Monday, September 5, 2016

Starfleet Academy Experience

From May 13, 2016 until September 5, 2016 the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum hosted a new travelling exhibit called Star Trek: The Starfleet Academy Experience.  Produced by EMS Entertainment under licence from CBS Consumer Products, the exhibit features original and replica props from across the franchise but the main thrust is a series of interactive activities designed to test guests on their suitability as potential Starfleet officers.

EMS Entertainment has also produced Star Trek exhibits that have travelled through other parts of the world over the last few years.  After today, the Academy Experience will move on from Ottawa to the next stop on it's north American tour.  A close copy of this exhibit is currently at The Intrepid sea, Air & Space Museum in New York.

I attended the Experience back in July and thought I'd share my thoughts.  There was very little content of specific interest to Vulcanologists, besides a display of screen-used prosthetic Vulcan ears and the moulds used to create them.

When you enter the Experience you are given an ID wristband that stores your information and connects you to a personal profile.  As you tour through the exhibits and complete tasks, the profile is updated and at the end you are told which stream of Starfleet you are most suited to (I was Communications/Command).

There's a wonderful large scale model of the original Enterprise upon which various scenes from Star Trek are projected.  In the case of the Ottawa Experience, there was also some projection of the Canadian flag.  I quite enjoyed that the Experience was tailored to its location.  By the way, this is not the first time the Powers That Be have chosen to launch a Star Trek exhibit in Canada. Back in 1996 for the 30th anniversary, Toronto was home to a fantastic Star Trek exhibit at the McLaughlin Planetarium and to a travelling exhibit called Federation Science which was housed at the Ontario Science Centre (I attended both and perhaps I'll post about them in the future).

Before you get to the interactive bits you walk through a corridor with a wonderful timeline of the key events in Trek history.  This really helps to set the stage (especially for non-Trekkies).  There is some information about Gene Roddenberry and the creation of the franchise and also some information about Treknology and how it has influenced real life engineers and designers over the years.

The six testing areas of the Experience are Command, Communications, Medical, Tactical, Engineering and Navigation.  As you pass through each area you are treated to appropriate props and costumes and profiles of Star Trek heroes from all the live-action TV series.

The Experience was clearly put together by people who are knowledgeable and who care about the franchise.  It ends with a trip to a Galaxy Class bridge where you engage in one final interactive challenge: the Kobayashi Maru test.  I spent close to two hours in the Experience as I lollygagged and closely examined all the props and costumes but it's designed to be done in about an hour.

I'm not sure where the next step on the tour will be but if it turns up near you I recommend going.  I had a lot of fun and it was a great way to celebrate during the 50th anniversary year.  As I noted above, I appreciated the Canadian touches.  I would be surprised if the Experience wasn't slightly tailored for each city that hosts it going forward.

In my case, I was also quite impressed by the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum.  I had never been before and it was great to see exhibits like the Canadarm and various mission patches from Canadian astronauts.

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