Space. The Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise.
Everyone knows those words, just as everyone knows Star Trek. This summer The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum hosted the Star Trek Experience for four months. The exhibit closes Oct. 31, so hurry on down.
Star Trek means a lot of things to a lot of different people, so to sell an exhibit as a “Star Trek Experience” means you will get held to a high bar for doing so. Star Trek not only caters to its own fandom along with the general public, it actually caters to a way of life.
After being greeted by the Enterprise herself and receiving an introduction by a holographic Starfleet member, you travel down a hallway illustrating the shows timeline where you exit into Sick Bay.
Two beds are set up with Klingon patients. Your job, as Medical Officer, is to use the tricorder to examine them and determine what their ailment is.
This is where the experience factor came into play in the Star Trek Experience. You aren’t just looking at the displays, you are interacting with them. Visitors can sign up at the beginning to have their info transmitted to a wrist sensor so you can interact with pretty much the entire exhibition and be rated on how you did.
Each section of the Star Trek Experience has multiple consoles where you can take these easy interactive tests. Sometimes they are in the form of games, sometimes as multiple choice quizzes, but all were enjoyable.
At the finish, you will be evaluated, and it will be suggested which job in Starfleet you are best suited for: the Sciences, Navigation, Communications, Engineering, Tactical or Command.
Across from Sick Bay at Star Trek Experience is the Communications Center. Here you can learn about aliens like the Klingons, what their culture is, and how to speak their language. An interactive Photoshop feature is available as well, so you can transform yourself into a member of an alien race.
But never let it be said that straight up Star trek props aren’t interesting all on their own. The exhibit didn’t just focus on interactive games and tests, there are plenty of displays of Star Trek’s signature items on hand as well.
Having said that, and as interesting as it was to see the development of the eponymous phaser guns, it is also nice to get a chance to play a shooting game with them as well.
And so the Star Trek Experience went. You explore the different aspects of the mythology and interact with it. You map a course to an inhabitable planet. You analyze the engines and figure out how to repair problems with them. You learn how to use the transporter.
But it is all leading to the star attraction, why everyone went to the Star Trek Experience: the Bridge.
Whether you’re a casual or intimate fan, to sit in the Captain’s Chair is a desire we all share. To be the person commanding that five-year mission; to imagine yourself facing down Khan Noonian Singh; to explore new worlds and new civilizations; to boldly go where no one has gone before; that is what’s central to everything in these stories.
The Bridge in question is modeled after the version found on the NCC-1701-D, seen in the Star Trek: The Next Generation. Besides the Captain’s Chair, control stations are available for the helm, tactical officers, communications and the science officer.
But the most compelling interactive game is the Kobayashi Maru, the un-winnable simulation all captains must face, seen in both Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and in the 2009 reboot of the franchise as well.
But the Bridge exhibition was more than that. It also served to remind everyone what makes Star Trek so great. The franchise is pretty singular in not only science fiction, but all genres, in showing us what humanity can achieve if we work together. Very few imaginings can match Star Trek’s vision of a positive future for all of us.
Gene Roddenberry went far out of his way to provide the original series with a very diverse cast, which was groundbreaking at the time. Star Trek was always more than just starships and aliens, it was a commentary on society, our failings, and why we always have reason to hope to improve ourselves, and that we should always make room for this.
This was reflected in the crowd milling around. Men, women, and children of all races and creeds chatted together and played out some of their favorite scenes. The unifying message of Star Trek was plainly visible throughout the exhibit, but was especially so on the Bridge.
Once you’ve completed the Star Trek Experience, found out which aspect of Starfleet you’re best suited for, and turned in your wristband, you still aren’t quite done. Besides the awesome gift shop, one more Star Trek exhibit awaits, appropriately stationed in the Space Shuttle Enterprise’s hangar.
It’s too perfect that the fictional Enterprise spacecraft and the historical one resided on the same site for a time. So why wouldn’t the shuttle Galileo sit waiting for you under the shuttle Enterprise?
This is the real thing — the actual shuttle used in the television show back in the 1960s, preserved carefully and transported delicately to sit on the deck of an aircraft carrier housing a space shuttle on the Hudson river in New York City.
If you couldn’t feel the weight of how awesome all of that was to take in at the same time, please do check your own pulse.