Monday, July 06, 2009

I thought I was in Philadelphia

I was in Philadelphia on business, but my meetings were over and I had a few hours to kill before I had to go to the airport. A friend and I set out on foot from our hotel to tour the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We never got there.

We got as far as the science museum known as The Franklin – my Fodor’s calls it The Franklin Science Institute. In front of the building a huge banner proclaimed, "Star Trek: The Exhibition." If my friend is as big a Trekker as I am, she hides it well, but she saw the look on my face and knew the art museum was going to have to wait for another day.

If I had known this exhibition was going on just blocks from my hotel, I would certainly have seen it at least twice. But I was a good camper – I went to all my meetings and never knew...until those last few hours before my flight home. Now I have to find a way to go back – or make a trip to see it at the Detroit Science Museum – sometime before September.

Awesome! Absolutely awesome! The exhibition covers the entire forty-plus year saga, from its debut on NBC in September 1966 to the current Star Trek movie that opened in May. There are costumes from all the series and all the movies: Kirk’s uniform from the first season of The Original Series (TOS). Uniforms worn by Deanna Troi and Dr. Beverly Crusher in The Next Generation (ST:TNG or Next Gen). A 19th-century dress worn by Guinan (Whoopie Goldberg) in the ST:TNG episode "Time’s Arrow." A costume worn by the Ferengi Grand Nagus in Deep Space Nine (DS9). Khan’s costume from the movie "The Wrath of Khan." Shinzon’s costume from "Nemesis." Models of all the starships and of the space station DS9. A dabo wheel from Quark’s bar! B-4's head! Many panels of narrative, explaining the storyline of the Star Trek saga.

And, because this was a science museum and many of the young visitors weren’t alive at the dawn of the space age, panels of information about John F. Kennedy’s commitment to put a man on the moon in the 1960s and the early history of space flight. There were also models and photos of two real aircraft carriers and a space shuttle, all named Enterprise. As we walked through the exhibit, the theme songs of all the shows swelled around us. It was a dream come true.

But the biggest thrill for me of the whole exhibit was to be able to walk onto a mockup of the bridge of the Enterprise-D from ST:TNG. I stood at the science station, I stood at the weapons station, and, and, and!

In my first pastorate in a small town, I spent more evenings than I will ever admit to, watching ST:TNG on the cable network formerly known as TNN (later SpikeTV). I confess: Jean-Luc Picard is my favorite captain of the Enterprise. I told myself (as a justification) that I was watching all those Next Gen episodes to learn lessons in leadership from Cap’n Picard.
But to sit in Picard’s chair on the bridge of the Enterprise-D was a moment I had never dared to dream...until suddenly, as I was standing at the weapons station, I realized that the woman in front of me with the camera was taking photos of people sitting in the chairs on the bridge. And the next thing I knew, I was sitting in Captain Picard’s chair having my picture taken.

What can I say? Oh, that’s easy. "Make it so!"

So if you are the tiniest bit of a Star Trek fan and your travels take you anywhere near Philadelphia or Detroit this summer...go see this exhibit.

Or, as Picard would say, "Let’s see what’s out there!"