Would you believe enjoying something called Starfleet Academy Experience requires no knowledge of "Star Trek" or being a kid?
Probably not, but that's what the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum has accomplished with its new interactive exhibit, opening July 9. Located inside of a 12,000-square-foot tent on Pier 86, the premise is that you’re a cadet enlisting in the “Star Trek” version of officer candidate school.
Would-be crewmembers make their way through seven areas - Communication, Science, Engineering, Medical, Navigation, Tactical and Command - where they’re tested through various methods.
• Navigators must get a digital spaceship safely across a map while dodging obstacles like gravity fields and enemy ships
• Engineers operate a hologram-powered Transporter
• The Tactical team puts their Nintendo Wii skills to use in a phaser shooting arcade
• While 90 percent of the qualification for the Medical team ought to be the quality of your punchline to, “Damn it, Jim, I’m a doctor not a...!”, the exercise is actually diagnosing an illness using a medical tricorder
This is genuinely good all-ages fun, whether or not you know the Vulcan salute. But don’t get too distracted by the displays about how “Trek” influenced the real world (i.e. the space shuttle Enterprise on the Intrepid’s deck is named for the original series’ flagship), or the dozens of props and costumes from the 13 films and six TV series that comprise the “Star Trek” universe scattered throughout the exhibit. The real treasure is what at first glance appears the least interesting.
At each station are large consoles that pose a five-question Starfleet Recruitment Quiz to assess a cadet’s aptitude for the particular field. “You are trapped in orbit around an alien planet. It’s draining your ship’s power. How do you use the little power you have left?” “You’re studying a botany sample and discover that it doubles in size every hour. What do you do?” These may seem like practical questions, but the multiple-choice answers reveal there’s no right or wrong approach; instead, they’re actually meant to be a test of character.
Nowhere is this more clear than in the final Command zone, which involves stepping onto a replica of the Enterprise’s bridge to take the Kobayashi Maru test. The famously unwinnable scenario from the series involves rescuing the crew of a stranded ship while fending off Klingon attackers and keeping your own ship safe.Players choose a series of tactical maneuvers, and at the end they're rated — on their Aggression, Compassion, Diplomacy, Respect for Rules and Risk-Taking.
Moral dilemmas were always the beating heart of “Star Trek,” in which the bad guys didn’t always wear black and winning was rarely without sacrifice. Sometimes negotiation was the right path; occasionally, only brute force saved the day. Knowing when each approach works, and the willingness to choose it, is what counts here at Starfleet, too. When's the last time a museum exhibit taught you something about yourself?
At the start of the experience, cadets put on a wristband to record their answers to all of the tests, which are tallied at a final kiosk that recommends which field they would be best suited for. Unsurprisingly, this reporter’s results pointed overwhelmingly to Communications. Good thing, too — my secondary option is the Tactical team, and red is just not my color.
Star Trek: Starfleet Academy Experience
July 9-Oct. 31
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, Pier 86
$25 adults, $18 kids