‘Star Trek: The Experience’ brought otherworldly fun to Las Vegas
Las Vegas is a cosmopolitan sort of place, but nothing like it was when Andorians, Klingons and Ferengi hung out here.
It was during the days when “Star Trek: The Experience” offered fans of the now-iconic science fiction franchise the most intriguing entertainment offering this side of the Neutral Zone.
The $70 million attraction — part museum, part motion simulator, part dinner theater — opened in January 1998 at the Las Vegas Hilton (now the Westgate) and closed 11 years later. It took took up part of the hotel’s casino floor, near a futuristic SpaceQuest casino and a restaurant and bar named after “Quark,” a character from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”
While waiting in line for the attraction, fans could peruse a museum-like “History of the Future” exhibit that combined real history with Trekkian history. The attraction’s initial story line — a second, Borg-related attraction opened in 2004 — followed guests boarding a typical motion simulator ride. Things then took a novel departure into left field when some nasty Klingons seeking to prevent the birth of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard” (“Star Trek: The Next Generation” star Patrick Stewart was seen in prerecorded video) interrupted the ride.
The attraction closed in 2008 and talk of relocating it to Neonopolis in downtown Las Vegas never panned out. Two years later, many of the attraction’s props were sold, at least offering grieving fans the chance to scarf up themed signs, spaceship replicas, Starfleet costumes and the odd transporter room component for their memorabilia collections.
April Hebert worked at the attraction for its entire run. Now a communications professor at the College of Southern Nevada, Hebert was an actor then and came on board before it even was finished.
“I was everything,” she says, including a Starfleet officer, a Vulcan and an Andorian. Like other cast members, the job often involved interacting with guests.
“It was interactive theater, really. Environmental acting,” Hebert says.
While she recalls no untoward interactions with guests, she remembers that a colleague who played a Ferengi once had his faux ear pulled by an overeager woman. (In “Star Trek” lore, massaging a Ferengi’s ear is a turn-on.)
“She took off,” Hebert says. “I’m sure he was quite shocked.”
But she enjoyed her time at the attraction and still keeps in touch with some of her fellow cast members. This holiday season, Hebert again will host a party for some of them at her home.
And when people ask her about her “Star Trek” gig, “I always say it’s the best job in the galaxy.”