While we were in Lake George this summer, we wanted to drive a bit on the Lakes to Locks Passage, which is a scenic byway that stretches from Canada down through New York. I researched some of the towns along the passage north of Lake George, and I discovered that the town of Ticonderoga, NY had a few hidden gems that seemed worth checking out.
The first of which…is the Star Trek Original Series Set Tour! And what a place this is.
Personally, I didn’t know much about Star Trek before going on this tour. I was aware of some of its famous one-liners (as you can see from this blog’s title) and had a general sense of who some of the characters are. I mean, let’s face it, Star Trek is a huge part of American pop culture and anyone living in civilized society probably knows who Captain Kirk and Spock are and know you do the V-shaped hand gesture when you tell someone to “live long and prosper”. However, you certainly don’t need to know anything about the series to enjoy the tour.
The Star Trek Original Series Set Tour was started by a man named James Cawley and a fan film group called Star Trek New Voyages. Cawley had worked on Star Trek: The Next Generation for two years, and he had a close friendship with a costume designer from the original series who left him blueprints as well as swatches and bolts of fabric from the original series.
The original set itself had long since been destroyed, but Cawley and his fan group have spent more than 15 years researching and watching old tape in order to recreate what you see on the tour today, which is basically a 13,000 square-foot floor-to-ceiling replica of the original series set as filmed on Desilu’s Stage 9. (Desilu was Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball’s production company–I had no idea they had their own company or that Lucille Ball herself greenlighted the production of Star Trek!)
And if it seems random to you that there would be a set tour of such an iconic TV show in a small town in NY, well, it seemed random to us as well. As it turns out, though, Cawley is originally from Ticonderoga and he wanted to bring the tour to his hometown, so it’s not so random after all! (Another fun fact: Cawley is also a very well-known Elvis impersonator, which really has nothing to do with Star Trek but knowing this information made me enjoy the tour even more.)
On the day of our tour, we arrived shortly after noon and were told the next tour was at 12:30. Or if we wanted…we could start right away. We chose the latter and enjoyed a private tour! Otherwise, the tours take place every half hour. Our guide’s name was Paul, and even though I had no familiarity with the show, his excitement and enthusiasm made everything so interesting! I felt a little bad that I didn’t understand any of his Star Trek jokes, but if you know the show and get Paul as your guide, you’re going to be in for a treat.
Throughout the tour, Paul went into a bit of detail about how the cast would have moved through the set and how various parts of the set were basically the same room that would just have furniture switched around in order to give it a different look and feel. For example, Captain Kirk’s living quarters were also Mr. Spock’s living quarters…and everyone else’s living quarters! They would just change the placement of the bed and desks and change the camera angles to give the room a different feel depending on whose quarters they were intended to be in a particular scene.
Our first stop on the tour itself was the transporter room, where we got to take turns beaming each other up by sliding the dials on the console (ok fine, no actual beaming took place). And this is when we learned that the actor who played Scotty, James Doohan, was actually missing a finger in real life so when he would “beam” someone up, you’d never see him use his right hand and if he did, he’d always use both his hands to hide the fact that he was actually missing the middle finger on his right hand.
We continued our tour in Sick Bay and Dr. McCoy’s office. They have the tilting exam table and monitor that would display sick crew members’ vitals, as well as a few different beds they would sleep or rest in while in Sick Bay. These beds all had a bit of a slant, which is apparently a trick used to allow for a full view of the actors without requiring the cameras to be adjusted to different heights and angles.
Next, we moved on to the briefing room, which as it turns out was also used as the recreation room, universal chapel, and more. Again, the furniture, screens, and pictures on the walls would be shifted around to make the room look as though it were a different space entirely. During our tour, it was set up as the recreation room complete with 3-D chess, space checkers, and a Vulcan lute (which happened to be signed by cast members such as William Shatner, Nichelle Nichols, and others).
Then we moved on to engineering where we saw the Jefferies tube and the warp core before wrapping up the tour on the bridge…where we both got to sit in Captain Kirk’s chair! And with that, our tour was, sadly, over. Afterward, we walked a bit through the lobby, which has tons of Star Trek memorabilia. There is also an original Desilu 35 mm film camera in the lobby which they have been able to confirm was used for the filming of Star Trek.
If you know and love Star Trek, go check this place out! If you don’t know anything about the series, you’ll still have fun, but I would definitely recommend watching a few episodes before you go so you at least have something to compare to what you see on the tour. Since we returned from vacation, we discovered that Netflix has the entire series available for streaming, and we’ve started working our way through the first season. It’s so cool to see just how closely this set tour mirrors the original set. (Also, I had no idea William Shatner was such a hottie! Ooo la la…)
In addition to the tour, cast members have been known to visit from time to time (apparently Leonard Nimoy was the only original cast member not to have ever visited). William Shatner was on site in May and is expected back again December 7th and 8th. Also, this past weekend they hosted their fourth annual “Trekonderoga”, which is basically a whole weekend of all things Star Trek (and some Elvis impersonations) with several stars from the various Star Trek series on site. And presumably, there will be a 5th annual event next summer in case you want to check it out.
For sure, this is a very fun and super unique way to spend an hour, and Ticonderoga is just a scenic one-hour drive away from Lake George.
And…there’s more than just the Star Trek tour in Ticonderoga. I’ll have more on the rest of our visit in my next post!