Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Going, Going... Boldly Gone

I was sad to hear that Star Trek: The Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton is closing on September 1st. Fortunately for me, I heard about the closing in time to plan a road trip to see the attraction one last time. I'm astonished to learn how many people -- SF Fans, even Trek fans -- had never been, or didn't even know it existed. On the other hand, I didn't know that there was a Trek CON at the Hilton each August, or I might have planned said Road Trip to include it.

In the end, though, heading for Vegas on a Tuesday two weeks before closing proved to be the ideal plan. We had the I-15, and the Experience, largely to ourselves. My companions on this adventure were my college pal Shadow (a game designer/recovering lawyer with one of those mimetic memories that comes in handy when playing Star Trek Trivia games) and my fellow TV writer Lisa Klink (whose years on Voyager make her the ideal companion for debating the sociological implications of replicator technology).

Colloquially known as "The Star Trek Experience" -- a subtle difference, I admit -- the attraction consists of two rides, the original motion-controlled Klingon Encounter that was installed in 1998 and the more recent Borg Invasion in 4-D. (The 4th Dimension apparently being "touch.") There is also a "museum" of props and a timeline of the Trek Universe, which were originally installed to entertain customers during an hour or so of standing in line for the rides. Now that a single ticket is 'ride all day' and the admissions don't cover the electricity costs, according to one employee, there's no line to speak of, but the museum portion is still fun to look at. It's not clear which of the props on display are real and which are replicas, but that doesn't take away from the fun of peering through a case at the "Stone Knives and Bearskins" vacuum-tube-and-tricorder array from City On The Edge of Forever, or at Jean Luc Picard's family scrapbook, fortunately spared from the fiery wreckage of the Enterprise D.

Shadow and I had each visited the attraction years earlier, but neither of us had seen the new Borg ride. Lisa, on the other hand, had written it, so she had her own reasons for indulging in a mid-week weekend to wish it farewell. I'll bet she got a kick out of watching our faces as SPOILER REDACTED and SPOILER REDACTED.

The food at Quark's Bar didn't live up to my memories from my first visit, but these days I don't eat Onion Rings (excuse me, Rings of Betazed) and HamBorgers (hee) as freely as I once did. Reading the silly punny menu was still fun, though. ("James Tea Kirk." Sounds refreshing!) Sadly, the shopping Promenade from DS9 was largely closed -- apparently, most of the merch had been bought out by the Convention two weeks earlier. No sign of the "I'm with Illogical" t-shirt I'd seen on the website. I was able to get the Phaser Water Pistol I wanted, though, so no complaints. It's actually pretty nicely made; it looks great on the shelf at home next to the Han Solo Water Blaster I've had for years. Finally, the Star Wars vs. Star Trek debate can be settled -- with water!

By now, I'd guess they're selling out down to the bare walls -- when Shadow and I came back through Vegas on Friday after continuing our road trip to take in a Shakespeare Festival in the next state over, there was a price tag of $4300 (SOLD) on the Borg Queen statue, and the sort-of-life-sized maquette of the Gorn that had stood outside Quark's on Tuesday had disappeared -- presumably sold as well. I say sort-of-life-sized in that I hope the real Gorn was taller than me. I'm sorry that I failed to get a picture of our little troupe with old greenhead before he got sold. After all, I seem to be responsible for the fact that my friend Darla's 19-month-old daughter knows that the cow says moo, the dog says woof, and the Gorn says RAAR. (Thanks to Kerry for the Beanie Baby Gorn, which I'm now told also came from the ST: Experience shops!)

When we were there, the curving wall behind the shops was completely covered with hand-written letters from people, expressing their sadness that The Experience is closing. Some were from people young enough to have grown up there. Many had traced their hands on the paper in the iconic Vulcan salute. A number of the letter-writers mourned a tradition of visiting yearly with friends. Those touched me particularly, because it's not The Experience, but the experience of visiting The Experience, that those people grieve. It's my favorite aspect of Conventions, the constant reunion with other con-goers, birds of a feather forming lasting attachments for which the event is the excuse, not the reason. It's the same dynamic whether it's Trekkies at The Experience, Dead Heads on the road, Xena Fans coming to Los Angeles en masse this past January to join the WGA picket lines, or James Joyce Scholars spending Bloomsday in Dublin.

Vegas isn't that far from LA. Hotels there are cheap. I find myself wishing we'd taken advantage of The Experience while it stood, had planned yearly rendezvouses there with friends from near and far. I'm glad we at least got there for this farewell visit. Too often, "Hey, we should..." turns into "I wish we had..." It's always nice to actually find the time and motivation and come back saying "I'm glad we did." When it comes to road trip adventures with friends, I don't think I've ever come back saying I wished I hadn't.


M. C. Valada said...

Len and I hit ST:TE when we went to my friend Corson's wedding four years ago. I would never go back on the Borg ride because of your spoiler redactions, I'm sure. Creeped me right out. It sounds like you and your little party of adventurers had a swell time, and we would have enjoyed the frolic and diversion with you if we hadn't planned our trip north six months ago.

JOHN MOSBY said...

Kerry and I headed up that way near Christmas 2001 and somewhere I still have one of my two highly-embarassing video Trek performances on tape (one from Florida and the other from the Hyde Park Experience).

I believe the Gorn guards them as they are too monstrous ever to be seen again by human eyes.

Glad you had a great time.

Noah Brand said...

Gillian, I know what you mean about the con experience. When I was a skinny teenager, I took a bus halfway across the country to Denver for the first Highlander con, the Gathering.

I saw you briefly there, actually, and at later Highlander cons, until I left the series after Richie died (I make no apologies for my favorite characters, dammit) and drifted to other fandoms.

Hell, you might remember me. Tall, pale, freckled, still quite thin back then, one of the few males in that Adrian-Paul-crazed crowd. Brown-red hair in a ponytail, for which I do apologize now. Government-surplus trenchcoat with a sword peacebonded under the left lapel. There were often girls flirting with me, telling me how much they liked my fanfic on the mailing list and so on. Mind you, I realize NOW they were flirting with me. At the time, well... nothing's more oblivious than an 18-year-old male geek.

Yeah, that kind of con experience. Still vivid after all these years.