Thursday, July 8, 2010

Science, fiction fizzle at 'Star Trek Live' at Kennedy Space Center

Watching Star Trek Live is an out-of-this-world experience, and sometimes that's not a great thing.

The 30-minute show, featuring two actors on a stage and others on-screen, is running at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex several times daily through Sept. 6.

Its presence brings make-believe space exploration into an attraction dedicated to the real thing and to the folks who truly went where no man had gone before.

The Star Trek Live pre-show mixes a science quiz with trivia questions from the original Star Trek television series and the 2009 motion picture starring Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. ("Borg!" yelled a kid in front of me.)

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Once the show begins, members of the audience are considered to be incoming cadets of the Starfleet Academy. Apparently, it's our first day, and we're greeted by enthusiastic hotshot commander Sean Christopher. Training is interrupted by Voula, a Vulcan who has traveled a long way — all the way from the future.

The Vulcan — a female yet so Mr. Spock-like on my visit — warns that a rogue Romulan also is on his way from the future and wants to interrupt the technological advances of 2010 in order to gain advantage in the battles of his time.

Time travel hurts my head, and this is where science meets fiction in an awkward way. Although there's an attempt to educate on a few matters such as propulsion (accompanied by La Roux's "Bulletproof"), those facts float amongst futuristic gibberish.

Star Trek Live does teach other positive attributes such as teamwork. Our hero – Sean – offers up his smart phone to help the Vulcan's technology interface with today's equipment. This leads to the best joke of the show, which involves a ringtone by Whitney Houston; the Vulcan determines her to be "overemotional."

The show works best when the actors interact with the KSC audience, but even that can fall flat. In our group, a man was "volunteered" to be examined on the stage — but there was a language barrier. More successful skits used kids. In one, kids were urged to help with a sudden outbreak of Tribbles. In another, a girl (and green-screen technology) saved the day.

The conclusion is satisfactory and pays attention to Trek history, but I still don't think Trek fans will be thrilled. Captain Kirk barely is addressed, and the lore isn't explored much.

Star Trek Live is performed in the 300-seat Astronaut Encounter Theater, where the public meets actual space explorers. That jarring contrast continues out into the visitor complex, which generally presents dramatic and earnest entertainment regarding the history of the United States space program.

Some of the exhibits are simple but very effective. The Rocket Garden, which is near the Astronaut Encounter Theater, showcases Titan and Atlas rockets alongside the cramped capsules that astronauts used to brave the outer reaches.

It's a study in contrasts: Big achievements in tiny packages.

And it's an example of real life trumping reel life.

'Star Trek Live'

Where: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, 5 miles south of Titusville

When: Several times daily through Sept. 6

Cost: Included in regular admission, which is $41 general, $31 ages 3-11

Phone: 321-449-4444


Space race: Check these out

I recommend taking in these attractions, which are all included in the regular admission to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex:

KSC Tours. The most basic of its bus tours shows the scope of the work here, with stops that show off the shuttle launch pad, an area that covers the Apollo-Saturn era and a work area for the International Space Station.

Shuttle Launch Encounter. The attraction stimulates as it simulates the conditions of astronauts taking off on the space shuttle.

Space Mirror Memorial. In contrast, a quiet spot of unusual design that salutes astronauts who died in the line of duty.

IMAX movies. KSC says it has the world's only back-to-back IMAX screens. Now playing: Hubble 3-D and Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3-D.

Space Shop. Here are loads of gifts you won't see anywhere else, some with very specific messages and flights. ("Failure is not an option" from Apollo XIII is a recurring theme.) Don't miss the second floor, which has higher-end objects and educational options.,0,3410057.column