‘Ottawa’ Beam me up: Star Trek Exhibit Materializes in Ottawa
When you’re sitting in the captain’s chair on the bridge of a Starfleet ship, it’s hard not say the words, “Make it so” out loud.
I know just how hard it is, because within seconds of sitting in the oversized chair I had to say those words. There’s something very natural about it, especially for someone who grew up watching Star Trek on TV.
You might prefer the word “Engage”. I disagree. Let’s move on.
Fans of Star Trek in Ottawa are about to get the opportunity to be fully immersed in the science fiction world of the famous TV franchise thanks to a new exhibit that opens Friday at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.
The exhibit — Star Trek: The Starfleet Academy Experience — lets visitors shoot phasers, transport to a faraway world, use Tricorders to diagnose the medical condition of two Klingon patients, and even try their hand at the Kobayashi Maru, the impossible-to-pass Starfleet test.
The exhibit, set in a 10,000-square-foot space in a warehouse adjacent to the actual museum, is the passion project of Erin Gregory, the assistant curator at the museum. Gregory is a long-term Star Trek fan who has fond memories of watching the show after school with her father.
When the museum wanted to do something to celebrate this year’s 50th anniversary of Star Trek, she jumped at the opportunity.
Gregory said the museum was initially thinking small. But, after getting involved with interactive exhibit company EMS Entertainment, the idea ballooned to be a major “experience” piece that aims to give visitors the feeling of training at the Starfleet Academy, where all Starfleet cadets are trained.
Over the past few months the exhibit took shape, with Gregory and her staff on point to help shape the project into something that could be shipped all over the world.
“Our idea was much smaller than an internationally travelling blockbuster exhibit,” said Gregory. “But, this has been really fun.”
The fact that Gregory and her team had “fun” with the exhibit shows.
A holographic recording of a Vulcan, the race with the big ears and no feelings, stands with a welcome message at the exhibit’s entrance. Visitors see the Sick Bay medical centre, Engineering, and the Transporter room, and can even test their marksmanship with a Star Trek phaser.
There is lots to see, but more importantly, lots to touch and interact with. You can tell that those behind the exhibit were the most ardent of Trekkies.
Memorabilia, including uniforms, costumes and even a prop head for android B-4, which was a prototype for Cmdr. Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation, are scattered about for fans to gawk at. There are even tests and quizzes to take, which are catalogued as you work your way through the exhibit and give each visitor feedback at the end about which Starfleet job they’d best be suited for. Please remember: we can’t all be captains.
The starship bridge at the end of the exhibit is what stands out as the highlight of all. It’s not a perfect replica from the Starship Enterprise, but it’s undeniably Star Trek.
From the communications computer display to the tactical input station, around to the First Officer’s chair and even the oversized Captain’s chair, it’s what we’ve all seen on TV. In a few short steps, you’ve stepped onto a Star Trek set, complete with touch screens at each of the stations where you can try your hand at the Kobayashi Maru. An animated image on the main monitor shows the ship hurtling through space, while themed Star Trek music plays in the background.
That chance to sit in the captain’s chair and issue orders to an imaginary crew, like James T. Kirk, Jean-Luc Picard or Kathryn Janeway, is a very cool thing for any Star Trek fan. It’s that experience, right at the end of the tour, that ultimately makes the museum’s exhibit truly worthwhile for Star Trek fans.
Star Trek: The Starfleet Academy Experience will be at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum from May 13 to Sept. 5. Tickets can be bought at the museum or online at the museum’s website.