The tiny town of Ticonderoga in upstate New York is home to Star Trek Original Series Set Tour, a painstakingly accurate recreation of the original 1960s sets from Star Trek: The Original Series. Originally created for the popular fan series Star Trek: New Voyages (later renamed Star Trek: Phase II) the tour sets were repurposed into an officially licensed attraction in 2017. During the William Shatner Weekend event earlier this month, I had a chance tout the sets, and with fans as well as illustrator Daren Dochterman, who was one of the tour guides for the weekend.
Recreating the magic
Visiting the original set starts with a brief introduction by a Set Tour staff person, after which a pair of red pocket doors slides open, and the tour begins in the corridor outside the Transporter Room. On more relaxed days each tour group is led by one dedicated tour guide, while on busier days there is a tour guide in each room, offering insights and trivia, answering questions, and pointing tours on to the next stop on their journey.
To 17-year-old fan Isabel Thon, walking onto the sets at the Official Star Trek Original Series Set Tour was an astonishing experience. “I was absolutely awestruck – I couldn’t believe it!” Isabel was visiting the Set Tour during William Shatner weekend with her father, Brian, and her brother Harry, age 15. “I don’t really remember the first time I watched ‘Star Trek,’” she said, “It’s just been in my life forever.”
From the Transporter Room, it’s on to the four-room Sickbay, then the Briefing Room, Crew Quarters (currently decorated as Captain Kirk’s quarters), the Jeffries Tube, Main Engineering, and then the grand finale, the Bridge. The sets are lit with colored lights that match the atmosphere of the show, and in the background, appropriate sound effects are playing over hidden speakers. Screen-accurate replicas of Original Series props sit on every tabletop, from three-dimensional chess sets, to tribbles, to McCoy’s spray bottles.
“It is a little surreal,” enthused Brian Thon, “because it is the fulfillment of so much that I’ve seen on screen over so much time. You feel like you’re literally transported into this universe. It’s amazing!”
Daren Dochterman, best known to Trek fans for his production illustration work on Star Trek: Voyager‘s pilot episode, “Caretaker,” and the visual effects supervisor for Robert Wise’s Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, agrees. Dochterman has been involved with the Set Tour since 2012, having worked with Trek superfan and Set Tour builder and owner James Cawley. “It’s fun to see the looks on their faces when they actually see it in reality,” says Dochterman. “It’s almost like seeing the looks on children’s faces at Christmastime – it’s this wide-eyed wonder of – ‘how did anyone do this? Where did this come from? How is this possible?’ It’s just so nice to see, as I take them into each of the different set rooms, just to see them go, ‘Oh, my God! I remember that!’ It’s just so magical. It’s a magical tour.”
From dollar store to Desilu
The sets are built into what was once a Dollar General store, and were constructed precisely according to the actual, original blueprints used to construct the original sets in 1966 on Stage 9 at Desilu in Hollywood, California. “It was more accurate than I imagined that it would be,” declared excited fan Mike Rock, on the tour with his wife Treacy and 15-year-old son Will. “Going through the Bridge, and the Sickbay, and everything, it was perfect! It was exact!”
“You’ll notice that your perceptions of those things change when you come onto these sets. It will change, when you go back to watching the original show, it will change your perception of everything,” observed Dochterman. “You’ll say, ‘Oh, I know the corridor where this is shot! I know exactly where this is – because you’ve been there, you’ve personal experience being in this place, and it will make you see the original show with new eyes, because you will have been there.”
This sentiment was echoed by all of the fans we interviewed coming out of the tour. Fan Mike Rock exclaimed, “it’s just incredible for what they did back in the 60’s, it’s just amazing the things that they did then. It really makes you appreciate the series a lot more, after seeing the actual sets, and it looked modern!” Brian Thon commented, “It brings your appreciation of all that work, and design, and history, and just affirms everything on a whole other level that you really can’t experience unless you’re here. So, be here!” Describing one of the highlights of the tour for him, Harry Thon added, “Engineering was really powerful, how they did the depth of the engines, and all the lights – it was just incredible.”
