Choose Your Own Crime Scene : CSI The Experience

Autopsy. CSI : Montreal Science Centre Autopsy. CSI : Montreal Science Centre

Written by Jane O’Faherty

A bold, bombastic intro from The Who might not be the most obvious sound you’d hear when arriving at a science museum. However, the opening strains of ‘Who Are You?’ may pique the interest of aficionados of one of America’s biggest TV shows.

CSI: The Experience, which opens this week at Montreal Science Centre, has been touring museums across the world since 2006, and also has a permanent residency at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Alleyway Scene. CSI: The Experience at the Montreal Science Centre.

Alleyway Scene. CSI: The Experience at the Montreal Science Centre.

The basic premise of the exhibit is simple. Pick one of three grisly crime scenes, which are reconstructed throughout the space. Using a CSI report sheet, visitors then scan each scene for possible evidence – from mobile phones to pizza boxes.

Once visitors finish taking their notes, they head to the lab to truly crack the case. There, their theories are put to the test. Learning the basics of blood spatter analysis, impression evidence and forensic botany, budding sleuths piece together the clues to catch the killer.

Unfortunately for fans of the series, there will be no running after murderers or handcuffing suspects. The exhibition is purely focused on the scientific aspects of solving crimes. This should come to the relief of the experts who slammed the long-running series for exaggerating the duties of real-life investigators.

Car Trunk. CSI : The Investigation. Montreal Science Museum.

Car Trunk. CSI : The Investigation. Montreal Science Museum.

Indeed, the CSI franchise could be held responsible for portraying forensic investigation as quite a glamorous career choice. This exhibition manages to neutralize this expectation somewhat, featuring interviews with both original CSI characters and real forensic experts.

As someone who was a little too young for the original CSI, and would be more of a Sherlock fan, the exhibition was more enjoyable than I imagined.

The experience keeps fans happy without losing too much scientific credibility. It’s a concise yet detailed experience, though this nerd would have liked it to focus more on real-life forensics.

There were also some choice cheesy lines from CSI supervisor Gil Grissom at the end. Remarking on a murder in the Nevada desert, the lead character tells visitors: “The only thing that survived in the desert was his wedding ring – ‘til death do us part.”

Sure, that parting shot might not be as cringe-inducing as the one-liners of CSI: Miami’s Horatio Caine. However, it served as an indicator that the experience doesn’t take itself too seriously. You won’t leave Montreal Science Center with in-depth knowledge of forensics, but it’s an hour-long diverting distraction – rather like the show that inspired it.

CSI: The Experience runs from April 6 until September 4. Adult tickets cost $23, with discounts for children and seniors. Ticket prices include the four permanent exhibitions at the Montreal Science Center.