05th Aug2009

Hey Star Trek! are you EXPERIENCED!?

by jerad.formby

star trek the experience meets hey star trek

As thousands of brilliant Star Trek fans descend onto the Las Vegas Hilton for their Star Trek convention, I have to take a moment and point out what they’ll be missing. For those of you who never got to see what I’m going to talk about, I hope I can help you see and understand just what it was.

Star Trek: The Experience. Something that existed at one time and has now passed on into the ranks of things that used to be.

star trek the experience rocked this sign for months till a girl i know ran out of the building with it

It was fabulous, seemingly impossible, and absolutely fantastic in so many ways and now I’d like to share some of it with you.

star trek the experience had a unique location away from all that foot traffic but so what

My good friend from Wyoming pushed me to move to Las Vegas. The idea was to attend film school. My friend also knew, deep down, that I would end up working at Star Trek: The Experience.

He didn’t confide that to me until I was hired.

There was no more financial aid coming and I could either go home defeated or try the job thing to stay. Hey Star Trek! is difficult to employ. Between car wash applications and movie theater applications and one shot off to Star Trek: The Experience, I got one phone call back.

the phone call that changed my life do not hold me accountable for its accuracy

Star Trek: The Experience was a 65,000 square foot facility that had two public levels. Every square inch of it was themed to have you feel you were in the 24th century. The lower level required no money to enter and the upper level contained two intense simulator rides –and those, gentle readers, did cost money.

I would have been happy selling tickets to the thing if it had come to that. But I got to do something else. I scored one of the most unique, most invigorating, and most creative jobs on the face of this good earth. And it paid okay.

The job required an audition, afterall, there was a simulator ride to staff.

the only thing didn't feel right were all of the folding chairs that were brought on to the bridge of the enterprise

I’m sure a number of you have visited theme parks all around the world. You’ve probably stood in line for a movie-themed attraction. The attraction either involved a four to six minute movie or was some kind of “live show” that happened at a given time, am I right?

When you approached the Experience, you could go upstairs or you could go downstairs. Both levels were themed to reflect the future and (almost) everyone who visited got that –fan or no fan.

the front entrance to Star Trek the Experience was accessed indoors from a casino

The stairs led downstairs to a lower level. This level was always accessible to the general public. There was three retail shops and the Quark’s bar and restaurant –and the facility’s only bathrooms (no place perfect).

Retail in the opening days prided itself on a strict one, two, three attack. The store in the very back, known as Zek’s Latinum Emporium/Garak’s Clothier’s, was your t-shirts, books, VHS tapes (oh yes, those were still around), DVDs, novelty glasses, cups, action figures, toy ships, stuffed Klingon teddy bears, Ferengi beanie-babies, and on and on.

The Admiral’s Collection was practically a museum in and of itself. It sold full on replicas of actual Paramount props, paintings, autographs, autographed paintings, you know –the high end stuff.

And Moogie’s Outpost was an island store that sold a lot of stuff Zek’s had, but also featured any number of Experience-specific items, such as the “Program” for the attraction upstairs and Quark’s menus.

The staff was mostly a well-groomed nerd base that rocked all of your Star Trek merchandise questions and because so many of them were fans themselves could point you in the right direction.

strangely not a lot of pics in retail and i been looking

Quark’s was the restaurant. This was a gathering place for people who wanted to wear their costumes or uniforms out into the real world. This was the watering hole where a bartender was capable of giving you a trivia question. Star Trek clubs would plan meetings in the place.

And the drinks were famous. On a weekend, it was not totally unknown to see the place slammed with patrons who sought only a giant drink before they danced the night away. For those droves of people, Quark’s will always mean Star Trek –no matter what’s on (or not on) television.

quarks at star trek the experience featured very popular drinks

If you opted to go up the ramp, you found yourself in a “crow’s nest” that overlooked the lower level. Behind you would be ticket sellers (one of which is currently Hey Star Trek!’s roommate). They sold tickets to the museum or the ride (eventually two rides) or both. The museum served two functions.

the ramp up the star trek the experience

First, it was there to show off a number of things from Paramount’s private collection of Star Trek props –some of which were built specifically for the Experience, as, too put it bluntly, a lot of the coolest things no longer existed –and hadn’t for a very long time!

