Long Beach Trek-tacular
As much as I enjoy Star Trek, and always have, I can't say I was that enthused by the idea of “Star Trek: The Tour.” What could they show me that I haven't seen? Could it possibly top the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas? Do I really want to pay top dollar to see a bunch of multicolored spandex uniforms?
But duty calls, and I'm certainly the most qualified person at this publication to volunteer for said duty – I had William Shatner's “Transformed Man” on import CD before it was re-released stateside, and I even acted and assistant-directed a movie with Walter “Mr. Chekov” Koenig (Mad Cowgirl, available on DVD everywhere). I'm not one of those guys who can explain the fictional physics behind a warp core breach, nor could I tell you what number a particular episode is where something happened. But I do know that you're supposed to do a shot every time Worf says “I am a Klingon!” on Next Gen.
Boldly going to the Queen Mary, I stood in line behind the world's worst queue – one of my pet peeves, and perhaps yours, is when a line is already moving really slowly, and the person at the front of the line decides to have a conversation with the cashier, rather than simply saying “One adult, one child,” and moving along.
What's worse is when after all that happens, they then tell you you're in the wrong line – the Star Trek line is next door. Fortunately, there's no waiting.
Which is a bit of a surprise, frankly. Star Trek is known for its hordes of obsessive true believers. So where were they? The dome at the Queen Mary was not crowded in the least. And I noticed only one fan costume (a woman dressed as a blue-antennae-donning Andorian). I surmise that Paramount made one significant misstep – had they promised the tour would deliver an exclusive “first-look” at the new J.J. Abrams movie (allegedly both a sequel AND a reboot, as it features an aged Spock going back in time and somehow changing the origins of the storyline), I'll bet hungry Trekkers would gladly have plunked down $35 just to sneak a peek. Alas, all we got was a mention that it's “coming soon.” They didn't even show the new teaser trailer that's now playing in front of Cloverfield. I know J.J. likes his secrecy, but that won't fly too well with this crowd. I suspect die-hard fans might have stayed away thinking they've seen it all before – if they'd been guaranteed something new, however small, their wallets would have been as good as yours, Paramount execs.
But even the familiar can be spectacular, and so it was with this tour. Perfect replicas of the original series Enterprise bridge and the Next-Gen bridge were available for photo ops, but you had to pay more money for that. (On the other had, if one were content with photographing someone else, or no-one at all, in the command chair, that could be done for nothing, as our slideshow demonstrates.) You could get really sick of the ever-looping theme music; exactly two Trek themes are decent, the original cheeseball one and the soaring, adventurous number used for both the first movie and the Next-Gen TV show. I'm embarassed to say that I'm actually starting to feel some affection for the heinously gloppy "Faith of the Heart," but never have I enjoyed Voyager's new age crapola, perhaps because I never warmed to the touchy-feely show either.
A full-size Guardian of Forever was free to take pictures with, although you'd better not tell Harlan Ellison, who created the Guardian and won't let anybody forget it – when it was announced that it might appear in the new movie, he threatened legal action. Various Trek actors made appearances over the weekend for yet more expensive photo ops, though given the proximity to L.A., am I wrong to be disappointed that the most famous face they could lure down was Robert Picardo (the Doctor on Voyager)?
Most helpful for the casual fan was a detailed Trek timeline, especially useful for covering the period when Voyager, Deep Space Nine, and the movies were all happening simultaneously. It ended with a blank screen representing the Abrams movie, and implied that it will simply be called “Star Trek.”
And then a wide array of props, costumes, maquettes, prosthetics – all way cool stuff even if you don't know the significance of each one. You don't have to know that “B-4” was a Data doppelganger from the movie Nemesis to appreciate that the model of its head looks exactly like actor Brent Spiner right down to the individual hair follicles. Particularly amusing was a goblin-liked character named “Jaglom Shrek,” because it certainly could have been the result of a hideous cross-breeding between a green Scottish ogre and self-important indie filmmaker Henry Jaglom.
Two motion simulator rides were available. One, with no line at all, was a bit like a super high-end arcade game, where you sit inside a shuttlecraft replica and dodge CG asteroids as the voice of Worf tells you that perhaps this is a good day to die. Since the visuals aren't at a realistic level, however, it misses something – because it looks like a video game, I want to play it and fire phasers when I want to, but there isn't any type of interactivity.
The other simulators were more hardcore, and the most popular attraction, spinning upside down and sideways. The lines were too long and I was too much of a pussy. So let's move along.
One thing I would say to the tour organizers is that if you're going to charge $35, you should make sure that everything works. Technical glitches seemed to hamper the booth that was supposed to allow you, via greenscreen, to get spliced into a mini-adventure cobbled together from clips of the original series. Yeah, I've acted with Koenig, but here was my chance to act opposite Shatner! Alas, they couldn't get it reliably working while I was there.
Also, the bar outside, done in a Trek theme, wasn't operational either, so no Klingon blood wine, Chaateau Picard, or Deanna's Delight martini for this correspondent. I did indulge in “Archer's Favorite Dog,” a chili cheese dog which is somewhat dubiously named considering that on the TV show, Archer's favorite dog is an actual canine companion named Porthos. But the most tasteless menu item, perhaps, was a tuna sandwich called “Spock's Brain,” named after what is generally regarded to be the worst episode of the original series, in which, yes, Spock's brain is removed from his head and stolen, yet he manages to walk around anyway with the aid of robotic headgear. I know that makes me think “sandwich.”
The highlight of the show is a corridor from the Enterprise D that leads to Picard's room, sick bay, and the transporter, where you can watch yourself get “beamed” on a video screen via a clever dissolve effect. They even got a guy with a Scottish accent in charge, though his staff uniform looked more like the worksuits from Archer's Enterprise than the uniforms of Picard's. One nice little detail is that the design staff threw in some “easter eggs” so small you'd never catch them on TV – the Enterprise schematics on the corridor walls include tiny silhouettes of a car with its trunk open, and a mouse.
The grand finale of the show takes you into a simulated “stellar cartography” room on board a Next Gen starship where Riker is the captain, Tuvok is the first officer, and Wesley Crusher is chief engineer. Wesley has long been the Jar Jar Binks of Star Trek, a whiny precocious teen hated by many fans, but actor Wil Wheaton has gained back some respect in the years since via a self-deprecating blog and a healthy sense of humor, so it's okay to like him now. Here, he narrates the adventure as the ship gets attacked by Klingons, but one can't help but notice the new goatee, which, Star Trek tradition would dictate, makes him the evil parallel-universe Wesley. Hmmmmm.
As for the merchandise stand on the way out, I have one question – why are there action figures of everyone EXCEPT Shatner? How does that make sense?
Not that he's entirely absent – for $40, you could purchase a detailed plastic toy of the Wrath of Khan Enterprise that screams “Khaaaaaaan!” at the push of a button. That'll never get old.
Full slideshow of images is right here.
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