“Set phasers to fun!” – that’s what the StarTrekBlackpool website says.
Boasting “over 100 original props, costumes and set pieces many of which have never been seen in the UK before”, the site promises an " extraordinary journey into the thrilling world of Star Trek". As a Star Trek fan, I couldn't say no. Besides which, one of my daughters has spent the last few months metamorphosing into a Star Trek fan, it didn’t take long - after burning through The Animated Series followed by The Original Series and original cast films, she emerged from the chrysalis a fully enthused Trekkie. She's got the stick-on Vulcan ears to prove it.
I'd heard mixed reviews of the exhibition. Some claim it is a must see for any Trekkie, while other reviews suggest it's all a bit underwhelming. For me, it was well worth the 5 hour round trip.
So, what's there?
The exhibition contains various costumes and props from the TV series, due to a leak from the Sealife Centre above, Scott Bakula's costume from Enterprise was in the foyer where the apologetic staff explained that it was a little water damaged but fixable. More about the staff later...
I was worried that this would be a series of dusty costumes (I really enjoyed the 2016 Destination Star Trek event in Birmingham last year, though the prop collection wasn't as large as many expected) but I was genuinely impressed at the nice clean displays. The exhibition is split into slightly themed sections and some of the props are instantly recognisable - an original Tribble for example, or Spock's actual ear-tips. The ear tips were definitely a personal favourite and are one of the special items which really bring you closer to the TV series (or films in this case - as it was displayed along with Spock's head wrap from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home).
The exhibition is larger than I expected and everything is nicely spaced out rather than stuffed together with some cardboard info plaques. An interactive app is available which utilises Augmented Reality to make your experience with the props more interactive. This is most evident with the transporter room where the app can make you dematerialise*. This adds a bit of fun, especially for younger visitors who seemed to find the app quite a novel way of hearing more about some of the items.
Autograph fans can play spot-the-moniker with a shuttle seemingly docked in the holodeck, it is covered in autographs from cast members from different iterations of Star Trek TV series.
Highlights for me are the corridor and the of course the replica bridge. The illuminated corridor is one of the first things you see and is a great photo opportunity. It's also a very clever gallery - each 'section' of the corridor holds displays which are only visible when you walk along it. This creates a superb atmosphere and helps to evoke a sense of wonder - it also doesn't spoil that photo opportunity I mentioned!
The replica of the TOS bridge was the main reason I made the journey (or should that be "trek"?) I promised my daughter that she would get a chance to sit in Captain Kirk's chair. She has a photo now which she will proudly have on her wall. Once you're a Trekkie, you're *always* a Trekkie - and she'll have that photo forever. It was worth the trip for that alone. When props are so iconic, the chance to interact with them is comparable with meeting one of the cast.
I've deliberately not shown everything here as such an exhibition deserves to be seen to be experienced properly and it's important to discover things and be surprised. When I visited the exhibition it was very quiet (me and my clan were pretty much the only ones there) which gave the staff a chance to personally guide us through some of the items and talk about some of the displays. The staff were nothing short of exceptional - each member of staff is a true Trekkie and immensely knowledgeable. Truth be told, if I were there on my own I could have stayed for hours just chatting with the crew at the exhibition.
In a nutshell: the exhibition is weighted more towards the original series/films with plenty from The Next Generation too. But all of Star Trek is represented, and there are some mentions even of the new JJ Abrams' Star Trek movies. Casual fans will enjoy the exhibition, but die-hard Trekkies will love it. Star Trek doesn't have many attractions in the UK, and this provides a chance to mix with fellow fans and see some of the magic - and of course, get a photo on the Captain's chair. The exhibition was originally scheduled to close in April but has now been extended to November, and rumour has it that there may be some new exhibits coming up - well, 2017 sees a new Star Trek TV series *and* the 30 Year Anniversary of The Next Generation. It's also very reasonably priced. Oh, and there's a shop at the end for you to get some Star Trek merch - bonus!
* Note: actual particle disassembly is not achieved and no sub-atomic dissipation occurred.