Star Trek: The Adventure – Review

“To Seek Out New Lifeforms And New Civilizations”

Star Trek: The Adventure opened on the 18th December 2002 to coincide with the release of the last Next Generation era film, Nemesis. An interactive temporary exhibit constructed and situated in London’s Hyde Park over the festive period and running for over six months into the following Spring, the exhibition was modelled on the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas and was a showcase of interactive exhibits, props and sets from the various series and iterations of the series to date and of course a wealth of merchandise to buy. I was employed for this event for the entirety of its run working in the exhibits merchandise section, a cornucopia of books, DVDs and video games, and worked with a large assemble crew providing an experience to bring to the UK of Gene Roddenberry’s positive and optimistic vision of the future. The Adventure was an interactive experience in its entirety, from the green screen photography, the bridge sets and live action adventures to the recreation of some of the series best known locations, as with its American counterpart, a pioneer in this form of experience event, perhaps both ahead of its time and a product of its time.

Advertised as the largest exhibit in Hyde Park since the Great Exhibition in 1851, The Adventure begun with your arrival to Earth base Op’s and a chance to relive some of series greatest moments to date. It was a perfectly crafted nostalgic moment to remind you of the trials and tribulations of Starfleet’s finest and set the tone for the experience ahead. After which you were provided with the opportunity to see props and vehicles from Nemesis including the Scorpion class attack shuttle used by Picard and Data during the valiant escape sequence from the scimitar. From there the exhibit opened up and became a largely open planned space to walk around at your leisure and explore, from the simulator rides to the recreation of Quarks bar and restaurant serving a variety of foods. A variety of uniforms were on show from the classic era films in addition to the more recent releases as well as props and sets from the recent series Enterprise, notably the torpedo launch room. When you were ready, your tour continued through a recreation of the Enterprise D’s engine room, turbolift and bridge to experience a Borg attack with live action tour guides assisting you during the experience before its conclusion leaving in the exhibits merchandise areas.

Working in the exhibition was a fascinating and unique experience, I was young and this was my first role working in the capital and in such a memorable and distinct location. Arriving for work you would show your unique ID cards with the graphic and logo applicable to your role, working merchandise of course meant having a Ferengi stickered pass which for a Star Trek fan was such a cool touch. Walking behind the scenes through the vast tented structure with the sounds of the music and series echoing around you built up the intensity of the moment before emerging through our particular access door into the exhibits visual merchandise area. We were selling a variety of the series across both VHS cassettes and an emerging technology called DVDs in their infancy, the earliest sets an expensive indulgence for the dedicated fans. In addition, in collaboration with the exhibition, a new online aspect had been launched specifically to coincide with the Nemesis release, a series of four access keys that would inputted would provide full access to an exclusive Nemesis website. This form of interaction was very much in its infancy, indeed it felt like working at a cornerstone moment of history in this particular area with online, physical media and gaming all together to purchase and buy in one area.

Star Trek has long been a bonding experience I’ve shared with my father, a universal constant we’ve enjoyed over the years and decades from my earliest moments in my formative years watching the Enterprise appear on a small black and white screen in my parents loft to visiting the local cinema wherever we lived at the time to watch the latest iteration of the movie franchise with him. To date, it has continued with the shows latest iteration through streaming and media services with the release of Discovery and Picard in the coming month. Who else and better to visit The Adventure with than my dad, and so in Christmas 2002 as a celebration of exam success and a birthday gift to me, we visited the attraction, adorned in an appropriate red shirt to partake in the exhibit before my working days begun in earnest. It was the only time I visited the Transporter Set feature, a green screen and physical effect area that juxtaposed your image and likeness into an Original Series and Next Generation era setting, certainly not original but it was certainly a great moment to enjoy together as two generations of Star Trek fans enjoying a common moment of bonding over this science fiction series. I always wish we could have visited The Experience in Las Vegas before its closure in 2008, but for what it was, The Adventure in London served us admirably as two generations of fans.

