Monday, September 15, 2008

To Boldly Go No More

The home page of Star Trek: The Experience's web site (, which has already been taken down.

One of many things we did over the Labor Day weekend was trying to squeeze in one last visit to the “Star Trek: The Experience (STE) attraction at the Las Vegas Hilton. George’s brother was also in town visiting us over the long Labor Day weekend, so us three space cadets ventured out to encounter some Klingons and being invaded by the Borg.

“Star Trek: The Experience” (STE) is closed now. It’s last day was on September 1st, after a 11-year mission to explore a strange new world, called Planet Vegas. Then reality and greed of corporate America has put a screeching halt to the exploration of the final frontiers of space. Due to some disputes of the leasing agreements of the attraction between Paramount Pictures, Cedar Fair Entertainment Company and the Las Vegas Hilton, it was decided to cease operations altogether. All the outcry and pleas of thousands of Star Trek fans to reconsider and keeping this mecca for Trekkies open, went unheard. The attraction also had seen better days and it’s visitor numbers plummeted over the last few years, which also helped to set all phasers on stun.

Although I like “Star Trek,” I’m certainly not a Trekkie. Neither is George and his brother. I do not know the registry numbers of the various Star Fleet vessels or each and every single alien species ever introduced in the Star Trek universe. However, I did enjoy STE, the Deep Space Nine Promenade with it’s stores, Quark’s Restaurant and all the actors who got into character as Klingons, Ferengis or Andorians.

This is me with an Andorian.

A model of the U.S.S. Voyager hovers above the dining guests of Quark's Restaurant & Bar.

The ultimate reason for STE’s existence were it’s two rides. The older one was a flight simulator type ride, called the “Klingon Encounter.” The other, more recently added ride was “Borg Invasion,” a so-called 4-D attraction.

Before boarding either one of the rides, guest would walk through an expansive exhibit of original Star Trek costumes, props and artifacts which were used in all the four television series and the ten motion pictures. People could also pass the time by reading very extensive historical time lines of Star Fleet, their starships and missions and their encounters of intergalactic species and other worldly places. It’s always been quiet interesting and fun. The massive models of two versions of the U.S.S. Enterpise, Voyager and a Klingon Bird of Prey, all suspended from a massive black, starlit space ceiling, were quite impressive.

One of two giant models of the starship Enterprise.
This one is Enterprise-D from "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

While people were waiting in line for the rides, they could look at hundreds of Star Trek artifacts being displayed in a impressive exhibition.

Since this would be the last weekend of operation, STE was drawing a huge attendance. People from literally the whole world were coming to help sent off STE on it’s last few missions. Some people were dressed up as Star Fleet Officers, Borg and other curious characters. And there was a long waiting line to get on these two rides. Even though we got there early in the day, we still had to wait over an hour for the more popular Klingon Encounter ride.

We’ve never been on the “Borg Invasion 4-D” attraction before and the line for it wasn’t as long. And now we know why. This ride was just lame. The pre-show was more exciting, with real-live actors playing the Borg as they are trying to “assimilate” the Star Fleet crew and the guests who just happen to be right in the middle of a Borg attack. The 3-D film was surprisingly unimpressive and the simulator itself barely noticeable. In the end I couldn’t believe that millions of dollars were invested into such a boring ride. It was utterly disappointing.

On the other hand, the original ride called “Klingon Encounter,” was still a lot of fun. The waiting line for this one was way over one hour long. Once it was finally our turn, we and a small group of other guests were “beamed” aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise-D and after being led through some corridors, ended up on the all too familiar and “fully functioning” bridge of the Enterprise. This still being part of the pre-show, we then ended up on the actual ride which was essentially a flight simulator, environed by a giant movie screen.

This was taken from the STE web site before it was decommissioned.
The bridge of Enterprise-D, part of the "Klingon Encounter" attraction.

The story line for this ride goes like this. We were accidently “beamed” through time and space to the 24th century and ended up on the Enterprise. One person in our group of riders is a descendant of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the Klingons are attacking to kill that one descendant. So we are put on a runabout shuttle to be “time-warped” back into the past and hopefully safety. Of course, the Klingons are after us, attacking and shooting at us and we all end up in present-day Las Vegas. Which, by the looks of the film, is still sometime in the mid 1990’s. When our vessel flies over the nightly Las Vegas “Strip,” one can still see the long-gone Sands Hotel & Casino (now the Venetian), the Holiday Casino (now Harrah’s) and the old neon marquee of Caesars Place, promoting the Moody Blues, where now the ever popular Forum Shops mall stands. Hilarious!

Anyway, we all somehow make it back to the Las Vegas Hilton safe and sound. Good thing too because now we can continue to feed the slot machines or whatever else visitors do when visiting Las Vegas these days. After our brief intergalactic stunt, George, his brother and I decided to head on over the Planet Hollywood Casino, formerly the Aladdin, to enjoy a nice dinner at their Planet Dailies coffee shop.

Thomas' new girl friend, a Klingon beauty. K'plah!

It’s kind of sad to see “Star Trek: The Experience” close down. But I guess, that’s the sign of the times. The Disneyfication of a highly themed Las Vegas had it’s heydays in the 1990s and nowadays Las Vegas re-inventing itself again as an adult Disneyland. And the nerd factor of Star Trek doesn’t fit the bill of Las Vegas’ new vision of trendy clubs, sophisticated restaurants and high-end shopping.

Oh well, live long and prosper. Just not in this century.

And most definitely not on this planet...called Vegas.

Both photos above show the Space Quest Casino inside the Las Vegas Hilton, which leads into the "Star Trek: The Experience" attraction.

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