Sprawling out on the opposite side of the museum portion was a meticulously put together timeline –designed with canon guru Michael Okuda himself. The timeline stretched from our own past and off to the very end of Star Trek: Nemesis. Any number of Star Trek events that might have happened in the time the attraction was open were added to update the timeline.

The second purpose this museum served was as queue-line for the ride. When I got there, it was called “The Voyage through Space.” When our second ride arrived later, it was re-dubbed “The Klingon Enounter.” The name was given to the ride by one of our most devout middle managers. The man truly loved Star Trek and was happy to make a contribution –even if it would never be remembered.

Chad Randle came up with that name. And glad to know you, Mr. Randle! And now a few others do too!

The Klingon Encounter was truly made from an odd form of genius. The intention of the original ride (another one came later) was to put you into an actual Star Trek adventure. The people who thought of this were not ordinary in any way.

star trek the experience loading procedure was sometimes a little too fast and loose depending on the performer but these days i only smile about it

The original ride was designed to kick off with an ironic take on your expectations. You were huddled into a room with 26 others. The room was designed to look like any other simulator ride room –say Star Tours or that E.T. Ride they had at Universal. Before you could be loaded, however, something would always go wrong . . .

The next thing you’d know, you were in the transporter room of Captain Picard’s USS Enterprise. Right in front of you would be the transporter officer who grabbed you from the theme park. The mission was simple (and the same all day long). Get you back to the theme park (in the past).

Your journey included a transit corridor and a turbolift ride (which goes awry) and a four-minute show right on the Bridge of the Enterprise. The Starfleet staff around you was trained to maintain the illusion that you were in the future and walking about your favorite show.

Only after all of that were you finally placed in the more typical “ride” and watch a movie portion. The awesome was fuzzed-in at the source, believe me!

I would love to show you pictures of those copyrighted rooms, but I guess the Internet took those no-no speeches pretty literally!

no pictures of the star trek the experience klingon ride exist anywhere easy and i only do what is easy

I thought I’d have that Starfleet job when my audition went well. As a Star Trek fan, I couldn’t wait to be thrust into the mise-en-scene of one of my favorite shows.

It wasn’t until later that I found out that my audition had gone down in a very unique way. Upper management didn’t want me anywhere near the helm of the ship it turned out. They wanted me to train for an “on call” position instead.

The position was called “character” or “alien.”

And those guys did something completely different. They were responsible for the one aspect of the Experience I had never enjoyed as a visitor (and of course I visited this thing long before I auditioned). They wore the make-up of Klingons and Ferengis and engaged anyone they liked in seemingly random, twenty-fourth century conversation.

It gave me the heevee-jeevees. There had been a time when I would literally avoid these aliens on the way to the bathroom. I would hide when buying a shirt. I would have my fingers crossed that these weirdos would not come near me.

star trek the experience and my once and future life and what is that

Now I was to be one of them. How about a job where you were paid and required to watch episodes of Star Trek? I got to do that. You like a nerdy conversation about Star Trek political structure and theory? I had to take notes.

I learned the make-up. I was fitted for a mask. I was required to invent a Ferengi persona from the ground up –odd to say the least because they were my least favorite species in Star Trek. Of course, that changed rather quickly.

There were no scripts. Everything was Star Trek right off the top of my head. What I couldn’t remember from the show, had to be fixed in a quick and clever way. When a guest wanted to take me away from the show, I was responsible for helping them with invention and if I was very, very lucky, maybe even infuse them with the sense of wonder that makes Star Trek so amazing for so many.

star trek the experience 3 of 6 invented and re-hashed justified and arrived

Improvised interactions with other aliens on shift were also encouraged. Vulcans and Andorians became part of the Ferengi/Klingon one two punch later. One actor was even asked to play both of those species to ensure the most varied alien presence possible.

t'pril was also played by tahryn or was it the other way around

There was a point, part way through my time there, that everything felt old and repeated. The traffic didn’t seem to be there like it had been so early on. Then we got word that a new ride was coming.

The new ride was based around the Borg and employed the new movie uniforms, explosions, 4D, and a number of Borg actors. The actors got into make-up with us and those guys waited around in the dark to interact with and scare the tourists. Simply Phenomenal.

