Tuesday, April 24, 2012

On Its Way Out: Star Trek: The Experience Is More Gimmick Than Substance

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The Good: Interesting costumes, Moments when the ride is engaging
The Bad: Not that big, Expensive for what one gets, Long lines
The Basics: Despite having some interesting artifacts from the sets of the various Star Trek television shows and movies, Star Trek: The Experience is not worth the admission price.

[Note: This ride/display is no longer in existence. It was up for years and my including it in the blog is part of ensuring that the site I formerly wrote for no longer retain my intellectual property. Enjoy!]

Every now and then I like to try my hand at coining a phrase. This is made easier by being a novelist; occasionally with something I write, I have the secret hope that it will be cited and enter the mainstream. It has yet to happen, but nothing happens if you don't keep trying, right? So, today I'm trying again with: "Once you've been to Mecca, Dearborn just won't do."

This comes up as I begin a review of Star Trek: The Experience because a few years ago, Paramount Pictures decided to sell off over a thousand items from its storage facilities. They sold off hundreds of uniforms, the starship models for all of the major starships and props that were used on set. They were gathered before the auction in New York City for a viewing which allowed anyone who wanted to pay the paltry $25.00 admission fee a chance to walk through and see (and because security was absolutely terrible, manhandle!) many of the props and uniforms. All of the best artifacts of the culture of Star Trek were sold off and those who went to the viewing had an experience that was unparalleled, even more than those who simply attended the auction or purchased items.

In other words, I went to Mecca (the Alpha Geek Mecca, anyway) by walking through the lots of props auctioned off by Christie's. Going to Star Trek: The Experience afterward . . . well, it's like going to Dearborn. Star Trek: The Experience has props, costumes and even a few starships, but it is mostly centered around two rides which are . . . of limited entertainment value.


Star Trek: The Experience is located at the Las Vegas Hilton (reviewed here!). The Las Vegas Hilton is a giant hotel and casino located at 3000 Paradise Road in Las Vegas, Nevada. For those unfamiliar with Las Vegas, Paradise Road is a block over from The Strip and the Hilton is essentially a block away from the end of the Strip that has some of the most recognizable exteriors, like the Stratosphere. The Las Vegas Hilton has a monorail and a giant, fan-shaped sign that makes it a landmark in its own right.

Star Trek: The Experience is nestled at one end of the Hilton in a section of the casino that has been overhauled to appeal (no kidding) to geeks. This end of the casino has been darkened, redecorated (there are starships hanging from the ceiling and Borg alcoves overlooking the three hundred or so slot machines they have at the entranceway to The Experience. The slot machines, as one might guess, have been hand-picked to appeal to science fiction fans, with "Star Wars," "The Twilight Zone" and "Invaders From Planet Moo-lah" joining the brand new Star Trek video slot machine.

Ease Of Local Transport/Parking

The Las Vegas Hilton is a pretty massive facility and between the parking lot for the hotel and the adjacent parking garage, there must be over a thousand parking spots. Even at the peak of the "Star Trek 40th Anniversary" Convention Celebration, there was ample parking. And, like most places in Las Vegas, it is free to park!

As for getting to the Hilton, MapQuest directions will easily guide one there. Driving around Las Vegas is seldom a problem (note: everyone in Las Vegas seems to be pretty flexible and laid back while driving, except the millions of cab drivers there!), so getting to Star Trek: The Experience is very easy. Indeed, the monorail will bring visitors directly to the Hilton from wherever else it lets off in Vegas.


Star Trek: The Experience is comprised of three essential parts: the "museum," the Klingon Encounter and the Borg Invasion 4D ride. For $44.99, less with coupons available in Las Vegas as well as in select Star Trek franchise DVDs, fans are let into all three portions of the experience. My feeling: it's not worth it. But hey, what do I know?! Star Trek: The Experience survived at the Hilton for quite a few years (it's about to be retired, so get there quickly!).

