Saturday January 19, 2013
The USS Enterprise has landed
By MICHAEL CHEANG
Whether you are a Star Trek fan or not, you should definitely visit the ongoing exhibition at the National Science Centre. Make it so.
SPACE. At the National Science Centre. This is the story of Star Trek: The Exhibition. Its four-month mission: to let you explore new worlds, to seek out new fans, and to boldly take you where no Malaysian has gone before.
If you can tell a Reman from a Romulan, know how to greet people in Klingon, and know better than to wear a red Starfleet uniform to a phaser fight, then engage your warp drive, and visit the National Science Centre today.
Co-organised by EMS Holdings Pte Ltd, Star Trek: The Exhibition is the only officially licensed Star Trek exhibition in the world, and boasts more than 100 original props and 50 costumes spanning more than 47 years of films and TV shows, from The Original Series (TOS) back in 1966, all the way to the recent 2009 JJ Abrams-directed blockbuster Star Trek.
Running from now until March 31, the exhibition is making its first stop in Asia. “We got the licence for the Star Trek exhibition directly from (US TV studio) CBS in 2008, and it has been touring for four years now, mainly in the United States,” said EMS Asia Pacific managing director Greg Suzuki. “Before KL, we were in Vancouver, and now here we are, for the first time in Asia!”
According to Suzuki, EMS actually had the luxury of visiting the warehouses where the props and costumes of every Star Trek film and TV show ever made were kept, and handpicked the items they wanted for the exhibition.
“Those props date all the way back to the original series! Some of them are very, very valuable, and it is a big responsibility taking care of them,” he said.
As a result, the exhibition is a real geek fest, even if you are not a hardcore Star Trek fan. At the entrance, you can take a photo on the original USS Enterprise Captain’s chair from Star Trek: The Original Series (yes, that would be the same chair that Captain James Tiberius Kirk sat in), before getting sucked into a wormhole of wonderful treasures ranging from recognisable items like Dr Leonard “Bones” McCoy’s medical kit and Lieutenant Worf’s Starfleet uniform, to smaller but no less interesting items like Klingon language reference books and Kazon disruptor pistols.
It was rather surreal to walk through a recreation of a corridor on the Enterprise, and peeking into an exact replica of Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s living quarters, which contains, among other items, a bottle of wine from the Picard family vineyard, and a horga’hn fertility statuette on his desk.
At the end of that corridor, two Borg costumes loom imposingly over you as you enter a large hall dominated by three Klingon thrones, several starship models, and most impressive of all, a large glass case containing the costumes worn by the five captains and commanders of the various Star Trek series – namely, Captain Jonathan Archer (Enterprise), Captain James T. Kirk (TOS), Captain Jean Luc Picard (The Next Generation), Captain Kathryn Janeway (Voyager) and Commander Benjamin Sisko (Deep Space Nine).
It is here that enormity of the franchise’s influence becomes more apparent. Everything, from the enigmatic and iconic designs of the starships, to the overpowering presence of the captains (or rather, their costumes) just seems so fascinatingly familiar that you feel compelled to learn more about every single thing you see here, read every information plaque, and just completely immerse yourself in the endless possibilities that this science fiction universe holds.
Later, as you wander spellbound through corridors of richly detailed costumes and aliens, pretend you are the captain of the Enterprise on the bridge from The Next Generation, or are yelling “Beam me up, Scotty!” while standing in a replica of the famed Transporter room, you will come to appreciate even more the impact and importance of Star Trek not just in pop culture, but in our everyday lives as well.
It is testament to the longevity of Star Trek that 47 years after TOS made its debut, the science and concepts that form the core of the show still manage to hold up in today’s modern world of tablets and smartphones.
By the way, did you know that Star Trek predicted the use of tablet computers; and that the inventor of the mobile phone, Martin Cooper, was inspired to do so after watching Captain Kirk using his communicator? You can learn these and other fascinating facts about how Star Trek has influenced our world at the exhibition, while gawking at a seven-metre-long model of the USS Enterprise.
“We try to hold the exhibition in places like the science centre because of the close connection Star Trek has with science. Unlike other science fiction, Star Trek has always tried to base (its) shows on real science,” said Suzuki. “Obviously, the hardcore fans will enjoy the exhibition most, but it will also appeal to lovers of science in general, and even children who may not know anything about Star Trek, but would still love to see the spaceships!”
Suzuki also reckons that the franchise has been around for so long that almost every generation in a family would have heard of Star Trek and would be able to find something that will interest them at the exhibition.
“Even after more than 40 years, the awareness (of Star Trek) is still there,” said Suzuki, whose favourite version of the franchise is still the original series he grew up with. “It had such a great impact on me as a kid – the message of space being the final frontier really appealed to me back then, and I loved going to the planetarium because of that!”
With the huge success of Abrams’ 2009 reboot, Star Trek is currently enjoying a resurgence of popularity worldwide, hence the exhibition’s first venture into Asia. “The exhibition has been in the United States for the last four years; but thanks to the new movie, more people around the world know more about Star Trek, so we thought this would be a good time to hold the exhibition in Asia,” said Suzuki.
“We hope that the exhibition can be a travelling ambassador for Star Trek, and that it will attract non-fans, and eventually turn them into fans!”
Sadly, by the time the next film, Star Trek: Into Darkness, is released in May, the exhibition will have moved on to Taipei, so we won’t get to see any possible exhibits from the new film anytime soon. However, don’t let that stop you from assembling an away team and beaming yourself over to the National Science Centre right now. Oh, and remember to set your phasers to “stun”.
The exhibition is open from 9am to 5pm daily except Fridays. Tickets are priced at RM20 per adult and RM10 for children and students. For more information, log on to www.facebook.com/startrekexhibition.