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January 20, 2003

Lowerdecks.com site contributor and Observation Lounge member Mark Perkins (aka Daniel Jackson) recently visited the London Star Trek Exhibit, currently open in Hyde Park. Below is his exclusive report and several images taken from the exhibit.

 

Star Trek: The Adventure - London Exhibit
By Mark Perkins (AKA Daniel Jackson)


Billed as the most accurate reconstruction of the Star Trek experience, Star Trek: The Adventure opened in London's Hyde Park last month amidst a somewhat moderate buzz from local fans. I use the term 'moderate buzz', simply to reflect what appears to me to be a general malaise regarding the current status of Trek at the moment. But I digress. That is an issue to discuss at some other time. Star Trek: The Adventure is however a reflection of what is currently coming out of Paramount studios; an average attempt to appease the fans.

When I arrived in London, the day after Christmas, Hyde Park's newest 'attraction' was one of the first things I laid eyes on as I drove by in my black taxi. I was fortunate to be staying in a hotel less than 10 minutes walk from the exhibit, so my initial thoughts reflected this convenience. As the taxi drove past the exhibit I couldn't help but wonder at its size. Every bit of information I had read prior to arriving had stressed the exhibit's magnitude. It was supposedly the biggest exhibition to be staged in Hyde Park since 1851, yet I couldn't help but notice that for all that grandiose advertising, the exhibit was much smaller than I had originally envisioned it. Granted, that is coming from my own preconceived notion of what it would look like, but I was still nevertheless slightly disappointed. Then again, for many other people, the exhibit was quite possibly bigger than what they expected.

It wasn't until two days after my arrival that I decided the time was right to take that overly strenuous 10 minute walk from my Marble Arch hotel with a friend who knew absolutely nothing about Trek, in tow. At the ticket box office we noticed that weekend day tickets (the day being Saturday) were priced at £17.50. A little pricey I thought, but considering what was awaiting inside I thought it was worth it. Now all I was waiting for was to make that bold step into a world with weird and wonderful props, and interesting characters. Before I even left the ticket booth, I met my first 'interesting character'. A fan buying his ticket was attempting to explain to a cashier the appeal of Star Trek, much to the bemusement of said cashier. The fan purchased his ticket and ended his conversation with 'live long and prosper'. I believe it took the cashier all his strength to prevent himself from bursting out laughing. Granted, Trek's stereotype stigma has arisen from fans such as these, but then where would Trek be without them I say.

Anyway, extreme fans aside, my friend and I made our way inside the exhibition. I purchased a nifty little commemorative booklet for £10 which detailed all incarnations of Trek as well as the exhibitions I was about to see. I noted too at the entrance an alarming number of security guards. Strange to many an outsider. Didn't they realise that all Trek fans are supposedly weakling nerds who live in their parents basement. Of course we aren't. We'll, at least most of us aren't. The presence of security though was obvious. They were also there to prevent people taking in any recording or photographic equipment, much to my chagrin. I had planned to take a few pictures of the props specifically for this report, but alas I could not.

Nevertheless, my friend and I entered into the first section of Star Trek: The Adventure. The very first thing I laid eyes on was the sleek new Ready Room captain's chair and desk. Having yet to see Nemesis at this point, I thought it was quite a pleasant design. Aside from this, the first room was 'decorated' with smaller props from all trek incarnations, including a Klingon disruptor from TNG, large scale models of a number of ships, and a cast of a Reman's head from Nemesis. The room also featured a large television screen set high in the wall that displayed various snippets from each television series as a way of introducing the visitor to the world of Star Trek. There also appeared to be attempts at designing the room with Next Generation style computer consoles and walls which in my opinion were fairly average. The design on consoles looked less like Next Generation Federation, but rather some odd Borg/Romulan hybrid.

The next room though, was a more impressive site to see. Basically, the Star Trek: Nemesis room, it contained some of the most impressive props in the whole collection. In the centre was another television screen; this one showcasing the Nemesis trailers. It set the mood quite well for the rest of the Nemesis displays which just happened to include among others Troi's wedding dress, Shinzon's costume and command chair and what I would call the showpiece, the Scorpion class attack fighter in all its glory.

