Truth in advertising - I have a complicated relationship with Seth MacFarlane's Sci-Fi show, The Orville.
There are times in which I really enjoy it. Though, honestly most of the time when I watch it, I'm distracted. I can't help remembering when the specific show I'm watching was a Star Trek episode.
It happens a lot. Now don't get me wrong, Seth clearly knows his Star Trek, and it shows.
And that's the problem.
Most of the time I can't shake the knowledge that what I'm watching is Seth's very thinly veiled attempt at producing and starring in an “official” Star Trek series of his own. Something he tried to do before having to retreat, reset, and recreate his own slightly different show.
The Orville then is perhaps the ultimate Star Trek fan Film. VIACOMCBS allows fans to play in the Star Trek universe for 15 minutes at a time but, as a professional venture - The Orville had to create its universe from whole cloth. The issue is that they clearly bought that fabric from the same store.
A store with a lot of the same employees.
Both in front of the camera and behind Seth has loaded his production with people who worked during 18 years of incessant Star Trek productions overseen by Rick Berman (an era of Star Trek television that fits between 1987 and 2005). And I think this is the origin of my complex feelings about The Orville. That era of Trek became in many ways a prisoner of its own success.
Star Trek was experiencing a silver age in which multiple shows within the same era were watched by millions every week in syndication. Seth MacFarlane was one of those viewers (so was I), and while he wanted more of THAT particular flavor of Star Trek, I had enough and was ready for Star Trek to evolve into something fresh.
As a fan of Star Trek from early childhood, I had seen it evolve in new and exciting ways every few years.
My first exposure was to The Original Series, and I loved it. A few years later it became an animated show. Cartoons presented an imaginary world (Galaxy?) no longer limited by physical limits of production.
A few years after that - Star Trek became a Motion Picture, and then a series of movies that brought a sophistication of story, budget, and production undreamt of in the 1960s.
Star Trek: The Next Generation arrived a few years later. TNG and its trailblazing entry into direct syndication gave Star Trek a long-term home on terrestrial television allowing for character growth unimagined by Gene Roddenberry two decades earlier.
But, that long-term home meant a slow gradual halt to the forward evolution Star Trek had always enjoyed.
At first TNG and DS9, et al gave us truly new worlds in the final frontier. But, over time those new worlds devolved into regurgitated plots, and petty intrigues.
"The forehead of the week" became shorthand for what new alien conflict we could look forward to in this grind of episodic purgatory. Even I, who loves Star Trek in a manner some deem "unhealthy," was bored.
Oh I still watched, but without much enthusiasm.
Seth's show is so nostalgic for that brand of Star Trek that it parrots it almost perfectly. And with good reason.
Its producers, and others working on The Orville spent much of their lives learning their craft on the shows produced during that era of Star Trek.
Many of these folks are very old friends of ours and the work they do tirelessly day in and day out on that show is phenomenal. My problem stems from the fact that I had just grown so very tired of that particular brand of Trek.
When Star Trek (2009) came out, I was delighted!
Oh, there were a few things I wished they had done differently, but it shook the cobwebs off the whole enterprise (ahem). I couldn't get enough.
And apparently neither could anyone else. I don't know how many fans out there know this, but let me drop an awesome bit of inside info. Star Trek '09 acted like a gateway drug of sorts into the franchise for millions of new fans. People who vaguely remembered watching one of the shows with their family suddenly wanted more and sought it out. In the first few years after Star Trek '09's release - sales jumped for all of the series available on DVD, and streaming (then in its infancy) numbers showed a ravenous desire for more Star Trek from these newborn fans.
It took a few years to bring Star Trek back to the small screen.
And while a new era of the franchise was being developed, Seth MacFarlane was busy bringing his pastiche of Trek to FOX. He aimed to resurrect his favorite era of Trek to the screen, and I think he succeeded! More than that, he absolutely succeeded...much to my chagrin and boredom.
That's not to say that it's a bad show, quite the contrary. It's well written and well produced, with fantastic visuals...it's just not for me.
The Orville is a look into our future that feels like it's constantly looking back.
Always comparing itself to a very specific era of Star Trek, and that’s an era that I grew past.
Don't misunderstand me, I love the TOS and TNG era of Star Trek (and we all adore the fond, funny nostalgia of that time displayed by Star Trek: Lower Decks), but nostalgia is one thing.
Wanting new adventures that grow beyond where the franchise has gone before is something else. I didn't want something borrowed from a time in my rear view mirror.
I needed something new.
Something Star Trek.
Something that simply “feels” like old Star Trek isn’t enough for me.
That’s not how Star Trek trained me to be from an early age to now. I expect Star Trek to evolve and to pull me —sometimes against my will—into new places. That’s what my lifetime of Trek love has taught me.
There are some out there that say “Star Trek must be this one thing, and if I don’t get it, then it’s not Star Trek.”
That’s sad, I don’t understand it, and it feels antithetical to the way Star Trek taught us to look at the universe around us.
In a way I think The Orville provides a home of sorts to disenfranchised refugees from the Star Trek franchise. People who dislike the “new”, have found a nostalgic home of sorts in The Planetary Union, and that’s great!
But if I’m going to spend time with a ship based ongoing space adventure, Star Trek will be somewhere in its name.
There's a lot of
Star Trek to watch.
Seriously, go look up "Star Trek'' on Paramount+ and see for yourself.
Out of all that content, and perhaps more there is one scene that stands out in my mind as my favorite. Wait...yeah, it's my favorite. No question about it. I love its look, acting, pacing, musical score, everything about it.
It's the moment in the film that we're reintroduced to one of the most important characters in the entire franchise, the original U.S.S. ENTERPRISE NCC-1701.
(and to quote Mr. Scott one more time - "No bloody A, B, C, or D.")
And she's never more beautiful than in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
The concept was perfect. To account for the need for a much more detailed ship for the silver screen, the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Original Series had just spent 18 months in drydock being redesigned and refit to bring her back to being THE ship of the line she had always been.
The Enterprise's introductory scene had to tell an entire story in the 7 minutes of the movie allotted to it. And it does that in style.
Admiral Kirk is ferried via TravelPod to the ship by Chief Engineer Scott, and along the way falls head over heels in love again with HIS ship (and so do we).
The Enterprise in The Motion Picture is an Art Deco masterpiece based on Matt Jefferies’s original design for the ship as seen in The Original Series with some changes added from the ship designed for Star Trek: Phase II (the unmade 1977 series) by Jefferies and designer Mike Minor.
But the finished ship in the film owes the majority of its finished look to production art director Richard Taylor, designer Andrew Probert, and Doug Trumbull who had begun to wonder what a ship like that might look like in deep space.
“The shell of the model existed and it was just a big fiberglass model, and it didn't have much detail to it,”
"And whoever was designing the process of making the visual effects hadn't really thought about what I was thinking about, which was how do you see the Enterprise when it's in deep space, when it's not near the sun or a star or anything?
What's the source of light? Where's the key light? Where's the fill light? How are you going to make this thing beautiful?
And my thought about it was how to make it light itself up, kind of like the Titanic at night. And make it light itself up by having lights onboard the nacelles, shining on the fuselage, and from the fuselage shining upon the nacelles, and make it look like it's self-illuminated.
So I didn't have to justify a key light because there wouldn't be one. And no one had ever thought of that."
An enormous team was eventually responsible for bringing the Enterprise into its final physical form, but it was Richard Taylor who thought of cladding the starship in its distinctive opalescent skin.
"One of the things we did with all of the models was to give their surfaces details and interesting designs. A smooth object has no scale so it’s important in model work to find ways of creating scale. Sometimes it’s very subtle but it’s one of the most important elements in model photography. I had this idea of giving the surface of the Enterprise a patterned, plated look and we made masks for the surface to create that surface effect. We did experiments with Crescent Metal Powders and other iridescent and pearlescent paints. So, in the end, we made pearlescent body panels that varied from each other by minute differences in color and reflectivity. "
“There were multiple masks that were used to give the surface the complex texture you see on the screen. The painting was phenomenal." Taylor later elaborated that, "As we worked up the Enterprise it became apparent to me that we needed a special paint technique to give the surface of the ship scale. Literally, the different spectral qualities of paint and the thickness of one coat of paint could make the surface detail of the Enterprise believable. I had done some tests with different paints as a painter and knew of the Crescent Metal Powder paints and their pearlescent pigments. Jim Dow and I looked into them as he had used them as well on his 1935 Ford, did a little test, and decided some combination of those pigments would work. Designing the pattern and doing the actual painting, now that was going to be one hell of a job for someone to tackle."
The intricate patterning which was eventually called the "Aztec pattern" was applied to the model by Zuzana Swansea and Paul Olsen.
Working for nearly eight months Olsen, with some help from Swansea, applied a high-gloss pearlescent lacquer coating which gave the Enterprise a chameleon-like appearance in the movie, which changed its color appearance depending on the type and direction of the lighting rig used.
