Whether you prefer kick-butt Kirk or philosophical Picard in the captain’s chair of the Enterprise, there was something for every Federation fan at the Arizona Science Center’s Star Trek exhibit.
A new film is hoping to give a boost to the venerable science-fiction franchise next year, so what better time to explore its extensive roots?
“Star Trek: The Exhibition,” a 12,500-square-foot collection of sets, costumes and props from all five TV series and 10 films over the last 40 years, opens today at the interactive museum in downtown Phoenix. While teeming with displays of phaser pistols, elaborate costumes and trivia games, the exhibit is still firmly rooted in science: It’s full of reminders of how products of the imagination, like the Enterprise crew’s classic flip-top communicators, have been realized by modern technology like cellular phones. And it’s also home to several re-created sets from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Trekkers from the United Federation of Phoenix, a Valleywide fan club formed in 1975, were invited to check out the exhibit before its opening, and they eagerly posed for group photos on the bridge of the USS Enterprise-D, where visitors can sit in the captain’s chair and try out the navigation or tactical stations. A large forward screen displays a vista or stars streaking by as the “ship” travels at warp speed.
“I’m very impressed with that bridge,” said Mesa resident Toni Moore. She’s the club’s former “first officer,” and the original series is her favorite. There is no classic Enterprise bridge, but there is Captain Kirk’s command chair, which was off limits for sitting.
Another re-created set is the Enterprise-D engine room, where a warp drive pulses with light and sound. “These sets are in many ways more real than the real thing,” said Michael Okuda, who for years was graphic art supervisor for The Next Generation and its spinoffs. It’s true: On the set of TNG, you would be surrounded by lights, boom mikes and film crew. Here, the effect is complete — unless you look up while on the bridge. Then the illusion is shattered as you take in the science center’s industrial ceiling where a star-filled dome should be. Blame that on the fire code. Also, attempt to pry open the turbolift doors, as a pair of fans did, and you’ll see a broom closet.
Okuda and his wife, Denise, a Los Angeles set designer and consultant for Star Trek, are now producers at CBS for the visual effects on the remastered version of the original series, which ran from 1966-69. Denise Okuda said she is proud of how the saga has served as a learning tool and a springboard for the “next ‘Next Generation’ ” of real explorers.
Indeed, former fan club president David Williams, a professor at ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration in Tempe, said the original series inspired him to pursue a career in science.
The Star Trek exhibit opens with a display of models tracing the Enterprise’s lineage from a naval vessel to the Federation flagship of the 24th century. The silver miniatures seem to be right out of the conference rooms of the fictional starship itself.
For those who find the Byzantine relationships between five TV series and 10 films daunting, another whole wall at the end of the exhibit is devoted to a timeline of the Star Trek universe.
It’s only logical.
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