Moving right from the Nemesis room, we entered what could be called the 'Enterprise section'. It detailed the evolution of the new show's design, including the Bridge and engineering sets as well as the design for the actual ship itself. I noticed in the past that when news of the show first appeared some people complained that Enterprise resembled the 24th century Akira class starship. That may be so in some respects, but after witnessing what the developers went through, I believe we are actually lucky with what we got. The centerpiece in this section was yet another television screen. This one presented a video of production designer Herman Zimmerman explaining the displays and detailing for the viewer the designs of various Star Trek sets. An addendum to the 'Enterprise section' was a reconstruction of the new ship's armoury. The two storey design captured the likeness of the real thing quite well. It was possibly one of the better examples in the entire exhibition.

Moving on from the Enterprise section, we entered the more open 'Deep Space Nine: Creating characters through make-up' area. I could see my friend was feeling a little blasé from the Enterprise section, so I thought I'd explain to him a few of the props displayed in this Deep Space Nine section. However, before I could do so, I had to make sure I wasn't seeing things. What lay in front of me was described as a reconstruction of Quark's Bar, possibly the most recognizable sets from Deep Space Nine. This so-called reconstruction looked nothing like it. Although it did contain a number of tables and chairs and the bar itself, there was very little else. The booklet I had purchased earlier stated that 'visitors can wander freely around this three-storey-high set, which has never been on public show as a complete entity before.' Sorry folks, but this wasn't the Quark's Bar we know and love.

Having put this disappointment out of my mind, I proceeded to explain to my friend the various props in this section. These included a Deep Space Nine costumes, a Bajoran rifle, various forehead and ear prosthetics and head casts of a Jem'Hadar, a Ferengi, and that notorious barfly Morn. The displays appeared to impress my friend enough to start watching the Michael Westmore feature set up on the screen in this section.

Following this viewing, we preceded to observe the various costumes dressed in mannequins on display from the Next Generation and Voyager eras. These included Dr. Crusher's uniform, Captain Janeway's and Commander Chakotay's uniform, as well as one of Seven of Nine's catsuits. For some reason, the latter was quite popular. To the side of these costumes, on the wall, were information plaques. They detailed the the main cast and crew from all five series. These were adjoined by about four different star charts which looked eerily familiar to those ones produced in the recently released Star Trek: Star Charts book. Nevertheless, they were pleasantly informative.

On the other side of the TNG and Voyager costumes was the 'Voyager: Visual Effects' area. Once again, another screen was on hand to brief visitors on the visual effects used in the series. Dan Curry explains the process used in the production of a normal episode. Near this screen were four replica shuttles as used from the Voyager television series. I couldn't help but smile as I thought about Voyager's vast reserves of shuttlecraft. The shuttles on show here were actually a ride for visitors to enjoy. Taking the plunge, I decided to board one of the shuttles with other visitors, leaving my friend outside to question my recklessness. I mean once you step into one of Voyager's shuttles, there is no guarantee your going to make it out alive. Even so, as I sat down inside the shuttle and the ride began I wondered what on earth I was getting involved in. Suffice it to say, after less than two minutes, the 'ride' was over and we didn't crash and burn like so many other Voyager shuttles. Maybe it was because Chakotay wasn't at the helm, or maybe it was because the ride was not as exciting as it was designed to be.

Disembarking from the shuttle and rejoining my friend on terra firma, I was informed that two other visitors had somehow brought cameras into the exhibit and were taking photos of the props. Bitter at the lackluster Voyager shuttle ride, I became even moreso when security seemed to ignore these people taking photos. So much for no photographic or recording devices in the exhibition. This missed opportunity was reconciled somewhat by the presence of two photo booths, specifically setup for visitors to have their pictures taken and then superimposed on two Trek scenes. My friend and I decided that having our pictures taken would be good for a laugh, so we proceeded to have our pictures taken with Worf in the transporter room and with Kirk and Spock on the planet with the Guardian from the TOS episode, 'The City on the Edge of Forever.'