The Star Trek History Of The Future Museum is a walk-through collection of information on the Star Trek franchise that any proper fan will already know backwards and forwards. The reason to walk through the Museum portion, though, is to see the costumes and props. In addition to uniforms from Odo, the Duras Sisters and Zephram Cochrane, fans are treated to a number of unique props. You can gawk at a Klingon Bird Of Prey's command chair, one of the shooting models for the U.S.S. Enterprise-D and another of the U.S.S. Enterprise-A. As well, there are such props as Nomad from Star Trek on display and these are cool. This is the next best thing to seeing the warehouse full of props that was auctioned off years ago. (Though this experience so pales in comparison to being able to put one's hands on the Deep Space Nine space station!)

Then, there are the two rides. The rides have walkthrough and sit in car components. The first is the "Klingon Encounter" ride. Set in the Star Trek: The Next Generation timeframe, fans pile into a shuttlecraft simulator where they experience what it is like to fly around space and . . . run away from the Klingons. This is, ultimately, a pretty pathetic ride and it's not really about the Klingons. Instead, it is about being rocked about and fleeing from a Klingon ship that is seldom seen. Rather, this uses surround projection technology to simulate flying over Las Vegas at night while being shot at by Klingons. Even as a fan - without being nitpicky on such things as "Why are Klingons firing at a Federation shuttlecraft?" (the ride has some b.s. answer about one of the people riding the craft being a time traveler or such) - this is a pretty lame ride and not worth waiting in the potentially long lines for.

The centerpiece of Star Trek: The Experience for the last few years has been "The Borg Invasion 4D" ride. It begins as a walk through a Federation Facility with a guide. Suddenly, the facility is attacked by the Borg and you must flee for your life out of the facility. Unfortunately, while leaving the Borg capture your escape pod and . . . well, that's never a good thing. Featuring Robert Picardo, Alice Krige, and Kate Mulgrew, "Borg Invasion 4D" is an ambitious multimedia experience. The ride opens as the Star Trek equivalent of a campy haunted house but it becomes a ride that is actually pretty cool.

Is it worth it, though? The pass gets you into all three attractions as many times as you want in a day (the rides start at noon, but the lines tend to get ridiculously long because of the duration of each ride), but it is still overly expensive. Most Star Trek fans will probably enjoy the Museum most and should see the clerks at the Star Trek: The Experience about one of the museum only passes. After all, if you can't get to Mecca, you might as well check out Dearborn.


Below the museum and rides in this section of the Las Vegas Hilton is Quark's Bar And Restaurant, a strangely reasonably priced steakhouse/grill where the drinks are where they nail you. The food is all right, but the Experience is banking on the novelty of being fed food by waiters in costumes and sitting in an environment that vaguely resembles Ten Forward. It's a nice concept and for those who want the full experience, it doesn't hurt.


Then there is the Star Trek store, perhaps the last place in the world where a framed autograph of Suzie Plakson will sell for over $50.00. (I love Ms. Plakson . . . well, probably more than the average fan, but she is very approachable and her autograph is reasonably priced in person, no one need pay the ridiculous prices at The Experience.) In addition to overpriced autographs, there are latex masks from the Star Trek shows available for sale, overpriced DVDs, a few books and all sorts of t-shirts and uniform tops. There are action figures, shot glasses, and framed art.

The hallmark product for shoppers at the "Star Trek The Experience" is the Romulan Ale. This blue, bottled beverage is sold in six-packs and . . . well, I don't drink alcohol, so I don't know how it is. But whenever I've done the annual convention in Las Vegas, it seems they sell out of the Romulan Ale, so it must be good for getting geeks blasted.


Well, Star Trek: The Experience is in its final days in Las Vegas and if it were continuing, I would have recommended that fans make a trip there just for the Museum. It's not even the palest fraction of what the auction viewing was, but it's probably the closest most fans will ever get to something that was actually on Star Trek. And yeah, if you can't make it to Mecca, you might as well go to Dearborn.

And when Dearborn's gone . . . well, that's just sad.

For other Star Trek reviews, please be sure to check out my takes on:
Star Trek
Star Trek: The Animated Series
The Star Trek films
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine


For other travel reviews, please be sure to visit my Travel Review Index Page for other reviews!

© 2012, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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