Visited: October 2021
When Tracy asked me if I wanted to visit the Skirball Cultural Center to see its temporary exhibition entitled “Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds,” just like a fully vaccinated Vulcan, I immediately knew the logical answer. So, on a beautiful Sunday morning, we put the Starship Subaru into warp drive and voyaged to this museum located just up the road from the Getty Center at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains.
The Skirball Cultural Center is widely known as a museum that chronicles and is dedicated to 4,000 years of Jewish heritage. Today, however, our 90-minute mission was to explore an exciting new exhibition … to seek out new knowledge and new information regarding this five-decade pop-culture icon … to boldly go where no one (well, we were first in line) have gone before.After docking our Subaru at the underground Skirball parking area (free), we walked beside a Sycamore tree-lined meadow where we felt safe enough not to draw our phasers. We had purchased tickets online for the opening hour of the exhibit at 10 a.m.
I admit I did have to put the phaser on stun to be the first ones inside. I’m sure these two recovered in time.
Once inside the Skirball lobby, I felt honored to sit in the Enterprise’s command chair, but when Tracy reminded me I almost missed the offramp getting here, I quickly told Mr. Sulu to “take the conn.”
Promptly at 10 a.m. we were beamed to the exhibition area where a Trekkie (or Trekker, depending on your preference) could revel in an abundance of Star Trek rare artifacts, set pieces, costumes and props; view various videos on the making of, and scenes from, Star Trek; and even act in a scene (more on that later).
The Enterprise stood before us. Well, at least a model of the world’s most famous Starship.Although a fan since the original series began more than 50 years ago, I never knew that had it not been for Lucille Ball, Star Trek might never have made it even to the small screen. Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz founded Desilu Productions back in 1950. When Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry pitched the show, which he called “a Wagon Train to the stars,” Desilu’s board was concerned with its high production cost after seeing not one, but two, pilot episodes. They voted to cancel Star Trek before it ever began. However, as the board Chair, Lucille Ball had the final call, and her approval of the show made Star Trek the Enterprise it has become today. That’s why I Love Lucy!Speaking of Enterprise, in 1976 when the first space shuttle was to be named, a letter-writing campaign initiated by Star Trek fans convinced President Gerald Ford to name the first space shuttle “Enterprise.” Roddenberry and a number of cast members were present at the ceremony introducing the Shuttle.
Costumes worn by original cast members William Shatner (who had actually traveled to space just before we attended the exhibit), Leonard Nimoy and Nichelle Nichols were displayed. By the way, I also never knew that Lt. Uhura’s first name was Nyota.
Star Trek Fact: After one year, Nichols wanted to quit Star Trek. She was persuaded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to stay on the show to act as a role model for other African Americans. Star Trek also featured the first interracial kiss (Uhura and Kirk) on television. In 2012, nearly a half century after Star Trek debuted, she was invited to the White House to meet with “Star Trek fan,” President Barrack Obama.I tried to join them in the photo but was quickly whisked away by Secret Service agents.
One of many avenues where Star Trek was ahead of its time was the diversity of the crew and many of its story lines. Sadly, the world has yet to reach that Star Trek utopian future. One of the videos talks about Star Trek and its inclusiveness.
We suddenly found ourselves in some trouble … with Tribbles. These cute little guys can reproduce and spread like wildfire when fed. Luckily we had no food on us, plus they were inside a display case where, as Scotty once said, “they’ll be no tribble at all.” Like so many Star Trek artifacts, the Tribbles came from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection.
Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise fought many a foe over its more than 20 year television and movie life. In the TV show, Kirk was forced to fight the captain of a Gorn ship, who was a lizard-like creature. Unlike the cold-blooded lizard, Kirk was warm-hearted and didn’t kill him.
Kirk and the Enterprise’s biggest (and best) nemesis tangled both on the TV show and its second movie. I have seen Star Trek: Wrath of Khan dozens of times throughout the years, and Ricardo Montalban’s portrayal of the “result of a genetic engineering program” possessing “superior intellect,” is one of filmdom’s greatest villains. His costume is showcased here.
“KHAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNN!!!!!!!!!!!”Spock’s spacesuit pack and helmet from 1979s Star Trek: The Motion Picture (the worst Trek film in my, and many’s, opinion) made for colorful display that was better than the movie.I did not need to use this Tricorder to scout any unfamiliar portions of the exhibition, but decided it could be advantageous for me in real life when I take the wrong off ramps.
Dr. McCoy must have known I was coming as shown by his hypospray. Fortunately I didn’t hear the words, “He’s dead, Jim!”
We also learned more about creator Gene Roddenberry and his belief in “racial and gender equality.” As you can see, he not only talked the talk, but he also walked the walk.Among many other interesting items were a concept drawing of the Enterprise bridge and a model of the USS Excelsior from the series’ Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine …
… and Kirk’s tunic and dagger from the memorable “Mirror, Mirror” episode.I would love to own this 2001 Star Trike, “the only self-propelled replica of the Star Ship Enterprise.” Since this is the only one made, I guess it never got off the ground.Vulcans, including Sarek, Spock’s father, were well represented. I never knew he was that tall.
As much as I loved the original Star Trek, I might even have loved Star Trek: The Next Generation as much or more. Costumes for Lavar Burton’s blind (but able to see) character Geordi La Forge (after he was turned down for the Jeopardy gig), and Patrick Stewart’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard. As it should be, Picard’s uniform was “Engage”-ing.
Many people’s favorite character on Star Trek: Next Generation was Lt. Commander Data, an Android who uses his positronic brain to help in instant computing. Through the years, Data tried to find more humanity in himself and understand the human condition, but often his wisdom was the reason the Enterprise escaped many a scrape. You could say, he really used his head. His cat was named Spot, although, as you can see, the cat was striped.
We checked out the helm of the Enterprise.
There were costumes from virtually every Star Trek incarnation.There was even an exhibit that displayed both the space suits used by Gemini astronauts, and the flag flown aboard the Gemini 9 mission in 1966.
As we neared the end of our journey, danger lurked. Unlike this poor fellow, I came perilously close to being assimilated by The Borg, a collective of races. I don’t remember how I escaped, but it was a close one.
Perhaps it was my good friend Worf, who I remember saying, “Assimilate thisI”
There were some cool models of the Enterprise used in one of the franchise’s best films, Star Trek: First Contact, starring the Next Generation cast.Finally, I took the Star Trek Transporter Experience. I stood on a spot and was beamed into a Star Trek scene with a video monitor chronicling my “moves” aboard an enemy starship, including firing a phaser (still photo below). Afterward, critics commented, “Tom’s acting, and his legs, were quite stiff.” So much for my Oscar. (Sadly, or luckily for me, the video is too large to upload here.)As Spock would say, the experience was “Fascinating.” If you are a Star Trek fan or even if you’re not, it would be “highly illogical” for you not to purchase tickets for Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds at the Skirball Cultural Center.
Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N, Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90049
Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds
Open Now through February 20, 2022
$18 Adults • $15 Seniors & Children over 12 • $13 Children 2 – 12
Timed entry online (90-minute time slot)