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