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Whatever Happens In Vegas, Stays In This Blog

April 10th, 2005

This entry is coming to you direct from the floor of the PBS Showcase conference at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. This is an annual meeting for public television professionals at which we preview the new fall season and open ourselves to gladhanding by various program producers eager to gain carriage on our local stations. There really is no such as a free lunch.

I was thrilled when I heard that the meeting would be in Vegas this year. I haven’t been here since I was a kid, and it was a vastly different environment then. For minors, Vegas meant either going to Circus Circus (which had an arcade and aerial acts) or staying in the hotel room.

Sin City is barely recognizable these days, more of an adult Disneyland with roller coasters, a full-size pirate ship that is sunk four times a night, and, of course, the Starship Enterprise. While there’s still some vestige of the old Vegas on the strip–the places which offer steak and lobster buffets for $7.95 just to get you into the casino–most of the places I saw were very, very expensive. One of my fellow program directors and I visited New York, New York (a massive complex which incorporates replicas of several Big Apple landmarks) this morning, intending to dare the roller coaster, only to learn that it was $12.50 a ride!

I did, however, partake of the Star Trek Experience at the Hilton. I’d been wanting to go for years, so as soon as I checked in yesterday, I made a beeline for Geek Central. The Hilton’s on the other end of the Strip, so I took the monorail. (Thanks to The Simpsons, I am now incapable of riding a monorail without thinking “Monorail, monorail, monorail…”)

It was an enjoyable experience, and while I don’t know that I would do it again anytime soon, I’m glad that I went. The themed area includes shops styled after the Deep Space Nine Promenade, as well as a reproduction of Quark’s bar. For $35, one could have a day’s access to the “Museum of the Future,” a surpisingly compehensive display of Trek costumes and props, as well as two rides: “Klingon Encounter,” a combination live show and motion simulator, and “Borg Invasion 4-D,” a 3-D movie with some live elements.

I thought that the Klingon show was the better of the two. Guests start off in a traditional queue area, watching the usual “pregnant women should not ride” video. Suddenly, the video breaks up, the lights go out and everyone finds themselves on the Enterprise-D’s transporter pad. It was an excellent effect. There are costumed extras who set up the plot and lead the throng through a replica of the Bridge and a Turbolift (which shakes under enemy fire) before boarding the shuttle, a disguised motion simulator similar to Universal’s Back to the Future ride.

The other show started off in a similar fashion, with the guests visiting Copernicus Station, a research facility that finds itself under attack by a Borg Cube. Again, there’s some live action hijinks as the Starfleet extras are assimilated by Borg drones, and again, we wound up in a “shuttle,” which in this case was a 3-D movie theatre with some rigged special effects designed to make viewers a part of the action.

I hadn’t eaten much before arriving in Vegas, so after trying the Klingon ride, I sat down at Quark’s. I had the “Warbird,” a chicken breast dish that was pretty good. It was the rest of my order that caused the problem.

I had seen various patrons of Quark’s drinking out of large, globular glasses filled with smoking blue or green liquid, and I said, “I have to have one of those.” I wound up with something called the “James Tea Kirk,” which is apparently analogous to a Long Island Iced Tea. I have never previously had one, but dammit if I was going to Quark’s bar and not have a weird-looking, smoking drink.

Now, I know that I can’t hold my liquor, especially when I haven’t had much to eat, so I tried to pace myself. It didn’t help. Halfway into the Globe of Death, I was seriously buzzed, which I can tell you is a strange experience when one has the Enterprise-D overhead and Klingons, Ferengi and Borg visiting the tables. I managed to finish the thing (it was very good), but by that time, James Tea Kirk was having his way with me, and I was literally knocking things over on my way out of the restaurant. I’m amazed that I didn’t destroy half of the gift shop.

After spending a few hours indulging my Trekkiness–and shaking off the advances of Captain Kirk–I decided to walk back to the MGM Grand. It was a good idea, sort of: it was great to get a look at everything up close, but the scale of everything there is so huge that everything looks much closer than it actually is. It took me until 11:00 pm (1:00 am Central Time) to finally collapse in a pile in my hotel room. A little too much fun!

I’ve been taking lots of photos, but have no way of uploading them from here. Hopefully, I’ll have lots of Vegas/Trekkie geekness to show soon!

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