Star Trek has played host to all sorts of life forms: Vulcans, Klingons, members of the Q Continuum. But what about constitutional monarchs? The second-season Voyager episode “Investigations” did just that when it featured one of the stranger cameos in all of American television. King Abdullah of Jordan, who turns 52 today (January 30), appeared in an early scene of the episode. That's him as a science ensign in a corridor, listening to and nodding with Harry Kim before Neelix shows up and he's dismissed. I know he was still just a Prince back in 1996, but you'd think he'd get a chance to talk with Captain Janeway, huh?
The Star Trek enthusiast was visiting California and somehow his handlers and the producers of the show decided that a mere royal visit wasn't enough. After a tour of the set the Prince was told he could get into makeup and a uniform to have some photos taken. What fan would say no? Next thing ya know, he's in a scene with Garrett Wang and Ethan Phillips.
He doesn't speak any lines in the brief moment – he may be the ruler of a country, but the Screen Actors Guild is more powerful than any dynastic sovereign. For him to talk would have broken rules not even the U.N. could smooth over. But he communicates with a nod, and then walks out of frame as the story continues. The scene comes right at the beginning of a pretty good Voyager episode – one in the middle of the “Seska arc,” with Tom Paris pretending to be leaving the ship. There's also the goofy idea of Neelix doing a chat show (“A Briefing With Neelix,”). which is either amusing or annoying depending on your point of view of our friendly Talaxian.
King Abdullah's relationship with Star Trek doesn't end here. As we fans know, you can't shake it that easily. No, he doesn't show up in costume at the annual Las Vegas convention, but if he has his way he'll be able to do so something similar without having to leave his Kingdom. Movement continues in the Red Sea port of Aqaba for the development of a massive theme park that will include a licensed Star Trek-branded section.
Aqaba, if you remember from the film Lawrence of Arabia, is a key port in the Middle East. It is pretty much the only spot in Jordan that isn't landlocked. As a tourist destination, however, it stands very much in the shadow of the coastal resort of Eilat just a few miles west in Israel. Eilat had a head start in hotel development and has no prohibition on liquor. If you were flying in from Russia for a weekend of fun and sun where would you choose to go, eh? To compete, Jordan is doubling-down on The Future. (It is worth mentioning here that Jordan is one of the very few regional nations that recognizes and holds a peace treaty with Israel. The battle for tourist dollars between these two countries is not quite as volatile as you may think.)
The “Red Sea Astrarium” will be a collection of hotels and theme parks befitting a spot so rich in history. If all goes according to plan, the resort will ultimately feature a number of different sections devoted to different points in time and cultures - beginning with the Nabateans, then the Babylonians, then the Romans then the British. Most interesting, however, will be the section devoted to a time yet to come – and that representation of the future will be the world of Star Trek. Contracts with CBS, who holds the license on Star Trek, have been signed.
So should you immediately have the Priceline Negotiator book you a ticket? Well, not so fast. There's been talk about this Jordanian journey to tomorrow since 2011. The most recent reports have an opening date in 2017. The good news is that there was an item just the other day -- click HERE -- stating that a Dubai-based construction company won the bid to start work. It also mentions that in addition to four hotels, a water park and a “4D theater,” a “Star Trek-themed adventure ride” is part of the planning.
Whether this means you'll be able to walk the grounds of the Starfleet Academy's gardens and schmooze with an in-character Boothby, or just sit in one of the motion simulators as J.J. Abrams-style helmeted Klingons fire at you remains to be seen. Clearly I'm rooting for the former.
Believe it or not, I've actually been to Aqaba. It was fine – a beach town in dire need of some new hotels. I drove through it during an excursion to Petra – the UNESCO World Heritage site best known for being the hiding spot of the Holy Grail from the third Indiana Jones film. (It also shows up in the second Transformers film, but let's not get into that.) Petra is one of the most breathtaking places I've been to in my life, and I'm very much looking for an excuse to go back. So keep an eye open for developments. Boldly returning to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (the country's full name as per the stamp on my passport) by 2017 may be part of my five-year mission.
You think you'd make the trip? You've got a few years to save up. Let me know in the comments if you see yourself doing it.
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