Las Vegas, Part Six: Where No Man Has Gambled Before

16 Nov

from September 2, 2008

Star Trek: The Experience was a fantastic trip and if you plan to visit it yourself forget it. It closed yesterday. September 1st was the last day of operation and it closed its blast doors forever.

Located in the Gamma Quadrant of the Hilton Hotel, the Experience was inside the Hilton’s Sci Fi Casino. The designers had made this sector of space a near replica of Starbase 2240, but apparently they were looking at the wrong tech specs, as the anterior fluctuators were clearly of a design not in use until after the decommissioning of Starbase 2240 in the third season Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode Distant Voices. I sure hope someone was fired for such a stupid mistake.

The slot machines were all either Star trek or Star Wars themed, and even the waitresses wore strange doodads and antennae on their heads. I was appalled to see one waitress dressed as a Ferengi smile and make small talk with the Klingon bartender, as everyone knows these two races have been warring for years sine the B’eth Hadjar Incident of 2158.

Tickets went on sale at 11:30 and a short line had already formed at the entrance. Above our heads giant models of various Star Fleet ships and the Enterprise “fired” at and was “fired” upon from a ship across the casino. (There are pictures of some of this stuff on my page in case you think that I would, you know, lie, in my blogs.) Blocking the entrance were two guys in the best makeup and costumes I have seen in person. And I have seen Halloween in the Village.

The first was a blue-skinned Andorian, who had the thicker antennae seen in the classic episode Journey to Babel. The other was a Klingon, circa Star Trek III. Both stood impassively, arms folded, looking intimidating and just generally acting tough. They were also very accommodating for the cameras. Most Klingons would sneer at a human who would dare ask for a picture, but, obeying General Order 16, Visiting Aliens on Allied Homeworlds, he patiently posed with everyone on line.

The gates opened and we walked into a corridor that could have come straight out of actual sets of any of the Trek shows. Above us, in addition to the star ships, were giant monitors showing clips from various eras of the show, except for Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, for some reason. You want to be scared? Imagine Kate Mulgrew towering over your head welcoming you in her high-pitched squirrel voice. After converting my money to Federation credits, I paid the admission and found myself in a long, winding corridor displaying authentic Star Trek props, and let me tell you, some of them showed their age. Dr. Crusher’s lab coat from the Next Generation had faded from light-blue to almost grey under the spotlights. This display was actually designed to take your mind off the long wait you would have. The admission entitled you to two rides, Borg Invasion 4D and a Klingon attack. Just like at Great Adventure, at one time there were hundreds of people waiting for the ride, but on this day there were only a few dozen and there was plenty of space to take pictures and nearly no wait for the rides.

The Nomad probe was there, as well as Sarek’s robe and a 3D chess game, plus weapons, equipment, costumes, props, and models from every era of the show. On display was Captain Kirk’s alternate green uniform from The Trouble with Tribbles. It was surrounded in the display case by dozens of little furry Tribbles. Some of them looked strange. Tribbles are supposed to be round and hairy, but a few of them seemed to have……sideburns. A quick glance at the plaque on the display case cleared it up: I was looking at a collection of William Shatner’s wigs.

After paying my respects at the torpedo tube in which Spock’s body was shot into space at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, only to be resurrected on the Genesis Planet in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, we moved into the line for the rides. We went down a long corridor which was split down the middle by a short barrier. The right side was for the Klingon ride and the hallway was decorated with Klingon props and costumes. The left side was the Borg side. Along the Borg-side walls were glass cases containing Borg and the cool thing was that they moved and lights came on and scanned you. We went on the Borg ride first because there was no line.

It is not accurate to call these things rides. Before the ride there was a big performance piece. A woman in a Star Fleet uniform welcomed us and ushered us into a large chamber that, like everything on this ride, replicated a Star Trek ship corridor. We were thanked for taking part in the “experiment” and on the view screen came the holo-doctor from Voyager, who, through the magic of film editing, interacted with both us and our escort. However, in the middle of his speech, warning lights came on, red-alert blared, and the view screen switched to the “outside” view- we were under attack by the Borg.

More actors rushed in, carrying guns, and took us through the “ship” as panels exploded around us and Borg came at us from every corridor. After running through a maze and barely escaping getting captured we made it the ride, a shuttle which would take us to safety, as long as we wore the specially designed “anti-Borg visual devices.”

Yes, they were 3D glasses.

