A Brief Look Back At Star Trek: The Experience

From January 3,1998 to September 1, 2008 Star Trek fans had a haven to call their own when the Las Vegas Hilton ran the attraction Star Trek: The Experience. Part indoor theme park, part museum; the $70-million-dollar attraction had components that all faithfully recreated the science fiction world of Captains Kirk, Picard and the shows’ other heroes and villains.

Visitors were greeted at the entranceway by an enormous hanging model of Kirk’s Enterprise from the movies. Inside the attraction’s main circular layout, which recreated the Deep Space Nine (DS9) Promenade from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, (the Experience’s fact sheet claimed that the entire area was 65,000 square feet), other overhead models of ships from Star Trek’s many incarnations were a sight to behold. For the record, also greeting visitors were the Enterprise D from Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Voyager from Star Trek: Voyager and a Klingon Bird-of-Prey ship seen from the movies. Guests could just dine in the attraction’s center, or do some shopping off to the left and take in the sights. As they gawked at the intricate detailing of the place, actors dressed and made up as aliens from the shows such as Klingons and Ferengi interacted with visitors and stayed in character.

But most came for the main attractions. Originally, that was just the Klingon Encounter and History of the Future Museum, but BORG Invasion 4D was added in 2004 (at one point in 2005 there were plans to add another area devoted to the original 1960s series that featured Kirk and Spock but alas that never came to fruition.). Fans paid admission for both shows and experienced them as many times as they wanted. After paying, they turned a sharp right from the cashier off to the entrance’s right and walked up a long, twisting walkway that took them through the museum.

It featured an exhaustive timeline of our history and that of the shows and movies. But what was most interesting were the huge collection of genuine Star Trek props going back forty years. In fact, the people behind the attraction claimed the museum had the largest, permanent collection of props. After browsing through the winding museum, visitors stood in line and chose whichever attraction they wanted to try first.

In the Klingon Encounter, guests were somehow transported (through backstage effects) on board a flawless recreation of the Enterprise D’s interior complete with actors playing futuristic spacemen. What happened was that a visitor would line up to board a simulator ride then suddenly the lights would go out. There was a blast of air and quick strobe lights in the pitch darkness. Then the lights would go on and voila the visitor was standing on the transporter pads of the ship’s transporter room. Guests were then given a quick tour of the Enterprise’s corridors and bridge before being whisked away into a shuttle that confronted the Klingons. Of course, the shuttle was really a simulator ride that concluded the show. Basically theĀ  storyline was that the Klingons traveled back in time to modern-day Earth and tried to abduct the visitors but the Enterprise intervened and transported the people on board. The twist was that someone in the group turned out to be the ancestor of Captain Picard. Both Jonathan Frakes and Levar Burton reprised on viewscreens their roles as Riker and LaForge.

The future was also visited in BORG Invasion 4D as fans entered a futuristic space station that came under attack by the villainous cyber beings, the Borg. As in the first show, actors stayed in character and the sets were flawless recreations of Federation architecture. Like in Klingon Encounter, guests were evacuated to a shuttle but contrary to the first attraction, this one concluded with the visitors sitting in a theater and being part of a 4D interactive film. It was similar to what you would find in the Disney or Universal parks with tactile experiences enhancing the show. In this film, the Borg were trying to assimilate the audience before being stopped by the starship Voyager. Robert Picardo, Kate Mulgrew and Alice Krige reprised on viewscreens their roles as the ship’s Emergency Medical Hologram, Admiral Janeway and the Borg Queen. Continue reading

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