In a Next Generation State of Mind
"May I have your name, please, sir?" - Starfleet Ensign to Jean-Luc Picard (former Captain of the U.S.S. ENTERPRISE).
Quick show of hands—how many of us are in a bit of a NEXT GENERATION mood after the reveal of Jean-Luc Picard from CBS ALL ACCESS’ new show, STAR TREK: PICARD ?
Yeah, me too. I've been scouring social media for any insight about the show's new Starfleet uniforms (just professional curiosity… I swear), and doing my best to steer clear of any major spoilers along the way.
While fruitlessly searching for anything about the new uniforms, I put "All Good Things" on in the background, and started to think back on all the uniforms Captain Picard has worn over the years, and that last episode of TNG is great if you're as uniform focused as we are. We get to see an alternate-future version of the uniform (eventually overwritten by the restored flow of time), we see the final "Mandrin Collared" version of the uniform worn at that time, and we see our temporally shifting captain wearing the uniform in use when he first assumed command of the ENTERPRISE-D. The 1st Season jumbo weight spandex, one-piece, Starfleet uniform jumpsuit that the TNG cast referred to as their "Spacesuits."
I remember the first time I ever saw those uniforms in a "sneak peek" featurette on "Entertainment Tonight!" They were really cool, and unlike anything we'd ever seen in Star Trek on TV, or on the movie screen. They brought back the department colors, but switched them up. Also, that new badge! I was more than a little obsessed with that badge. Sometime later I found out that these spacey new uniforms had been designed by Star Trek's original costume designer William Ware Theiss which just made them that much cooler!
Sidebar: As a kid in 1987 I wrote a letter to Mr. Theiss asking about his new uniforms and specifically about the new insignia badge. At that same moment in time, Star Trek Original Set Tour creator & owner James Cawley wrote an almost identical letter to Mr. Theiss. He got a response AND an authentic badge from the set. I didn't. It's OK. Everything worked out the way it needed to for both of us. Today, we're friends and we both get to work with Star Trek stuff for a living!
Now, growing up I was always a Star Trek fan, and my favorite piece of Star Trek memorabilia has always been my kid sized, short sleeved, Starfleet command division uniform shirt. They had been made by a company that specialized in durable kids clothing in the ‘70s &’80s, and were the first licensed Star Trek uniform shirts ever made. They even made them for STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, and I remember hoping that they would make something similar for this new show. No one ever did.
So in the run-up to the thirtieth anniversary of TNG's premiere, and recalling my hope that someone would make a "casual,” shirt version of those first Next Gen uniforms I asked if we could do it? Amazingly everyone said, "Yes!” So ANOVOS designer Steve Fronczek and I set to work designing what would become our STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION Shore Leave Collection Uniform Shirt. The first thing we asked ourselves was: "What would these have looked like if they had been designed and marketed during the first season of TNG in 1987?”
The first thing we realized is that any company working on a garment for that show would have been working closely with the production, very likely even seeing costumes in person. They would have been very cognizant of the fact that they were hoping to make a "fun-to-wear", short-sleeved shirt based on the show's new uniforms. And so they would have been thrilled with the new uniform skant. With the skant, Bill Theiss had done half their work for them. It already had shortsleeves, and the simplified color blocking & shoulders would make manufacturing easier. Plus, thanks to a suggestion from Gene Roddenberry himself, those uniforms could be worn by anyone on the ship. Make it shirt length and your work's half done, but what about the badge?
The badge presented an interesting challenge. In 1987 any clothing company would have used a piece of production designed art, and simply made a patch of the badge, or just silkscreened it. But, what we loved about the '70's version was how much it looked like a real uniform, right down to the perfect Starfleet insignia patch. We had to do better. Using a production made combadge as our model we utilized a technique called "Trompe l'oeil" (which literally means "to trick the eye") to create a patch that looks from about a foot back like a real communicator badge. We even used an athletic reflective material to simulate the look of a silver, painted plastic delta for the Starfleet insignia on the combadge. Finally, to complete the first season look we worked to get the shoulder piping just right. A tricky detail, but one we had to have for a true 1st Season look.
All in all, I think we got it right. As a "concept" piece it hit every requirement we set for it. It had to be faithful to TNG's first season uniforms (with close attention to detail), while being a casual, hopefully fun-to-wear shirt. In fact, I'm rocking mine now as I watch "Judge Q" fading away from Captain Picard after another successful trial. I wonder if Picard ever saw Q again?
"See you out there!"