Sunday, February 12, 2017

My Trip to Starfleet Academy

This past Thursday I was able to live out one of my childhood dreams. Currently at the Calgary Telus Spark science center they have a traveling exhibit. Star Trek: the Starfleet Academy Experience is running from now until June 4, 2017. The exhibit started in Ottawa, Ontario last year and was also in New York City. This is a CBS production meant to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. While many people have criticized CBS for their lack of celebration last year, but this exhibit is the perfect way to celebrate this beloved franchise. 

Upon entering the exhibit you are given a wrist band that allows you to participate in a variety of activities and training modules meant to simulate an academy experience. Over the next hour or so, you will be trying your hand at everything from planet evaluation, navigation, alien languages, phaser training, medicine, and command. Along the way you can see costumes and props that were used in the TV shows, plus several wall displays that provided information about the show, main characters, alien species, and other interesting bits of information.

First up on your experience is Starfleet Medical training. In addition to the multiple choice quiz (there was one in each section, which was typically several multiple choice questions that gauged your preferences and aptitudes plus a trivia question), you are trained in using a tricorder to scan a Klingon patient and determine his condition. The prop display consisted of various tricorders and hyposprays. 

Next, tactical. Here you could look at a variety of different phaser weapons and learn how they were supposed to work. The most popular part of this section was the hand-phaser training simulator. You were given a phaser and, arcade style, shoot at a bunch of targets. Different targets required different strategies. Here you also were able to see Worf's uniform (complete with bat'leth) and a Mark IV photon torpedo casing.

After this you move on to communications. In addition to learning the background of Uhura and Sato, you can look at the evolution of communicator and learn about various alien cultures. For fun you can take a selfie and alter your appearance to look like different Trek aliens. I went with an Andorian-Vulcan hybrid (Shran would be disgusted). The most entertaining part was a task involving your ability to repeat certain Klingon phrases. I scored 2 out of 3 on that. I blame missing the third sentence on the fact that the Klingon teacher had a thick Jamaican accent.

Science and engineering come next. You can scan through the various schematics of the different ships that we see in the television series. You are also shown some great scanning equipment, and you get to see some cool props, including Data's head from the episode "Time's Arrow". You can check out the uniforms of Chief O'Brien, Data, Dax, Tucker, and even Zefram Cochrane. The task given to you is to find a suitable planet for a shuttle crew that needs to make an emergency landing. It is relatively easy, but still fun. In the engineering section you get to use the fabled transporter. Yes, you get to be beamed up. It's quite something to see (and they give you a video of it at the end of your visit). 

Onto the navigation section. While you get some information of the different aspects of piloting a starship, you can also try your hand at the helm, so to speak. They have a simulation in which you need to set a course for a starship to navigate around various planets, asteroids, and alien fleets. You have three chances to get your ship to Deep Space Nine in the allotted time. I watched a few others and their attempts to get an idea of the best strategies and I still had some struggles. 

Finally, you arrive at the Command section, and you get to be on the bridge of the Enterprise-D. Well, at least a close approximation of it. The arrangement is a little different. Still, you get to sit at the helm or ops station, or stand at tactical as Worf did. You might even try making some planetary scans at one of the science stations. Of course, no trip to the bridge would be complete without the obligatory sitting in the captain's chair. Your task in this section is working the infamous Kobayashi Maru test. Your results in the no-win scenario measure your aggression, diplomacy, and compassion. Of course, your ship gets destroyed (still didn't figure out how to rewrite the code), but you are ranked on the number of crew members of the Kobayashi Maru you rescue. When you are done in this section, you have one last quiz to answer, and then you walk past the hall of captains as you exit the academy. As you enter the gift shop, you can obtain your results at a terminal. Here, you can see which area of the Academy program you are best suited for. I was told that I was best suited for Communications and Command. 

If you are in the Calgary area in the next few months, I strongly suggest you check out the exhibit. While it is a relatively simple experience, it is definitely entertaining for new and old fans alike, plus those who are a bit curious about the whole Star Trek phenomenon. I have yet to learn where the exhibit is headed next, but if it comes to your neighbourhood, you should avail yourself of the opportunity. I found that this was a childhood fantasy come to life. I was grateful for the experience.

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