Receiving our photos and paying the obligatory £14, we moved onto the trivia computers, situated directly opposite from the photo booths. I tried the computers twice and after getting 100% at both attempts, each with a different series of questions, I thought a third attempt would net yet another perfect score. Of course by this time I had become a little cocky and as such, in the process managed to get one question wrong. My excuse to my friend was that it was difficult to remember everything from an episode made 15 years ago. I don't think I convinced him though.

After this, we made our way to the Original Series section. It was decorated with a number of costumes including among others Spock's original series uniform, Scotty's engineering jumpsuit, and Chang's uniform from the sixth Star Trek movie. Other props included Chancellor Gorkon's walking stick, 23rd century phasers and tricorders, and models of some early Original Series designs. Also in this section was another video, this one showing archival interview footage of Gene Roddenberry and other people involved in Trek's long history. The main star of the Original Series section though was the replica of the original Enterprise's bridge. Unlike some of the other exhibits, this was a pleasant site to behold, that is once I could get through the crowd to actually have a look. It was probably the most detailed of everything at Star Trek: The Adventure. Such was the detail that it would be difficult to discern it from the one used 35 years ago. This set even impressed my friend, who had never before seen the bridge of the USS Enterprise.

Next to the bridge set was a booth where visitors could make a video of themselves acting out scenes from three separate Original Series episodes and having those scenes placed in with actual scenes. I must admit that I was tempted to brush up my acting skills and feature alongside Captain Kirk and Spock, but the £21 price tag for a 5 minute DVD put me off.

Despite this, we moved onto the final section of the exhibit, a tour of the Enterprise-D. As the queue built up for this journey, we were soon greeted by a staff member dressed in a Next Generation uniform welcoming us aboard the Federation Starship Enterprise. Following her lead, we entered the first area of the Enterprise; engineering. It appeared as a full scale replica, but contrary to what the commemorative booklet claimed, it was not in exact detail. Nitpicking though I may be, there definitely is room for improvement here.

While in engineering, the tour of the Enterprise-D really began. One minute I was observing the warp core, the next, smoke began to appear, followed by the bellowing sound of the red alert. Our 'tour group' (which was made up of about 30 people) were then ushered into two separate turbolifts. While in the turobolifts, a cacophony of sounds rang out along with a shudder of the turbolift. About a minute later, the turbolift doors opened on the other side and we were asked to exit onto the bridge. Standing behind Worf's tactical station, we witnessed a scenario play out on the viewscreen where we were under attack from the Borg. This short video was fairly impressive, though I was a little more interested in the aft consoles behind me. When video played itself out, we were all led out of the bridge to the exit of the tour. I was more than a little annoyed that we could not examine the bridge in our own free time, especially when the designers of the exhibit had gone to great lengths to recreate an attractive replica of the Enterprise bridge.

Exiting the tour, and thus the main part of Star Trek: The Adventure, we found ourselves in front of both the gift shop and a conveniently placed bar. After a quick look in the gift shop, my friend and I made a visit to the bar where to my surprise, a selection of Trekian style beverages were on offer. While my friend purchased the Transporter cocktail, I went straight for a bottle of Romulan Ale whose taste was strangely similar to Terran lager. After this rather mildly intoxicating drink, I purchased a Risa Colada cocktail while my friend purchased a Harry Mudd cocktail. Feeling a little more relaxed, we then took our leave of Star Trek: The Adventure. Upon leaving, my friend remarked that the exhibition was quite interesting considering he had never really seen Star Trek before. I did not get the impression from him that the exhibit made him want to watch it though.

In the three weeks since I visited Star Trek: The Adventure I have been able to reflect on my experience. My 'adventure' was a mixed bag at best. There were some very interesting reconstructions present along with some intriguing props from each series. Yet I cannot escape the fact that the effort in some areas such as Quark's Bar fell well short of expectations. Perhaps this in part can be attributed to what I alluded to in the opening paragraph, that like recent Star Trek productions there exists a few exciting elements amongst a tonne of mediocrity. That is just my opinion. If you want to experience Star Trek: The Adventure for yourself, then by all means, journey into the final, yet familiar, frontier.

 

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