I had to go. The Geek Girl in me was tugging at my arm and pulling me to Long Beach where Star Trek The Tour was happening. I had seen the billboard of the Enterprise flying high over Sepulveda Blvd. I had visited the website. I was intrigued.
I had never been to Long Beach even though I had driven up and down the 405 many times. If I was driving south on the 405, Long Beach meant that I was almost out of LA County and hopefully traffic would be better in the OC. If I was driving north, Long Beach meant I was almost home and soon I would see the sparkly lights of Carson.
Let me correct the last paragraph. I did get off the freeway in Long Beach once before. It was for Lebowski Fest back in the day. That was fun, that Lebowski Fest. When the Coen Brothers make the Sunshine Jen movie (working title: No Country for Old Jen), I am so going to Sunshine Fest. I have T-shirt ideas by the way.
But getting back to Star Trek. Yes, I like Star Trek, but I have not seen every single episode of every single show. I’ve been to conventions, but I didn’t dress up in costumes. Unlike my Star Wars passion, I tend to view Star Trek with a bit of detachment. Besides, in the Star Trek universe, if you’re not the Captain, you’re really a nobody. I ask you, what about the colonists on the frontier world that got assimilated by the Borg? What is their story? What about the guys who have to clean the shuttle bay?
Onto Long Beach went I. Down to the end of the 710 with trucks heading toward the port of Long Beach. On the west coast, freeways have a habit of just ending at the ocean. In a dome next to the Queen Mary (now a hotel) was Star Trek: The Tour. I paid for parking (fifteen bucks, ouch!) and got on line behind two women in baseball jerseys with Klingon written across the front. They were portly women, and they seemed so damn excited that they were bopping up and down.
‘If we were in the Star Trek universe, we’d be able to teleport in.’ One of them said.
‘If we were in the Star Trek universe, we wouldn’t have to pay.’ I said remembering an episode where Picard talks about how they don’t seek to make money. They only seek to better themselves. Uh-huh. Thirty-five bucks please. Then I remembered the first Ferengi rule of acquisition: Once you have their money, never give it back.
Inside the dome, the various themes from Star Trek played on the loud speaker, a guy in a flight suit handed me a plastic card for my pictures, and I looked up and saw a model of the original Enterprise turning above my head. Whoahhh. That’s really cool. Okay, I was starting to feel the Star Trek magic.
I started wandering around. There were costumes, props, more costumes, and some set pieces. They had made a Star Trek Next Generation Captain’s Quarters set which looked like it had been purchased at Ikea. When I pointed this out to the guys around me, they nodded and went ‘yeah you’re right’. I got to stand on a transporter platform, but somehow I wasn’t transported by the experience. I always thought one would get a really funky feeling from being transported. I think it was all in the sound effect.
They had a shuttle simulator where one could ride around outer space inside a shuttle. As we all huddled in, we got some Star Trek babble telling us we had to transport an information cube with the Borg defense systems to a moon base, blah, blah, blah. Nothing in the Star Trek universe happens without a lot of techno babble. Can’t we all just be? Some of us don’t need a mission to get a thrill out of a fake shuttle ride complete with Borg cubes shooting at us. Ahhh! Watch out for the moon canyon! Live the moment. Maybe I’m too zen for Star Trek.
As I stumbled back into the exhibition, I heard the inspirational score and noticed that they were projecting quotes and catch phrases up onto the wall. I wrote some of them down:
As you’re alive, there’s hope --- Captain Janeway.
If we’re gonna be damned, let’s be damned for what we really are. ---Commander Riker.
Make it so. --- Captain Picard.
Are these supposed to be inspirational? Or maybe secret messages to fans? We know you’re dorks but it’s who you really are and that’s hopeful. Or have I entered some futuristic fascist society which drugs its citizens with mind control pills? Oh wait, that’s Blakes 7. Wrong show.
My favorite parts of the tour were the two Enterprise bridges they had set up. They had both the original Trek and the Next Gen bridges, and you could go onto the sets and get your picture taken with or without your imaginary friends (aka Star Trek characters). Said picture will then be put on a plastic card and you can buy a print when you leave.
First, I went on the Next Generation bridge with its carpets and mellow yellow and gold colors. There was so much space in front of the helm that one could conduct a yoga class (without the scented candles) on the bridge. I sat in the Captain’s chair, pulled my legs up beside me like a cat, and purred as the picture snapped.
The original Star Trek bridge was gun metal grey with switches and flashing lights. In order to get to the Captain’s chair, you have to step down and step up. In his day, Captain Kirk must’ve been a sprightly fellow. When I sat in his chair, I felt kind of funky. Maybe it was some residue Shatner vibe. When the camera snapped, I raised my arms and legs in a cheer. I was very in the moment and got applause from the other fans waiting on line. Anybody can pretend to be the Star Trek crew, but only the few and the proud can pretend to be the stoned Star Trek crew.
The last part of Star Trek The Tour was the Video Encounter. The Star Trek tourists were led into a circular room and stood on platforms around the sides. In the center of the room was a circular thing filled with gizmos.
When the Video Encounter started, Engineer Wesley Crusher (played by Wil Wheaton, God Bless you, Wil Wheaton, you will have acting work forever) with facial hair gave us some Star Trek techno babble about a mission we were on. Great, more missions. Obviously, Wesley never went to the Wednesday night yoga class on the bridge of the Enterprise. Some flashing lights and some shifting platforms, but really, I was bored. Yes, take away my Geek girl street cred. I was bored. And! I was hungry. And! I was tired of hearing the Star Trek score over and over again.
I rushed out of the video encounter into the souvenir shop, but I was totally uninspired by the lame souvenirs which ranged from T-shirts to artwork selling for thousands. I snagged a granola bar at the overpriced Ten Forward snack bar, and the girl at the register encouraged me to take a second one for free because they were small.
I went out into the sunlight and smelled the sea and gas fumes. It was time to get back on the road and head in the direction of the final frontier. In my case, that was San Diego.
By the way, I googled and discovered that Wil Wheaton has a blog. Feel better soon, Wil.