Take me to the bridge
What’s the best part of the Tour? It’s probably not surprising that every fan gave the same answer. According to Mike Rock: “You can’t argue with the Bridge. The Bridge is the number one place to go. It’s got all the lights, it’s got all the buttons. That’s where they did all the action.” His wife Treacy agreed. “You could see where Leonard Nimoy would look into the light, seeing that, and then imagining Uhura sitting there behind the Captain, it was just very exciting.” Brian Thon was adamant: “The Bridge is really awe-inspiring, and so amazingly designed, and so colorful.” And daughter Isabel chimed in, “I couldn’t believe I was actually there.”
During the William Shatner Weekend, with crowds upwards of 1500 fans, it was not possible for every fan to sit in the Captain’s Chair on the Bridge, but during quieter times, when the Tour is less busy, fans can take selfies in the big chair. Cameras are allowed on the entire tour for still photos only, because of licensing agreements, no videos are allowed.
Displays outside the Tour itself house screen-used props and costumes. And of course there is a well-stocked gift shop.
The Set Tour has plenty of parking, both in its own lot and nearby, and the Tour is situated in the center of Ticonderoga’s downtown area, surrounded by lovely small-town shops, cafes, and restaurants. Ticonderoga also boasts a rebuilt Revolutionary War-era fort, which hosts daily reenactments of Colonial American life. Several nearby hotels and motels offer fairly low-cost accommodations. Dochterman noted that he had given tours to fans from as far away as Israel, who have come to the United States just to see these sets.
Worth the trip
Bottom line? Star Trek: The Original Series Set Tour is a one-of-a-kind Star Trek experience, that has to be seen to be believed. “If you’re a Star Trek fan, this is worth the trip, it’s worth the time, it’s worth the money, summarized Brian Thon, while Mike Rock stated, “If you come here, you are on the Enterprise, there is no doubt about it. And you’ll never duplicate that feeling anywhere else but here.” Dochterman agrees: “It is the proof of the test of your own fannishness to be able to make the ‘Trek’ up here, because you are rewarded tenfold for your efforts. There is no other thing like it that has ever been done. Nothing to this extent has ever been attempted.”
During the summers, the Tour is open daily from 10 am to 4 pm, but in the off-season, tours run only on weekends. Tickets cost $22.50 for adults, $11.00 for children 5-13, and $20 for seniors 55 and over. Children under 5 get in free.
Upcoming events and guests
See the Set Tour website (startrektour.com) for calendar details and availability. Special events run occasionally, with an appearance scheduled by Trek novelists Dave Galanter, Scott Pearson, Keith DeCandido, Peter David, and Bob Greenberger on June 23, 2018. During the Trekonderoga Star Trek convention, coming up August 24-26, 2018, Kelvinverse actor Karl Urban will be on hand for a select number of tours. Other events are announced on the Set Tour website as they are scheduled.
More photos and video
Photos courtesy of Denes House and Joseph Shields IV, video courtesy of CBS Consumer Products
That was amazing love to see it, nothing like the original to bring back memories bet it was like stepping back in time.
Side note: as a design, why would a Starship captain need that “jettison pod” button right on the command chair like that? How often would one need to push it?
Kirk almost lost his captaincy over that button….
Why would a pad the ensign gives Kirk to sign have “System Failure” permanently ETCHED into the screen? (As it did in TFF)
I got to sit in that Captain’s chair myself while working on a NV episode in 2009. The AD asked me to stand in for Cawley so they could do some lighting tests since we’re about the same size; I nonchalantly agreed when in fact I’d have mugged my grandmother for the opportunity. I can only hope you enjoyed the experience as much as I did.
Wow, that sounds like a great experience. You must be a pretty good actor, yourself, to pull off the “nonchalantly” part. :-)
Aww, Kirk keeps a photo of him and Spock next to his bed. That’s a little bit cute.
I thought Kirk always had books in his quarters. That set needs some books in it!
Actually, the photos are intended to show actual scenes from the show in the same area in which they are located. The photos underscore the absolute authenticity of the sets!