With new faces came new levels of enthusiasm and a re-birth of purpose in us old timers. One of these gentlemen in particular took it upon himself to become an archivist for Star Trek: The Experience. Between Borg shows in our spankin’ new ride and jaunts onto the floor as a Borg, he was planning a special thing for everyone should a day come when there would be no Experience anymore. Vernon Wilmer has launched a documentary series: Star Trek: My Experience –you’ll see he’s put all of his archive to good use.

He’s also a featured guest in Trekcast episodes 9 & 18.

these pictures i work my hiney on make excellent virtual book marks you know

And did I mention the facility employed anywhere from 130 people to 300 people –which could explain why it was so expensive to see this frickin’ Nerd Juggernaut. Someone built a place where Star Trek could be real for so many. It didn’t even matter to us if you were the biggest fan or thought we were Star Wars. Everyone got rocked, no matter what.

The staff that wasn’t involved in Starfleet or being an alien –the ones that got you drunk or fed or explained to you why the TOS box set was way better than the TOS single disc versions all loved being there as much as anyone else. Even the staff members who didn’t get or like Star Trek felt just a touch of the magic in that place, even if it only sprang up from the new worlds of friendship or the new civilizations of sharing time together.

I did it for eight years of my life. I spouted Rules of Acquisition, I took negative customer reactions and spun them into positive occasions. I have stories that stack taller than my Ferengi-short-statured body.

jerad formby at star trek the experience on a break it seems

Brothers and sisters, I’m telling you right now that Mr. Wilmer was right to grab every scrap, picture, and favor to call in for his documentary because it’s over now. We had plenty of notice. All of us knew that this heaven was going to fall away and there was nothing we could do to stop it.

Luckily, a number of you were able to see us off.

But I know a number of you also never got a chance to see us in our hey day, in the slow times, nor in our best times. I’m writing this notice for all of you and our fans as well. It really was . . . fun.

This job ended on September 1st of last year.

And now, almost a year later, we are on the eve of the biggest Star Trek convention in the world and it used to happen across the casino from Star Trek: The Experience.

star trek the experience and all that implies

no what jerad formby watchoo think

all good things you living breathing star trek world you all good things


the new end credits twitter button

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youre-almost-finished-with-my-self-promotion1

Chris Pine’s Kirk and a New Five Year Mission (fiction)
Stardates and quadrants.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the best one.
Star Trek just might be too futuristic to have an army.
Syfy is a cool idea. Warehouse 13 isn’t.
A whole website devoted to hating Abrams trek!? Surely you jest!
Don’t like a nuked fridge? You call him, Dr. Jones, DOLL!
Let’s go to the holodeck!
FOX network, I feel the good in you, the conflict!
Seeking out strange new potential in Abrams’ universe. (fiction)
A little more information about your Hey Star Trek! blogger
Baby steps with Star Trek: Voyager
Hell you say? Film language of Gran Torino!?
A Brief History of Fan Work and Tim Russ’ Of Gods and Men
What the hell do you mean Episode III’s the best one!?
Baby Steps With Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Baby Steps With Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation
Hey Star Trek! Saw Terminator: Salvation
Meditating on J.J. Abrams’ Lens Flares
Can you tell me more about Trekcast?
Hey! You hated Abrams Trek? Color me unsurprised.
What you show somebody who doesn’t know Star Trek at all
Nerd-Nut-Nods in New Star Trek Movie
Why you don’t need IMAX Star Trek
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
The real reason New Star Wars movies suck
Star Trek continuity whores need to give it a rest
The new Doctor Who . . . or lack thereof!
Why the new Star Trek movie is gonna be cool
Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse
How the Borg went from badass to blowing chunks
Some Star Trek characters get no love
Ronald D. Moore’s Battlestar Galactica
Why Watchmen’s So Bad
Star Trek Optimism
Ugly Romulans and Vulcans

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  • David Kruchowski

    Man, I miss The Experience. Had the good fortune of being able to visit several times, the last of which was in August of last year. The more time that passes, the more my hopes diminish of a reopening at Neonopolis, though even if it does, I’m hard-pressed to believe that it’ll hold the same magic as did the original.

  • Damon

    Damn You! I miss that job so much! Now your gonna make me cry!

  • Dale Hoppert

    We’re thankful for you, too, Jerad. For all of you… and we miss you terribly! It was absolutely freakin’ magic!

