Beam in to ‘Star Trek’ at fair

A Klingon mask from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” sits in a case below a model of the star ship Enterprise in “Star Trek: The Exhibition.” It is the featured sideshow event at the Washington State Fair this year.
A Klingon mask from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” sits in a case below a model of the star ship Enterprise in “Star Trek: The Exhibition.” It is the featured sideshow event at the Washington State Fair this year. Staff photographer

If you can identify a bat’leth at 20 paces, distinguish a “Deep Space Nine” uniform from a “Next Generation” counterpart and repair Captain Kirk’s communicator, then “Star Trek: The Exhibition” is where you’ll want to be when the fair opens on Friday (Sept. 11.)

Those props, artifacts and costumes are all part of the exhibit that spans nearly half a century (or several depending on your perspective) of the Star Trek franchise. Taken from the original 1960s series to the recent motion picture reboot directed by J.J. Abrams, there are more than $1 million worth of memorabilia in the exhibit.

Crews spent last week unpacking and setting up the exhibit, which is a separate, ticketed event. The objects are considered museum pieces and handled with care. But the older props, such as Kirk’s communicator, were only meant to last a season in a 1960s TV studio, not survive a trip through space.

So production coordinator Mark Smith was carefully reattaching the lid to the communicator. He noted how much it looked like a flip phone — something that wouldn’t appear in reality until decades later.

“They would look for real science to put into the show,” Smith said.

Another prop, a phaser weapon from the recent Abrams movies, looks more realistic than the communicator — if phasers were real. Smith said Hollywood pays much more attention to props now because of high-definition photography.

Visitors to the 3,500-square-foot exhibit will be greeted by a timeline spread over multiple panels. It begins in the 20th century with actual space exploration events as well as creator Gene Roddenberry’s milestones.

“NASA was actually the thought process behind his idea of Starfleet Academy,” Smith said.

The timeline suddenly takes a turn into the Star Trek universe in the mid-21st century. That’s when there’s a nuclear war, warp drive is invented and NASA becomes Starfleet. From that point on, every momentous event in the Star Trek saga is noted through 2379.

The timeline reflects the exhibit’s underlying theme of, “Where science meets science fiction,” Smith said.

The two big set pieces are full-scale mock-ups of the bridge of the original series’ USS Enterprise and the engineering room of the Enterprise of the “Next Generation” show, which aired in the 1980s and 1990s.

The original soundstage is long gone, but exhibit organizers used the original blueprints to create the bridge. It comes complete with those trademark blinking lights.

“They used the ship almost as a character on the show,” Smith said.

The engineering room allows visitors to step up to the control table. A mannequin of Lt. Worf stands nearby.

Have you ever wanted to sit in a starship captain’s chair? There will be one waiting for you.

Several other captain’s chairs are on display, though you can’t sit in them. If you’re a car buff, try to figure out which popular model’s seat was used by prop designers to become part of Kirk’s chair in the original series.

The USS Enterprise itself is there. The many models made for the shows and movies were snapped up by wealthy collectors long ago, Smith said. A car-sized replica of the starship is in Puyallup, and will be hung in front of a space-like background.

Smith and his co-horts are very much into “Star Trek,” but they clearly aren’t trying to foster any idea that “Star Trek” is anything but TV shows and movies. Several parts of the exhibit demonstrate the “movie magic” that went into the shows.

A full-sized prop, a scorpion fighter flown by Shinzon (Tom Hardy) in “Star Trek Nemesis,” is on display. Nearby is the refashioned photon torpedo that Spock’s body (actor Leonard Nimoy) was placed in for “The Wrath of Khan.”

Display cases hold all sorts of Star Trek objects. In the weapons case is the bat’leth, a Klingon sword that appeared in several of the series and movies.

Visitors to the traveling exhibit skew about 75 percent male, said Smith, who has managed the exhibit for seven years.

Visitors get a kick walking through the sets and seeing phasers, costumes and other objects up close that they’ve only seen previously on the screen, he said.


Where: Just inside the Red Gate.

Tickets: $8; children 5 and younger are admitted free with a paid adult.

Connect with fellow Trekkies

Trekkie 10 Forward gathering: Saturdays, Sept. 12, 19, 26; 3-8 p.m., location: The End Zone Sports Bar. Spocktails and Romulan Ale will be served.

Star Trek costume contest: Saturdays, Sept. 12, 19, 26; 5 p.m.; prizes will be awarded each week.

Parade through the fair: Saturdays, Sept. 12, 19, 26; noon; join the parade of costume characters, scouts and more in your Trek costume. Meet behind the Northwest Outdoors tent.