The Adventure was one of the earliest large exhibitions of Star Trek props and sets outside of the United States and certainly felt authentic in its depiction and presentation. The various large flags hanging from the ceiling with the logos and chevrons of the Federation and various empires and factions added a degree of legitimacy to the exhibit. The props were amazing to see so close both in their detail and quality, the Borg exhibit for instance and the detailed prop drone head was an amazing feat of craftsmanship and design from the eighth feature, First Contact. It served the various eras and periods with due respect and courtesy, each given an opportunity to showcase their legacy from the original series bridge set to the Next Generation movie props, the vast reconstruction of Quarks Bar to the Enterprise torpedo room, whatever your personal predication there was enough to satiate your desires and enjoyment of the experience. The exhibit staff wore the blue boiler suits of the Enterprise series which provided consistency with the time the exhibition was held, in contrast to its American counterpart who were made up to look like the various species, it felt scaled down in retrospect but certainly you never felt diminished in quality or value.

It catered for both enthusiast, fan and family visiting the attraction through curiosity. As someone who has grown up with Star Trek and written in detail on its impact, being fortunate to see the uniforms and props outside of the US was a real treat and personally created far more of a connection being there in person. The sets and aesthetics of the exhibit were a welcome touch, the flags of Bajor, Starfleet and the Klingons all faithful reproductions of their in series appearance. For the adventurist, the Voyager shuttle simulator was fun to go on and admittedly given audience in attendance you never had to wait for to long to experience it. The food and catering was perhaps a little basic though certainly competent but the highlight was the Enterprise live action experience, being able to walk through a recreation of the iconic engine room sets from the Galaxy class ship before riding the turbolift and emerging onto the bridge, entirely encapsulated, it certainly elicited that moment of awe when Wesley steps onto the set in the pilot episode of the series. As staff, we were fortunate in our free time to be able to tour the exhibit and in the quieter days, you almost had the bridge and experience to yourself which afforded a chance for photography of this memorable experience.

Today, there are no permanent attractions or exhibits to Star Trek, certainly not in the public domain and as such for a series that has endured and continues to resonate with its message and idealised portrayal of the future, that is a real shame with film sets and costumes consigned to history. Where the legacy of its peers, Star Wars and Harry Potter amongst them with permanent visitor attractions, is an established and viable enterprise, Star Trek is best remembered and celebrated through events such as Destination Star Trek or commemorative celebrations. I would long to see a more permanent exhibition opened, it has earned the right after remaining in the public conscious for over 50 years, having a substantial impact of generations of fans to have something to call its own, with the demise of The Experience and events such as The Adventure only a temporary fix at best, it seems that vision and hope is short lived. But the enduring message of the franchise has been one of positivity and optimism, of a future of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, in the modern age we live in today celebrating diversity which needn’t be the poisoned word some make it, a message as relevant now as it ever was. With the success of Discovery, Picard and perhaps a fourth feature film from the relaunched franchise, the viability and success of Star Trek seems as assured and strong now than it was at the beginning of the 21st century with the cancellation of Enterprise.

Star Trek The Adventure was a unique and distinctive celebration of this franchise unlike anything that had been seen in the UK previously, certainly in contrast to its American counterpart a shadow of that great exhibit but a strong presence in its own right. With a great cast of characters to work with, it was a memorable first job amongst the bright lights of London to be involved in and as a fan of the series, getting up every day to be surrounded by the world of the 24th century and beyond felt like a dream vocation. With it’s closure, these large grand scale celebrations of fictional media seemed to be consigned to history but in recent years with the emergence and growth of the convention scene in the UK and permanent attractions such as Harry Potter word in Watford, there is an appetite for events such as this to launch as an occasion to a waiting and willing audience. You can imagine with the plethora of sets, props and costumes, any visitor in the present day would long to fill their social media accounts with those precious selfies and photos from their time here, in the infancy of digital photography and reliable high speed internet connections, there does seem to be less said and shared about this particular exhibit. I hope it has been of interest and you have gained an insight into this particular attraction, it was a pleasure to work at with some great people and whether something similar returns or not, the future is only just beginning.

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