January 21, 2008

Star Trek: The Tour

Okay, so I'm a Star Trek geek. I'm a big fan of the classic '60's series. I'd heard that Star Trek: The Tour was going to begin its journey down in Long Beach. So, looking for something to do on Sunday, I suggested to Emily that we check it out - to say that she was "underwhelmed" at the prospect of being thrust into another "Comic Con" type of environment would be a gross understatement. But, being the trouper that she is, Emily agreed to indulge my geekiness and go where no woman has gone before.

Hey... this looks like some sort of marketing ploy... hmmm.

I grabbed tickets for us online, and they're not cheap, $35 per person. Wow! This must be something REALLY BIG that Star Trek fans are gonna love! After getting the tickets from Ticketmaster and paying all their "convenience fees" the total cost of two tickets was a little over 80 bucks.

Waiting with anticipation the wonders of Trek that we are about to behold!

We were given a designated arrival time - 10am (when the tour opens). So we were on the road early and made it down to Long Beach in plenty of time. We waited outside the door with the growing crowd. Emily noticed that her gender was well into the minority. Interestingly, we did not see anyone in costume.

Finally the doors opened and we were let in. Everyone poured inside. There were a few Star Trek props set up, most notably, a shooting model of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Holy ship! I just had a warp-core breach in my pants!

I gotta admit, this was impressive. We geeks all filed in, looking upward at the gleaming hull of this icon of space fantasy... and then I noticed that we were not actually IN the exhibit yet. Looking ahead, we saw the entryway where several "uniformed" tour employees waited. We were in a holding area. No one had yet ventured into the actual exhibit. They were all beached by the siren song of ol' NCC-1701-A rotating just above their heads. The fools. I grabbed Emily and we headed for the entry gate.

Our tickets were scanned, and we moved into the exhibit hall. Not a soul was there. The place was wide-open and devoid of people. And then I turned to my right and saw---

The bridge of the original Enterprise! (Actual picture that I took!)

I was dumbfounded. Before me lay a nearly exact, full-sized replica of the Enterprise's bridge. And no one was seeing this but me and Emily. It was like walking face-first into a piece of history. I fumbled for my camera, but then the red doors of the turbo lift opened, and a uniformed gentlemen waved for me to come up and sit in Captain Kirk's chair. I nearly cried... okay, I did cry. But only a little.

By the time we'd found our way around to the turbo lift entrance and onto the bridge, people were starting to fill the exhibit hall. Once Emily and I were in our seats on the bridge, there was a long line of people
queued up, wanting and waiting to be next.

The set-up was such that you (and your friends) position yourself on the bridge and the ST tour has a camera that takes a picture that you can purchase when you leave the exhibit. Since Emily and I were the first ones there, the camera and playback monitor weren't quite ready - so they had to take multiple shots. This took awhile, about 10 to 12 minutes. So I had plenty of time to sit and savor the look of the the bridge and press all the buttons I wanted. I'm sure that I depleted the ship's phaser banks and launched all the photon torpedoes in the armory. (Yes, I'm aware that you CAN'T do that from Kirk's chair, you have to use the navigation console... but it's MY fantasy so suck it up.)

Say hello to my little friend!

While trying to get the camera to work, the tour personnel took several pictures of me and Emily on the bridge - each time I tried a different Captain Kirk pose that had the other geeks waiting in line laughing... Emily was on her own, she just had to look pretty, damn-it! This was man stuff, I had no time to tell her how to pose! For the final picture I decided on combining Start Trek series sensibilities, given my chrome-dome similarity to Capt. Picard from Star Trek the Next Generation, I leaned forward and made with an "Engage!" command. The Trek geeks loved it. And that ended up being the picture we kept.

Mister Sulu, I want you to keep both hands in plain sight!

Finally, our time on the bridge was over. We got to see the picture on the monitor. Mr. Spock, Lt. Sulu, and Ensign Chekov had been digitally added to fill out the posts on the bridge. I was giddy, having lived out a childhood fantasy and sat on the bridge of the Enterprise. I couldn't wait to see what was next!

By now the exhibit was filling up with other trekkers, trekkies, and fellow sci-fi misfits. With great anticipation we headed off to see what else there was... but sadly, everything after this was a let down. Sure, there were several other classic Star Trek set ups, like the Guardian of Forever from City on the Edge of Forever.