I have to say, the 3D was maybe the best I have ever seen, even better than the movie Jaws 3D, and yes, I am damming it with faint praise. But seriously, it was great. Our shuttle was taken into the Borg cube and ripped apart around us. Borg escorted us around and of course, 3D things flew in our face. Just before we were to be assimilated, Voyager burst into the cube and started blasting everything in sight, except us. The seats shook and even little blunt needles jabbed us through the cushions at various times. Voyager rescued us and took us back home, just in time for us to get on the line for the Klingon ride.

The line was short. The only reason there was a line at all was due to the fact that the Borg ride handled twice as many riders as the Klingon ride, so the Klingon ride was always behind. As we waited, the Klingon from out front came in and performed some of his Klingon standup. “What is funnier than a dead Ferengi? Two dead Ferengi! HAR HAR HAR!” You get it.

Soon it was time and a twerp in an ill-fitting jumpsuit took us to a small blank room. It was just like the standard waiting room before rides the world over. We were asked to line up in rows of four and stand in front of the numbered doors. We were given a spiel about safety, yadda yadda yadda, and how could we feel safe with Klingons roaming the station anyway? Then it all went wrong. Horribly, horribly, wrong.

The lights went out, all of them (except for the EXIT sign, thank you very much OSHA) and there was a blast of cool air. Strange lights sparkled and there was a hum and when the lights came back we were standing in the transporter of The Next Generation’s Enterprise.

The room we were in was much larger than the waiting room and I wasn’t fooled for an instant. My momma didn’t raise no Denebian slime worm, I knew we were in the same room. I looked all over and I had no idea where the walls went. There were no seams in either the ceiling or floor and I just couldn’t figure it out. It was all explained to us by the officer standing behind the console. Just before we were due to enter the ride back in the 21st century, the Enterprise located a Klingon temporal transporter beam and beamed us onboard right before the Klingons got us. She escorted us to the bridge.

It was the bridge of the Enterprise, just as it looks on tv. Commander Riker, who was on the engineering deck and thus had to communicate over the view screen, explained that the Klingons had a mad on for Captain Picard and wanted to erase him from the timeline. It turned out that one of us was a direct ancestor of Captain Picard. Coincidentally, that same thing happens about fifty times a day there. When will those Klingons learn?

Then- red alert! We were under Klingon attack! More actors rushed to a shuttle where we would get away to safety. It was never made clear why we’d be safer in a shuttle than in the Enterprise but do you think I was going to argue with Commander Riker?

Once on the shuttle we were in for one of the bounciest, loudest, coolest rides I’ve ever had as the shuttle engaged in combat in and around the Enterprise with about a gazillion Klingon ships trying to destroy us. They took over our comm systems and as we were buffeted around the known galaxy we were taunted by the Klingon captain. He chased us through a temporal rift and, dodging an irate BBC executive who claimed that temporal rifts are the sole province of Doctor Who, the battle continued above Las Vegas!

This is the part of the ride where I started to worry. As we zigged around the casinos and zagged around the Strip we flew above the Sands Hotel, featuring Siegfried and Roy. I was sure we had gone back too far in time. The Sands was demolished some years ago and Roy was mauled by a tiger.

The Enterprise came out of the rift and rescued us and set us back down where we started. In the battle, I distinctly recognized the famous Picard Maneuver, as described in episode 59, The Hunted. However, I never did find out if I was Picard’s direct ancestor or not.

A really nice touch came after the end of the ride. As we walked out there was a tv on the wall with a special report. UFOs were seen over Las Vegas! (Of course, that was us.) An interview with an Air force General informed us that we were all swamp gas.

Like all good amusement park rides, this one led us right into the gift shop and food court. The food court was designed like Quark’s bar on Deep Space Nine, and the shopping area looked like the promenade. This is where I met (and beat up) the Gorn from Arena and survived and encounter with the Salt Vampire from the Man Trap. (She was a lousy date.)

Since the attraction was due to close in a few days there was very little left to buy. They were just selling out their stock of merchandise and very little was left. All they had were mainly “Bort” name tags and photos of Neelix. So if you got a bad souvenir from the Star Trek Experience “it isn’t my fault!”, to quote Han Solo from the Empire Strikes Back and keep the sci-fi references going.

How far did The Hilton go to keep up the illusion? Even the BATHROOMS were sci-fi! All polished metal and blinking lights, strange tubes and neon, weird beeping sounds. It was like going to the bathroom in a UFO. Even as I peed I had the strangest feeling that I was going to be anally probed. Luckily, John Barrowman was nowhere around. Just kidding!

What more can I possibly have left to write about?
The Price is Right Live!
Penn and Teller
The IRS convention
and Postal Workers for Obama.

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