One of my biggest dreams was achieved a couple of weekends ago when I visited the Starfleet Academy Experience at the Intrepid Air and Space Museum in New York City with my TrekNews.net colleagues. We were in town to attend Star Trek Mission: New York and it was the perfect opportunity to hop on over and visit this traveling exhibit when it was still in town.
When you first enter the exhibit, you are asked to grab a Starfleet wristband and “register” for the Academy and its training program. In the process, you record your name and your email address so that your Academy testing “results” will be sent to you after you’re done, determining which track you best belong in, whether it’s in Command, Engineering, Sciences, or many others. From the start, you can tell from the exhibit there’s a great amount of care and attention given to the entire history and canon of the Star Trek universe. I particularly love the shout-out to all five live action series, with a great description of each show, its show run, and its cast of characters. (Sorry Animated Series fans, but you weren’t included, much to my chagrin!) There was even a beautiful model of the original Enterprise herself at the entrance, looking as classic and timeless of a design as ever.
Speaking for me personally, as someone who enjoys cosplaying at conventions, the chance to fully immerse myself “in-universe” was something I had to take part in and the exhibit didn’t disappoint. The Experience is set like an actual Academy museum / training center, with kiosks and stations set for each “track”: Command, Medical, Tactical, etc. Each area has sample questions to answer on a monitor that is active when you swipe your wristband. You answer a series of five questions before moving on to measure your aptitude for each track. But before moving on, there’s plenty of interactive activities and screen-used props and costumes (from the various series and movies) on display at each area for you to soak in and enjoy.
I particularly enjoyed the Medical section, where one could use a medical tricorder prop to analyze a Klingon Starfleet officer to diagnose the medical emergency. There was a great selfie station where you could take selfies of yourself and then add custom alien makeup effects (for example green tint for Orion, ridges for Klingons, and blue tint for Andorian) to your picture afterwards. There was a wonderful full-size transporter set which you could actually step into and simulate a beaming down, after which a video of this effect can be emailed to you. I could go on and on about the various other interactive panels they had, ranging from the Tactical training session complete with TNG-era phaser prop and a Navigation simulation where you have to set warp navigation points for a damaged ship, but I think the biggest attraction for me was the recreation of the Enterprise-D bridge.
The recreation was absolutely gorgeous, complete with Captain’s chair, First Officer and Counselor chairs, Ops and Conn stations, and a Tactical station. While it’s not a 100% screen-accurate replica of the actual bridge, this recreation is certainly a special treat for fans of all ages because of its full-sized size and scale. On the sides of the bridge set, there are even interactive stations where you can actually take a version of the infamous “Kobayashi Maru” test to test your command mettle! But for me, all I wanted was a seat in the Big Chair itself and finally after all these years, I was finally able to make that dream come true! To summarize, this brief review hardly does the entire Experience justice. Although my group spent around 90 minutes from start to finish, you literally could spend hours here pouring over every screen-used prop, uniform, costume, and interactive exhibit. It literally was a dream come true for me, a die-hard Trekkie, and I suspect that’s also true for many others fans who are able to visit! (And in case you were wondering, I was selected for the Command track in the final Academy testing results at the end of the tour. You’ll get no complaints from me, Starfleet!)
The Starfleet Academy Experience is open for the public through October 31st at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City.
photos and video: TrekNews.net