The Greatest Tragedy in Star Trek History

Posted: April 17, 2012 by J. Marcus in Science Fiction
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In January 1998, Star Trek: The Experience opened its doors in the Las Vegas Hilton.  One part museum, one part ride, one part casino, one part food court, the attraction was supposed to offer visitors the ultimate Star Trek experience.  People could walk through Deep Space Nine’s Promenade, grab a drink at Quark’s, walk onto the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise (TNG) and even go on a shuttle ride.  What if I told you this was but a shadow of what could really have been the greatest Star Trek experience ever?

In 1992, entertainment design group The Goddard Group pitched a revitalization project for downtown Las Vegas that would have altered the landscape forever.  CEO Gary Goddard’s vision: A life-size U.S.S. Enterprise in downtown Vegas.

Concept Rendering of the 1st concept for loading guests onto the Starship Enterprise <br>

Recently, on the Goddard Group’s blog, Goddard himself describes the process by which the Enterprise nearly took shape in the Nevada desert.  What’s striking is how much work was put into this project and how seriously it was taken by all involved.  Plans were drawn up, including research into just how big the Enterprise is supposed to be (according to the book The Making of Star Trek, the original Enterprise was roughly the size of an aircraft carrier).

The Goddard Group prepared a "relative sizing" chart of how large the Starship Enterprise was compared to other world-class monuments

As this ship wouldn’t have the luxury of “structural integrity fields” or any other 23rd-century wizardry, a few minor changes would have to be made to keep the structure freestanding.  Goddard explains that a minor “drydock” would have been built around the saucer section so that the structure could withstand the high winds of the Nevada desert.

In addition, artist’s renderings show the lowest decks of the ship are underground (a necessity for a ship that has a rounded bottom).

The whole project was almost ready for launch until the head of Paramount at the time, Stanley Jaffe, put an end to what could have been another ‘Wonder of the World’.  Goddard’s retelling of this heart-crushing moment will likely leave most Trekkies with a very heavy heart.  In my mind, however, what makes this whole thing that much worse is the fact that it would seem that the moment has come and gone.

Let’s look back at 1992 for a moment.  At the time there had only been 3 main starships to bear the name Enterprise: the original TV version, the film version and Next Generation‘s NCC-1701-D.  The selection of which ship to put in the desert was relatively simple compared to the decision process that would have to be undertaken now.  To date it would be a race between the following ships:

1) TOS Enterprise

2) TOS Movie Enterprise

3) TNG Enterprise

4) TNG Movie Enterprise

5) “EnterpriseEnterprise

6) 2009 Enterprise

The number of contenders has literally doubled.  And if you think Trekkies are heated about which segment of the franchise is best, imagine, if you will, the debate over which starship they get to see in three dimensions!

In 1992, the TOS Movie Enterprise was the clear choice.  The ship not only had the massive neon lighting in the warp nacelles (which the TNG version also had), but it was also self-illuminated, with spotlights covering every major component of the ship (something which was not properly adopted by the TNG folks until the Enterprise-E showed up in First Contact).

But now that CG has made it easier to light these models (no need for pesky wiring on such a small scale anymore), they all have their visual strengths (though I am STILL partial to the Enterprise-A).

Preliminary poster art designed for presentation to Paramount Studios

With no clear winner, the project would (if it were to be attempted again today) most likely upset any number of fans who felt that their favorite ship was given short shrift.  Also on the table, how about mixing genres?  The Enterprise-E could show off items from every incarnation that came before it.  The 2009 Enterprise, however, could only show stuff from the JJ-verse.

The Enterprise-A couldn’t really show off stuff from The Next Generation, could it?  Oh, I suppose it could if you called it an “Enterprise Museum” but now my head is starting to hurt.  The idea here is that the franchise has gotten too complex to satisfy all of its fandom with a project like this.  And remember now, I am a Star Trek fan.

My feeling is that, despite the wants and desires of the fan base (who are clamoring for a return to this project), its time has passed.

Regardless, please check out the Goddard Group’s blog for the full details of what might have been, along with some more mouth-watering images of the Enterprise as it would have looked in downtown Las Vegas!

  1. Dion says:

    How cool would that of been?! But to play devil’s advocate, I wonder f it would of looked strange within the Vegas skyline…

  2. J. Marcus says:

    It is a pretty eclectic mix out there in Vegas what with Pyramids, the Eiffel Tower and all the other stuff. I think the neon in the warp nacelles would have made her fit right in.

  3. Dion says:

    I mean the sheer size would be crazy!

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