Man, if I could just get a Krispy Kreme this size!... I'd need
a really BIG cup of coffee to go with it.

There was a transporter room set-up, but not from the classic series, where you could watch yourself get "beamed" off the ship....

Could you possibly find a baggier,
more mismatched uniform to wear?!
No sir, I couldn't!

There was also a full-scale replica of the command bridge from Star Trek the Next Generation, but it wasn't something I could get too excited about... nor could my friend Rob who visited the Tour a few days after us.

Rob, napping, while Mike and John take command
of the Next Generation Bridge.

The exhibit hall was lined with several display cases, mostly of costumes. But honestly, there was not all that much stuff to see. I expected more authentic TV show and movie props, and less built "attractions" that were meant to draw you in to spend more money. Groan....

Scotty's uniform, and its date.

Some of the other "sets" they'd put together for the exhibit were this hallway.

Stop following me or I'm gonna tell the Captain!

There were a few motion-ride type simulators too - but nothing that I felt like I HAD to get on and try. After walking around for about another 20 minutes or so we had pretty much seen everything. The initial rush that I'd had sitting on the classic Enterprise bridge was gone.... what remained was.... disappointment.

The whole exhibit was poorly laid-out and people were just wandering around, not certain what they were supposed to be looking at or where to go next. It felt more like a badly run carnival rather than a tour through the history of Star Trek.


In the middle of the exhibit was a closed-off area with a
queue. This looked like something big, so we got in line. But, we were told by the tour staff only to enter if we were ready to leave the event for good because, after watching whatever this was we were in line for, we wouldn't be allowed back in to the exhibit hall. This seemed awkward, especially since there were no signs telling us ANYTHING about what we were standing in line for. We gave the exhibit hall one last quick look around... there wasn't really anything else to see, so we stepped on into this "final exit event".

Sad to say, this last "event" was pretty bad. Perhaps I just wasn't in the mood at this point. It was a history lesson being taught by Wesley Crusher to new Star Fleet recruits (us) when (predictably) the Klingons (or someone) attacked... I really wasn't paying much attention at this point. Once it was over, we were shown the exit and spilled out into their Star Trek gift shop... a gift shop that really didn't have much to offer.... oh yeah, and there was a snack bar dressed up to look like the "Ten Forward Lounge" from Next Generation next to the gift shop. It was just burgers n' fries with Star Trek sounding names. Mmmm, a warp corndog and a phaser Philly cheese steak!

In the end, Star Trek The Tour was fairly lame, I'm sorry to say. I found the whole thing lacking in organization, style, and especially lacking in the number of authentic props, costumes, and items on display. I'd been to the Star Trek the Experience in Las Vegas, and even to a couple of Star Trek conventions and on all those occasions I felt like I had seen a hell of a lot more.

So we looked around for a few more minutes and picked up a copy of the picture that had been taken of us on the bridge... a 5 x 7 was $20. I figured that we'd come this far, might as well pick it up. And then, as we were leaving, I noticed someone walk right past me...

Armin Shimerman

He played the character of Quark, on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Armin was there to sign autographs and they were ushering him into the exhibit that we'd just left... and could not return to.

Armin as Quark
Make-up does wonders for his looks.

Deep Space Nine wasn't one of the incarnations of Star Trek that I'd watched - so I didn't feel like I was missing an opportunity by not getting his autograph. So as he passed by I waved and then kicked him. He's a little guy, it was easy. He screamed like a girl.

Okay-okay, just kidding. I didn't kick him or anything... but I was close enough to have done so if I'd wanted.

Emily and I left Star Trek: The Tour feeling underwhelmed and let down. Perhaps my initial rush at experiencing some time on the classic bridge had somehow set my expectations too high. But I don't think that was really the case. We were able to look around and see everything that was there in about an hour, and if you include the $15 they charged for parking, the whole "event" cost us about $125. Ugh...

Is Star Trek The Tour something I'd recommend that you check out? Eh... not really.

However, despite all my grousing about Star Trek The Tour, for me it was worth it just to sit on the bridge of the original Enterprise and dream about driving around the galaxy in THIS...

Mr. Sulu! WHAT did I say about your hands?!