information. The second component of the Museum are genuine props and costumes from the films and TV series and this is the more interesting component. Although it is a mix of genuine items vs. replicas, it is great to get up close to some of these iconic items from Zefram Cochrane’s outfit in First Contact to Spock’s coffin-pedo from Star Trek II. It is an excellent collection, and larger than the touring Star Trek The Exhibition (although the former ‘Tour’ may have had more stuff in total). The most impressive part are the TOS costumes and props.
Enterprise required STTE to redo their timeline
The ENT and STFC stuff is real, the TOS stuff probably not
Ride 1: Klingon Encounter
The original ride at Star Trek The Experience when it opened back in 1998 was the Klingon Encounter. The premise is that you are modern day earthlings who are about to go on a simulator when you are suddenly ‘beamed’ onto the USS Enterprise where Captain Picard has suddenly vanished due to some Klingon who pulled your group into the future (apparently one of your fellow riders is Picard’s great great great great great grandfather). You are taken to an excellent recreation of the Enterprise D bridge and briefed by Riker and Geordi (played by Frakes and Burton), then whisked off to a shuttle bay which is where the ‘ride’ part really begins. The motion simulator shuttle plays a film on a curved screen that is pretty immersive if you are sitting in one of the front rows. Even at over 10 years of age the simulator still gives a very thrilling ride throwing passengers around (or they would be if they didn’t have seatbelts on). The simulated battle and flight graphics are a bit dated, especially the view of Vegas, but it is still a thrill to fly by the Enterprise D so close you can almost see Guinan serving drinks. Another excellent component of the ride are all of the ‘Starfleet personnel’ you encounter while you are moved around from room to room to shuttle. All the actors stay in character and really sell the little adventure you are taken on.
The ENT and STFC stuff is real, the TOS stuff probably not
Ride 2: Borg Invasion 4-D
Originally STTE has two Klingon Encounters to allow large groups at the same time. But in 2004 one of the Encounters was removed and assimilated by a new ride, Borg Invasion 4-D. The conceit on this one is that you are in the future and visiting Copernicus Station. You enter an orientation room where The Doctor (played by Bob Picardo) briefs you on how you can save humanity, but then a Borg cube is detected and starts slicing up the station and assimilating the crew. Soon you are again whisked from room to room, all the while watching as cast members drop like flies to the Borg until eventually you are taken to a shuttle, but in this case it is a much larger shuttle than in Klingon Encounter, because this one is a full sized theater. There you take a ride that brings you into a cube and you get assimilated by the Borg Queen herself (played by Alice Krige) only to be saved by Admiral Janeway on the USS Voyager (played by Kate Mulgrew). Although the theater doesn’t have the motion simulator effects of the Klingon Encounter, there are still a lot of rumblings and air sprayed at you and things that poke you in your seat. Plus the 2004 3-D visuals (requiring your ‘safety glasses’) are much better than those of the Klingon Encounter.
Borg 4-D Theater/Shuttle
Although the rides are all about TNG and Voyager, the rest of the Experience is all about Deep Space Nine. One side of the Experience is a curved to resemble DS9′s promenade and is full of shops and kiosks where you can buy a wide array of Trek apparel, toys, and other merchandise. There is a good selection, but mostly geared towards tourists and so the hard core collector wont be fully satisfied. There are also some rare signed items. It is fun to be in stores full of Trek merchandise and DS9 theme is fitting and fun, but the prices are a bit high (especially for the DVDs). Regardless, The Experience managers expect to have all their inventory sold by the time they close in a few weeks.
A great place to blow your latinum
Born pregnant, and on sale
Quark’s Bar and Restaurant
A favorite part of STTE for regulars is Quark’s. Again the DS9 theme works for a Trek-themed eatery and bar and the decor does feel like the 24th century we have been led to expect. The bar menu is full of Trek-named items like Warp Core Breach and The Mind Melt, which are all essentially fruity rum and vodka drinks priced $8.50 and up. Quark’s Restaurant menu is also full of Trek sounding dishes like The Sulu Toss, The Holy Rings of Betazed and Seven of Nine’s Seafood Collective (mmm nano-probes). However the fare is essentially competent, but not exceptional, comfort diner food. The prices are not a match for the food, so you are definitely paying a premium for the Trek environment. The atmosphere is fun, with Star Trek movie and TV clips playing on the big screens, but it would have been nice to see more variety in the menu over the years and maybe so real alien looking food.
Many a ‘Morn’ will miss Quark’s
A key part of your experience at The Experience is encountering the many ‘aliens’ that patrol around. The make-up and costumes are top notch and these actors do not break character. I talked to one of the Klingons and tried to get out of him if he thought it was a big crowd and all he would say is "there are more human dogs than usual." .
Dealing with a Klingon makes the wait for the ride go faster
Back Stage Tour
An interesting option you can take at The Experience is the Back Stage Tour, which costs extra. For the tour you are taken on a similar experience of going on one of the rides, but with a guide and shown everything from ‘behind the scenes.’ The guides are knowledgeable and explain all the aspects of Experience and are able to answer even detailed questions. My guide Lisa was clearly an Original Series fan and had some good trivia questions that stumped even some die-hard Trekkies in the group. One of the most interesting parts is being able to watch the Klingon Encounter, but from underneath the motion simulator shuttles. You also visit the make-up rooms and actual back office areas where you can see the Starfleet and alien cast members milling about, but they never break character even when heading for the Coke machine.
Star Trek The Experience is a must for any fan of Star Trek, and if you have the chance to go for the first time or the last time you should take it. That being said, it is hard to make the case that The Experience should have continued as is for another decade. The Experience was build in 1997 and it feels like it. The Klingon Encounter is fun, but it looks its age. The emphasis on TNG and DS9 is unavoidable, even with the Voyager-themed Borg 4-D ride. The minimal amount of Enterprise and Original Series makes it not truly a full Star Trek experience. If CBS is successful in finding a new home for STTE, hopefully there will be a rethink on STTE, especially with the new Original Series oriented feature film in mind.
Despite all this, it must be pointed out that the staff at STTE are top notch. They are what make The Experience still work despite the age. Their dedication and love for Star Trek is infectious and will be missed.
So, it is sorry to see it go, but maybe, in the end, this is a good thing (although not for the dozens of dedicated and talented people working at Star Trek The Experience). Hopefully in a few years with a revived franchise we will see a new type of Star Trek attraction that is more modern, covers the whole franchise, and is more interactive. A bit more affordable would also be welcome.
For more about Star Trek The Experience, visit the official site.
A nice new addition to The Experience is the ‘Wall of Memories’ where you can write your own personal goodbye to STTE.
You can say goodbye with your own memory
The Experience closes its doors September 1st to begin the process of vacating the space by the end of the year. Operations Manager Chat Boutte tells TrekMovie that they are planning a special de-commissioning ceremony. There are likely to be special celebrity guests to help pull STTE into drydock. There will also be a special ‘last tour’ for invited guests and some of the most loyal customers (one guy is close to his 1000th ride). Boutte is also considering offering some of those last tour tickets up on Ebay. As more details are worked out for the final day of STTE, TrekMovie will provide an update.