Monday, January 21, 2008

Where No One Has Gone Before . . .

As I’ve reported elsewhere on this blog, I’ve been a “Star Trek” (ST) fan since it first aired in 1966. I’ve seen every movie—some several times—and almost every episode of all five TV shows. Cartoon cels and photos (some signed) of ST actors hang on my office wall, plus I own copies of most of the hardback novels inspired by the series.

Tim, on the other hand, can’t tell a Klingon from a Vulcan. Still, after accompanying me on many “Star Trek” adventures over the years, even he has developed a reluctant fondness for some of the characters and plot lines. No surprise then that he agreed to go with me to “Star Trek: The Tour,” a traveling exhibit of ST memorabilia and sets being displayed in Long Beach for one month only. We were, of course, among the first people on line opening day.

Although I was excited to go, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought there would be showcases filled with phaser pistols and costumes, as usual, but this ended up being much, much more. Walking into the dome that used to house Howard Hughes’s Spruce Goose, we were greeted by a good-sized replica of the starship Enterprise from the original (i.e., “classic”) series. Just beyond the ticket-takers was the actual Guardian of Forever, the oval-shaped time-portal from my all-time favorite classic Trek episode “City on the Edge of Forever,” written by science fiction author Harlan Ellison. I almost started to cry, but was stunned into silence by the sight of the original Enterprise bridge just a few feet away. I could have easily turned around and gone home happy right then, but, no, there was so much more to see and do!

Hidden down a hallway and around the corner was Captain Jean Luc Picard’s quarters from “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” complete with a wedding picture of crewmates Deanna Troi and Will Riker. Tim then called me over.

“Look, Babe, Jean Luc’s flute!” he pointed out, remembering how much I love “The Inner Light,” the episode where Picard learns to play the flute.

1/21/08No time for getting dewy-eyed, though, as a line of people were already queuing up to be “transported” (i.e., beamed up) via the Enterprise’s famous teleporter. I got on line while Tim waited to film the video of me being beamed. (Either I’m in serious need of a diet or the old adage that video adds ten—or is it twenty?—pounds is certainly true—yikes!)

After spending an hour looking at the multitude of exhibits—everything from the mythological Sword of Kahless to the innards of the android character Data—we finally made our way to the back of the hall. There we discovered yet more people standing on line to ride in a couple of automated escape pods. Wanting to get our money’s worth, too, we joined the crowd.

I was too busy eavesdropping on the couple behind us (film students who were planning to shoot a short “Star Wars” parody using Barbie dolls) to really pay much attention to the ride. Then suddenly, after waiting for 45 minutes, I started to scrutinize the escape pods more closely. Not only did they bounce around, but they flipped end-over-end and upside-down. I could hear people screaming from inside—not at all my kind of ride!

My palms started to sweat as I fully realized what I had gotten myself into. At our turn, we deposited all loose items, including my purse and sweater, in a small bin and then proceeded to walk up three steps. The machine operator strapped us in and pointed to a button to push if we got too scared. He then lowered the hood, admonishing us to “Get those Borg!” (the worst of all Star Trek villains).

A large screen in front of us came to life as Lt. Worf began narrating the action. Soon we were lurching to the left and right as our pod deflected Borg torpedoes. Then, without warning, we flipped all the way around to the right. I screamed as something went flying toward my head.

“MY HAT!’ Tim yelled. He had forgotten to take off his baseball cap, which lodged itself behind the screen after missing my face. It eventually freed itself as we flipped 360 degrees backwards. Tim laughed as I held on for dear life.

Needless to say, we survived both the Borg and the pod ride. We next had our picture taken on the bridge of the newer Enterprise commandeered by Captain Picard and then decided it was time to head back to Earth.

I called Karen as soon as we got home. She agreed to go with me so I could experience it all over again before the tour leaves in February.

As they say on TV, to be continued . . .

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