Monday, June 30, 2008

End of the Ride for The Experience

"Warning: Warp Core Breaches About To Go Offline. Order Yours Soon at Quark's Before They Are All Just History."

So now it's final. I've been watching this drama for over a year, ever since it hit our radar that the original 10-year contract for the Experience would be up in 2008—and especially after the post-"divorce" Paramount sold off its theme parks division to a private company, Cedar Fair. Would it have to go before JJ's movie debuted, or would that be a boost to keep it going? But numbers don't lie—or at least, the yen of the new is a powerful pull—and the Las Vegas Hilton in the end thinks it can put that 65,000 square feet to better use.

But what's almost more jarring is that it's been 10 years since the darn thing opened—the weekend after New Year's Day 1998, in a jam-packed gala (photos above: the actual unveiling of the entry arch, complete with "fireworks"). We covered all that, of course, but I was also privileged to get called in at the last of the process to consult on the detail layer—signs, images, and the title cards for the Exhibit...and even help with the original display cases. It was an eerie and yet exciting time—and mostly pre-digital, pre-Internet to boot.

The Experience was conceived and developed way before that opening, of course, in the 1996-97 window amid the afterglow of First Contact's success (and then seemed to take forever to get finished). By that time it opened with barely a mention of the Domnion War saga on DS9, much less the end of Voyager. We did get in Timeline console and window-box updates in the museum for those and for the roots of Enterprise, but the hall was clearly a child of the 1990s heydey and before the pendulum swung back to the retro-cool "re-embracing" of the original series. Not that that could not have been handled as well—or the needed update for JJ's movie and sequels. The last hurrah, aside from the new second-story Promenade party room, was the big Borg 4-D addition in 2003, and it was fun to actually work a few days on the shoot as assistant prop master in the lab scenes with Bob Picardo. Hard to believe even that is old history now.

Yes, there had been 30 years of Star Trek and fandom before The Experience—and there still will be now. But with the "well-oiled machine" of ongoing TV soundstages and offices at Paramount now gone, The Experience was the closest thing to a mecca Trekfans had. So plan your visit now, or at least gloss up your wedding book pics from the "D" Bridge and lift a glass of Romulan ale in memory. It will all be missed.

Then again, as a famous dead Vulcan actor once said: "Nobody ever really dies in science fiction!" The studio-owned pieces will have to turn up somewhere, right?

(Trivia ALERT: The final script change pages for the original ride are dated 12/15/97 .... and it's simply titled "STAR TREK: THE EXPERIENCE Show Script." For the rookies, that "Klingon Encounter" title only came along after "Borg Invasion 4-D.")

No comments: