Friday, July 18, 2008

The End of an Era: Star Trek: The Experience Beams Out

A little over ten years ago, a new attraction opened at the Las Vegas Hilton that became the destination of choice for Star Trek and science fiction fans visiting Las Vegas, Star Trek: The Experience. But now, the owners of the attraction (Cedar Faire, who acquired it when Viacom split itself up) and the Las Vegas Hilton have not been able to come to terms to extend the lease for the exhibit and it will be closing down on September 1st. What it will be replaced with is unknown, but it will likely not be anything similar. The Hilton will likely create something entirely new to take advantage of the monorail stop that will generate more income for them than they got by leasing the space The Experience was in.

The Experience was launched during the latter part of the run of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the attraction relied heavily on the look of that incarnation of Star Trek for the d├ęcor and atmosphere as well as the names for Quark’s Bar, Moogie’s Trading Post, and Garak’s Clothiers. The main attraction was the Klingon Encounter that took fans into the future and onto the bridge of the Enterprise D where you learned that one of that one of your group was a ancestor of Captain Picard and that you needed to be returned to your own time with help from Geordie and Commander Riker. The ride ended with a simulator ride that featured your shuttle being chased down the Las Vegas strip by Klingons. In later years, the ending video sequence became very dated as most of the casinos seen in the sequence were long gone or remodeled and jokes were made that your group had been returned several years early. On your way to the ride, you got to take a look at the History of the Future, featuring many props and costumes from the entire history of Star Trek, which was periodically updated with information and props from the newer versions of Star Trek on TV and in the movies. In 2004, the Borg Invasion 4D was added, which made use of newer high definition video technology to provide an updated ride tied into Star Trek: Voyager. It featured Admiral Janeway, the Emergency Medical Hologram, and The Borg Queen in an adventure on a space station being overrun by The Borg. The ride was an example of what can be done with newer technology, but the simulator part was a bit tame.

The attraction has been a very popular location for weddings and other events, with many couples taking their vows on the bridge of the Enterprise D over the years. Additions of a behind the scenes tour and photo opportunities on the bridge set were also popular with fans. But what kept fans coming back even if they didn't go on the rides was the Star Trek atmosphere of The Experience. The Quark's Bar menu features themed dishes (my favorite is the Holy Rings of Betazed for the Onion Rings) and the Warp Core Breach was always a popular drink. The ambassadors (waiters) and the roving aliens (Ferengis, Klingons, and Borgs) were always fun to talk to and usually did not break out of character and some fans more than likely tested their patience at times. The Hilton has also become the site of the annual big Star Trek convention run by Creation and the Experience has always been a focal point of the convention. With the attraction gone, it is unclear if Creation will continue having the events at the Hilton. This year's convention happening August 6-10 will definitely be a bitter-sweet one for the fans who have considered The Experience part of their annual convention experience.

Over the years, I've made many visits and had many dinners at Quarks. Sometimes it was a quick stop while I was in town for the Consumer Electronics Show and other times it was with friends as part of a group trek. The United Federation of Phoenix has made several trips as a group to the Experience which always have been fun outings and they are organizing one last trip the weekend of August 1-3.

I was in Las Vegas for the Westercon 61 convention over July 4th weekend and made sure I went back there for a final dinner at Quark's and spent some latinum for a few trinkets to remember it by. Saturday night was still pretty busy and they also had a couple of weddings going on, so it was pretty much business as usual. It did appear that a lot of the people there had heard about the closure and the employees were acknowledging it but they were still fairly low-key about it. The waiters and gift shop employees should be able to find similar jobs without too much trouble, I'd think, but I'm not sure what having "Ferengi host at Quark's", "Klingon Ambassador", or "Enterprise-D pilot" on their resumes will do to help them find a similar job.

It was hoped that with the advent of the new Star Trek movie coming in May 2010 The Experience would be kept going for another year, but in the end it was decided to shut it down. Hopefully something new will be created somewhere that can give fans old and new a place to go to experience the Star Trek universe in person. I've enjoyed my trips there over the years and will remember Star Trek: The Experience fondly.

PS. They do now have a Star Trek video slot game, sitting right outside of the Experience....


Zanet Design Ltd said...

Have you seen the new poster shots?
Amazing shots and love the uniforms and colours
The Swinging sixties are back
Seems to be catering to the core Trek fans or back to the Classic Trekkies
We have an article on the original episodes on our retro site.

Any fans want to leave there memories on the the original episodes would love to hear from you.

Anonymous said...

STTExperience is coming back to Vegas, in some shopping mall development. You didn't think they could beat the trekkies down did you?