Please come to Australia! Please!
No, *you* must come to America!
Thanks for the tour. Do they have any original props or pieces of the actual TOS set? My impression is that almost none of the original sets survived when they were torn down in 1969. Paul Allen owns the captain’s chair and some console components from the bridge for his Museum of Popular Culture in Seattle. Is there anything else left?
The Museum portion has an abundance of actual, screen-used TOS costumes and props. There are a number of photos of them in this article. Anything you see behind glass in a display case in this article’s photographs is a genuine, actual, screen-used artifact.
As to pieces of the set, I do not believe that any pieces of the actual, original set still exist.
I believe the grey folded view thing at Sulu’s place is an original.
My understanding is that nothing from the set itself is original, however there are objects in the set (like things Kirk’s desk) that are actual originals. They actually have one of the original film cameras used to record episodes and it was restored to working order.
I went on William Shatner weekend.
The golden box in Kirk’s quarters is the same box that appeared on the series (I got a chance to hold it!). The rest is pretty much all recreations (and perfect ones I would say). The mirror Kirk uniform in the lobby is made using leftover trinkets from the original that Bill Theiss gave to James.
Hmm. About a 3.5 hour drive from my home. Might have to make it a late summer trip, plus that area of NY is very scenic.
Oh Man, I’m only down the road a piece in Philly. This is so tempting.
So I guess the bridge station chairs are kept down in the briefing room for the tour. It’s a shame, not to see the bridge fully dressed, but I guess it’s a practical consideration for accommodating the guests.
Interesting seeing that angle of the bridge. It now makes me wonder if the bridge helm console was designed with that huge pedestal to accommodate a fill light for Kirk?
Not sure why, but Main engineering just looks wrong in every picture and video I’ve seen of it. Something about the perspective, or size. Do I recall it was built on a slightly smaller scale than the original to fit the space?
I almost wish there was a changing room, and the fans all got to put on costumes so everyone on the tour looked like crew member to give a real sense of “being there”. It would be kinda fun too. I realize there’s a practical limitation with that, but really, all the tour guides should be in uniform? Frankly, I’m surprised more guests haven’t shown up dressed in their cosplay best!
Between a $200 car rental, gas and tickets, I probably spent about 300 bucks to see it. And it was well worth it! Unforgetable experience. Thanks to James and the many volunteers who have created an awesome pilgrimage place for Trek fans!
I really want to go, but I don’t want to sit in the CAPTAIN’S chair; I want to sit in the SCIENCE OFFICER’S chair. :-)
That looks absolutely amazing! A must visit next time I find myself anywhere within a couple hundred miles of the place!
I’m definitely going to have to make the drive up to go. It’ll be the closest thing to taking a time machine back to step on sets that I’ve loved for as long as I’ve loved Trek.
I was there for the Shatner weekend the sets and props are something to see very well done but the ticket price of 860.00 Ambassador ticket was a rip off was supposed to be a meet and greet with the captain and wonder the sets with him I got to chase him through the engineering set and on to the bridge for a minute stop and he was done no meet and greet and I wouldn’t say that was wondering the sets emailed the tour and never got a responce
You didn’t get to hang out with him in the Captain’s Quarters?
I’ve been attempting to identify the source for the original “Saurian Brandy” glasses used in TOS. Like many other small props, Desilu just bought whatever unusual thing they could find off the shelf rather than spending money to have it made from scratch. Those small blue goblets had to have been some commercially produced item in the 1960’s or earlier. The fancy, curved bottles are still fairly easy to find. The prop department just removed the paper labels and painted the leather straps.
Why didn’t they update that crap to make it fit for Discovery?
Love the TOS look!
After reading the article and checking out their website, it’s not entirely clear to me. Is this a permanent attraction in TIconderoga, that I can buy a ticket to visit on a time and day of my choosing, or is this a limited engagement with specific event dates?
Nevermind I see the answer, now… feel free to delete my comments
I just bought tickets to go later this summer. Can’t wait!