When J. J. Abrams’ long-awaited Star Trek Into Darkness opened in May, salivating Taiwanese nerds bounded to the theaters and got to see that the villain was Kahn all along, six days before the film’s US release. For local trekkies already worried about finding the next fix, never fear. There’s a new opportunity in town to spend money on the Star Trek brand: the Star Trek exhibition at Huashan 1914 Creative Park.
But while Abram’s Star Trek films have resuscitated a dying franchise, Star Trek: The Exhibition is more like an autopsy. Those new to Star Trek or only acquainted with the recent films will be lost. Structured like a haphazard Star Trek history museum, the exhibition does little to generate any excitement about the long-running series and movies, and instead presents itself as a cheap sideshow of mostly props and broken sci-fi antiques.
The exhibition is actually a smaller version of a previous showcase called Star Trek: The Tour, which was split into two for-profit exhibits after financial problems hampered the original Tour.
After paying for tickets at a makeshift ticket booth, visitors enter a darkened building and are warned about taking pictures or bringing in baby strollers. Old posters from the TV series and movies grace the first wall, and one is even reminded that Paramount actually produced the execrable Star Trek V: The Final Frontier in which Captain Kirk asks, “What does God need with a starship?”
At first glance, some of the decor looks like it could have been taken from the Las Vegas Star Trek: The Experience show. On closer inspection, however, the paneling and beams reveal themselves as cheap and flimsy. Many, if not most, of the informational panels are printed on poster board with the technique of a local copy center, in a head-scratching contrast to the futuristic backlit panels promised in the publicity photos.
Perhaps it was just too expensive to produce new plastic panels in English and Chinese for the parallel universe of Taiwan.
Visitors stroll past obscure art from obscure episodes of Deep Space Nine, seemingly original TV scripts from the various series, scratched-up Klingon chairs, miscellaneous Trek gadgets, a few masks and a Ferengi butthead in all its glory. Even less interesting are displays of various costumes supposedly worn by real cast members, such as Spock’s “bath” robe from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
The biggest treat is a Next Generation bridge replica, where visitors can sit and have pictures taken of them for extra money. But even here the control panels are scratched, the video projection of the Earth on the view screen is dim and some of the paint has peeled. For those of us who remember when Star Trek: The Next Generation was perhaps the only English program on late-night television, this bridge does have a certain nostalgic appeal.
The exhibition ends abruptly with a gift shop, where visitors will probably spend most of their time and money. Pictures taken on a bridge replica, a fake transporter platform or a dilapidated “captain’s chair” cost a steep NT$300. Here you can also buy toy phasers, patches and — in a curious twist — some schlocky pins of astrological signs. At the exit, a large worn poster of classic Spock giving the Vulcan salute is captioned by one word: LIVE. Sure, this Star Trek exhibition lives, but it doesn’t seem to be prospering, and compared to the new Star Trek movies, it’s a sad alternate universe where Star Trek memorabilia goes to die.