A lackluster Star Trek: The Exhibition at the L.A. County Fair

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Fear not, Trek fans. You won’t need to “boldly go” into this exhibition. But you might need an energy drink to stay awake through the thing.


For me one of the joys of the coming of the end of summer in California is the annual Los Angeles County Fair, the largest such fair in the country. If you’ve been, you know what I’m talking about.

If not, you’ll find it akin to trying to hit Disneyland in full in a single day. (In other words, there’s no possible way of completing the feat. And if you haven’t been to Disneyland and don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, the idea is lost on you.)

The L.A. County Fair has got everything. Displays, concerts, food, celebrities, events, crafts, exhibits, food on a stick, rides, spectacle, fried foods (the fried avocados with dipping sauce were exceptionally delicious),  games, those “leach-the-toxins-out-of-your-body-by-sticking-your-feet-in-some-kind-of-freaky-solution” (snake oil) booths, giant BBQd turkey legs (!), beyond-the-grave considerations (Los Angeles Dodger coffins and urns! Woot!), beers of the world, photography displays, the world’s largest snake (!), live cows and pigs and sheep and chickens, monster truck rallys, horse racing, Bad Company’s 40th Anniversary Tour (!), funnel cake, frog legs and more, more, more, more, more! Plus, enough freaks and weirdos (in the form of the folks who come to visit the fair) to drop your jaw over the entire time you’re sloughing about. Satisfaction (and a sunburnt back of your neck) guaranteed. All good, clean fun.

A $5.00 cover charge got me in the door where I was about to “boldly go where no man had gone before.” Or so I’d thought …

In the past, there’s always been at least one special event I’ve had to see. A few years ago it was the plasticized humans — yes, that same exhibit (but scaled down) seen in Las Vegas and that’s criss-crossed the globe. In 2012? It was examples of the newly commissioned “neon museum” garnering more and more interest. This year? There were a couple things: The “Pencils 2 Pixels” exhibit featuring a Walt Disney Family Museum plus displays, histories and animation examples of and from several major animation studios (Sony Pictures, Dreamworks, etc.) and “Star Trek: The Exhibition” where it was promised I would “experience Star Trek in a whole new way!” (That little bi-line right there should have spoken volumes to me … but the delight I felt at being given the opportunity to “Trek out” superseded anything I felt with this year’s visit to the fair.)

I was left disappointed by what I’d seen … decapitated Klingon and Borg heads and more that looked closer to cheesy Halloween props than official production pieces.

Shuffling about for a few hours, in and out of various shopping pavilions, quaffing a craft beer at 10:30 in the morning (Hey! It was 1:30 Eastern time … get off me …) and playing with the new Cutco knives for 45 minutes or thereabout, I made it to the building where “Star Trek: The Exhibition” was being held. A $5.00 cover charge got me in the door and into a refreshingly air conditioned hall divided in sections where I was about to “boldly go where no man had gone before.”

Or so I’d thought …

30 minutes later, I was left disappointed by what I’d seen. Wrinkled costumes behind Lucite displays worn by extras. Decapitated Klingon and Borg heads and more that looked closer to cheesy Halloween props than official production pieces. Weapons and communicators and medical props that appeared as if their creators didn’t have the wherewithal nor the inclination to make them look impressive in the least. (Moreso, they were second-hand rejects ready to be pawned off to a thrift store.) I saw corny displays of screen printed graphics mirroring U.S.S. Enterprise monitor images that might have looked good if you were wearing someone else’s eyeglass prescription. (Translation: They looked hokey.) To be fair, there was a pretty cool chronological timeline showcasing everything from the first man in space (Yuri Gagarin, for those who don’t know) right on through the history of the Star Trek television series and film series.

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Also, there was a replica of the Enterprise’s bridge. While we were invited to “sit in Captain Kirk’s chair,” we were not allowed to snap photos of us so seated and “in command.” But … didn’t the brochure and Fair website state “Come aboard the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, sit in Captain Kirk’s chair, take photos aplenty” … ??? Yes, it did. Yet we were forbidden to do so by one of the flunkies watching over the set. “Hey! You! No photography!” *yeesh*

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While there were some displays which were quite attention garnering (a gown Councilor Deanna Troi once wore on the show could elicit a silent “hubba-hubba” if you didn’t control yourself), others left much to be desired. I saw a kid accidentally bump into a case featuring Commander Data — it was so flimsy it looked as if it would topple to the floor. Inside, Data’s head wobbled about like a newspaper-stuffed latex mask and threatened to list on its side. *sigh*

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being best? “Star Trek: The Exhibition” was a lackluster, boring and just this side of disappointing grade of “3” with few genuinely exciting things to get pumped about.

If you’re in town through the end of the month and find yourself at the Fair, shell out $5.00 and see what I mean. But you’d be better off frequenting your neighborhood bookstore (yes, rumor has it those still exist in various shopping malls and strip centers) and peruse the nifty Star Trek: The Art of Juan Ortiz hardcover Keith McDuffee recently wrote about. Better yet, purchase it below.

Then again … maybe if I’d haunted the beer garden and its fare a little more aggressively the Star Trek exhibit would have been better received … if you catch my meaning.

Photo Credit: Los Angeles County Fair

One Comment on “A lackluster Star Trek: The Exhibition at the L.A. County Fair

  1. Your Star Trek exhibit review echos my thoughts.

    glad you mentioned the Pencils 2 Pixils animation art exhibit in BUILDING 8. For unknown reasons the Fair mentions that it s in the shopping area, but not WHICH of the many buildings in in the south east portion of the fairgrounds. The major stop-motion Aardman Animation puppets from the 2012 3-D PIRATES film is a highlight of the animation exhibit for me. Yet Aardman is not mentioned on the Credits Board near the north entry doors.

    Was glad to see the Ray Harryhausen reconstructed set built to complete thev1952 Fairy Tale film which was completed decades later. also glad to see the Sponge Bob puppet.

    More puppets from my collection are in the Millard Sheets Center for the Arts along with other arts. So far, I I have not seen any Fair publicity about this. Yet the art gallery for decades has been one of the reasons people go to the Fair.

    These puppets are from one of the most important puppet collections in the USA.



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