‘Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction’ Lands at EMP

EMPIW-introThe Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction exhibit opened last weekend at the EMP Museum here in Seattle. I was lucky enough to attend the press preview, and it certainly does not disappoint. The premise of the exhibit, dreamed up by curator Brooks Peck, is that a giant space ark has landed on Earth. The ship is full of aliens and artifacts collected from myriad planets throughout time, immediately conjuring memories of Flight of the Navigator. Visitors are invited to browse the collection and interact with the alien space craft.

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Interior view of the ship looking at the entrance. Photo by Will James.

You first step into the “airlock” and are instantly immersed in what actually feels like a space craft. Peck wanted the interior to feel warm, not cold and blue like a lot of modern science fiction. He also wanted it to feel ancient but not derelict. The fabricators who built the exhibit executed his vision wonderfully. There are plenty of tubes and grids and panels, all in warm hues. There is no harsh lighting and the mood is finished off with a wonderful combination of sci-fi sound effects and music that loops every 20 minutes.

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Panel for the LV-426 (from Alien) case. Photo by Will James.

The main parts of the exhibit are made up of glass cases arranged, not by show or film, as you would expect in a museum, but by planet and date–the way an alien race would categorize them. The panel in front of each case is divided into three main sections. The first and largest describes the artifacts as if they were real items collected by an alien species. The second section describes the film or show the artifacts came from. The third section is a small display that shows clips of the actual items being used on film. Every item on display was actually used in production.

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Proton pack and ghost trap from ‘Ghostbusters’ and Sarris from ‘Galaxy Quest’. Photo by Will James.

There are over 150 artifacts on display. Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Back to the Future, Alien, Terminator, Dr. Who, and many more are all represented here. But if I had to choose my favorite things to see up close and in person the Ghostbusters case and the amazingly detailed Sarris costume are tied. Seeing a proton pack and ghost trap in person gave me all kind of good feels. As for Sarris, it’s amazing to see this up close and realize that it was a highly detailed costume and not CG–the craftsmanship in the costume is just amazing.

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The All Spark from ‘Transformers’. Photo by Will James.

As many readers may know, I’m a huge Transformers fan. Such a big fan, in fact, that I don’t even mind the new movies (I know). Getting to see the All Spark from the films was a nice surprise.

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The 3D infographics displays. Photo by Will James.

Like many geeks, I love a good infographic, especially when its detailing geeky things. EMP has taken the infographic up a notch with three different display–Robot Design, Spaceship Design, and Alien Morphology. Each display covers the most iconic representations and includes 3D printed models.

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The planetscape is a fun way to explore different worlds. Photo by Will James.

You may have seen one of these before–a giant globe projector that shows a planet. No matter how many times you see one of these, they are always pretty cool. What makes this one even better than a standard issue one is that, in addition to being able to view maps of the planets in our own solar system, EMP has been working on creating maps of fictional planets as well. There are currently three planets available–one of them is Cybertron–and more are in the works.

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Who doesn’t like playing with pneumatic tubes? Photo by Will James.

You may have noticed in several of the photos above that there is strange alien writing all over the exhibit–mainly on each panel but also on the walls and in various other places. What does it all say? Well, if you have a friend, or make a friend in the exhibit, you can find out. There are two of these translator stations located at opposite ends of the exhibit. One person punches in the code from a card into the translator, sticks the card into the tube and hits the send button to send it via pneumatic tube to the other translator. Your friend then punches in the same code in the opposite translator. If both stations receive the same code, the translator prints out an alphabet key! Now you can go around translating all of the alien writing. I’m only going to give away one of them–the writing on the Ghostbusters case says, “Don’t cross the streams.”

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Gather your friends and take the ship on a journey in the cockpit. Photo by Will James.

This is the ship’s cockpit. It’s one of the big interactive features of the exhibit. Unfortunately, it was undergoing some last-minute tweaks, so we didn’t get to experience it. The cockpit has seats for up to four people and allows a group to plot a course for a distant planet, experience warping/hyperspace/lightspeed, and more with a digital view screen, hand activated light panels, and more buttons than you can count.

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Any and every gun you can imagine. Photo by Will James.

The largest single display onboard the alien ship is the “raygun wall.” This wall has firearms from so many different shows, films, and eras that it made my head spin. It was fun trying to figure out where they were all from. It wasn’t ready yet so I did not get to experience it, but this display will include an interactive screen and headphones that will display a key for the weapons and allow the listener to hear the sound each one makes when fired.

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Gaughan was definitely a geek about his art. Photo by Will James.

For me, the most interesting part of the EMP collection was the Jack Gaughan exhibit. Gaughan was, for many years, a prolific sci-fi and fantasy artist. When he passed, his wife donated her entire collection to the EMP Museum. The collection includes a detailed history of everything he ever did including sketch books, diaries, accounting ledgers, proof paintings, Polaroids, and, of course, finished works. I was not familiar with his work, but the man and his detailed documenting of all he did make him a fascinating person to learn about.

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The ‘Star Wars’ costume exhibit is also open. Photo by Will James.

I’ve been a longtime fan and visitor of the EMP Museum, and this new exhibit is one of my favorites by far. I can’t recommend this exhibit enough for any sci-fi geeks and families living in or visiting Seattle. Peck and his team did a spectacular job of bringing their vision to life. If you need any more reason to visit, you also can check out the Star Wars and the Power of Costume exhibit as well.

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Will is a geek, athlete, husband to a geek mom, and father of 4-year-old and 1-year-old geeks-in-the-making living in Seattle, Washington. He loves reading, comics, cosplay, games (tabletop and video sorts), and robots - especially Transformers. He's also the co-host of the Sunday Evening with Captain Owen podcast (available on iTunes) and custom prop builder at Billythebrick Cosplay.