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Dec 05

Star Trek: The Experience, Las Vegas

It’s safe to say that Vegas is a unique place in the world. Las Vegas Boulevard, better known as “The Strip”, is lined with a whole array of hotels and hispanics passing out fistfuls of cards advertising how carnal pleasures are only a phone call away (they continually slap the cards together to make a characteristic “I have sex cards!” sound, presumably so potential clients can still find them when the Vegas footpaths get too crowded).

It’s all flashy on the outside, especially at night when all the neon, blinking coloured lights and video displays are switched on. Lots of themed hotels, such as the Paris, which has a scaled down version of the Eiffel Tower sticking out the top of it and the Luxor which is done up as a black pyramid with a massive lightbulb at its apex shooting out a shaft of light into the sky. Very tacky, but strangely enough, not in a lame sort of way. The fountain display at the Bellagio is quite impressive, being much, much larger than Ocean’s Eleven would lead you to believe.

Whereas the outsides are varied, the insides of all the hotels are numbingly similar – rows and rows of slot machines, tables and tables of roulette, blackjack, 3-card poker, craps and other usual suspects. Lots of shoddy carpet.

Obviously an essential stop for a Trekkie like me, I took the monorail to the Hilton today to see their Star Trek: The Experience attraction. Half price tickets are available at the Tix4Tonight discount booths, which I picked up earlier in the day. STTE basically consists of two “rides” and an exhibit. The exhibit features a very cool timeline of the Trek franchise (recently extensively refurbished due to the heretical insertion of the Enterprise series into Trek canon) along with numerous display cases featuring props which were actually used in the filming of Trek (most humourously, the Mac used in Star Trek IV which Scotty tries to talk to… “Hello, computer!”).

The first ride I went on was a relatively new one called “Borg Invasion”. It was abysmal. It features an insipid movie which you watch with stereoscopic glasses while sitting in an “interactive chair”. It’s essentially a tiltable massage chair with the capacity to occasionally blast moist air into your face to vaguely simulate what’s happening on the movie screen. During the part where you supposedly get injected with Borg nanoprobes, I almost leapt out of my seat after I received an instant anal probe from several massage chair-style rollers which some sadistic designer had decided to strategically place in the seat bottom. I wandered out of the ride somewhat traumatised.

The second ride was “Klingon Encounter”, which although older, was decidedly better. Nonetheless, you still have to put up with actors running around delivering corny dialogue and trying to give an unenthusiastic crowd a Trek “experience” (“remember, the human spirit can never be assimilated!”).

If that was all there was, I would have felt ripped off, even though the ticket price was only $18. However, I paid another $20 to get the “backstage tour”, which is an informal 90-120 minute tour behind the scenes of the $70 million STTE facility. The tour was conducted by a genial guide called Gretchen who had previously worked at Second City, so she made the tour very interesting and humourous, but most importantly, without being the least bit patronising. You get to learn about the mechanics behind the rides, see actors moving between sets in the back corridors, discover how the facility was designed and even get to examine Okudagrams up close (including those in-jokes the Trek crew like to insert onto signage). Along the way, I picked up lots of new pieces of Trek-related trivia which – with my goldfish memory – I’ve unfortunately now seemed to have mostly forgotten (eg, the Bajoran nose piece changed between TNG and DS9 due to practical make-up concerns – the eyebrow ridges in TNG kept coming unglued due to how frequently actors move their eyebrows in making facial expressions).

The backstage tour made the visit quite worthwhile for me in the end – if you go, don’t bother going unless you do the tour as well. However, I would still say that you’d have to be a Trekkie to really get your money’s worth.

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