STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION @ 30 — Captain Picard's Uniform Jacket: The "Darmok" Variation
“Temba. His arms wide.”
The story of our newest release, the Captain Picard “Darmok” Uniform Jacket, is about stagecraft. You see actors love to stand out, lead actors especially so, and a classically trained Shakespearean actor would absolutely understand the value of having a costume that was unique especially in a large uniformed ensemble cast like The Next Generation. And so it was that in the run-up to season five, Patrick Stewart asked production for just such a uniform. Something that could be put into a rotation of sorts very much like the Command green wraparound tunics had been for William Shatner during The Original Series. Ordinarily a budget conscious production like TNG wouldn’t normally go to the expense or effort to create a new uniform for one character, but this was an easy call to make. A dashing new uniform was not only a good fit for the more action oriented stories they had in mind for the ever evolving Captain Picard, but a new uniform would provide additional options for the new toy line that would launch a year later with their first Captain Picard action figure. Not coincidentally that figure was wearing the new uniform.
The new uniform was a perfect piece of design work on the part of The Next Generation's costume designer Robert Blackman. Taking inspiration from World War II Submarine Captains and fighter pilots, the new uniform cast the silhouette of a dashing officer who was ready for anything.
The pants were plain black uniform pants, but with a wide cuff that was bloused into his boots much like any uniform ready for battle. In fact, they were the same pants worn with The Original Series movie era uniforms, only without the department color stripe that ran down each leg. The gray tunic, perfect in its restrained patterning and color palette is all business, and perfect when paired with the jacket.
As for the jacket itself, there were a few of them made and worn over the last three seasons of the show; it turns out that uniform was worn in over twenty four episodes far exceeding Capt. Kirk’s green wraps in screen time. However, it’s the first jacket that caught our attention, made of real leather suede with vinyl shoulders, and designed quite literally to be Starfleet's rendition of a pilot's flight jacket. It makes sense. Captain Picard was a polymath: an explorer, diplomat, archaeologist, strategist, and an excellent pilot. It’s the last one that comes to mind when we see Picard in his new jacket, and that’s exactly what the production intended.
There was only one small problem: the shiny shoulders on the jacket. Fans have presupposed a number of reasons why after only one appearance a new jacket was constructed with soft, micro-suede shoulders. There’s even been a tall tale or two told at conventions about it. The reason for the change was that the shiny, smooth vinyl shoulders reflected bleed-light from the set, including residual ambient green light from Chroma key green screen set ups used during effects shots. Ergo the first and, let’s be honest, the coolest version of that jacket made only one appearance. Until now.
We loved the original version of that jacket so much that we decided to make it as accurate as possible to the original including constructing it from real leather suede. Going even further towards a perfect replica of the jacket, we took reference not only from an original jacket but also followed the original patterning for the “Darmok” version. That version called for a casual jacket without closures as it was to be worn open. Later iterations of the jacket would employ a series of hooks and eyes to close the bottom of the jacket, but not in “Darmok” where you can clearly see Captain Picard trying to wrap the jacket around himself to keep warm. The only thing we added to the jacket were a couple of pockets to the interior which adds functionality while not changing the visual look of the jacket at all. Why would we want to? It's already perfect.
So whatever you call it; “Captain Picard's Flight Jacket”, “The Captain’s Alternate Uniform” or “Picard’s Nifty New Uniform Jacket (PNNUJ)”, the best uniform piece in the 24th century is coming, and we can’t wait!
“Temba at rest.”