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Star Trek exhibit takes fans on a voyage through the iconic sci-fi universe

Gawk at Capt. Kirk's chair, scream like you've suffered the wrath of Khan, and get beamed up to the Enterprise at EMP Museum's ode to all things Star Trek.

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Anne Dujmovic
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1 of 26 Anne Dujmovic

Captain, that building is not logical

On Sept. 8, 1966, a little sci-fi show featuring a racially diverse crew aboard a spaceship called the USS Enterprise made its TV debut. To mark the 50th anniversary of "Star Trek," Seattle's EMP Museum has amassed more than 100 props, costumes and set pieces from throughout the Trek universe.

EMP, designed by Frank Gehry, was founded in 2000 by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. That's EMP on the left, competing with another of Seattle's architectural icons.

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Stairship Enterprise

March boldly up the steps to reach the "Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds" main gallery. First, pause to read the lines from one of television's most memorable opening credit sequences ever. You know them by heart: "Space...the final frontier..."

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Playing bridge

Capt. Kirk's command chair from the original series is here, along with the restored navigation console, which is on display for the first time in 25 years. Flanking the chair are costumes worn by DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy) and William Shatner (Kirk). Many of the pieces on exhibit are courtesy of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

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4 of 26 Courtesy of Smithsonian Channel

The driver's seat

In a new documentary, EMP curator and Star Trek fan Brooks Peck says he hasn't sat in Kirk's chair and "never ever will."

"We're the stewards of this chair. And so no sitting," Peck says.

Many of the original sets were taken apart and used for scrap, but the chair was saved. Allen bought the chair in a 2002 auction. "Building Star Trek" premieres on the Smithsonian Channel Sept. 4.

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Many ethnicities

The original series, created by Gene Roddenberry, was canceled after three seasons. But it was a boundary-breaking show notable for its diverse cast, including an African-American woman (Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura) and a Japanese-American man (George Takei as Sulu) in starring roles.

The mannequins in the EMP exhibit were painted to reflect the various skin colors seen on the show. "We hope they will be a reminder that Star Trek...embraces and celebrates a diversity of origins, cultures, and opinions."

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6 of 26 CBS via Getty Images

Uhura as hero

Nichols considered quitting the show after the first season, the exhibit points out, but she was persuaded to stay by a big fan: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"'Nichelle, whether you like it or not, you have become a symbol...What you've accomplished, for all of us, will only be real if you stay,'" she recalled King telling her. She has recounted the story over the years, including during an Ask Me Anything on Reddit in 2015.

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Stellar garb

A tunic worn by Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock) and a dress worn by Nichols (Uhura) are, logically, displayed side by side. In the neighboring display case at left, you'll spy some of those rapid reproducers: tribbles! As on the show, they pop up throughout the exhibit.

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Hang dry and prosper

A close-up of one of Spock's shirts, circa 1969, from the original series.

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iKhanic costumes

You might not remember the finer details of the tunic Ricardo Montalban wore in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" because you couldn't stop staring at his chest. (His secret? A lot of push-ups.) Now you can get a good look at his costume from the 1982 movie. Next to it is the getup Benedict Cumberbatch wore when he played Khan in 2013's "Star Trek Into Darkness."

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Khan job

A closer look at Cumberbatch's much-less-revealing Khan costume, designed by Michael Kaplan.

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Shout like Shatner

In "Wrath of Khan," the most famous moment involved some Oscar-worthy scenery-chewing by Montalban and Shatner. At EMP's Khan video booth, you get to play an enraged Kirk. Sadly, the interactive feature was malfunctioning the morning we were there. We had to settle for whisper-screaming "Khaaaaaaaaaan!!" to ourselves so we didn't disturb the other visitors.

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To boldly glow

In the episode "Mirror, Mirror" (1967), Kirk's evil twin is distinguished by an outfit envied by professional ice skaters everywhere: a sparkly gold tunic, with sash. His dagger is here too.

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Hard-core Gorn

If you were a small child when you first saw the reptilian alien the Gorn ("Arena," 1967) you probably didn't sleep well that night. He was slow-moving, yet still scary. Behold, the Gorn costume. Feel silly now?

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Flip phone

A communicator from the original series (1966-69).

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Sympto-Matic

Dr. McCoy's medical scanner from the original series.

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16 of 26 Courtesy of Smithsonian Channel

Tri-brid device

The tricorder (this one from the original series) was "like an iPad on steroids," says curator Brooks Peck in the "Building Star Trek" documentary. It could be used for a multitude of tasks, including closely examining life-forms. A $10 million XPrize competition to build a real-life handheld medical scanner, inspired by the fictional tricorder, runs through early next year.

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Stunner

A phaser from the movie "Star Trek Into Darkness" (2013).

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Shades of La Forge

"Next Generation" fans can peer at this visor worn by LeVar Burton (as Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge). His uniform is on display too, right next to one worn by Patrick Stewart (Capt. Jean-Luc Picard).

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Borg wear

The "Voyager" crew is represented too, by a catsuit donned by Jeri Ryan (as Seven of Nine) and a uniform worn by Kate Mulgrew (who played Capt. Kathryn Janeway).

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Well-crafted spacecraft

Filming models of starships like the Enterprise-D (foreground) from "Next Generation," as well as the "Deep Space Nine" space station, hang from the second floor of the gallery. Really want to geek out? Use the nearby touchscreen display to look at ship schematics in the starship database.

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Beam yourself up, museumgoer

Pretend you're part of the crew with EMP's transporter simulator. After you complete your mission (where you get to fire your phaser) you'll be beamed back to the Enterprise -- unless you're wearing a red shirt.

The creators of the original series came up with the transporter as a budget-saving device. It "allowed us to be well into the story by script page two," Roddenberry said.

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Spock loves Lucy

If you're a Star Trek fan, you have Lucille Ball to thank. The original series was created at Desilu Productions, co-founded by the "I Love Lucy" star and husband Desi Arnaz. NBC bought the show but ordered a second pilot, after rejecting the first. Even so, the Desilu board worried about high costs and held a vote to cancel the show. But Ball had final say. She was the chair and, lucky for us, a champion of the show.

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Cooking With Kirk

Star Trek's influence in our everyday lives seems as vast as the universe. One wall is devoted to some of the ways the sci-fi franchise has permeated pop culture and technology and science too. Science and tech highlights include the space shuttle named after the Enterprise (1976) and the current XPrize medical tricorder competition.

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Mr. Smack

In the '60s, Spock and the Star Trek name were used to push breakfast cereal. Did you know "Space energy comes from Sugar Smacks?" It says so right on the box. Sold!

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Long-lived hand sign

The Boston Red Sox marked Star Trek night at Fenway Park in 2015 with big foam hands doing the Vulcan salute. This year's event was held Aug. 12, with Shatner himself throwing the first pitch.

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Trekking into next year

The "Exploring New Worlds" exhibit, which opened in May, has been extended through March 5, 2017.

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