In “Coming of Age,” a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, young Wesley Crusher attempts to enter Starfleet Academy. He’s pitted against a handful of other candidates and put through the paces of different challenges, including a harrowing psych test, while trying to score the one opening for academy placement. He’s not chosen, by the way. Fancy trying to live out Crusher’s dream—or for that matter, what James Kirk experiences in the J.J. Abrams–directed Star Trek reboot? Head over the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum to the new exhibit Star Trek: The Starfleet Academy Experience.
It’s not just a simulation of what it’s like to train at Starfleet Academy, though that’s the main thrust; it’s a celebration of 50 years of Star Trek, in all its movie, TV and popular culture guises. And though we’re not card-carrying Trekkies, we are big fans. So we checked it out. Read on for six of the highlights.
To buy timed-admission tickets for the Starfleet Academy Experience, visit intrepidmuseum.org. The exhibition runs through October 31. Resistance is futile.
1. A flick of the wrist
Upon entering, you’ll receive a programmable and scannable wristband that will help monitor your activities as you go through the exhibition. It may not be the audio-capable wrist communicator of your Star Trek fantasies, and perhaps more Fitbit than Apple Watch, but it’s pretty cool nonetheless.
2. The Enterprise, big and small
What would a Star Trek show be without a nod to the Enterprise, the starship whose signature design launched a thousand sci-fi imitators. There’s a 20-foot-plus model of the version from the original TV series that hangs proudly; as well, a case shows a tiny hologram of the ship, which you can control for a two-minute stretch (and change Enterprise iterations as you veer left and right). Of course, it’s natural if your mind wanders to another Enterprise, the test shuttle used in the US space program that sits yards away on the deck of the museum. One guess as to what helped influence its name.
3. Props on the props
German collector Martin Netter—owner of thousands of Star Trek–related items—has loaned all kinds of props for the exhibition. One case holds a couple of Kirk and Spock’s cutest little foes, the Tribbles, along with casts of Vulcan ears; on display throughout are costumes from various Star Trek movies and TV series; and you’ll also find phasers, both replicas and ones used in films.
4. Phaser tag
Speaking of phasers, a few of the training tests involve more than standard quizzes. At the medical station, for example, you’ll be required to assess the condition of an injured Klingon and act accordingly. That’s interesting, though perhaps no match for fun hands-on phaser training, where you’re basically playing a giant video game to work on your target acquisition.
5. Can you take it to the bridge?
The big hurrah before you depart (we’re not counting the gift shop) is a replica of the bridge from Star Trek: The Next Generation. At a few stations you’ll be able to test your command mettle at the no-win Kobayashi Maru scenario, the most bedeviling of Starfleet Academy training exercises (only Kirk ever bested it). Meanwhile, sitting in the central command chair—even though the main thing to do there is pose while imagining yourself a budding Jean-Luc Picard—is an undeniable thrill.
6. Walking papers
Your wristband, which has tracked your progress, gets scanned at one of a series of monitors before you leave. The payoff? Your personnel file, which includes an assessment of which Starfleet Academy unit you’re best suited for (mine was Engineering and sure, it’s flattering to be called “fast-thinking” and a “strong problem solver.”) Have it emailed to you as a keepsake. Oh, and live long and prosper.