"Star Trek - The [Very Expensive] Adventure" - Review

Star Trek - The Adventure was a touring exhibition of props, costumes, make-up and replica sets from the various Star Trek television series and films. I visited it at the end of December 2002, ten days after it opened at Hyde Park, London. This is what I found...

The exhibit is housed in a huge tent, near exit 7 from Marble Arch underground station. There is a wide selection of props and costumes on show, ranging from the original TV series to the (recently-released) film "Star Trek - Nemesis". To inspect all of the exhibits (including a queue for the shuttle ride) can take about two hours.

Personally, I found the overall presentation and organisation of the exhibits to be disappointing; many of the props are very tatty - they look far better on the screen than they do in real life! One of the first replica consoles I encountered, near the entrance, had a control panel missing; this exposed the plywood-and-paint construction, and completely destroyed the "24th Century Technology" illusion. Around a third of the props, and half the costumes, were unlabelled, or were only labelled with an "audio guide" index number. Several of the exhibit showcases were empty, and the most pointless exhibit was a display case containing a piece of fabric and an empty Tupperware box with a hand-written adhesive label saying "Jeri Ryan's Sandals". Since the show had already been open for ten days, I can't be charitable and attribute that to a last-minute opening-day oversight.

This lack of attention to detail extended to the information panels adorning the walls, many of which seem to have been recycled from earlier exhibitions; they were inconsistent about whether this was the Star Trek "Experience", "Exhibition", "Adventure" or "World Tour". Many of the panels bore a copyright date of 1998 and so didn't acknowledge the (Star Trek) "Enterprise/Archer" series at all. Elsewhere, panels were inconsistent about calling the Kirk-era series "The Classic Series" or "The Original Series", and the videoscreen above the "Bridge set" exit exhibit mistakenly claimed that "The Starship Enterprise is the centrepiece of all the Star Trek series". The fleet of four life-size shuttlecraft in the "Voyager shuttle ride" exhibit all bore the wrong ship registration number. And at least one attendant, although wearing a 22nd century (NX-01) uniform, also wore a pair of 20th century eyeglasses (a continuity error that we haven't seen since the bespectacled transporter operator in the original series pilot "the cage").

Don't misunderstand me - it was most interesting to see the props and costumes. But given the hype and the ticket price (see later), I expected more. I did enjoy the screens around the walls, showing 5-minute clips of 'behind the scenes' workers discussing set design, make-up, special effects, and Roddenberry's vision. The near-life-size replica sets were the best part of the exhibit for me; I enjoyed the walk-through "Enterprise NX-01 armaments bay" the most; there was also an Enterprise NCC-1701 (TOS) bridge set (to admire from afar), and on leaving the the exhibition, visitors walked through an Enterprise NCC-1701D set comprising engine room (with klaxons, smoke and flashing lights), an (oversized) turbolift (with "power failure" simulation), and the bridge (with "Borg attack" simulation). But even here, there was a lack of care; one of the two computer display screens in the NX-01 armaments bay wasn't working, and in the turbolift, while three of its direction panels showed the lift moving upwards, the fourth was out of sync and showed it moving sideways.

So, the overall impression I received of "Star Trek - The Adventure" is of a low-budget exhibition, much of which has been assembled by re-cycling a lot of material from previous exhibitions, and with a lack care and attention to detail.

But if the preparation and presentation is "cheap", the cost to the visitor is anything but! "Star Trek" is known within Paramount as "the franchise", and "Star Trek - The Adventure" really appears to be milking the franchise - and the fans - dry. We start with a very expensive ticket price - 15.50 per head for a weekday visitor, more at weekends. If you book in advance there's a 2 discount, which is completely cancelled by the 2 booking fee, so the only reason to book in advance is to avoid the (rather disorganised) queues at the on-site ticket office (a green portacabin which you reach before you get to the main tent). If you do choose to pay at the gate and want to use your credit card, there's a surcharge of 2.00 or more.

And once you've bought your ticket, the expense doesn't stop. The ticket gives you entrance to the tent, to the (queue for a) ride in the Voyager Shuttle Ride motion simulator, and to the lavatories. Everything else costs more money; the "souvenir" programme (10), coat-check (2 per item) and audio-guide hire (3) to learn about the (otherwise unlabelled) exhibits. The organisers show the commercial acumen of the Ferengi at giving you opportunities to spend money. [Is it a coincidence that the exhibition's website's tickets page shows you being greeted by a Ferengi? Although on the day all the staff were costumed as humans]. You can queue for a souvenir photo of yourself matted onto a transporter background (8.50), and another queue leads to a souvenir video of yourself reading an autocue, inserted into footage from the original series (22 for DVD, 20 for VHS). [According to the tickets and signs, cameras and video recorders are "strictly prohibited" although I did see several people taking flash photographs.] There's a cafeteria on site (tea or coffee 1.40, sandwich 2.90 or 3.60). The way out of the exhibition funnels you through ... a shop [resistance is futile!], where you can by a souvenir T-shirt (16), a tribble (20, but its fur is too short to be realistic, and its sound effect isn't very life-like either), a phase pistol (25), and a pack of three bottles of beer with Star-Trek labels (13).

So my conclusion is that "Star Trek - the Adventure" is an overly-expensive experience; this expense is (sadly) not reflected in the quality of its presentation. Both the exhibition "Star Trek - The Adventure" (15.50 plus extras) and the film "Star Trek - Nemesis" (4.80 at my local cinema) give you around two hours' of Trek-themed entertainment; the film is far better value for money.

No contest, Nemesis is far better value for money

Star Trek and some associated names TM and (C) Paramount Pictures.
The views expressed in this review are purely personal.

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Author: wgtwalker at wgtw.co.uk
Date Posted: January 2003