Captain’s Log, stardate 2114.198, Day Three of our trip. Our time frame, destination, and course were all charted months before our missions were chosen. During the itinerary process we discovered one optional assignment that was not indigenous to our target area, but had been established in the Twin Cities area a mere two months before our arrival. While surveying the metropolitan areas themselves was our primary objective, my First Officer and I agreed this might be the sole opportunity of our lifetime to take advantage — not only as a recreational side quest for the sake of our crew (both of us), but as a fact-finding investigation for our colleagues back at HQ.
So that’s why we returned to the Mall of America: not because we love shopping (meh), but because we figured such excellent timing obligated us to check out the traveling museum tour known as Star Trek: the Exhibition.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Each year from 2003 to 2013 my wife, my son, and your humble writer headed out on a long road trip to anywhere but here. Our 2014 road trip represented a milestone of sorts: our first vacation in over a decade without my son tagging along for the ride. At my wife’s prodding, I examined our vacation options and decided we ought to make this year a milestone in another way — our first sequel vacation. This year’s objective, then: a return to Wisconsin and Minnesota. In my mind, our 2006 road trip was a good start, but in some ways a surface-skimming of what each state has to offer. I wanted a do-over.
From 2008 to 2014 the Exhibition had traveled all over North America (well, the U.S. and Vancouver, B.C.) until relocating to the MoA for what’s been referred to as “an extended stay”. The official site now labels it a “Permanent Exhibition”, a phrase which likely means “here to stay as long as it turns a profit.”
We arrived half an hour before the Exhibition and all the other MoA stored opened, because conventions taught us the value of being at the front of geek lines as opposed to being stuck several hundred deep. On this Monday morning, crowds weren’t a problem. At all. Eight or ten other people were waiting with us outside the EMS Exhibit Center until the glass front doors were unlocked, but we were the only ones there for Trek purposes.
Bad news about that: signs posted everywhere prohibited photography inside the Exhibition. Photos outside the Exhibition were no big deal. I can show you this prop from the other major attraction, Barbie: the Dreamhouse Experience, because it was in the commons area outside both exhibit halls.
Beyond the Exhibit Center itself, you could also peer into this promotional Barbie-themed VW, directing shoppers to immerse themselves in the Barbie Experience and thrill to a whole new world of happy dolly goodness. Take selfies near it, even.
The Trek Exhibition’s exterior props included the above poster and an underwhelming gift shop of remaindered clothing and toys that stopped flying off store shelves long, long ago. No, we didn’t take photos of any of that. However, as far as I know, text recollections won’t violate the Mall Directive.
The Exhibition centerpiece is the replica bridge shown above. They’ll take a photo of your party at the helm with their wall-mounted camera for a price, and what you see was the best of their two tries. No, there’s no battle simulation or any real action involved. You have your choice of sitting in the Captain’s Chair or manning the comm without sitting, just like a true nervous ensign trying to make the most of their five-second screen presence.
The first showpiece as you enter the Exhibition is an extra-long wall-sized timeline of nearly the entire the Trek universe as we knew it before JJ Abrams took a baseball bat to everything. It skips the animated series but otherwise charts everything from the Original Series to (ugh) Enterprise, from ancient alien times to the Enterprise-E’s post-Nemesis repairs, including the key historical events and the minor details, such as when Kirk’s dog Butler died and when Sulu’s daughter Demora was born. As you’re walking along and scrutinizing the timeline, you can listen to Trek theme songs piped in from above, the classically heroic instrumentals back-to-back with (sigh) “Faith of the Heart”.
Trek fans in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area are treated to the following actual props in person from the movies and TV shows:
* The Nemesis two-seat Scorpion-class fighter
* A Borg recharging alcove with color-changing lights
* Engineering control panel replicas
* Alien weaponry — e.g., bat’leth, mek’leth, Bajoran rifle, Cardassian pistol
* Communicators and medical equipment from various centuries
* Captain’s Chairs from the Enterprise-D, the Generations Bird of Prey, and Captain Harriman’s turquoise seat of shame
* Alien makeup pieces from the Borg, Klingon, Cardassian, and Neelix
* Costumes worn by three of the starring captains, including four different Kirk suits (but, to my consternation, zero for Avery Brooks); Marina Sirtis; Brent Spiner; Whoopi Goldberg; Ricardo Montalban, the second time around; James Cromwell; Wallace Shawn; Dallas‘ Susan Howard (Kang’s wife Mara in “Day of the Dove”); some Kazon extra (looking a bit clown-like in person); someone from “Spock’s Brain”; and future A-list movie star Tom Hardy, whose career trajectory has taken him from Star Trek: Nemesis to next summer’s Mad Max: Fury Road.
Sure, if we were the kind to disregard stern warning signs in hopes that museum security was too sleepy to function on a Monday morning, we’d have plenty of pics to share here, but we still would’ve been surreptitious about it so as to avoid the full wrath of the brutal Mall of America regime in case one of them was a chirpy yet violent morning person. Under those compromised circumstances, though, the best you’d see would be double-secret photos of this level of quality:
…or we could just leave it alone and trust that you get the idea.
To be continued!
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Thanks for reading!]