    Hope to see you Sunday night!

  • April Hebert

    Amen brother.

  • zancho

    i did enjoy that bar……

  • Diana Saunders

    This was a wonderful read, Jerad! Thanks for the memories…
    Although you never really knew me when I was an origlnal Star Trek officer, only middle management, there never was a day that I didn’t admire all that you did! The old adage holds true for me…one never appreciaites what one has until it’s not around any more..
    Peace and long life, my friend…

  • Thomas

    I can’t think of a thing to add to that. I miss it every day.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mistervogel Shaolin Kenobi

    I never wanted to visit Vegas. It was never on my list of must see places. I guess I considered it obnoxious, garish nad not at all my cup of Earl Grey tea. But… I never knew about the experience. Even though the experience is gone, I find myself wanting to go. Just so I can hang out with David, Darren, Vernon, you and others I have come to knwo via Trekcast. You people really are the salt of the earth.

    Just this week saw part one of Vernon’s film. I was so thankful by the way that he made it available for download. I HATE sitting at my computer to watch streaming videos. But I was able to stream it directly to my Xbox 360 and watch it from the comfort of my couch. It was amazing.

    I’m sorry your “home” will not be there for you this year. But… Star Trek is like Christmas.. it lives in the hearts of those who care about it. Enjoy the convention.

  • Steve

    Stoopud Hey Star Trek! You made me all misty…

    It was indeed one of the coolest gigs I ever had. I constantly reference it it my acting classes.

    See you Sun.,

    Steve, AKA Kralk

  • http://apizzagirl.blogspot.com PizzaGirl

    Am I the only one that noticed that you spelled your name “Quan” at the end instead of “Coin”? 🙂

  • Mike Mazzacano

    Jared, per our conversation during the reunion party, I dont think your blog is over the top. Mike

  • Lisa Warren

    Great article Jared ! STTE was the most amazing place ever. I still hope that is’s being closed is a bad dream that I will some day wake up from. When my husband passed away and I was dying inside STTE brought me back to life. Working there gave me a new family, friends, and so much joy! Your words brought it all back. Thank you!!

  • AnotherGirlAlien

    Goodness gracious… what a lucky bunch of crazy people we all are! To have experienced all that and lived to tell the tell the tale! AND hold on to friendshjps, good memories AND look forward to the future? Lucky, lucky, lucky ducks………

  • Will Lee

    Okay I’m late for this comment……….I miss the hell out of The Experience too, but stop the negative vibes and look at the business end of it. Star Trek is a $4 BILLION dollar business……..I think WOW that’s a whole lot of money floating around and not all of it is going into the pockets of CBS. Somewhere someone counted 3 MILLION people who went into The Experience. Was that just the rides or did that also include patrons in the stores and restaurant………who knows. My guess is that 3 million number is an averaged out number. With the kind of money the Experience made and the out pouring of Trek Fan reaction to the closing and all of the revenue lost during the Cons, someone at CBS has got to be wondering how to push the new Experience faster and collect and cultivate this potential revenue. I’m not one who says that opening STTE-A at Neonopolis is such a good idea. Mr. Yoshi has proven that he is inept in his abilities to manage Neonopolis. Heck, one of his tenants had to go out of pocket to supply his own air conditioner. I’d like to see CBS ride out the contract to 2012 (which was the first date I’d read on the deal with CBS and Neonopolis) and relocate someplace on the strip. I know this waiting is driving all of us crazy, but please everyone keep the faith. Something is going to happen. CBS isn’t going to drop the ball on a solid money making machine like STAR TREK. Don’t forget how much money the last Trek movie made. If that isn’t enough to convince you that Trek is bigger than ever I don’t know what will.
    What did someone calculate…….26 days to watch all of the movies and shows. Don’t forget the numerous Fan Films and Podcasts they add up too. Trek Fans are hungry and I believe that CBS knows that. Didn’t they have to post a message when it was announced that they were selling of STTE assets. This was enough to cause wide spread panic among the Trek community. WE as a collective have power.

    Keep it together people and we’ll see this though,
    Will Lee

  • http://vernonwilmervideo.blip.tv/ Vernon Wilmer

    Very well put sir (brought a tear to my eye.) And thanks for the plug!