Trust me, you have no idea what absurd is until you’ve seen Scotty getting his butt handed to him by a Vegas slot machine.
Star Trek’s ace engineer may know warp drives inside and out, but at the moment he can’t seem to master this stubborn piece of 20th-century machinery. Ironic: The Starship Enterprise’s Mr. Fixit has finally met a foe more ruthless than those surly bowl-cutted Romulans — the one-armed bandit.
While Scotty — in real life, actor James Doohan — is busy squandering his quarters, a much heftier wager is being made tonight (Stardate: Jan. 3, 1998). After a six-month construction delay, Paramount Parks, the theme-park division of Star Trek’s corporate overseer, Viacom, is finally ready to unveil its, well, paramount park — Star Trek: The Experience, a $70 million, 65,000-square-foot interactive attraction at the Las Vegas Hilton. Three years in the making, the Experience was conceived as a Trekkers’ Mecca — the physical (and officially sanctioned) incarnation of one of Hollywood’s greatest cash-cow franchises. Included in the attraction are a high-tech motion-simulator ride that will let fans travel on a Starfleet shuttle craft; a full-scale re-creation of Deep Space Nine’s shopping promenade; a Trek museum; a restaurant (Quark’s Bar, naturally); and, this being Vegas, the SpaceQuest Casino.
Not surprisingly, here to help celebrate the grand opening are swarms of hardcore Trek fans, many decked out in full Starfleet regalia. First order of business for the night: stargazing. True believers line the red carpet welcoming the evening’s celebs. As a cheesy lounge combo — positioned strategically in front of a black statue of Elvis — cranks out a disco version of the Trek theme, a slew of unlikely black-tied stars ranging from Andy Dick to Montel Williams make their entrances. Wait, Montel Williams? ”I’m always a bit surprised to find out who some of these fans are,” laughs Jonathan Frakes, a.k.a. Commander Riker. ”I mean, who would have thought Montel was into Trek?”
The chrome-domed talkshow host is in good company. ”I’ve been planning this trip since September,” says Brenda Germain, a 39-year-old medical technician from Aberdeen, N.C. Appropriately clad in a teal Starfleet medical uniform, she shrugs, ”All of my friends think I’m crazy.” David Dalton, a 42-year-old Miami grocery clerk who is protectively clutching a three-ring binder with freshly autographed 8 x 10 photos of Trek luminaries, adds, ”I have no idea what this is going to be like, but I know I’ll love it.”
Granted, as a consumer, Dalton isn’t exactly Ralph Nader. But he’s right. Star Trek: The Experience is a surreal hoot. The 22-minute trip begins after fans pony up $9.95 and enter the kitschy but undeniably cool History of the Future museum. The exhibits include an arcade of Trek props (a carafe of Saurian brandy, Worf’s deadly bat’telh, and more varieties of phasers and communicators than you can shake a tricorder at); uniforms (Kirk’s tunic, a Vulcan ceremonial robe, the formfitting S&M wear of the Klingon Duras sisters); and time lines of pivotal Trek dates (Stardate 3141.9: The Enterprise discovers Ricardo Montalban and his rich Corinthian leather floating in space).