The Enterprise's Aztec pattern was only visible if the light hit the model at an oblique angle. Olsen later remembered;
"I used four pearl colors that were transparent: a blue, a gold, a red, and a green. They all flip-flopped to their complements when the viewing angle changed. Beautiful.
By varying the amount of color, and the mixture of several colors on top of each other, I obtained myriad colors and depth of color."
While acknowledging Taylor, Olsen, and Swansea for the "Aztec-pattern" design, Andrew Probert is also credited for its creation saying,
"Richard asked me to come up with an overall scheme of surface paneling to give the ship another level of detail. I agreed that it would give the Enterprise more credibility as a manufactured spacecraft, even though panel lines wouldn't be visible at the scale distance needed to encompass the entire ship in a shot.
Richard thought a subtle differencing of the paint scheme would accentuate those panels and that worked really well. For the saucer, he came up with "Aztec Pattern" panels providing a series of interlocking edges in order to reinforce the ship's surface tensile strength.
So it is unsurprising that the refit was one of the key inspirations in the redesign of Star Trek: Discovery's U.S.S. ENTERPRISE in 2017.
John Eaves’ reinterpretation of the "original'' Enterprise took elements from three ships ("The Cage," "Original Series," and "Motion Picture") and melded them into a fresh take on the ship for the 21st century.
From the Motion Picture ship, the Star Trek: Discovery art department took the swept-back nacelle struts, and the "Aztec Pattern" hull detailing seen on almost all Starfleet ships since 1979 (2271?).
In a way, it reminds me of a child born of Matt Jeffries and Andrew Probert's Enterprises.
We've spent a considerable amount of time training and mastering these fantastic new methods to replicate Captain Christopher Pike's beautiful U.S.S. Enterprise for our own Studio Scale Miniature program.
From new printing techniques, new miniature construction & lighting rigs, to painting the intricate Aztec Pattern on the starship's hull.
And we tested those skills by working on The Motion Picture refit of the ship. If you want to know how to do something right, you gotta start at the beginning. The Aztec hull patterning seen on nearly every Starfleet ship began with Admiral Kirk’s refit Enterprise.
Here again, Star Trek’s most beautiful ship has things to teach us about the future.
We'll have more on our latest iteration of Star Trek: Discovery's U.S.S. ENTERPRISE and other studio-scale miniatures in the future, but until then remember... "The Human Adventure Is Just Beginning..."
John is a writer based in Las Vegas, and a product developer for ANOVOS
Or "Welcome" & "Greetings!" for our non-Klingon speaking friends!
Today is one of those days I couldn't have imagined when I was a kid. With today's launch of PARAMOUNT+ there's one home for the entire STAR TREK UNIVERSE!
I know a streaming network doesn't have "channels" the way my generation thinks of what that word used to mean. There's no dial on our TVs to turn anymore (like I would to tune in WBFF Channel 45 in Baltimore) to watch one of Star Trek's original 78 episodes.
But, to put it in those antiquated terms, I just got "The Star Trek Channel" on my TV, and I couldn't be happier!
Watching Star Trek on that old fuzzy UHF channel broadcast from Charm City (GO ORIOLES!), was always fun, and I don't ever remember wishing for a bigger or clearer picture.
I was just happy I could watch Star Trek everyday afterschool. I've seen every episode, but who cares. Maybe today I'll get "Space Seed" or "Tomorrow is Yesterday"...
I could not have imagined the advances we have today. Watching Star Trek now isn't just the 78 slot roulette wheel it was when I was a kid.
We have 810 episodes to choose from among 10 different series and films...with even more on the way!
One of the new shows I can't wait for is Star Trek: Prodigy that warps in later this year on PARAMOUNT+. As a parent myself I've long been an advocate for making modern Star Trek appealing to kids, and from what I've seen so far Prodigy is that show and then some.
Now, I know to some it may seem odd to say that the franchise needs something for the kids. After all I found Star Trek at 4 years old and I'm still here. But, that ignores the fact that today's children have so many more options for entertaining themselves than at any other point in history.
If you think back even just a few years ago when Cable TV was 200 channels and (other than Star Trek, and maybe The Kids In The Hall) there still wasn't anything on!
Today's kids can watch anything in the world someone can point a lens at. Star Trek needs something that can speak to kids now, or they’ll run to something else, and our fandom risks stagnation & death.
And I for one can't wait to see this whole NEW approach to Star Trek.
Prodigy's concept of having a young crew of non-Terrestrial humanoids find a derelict starship is inspired. The Star Trek Universe is large enough that it can support characters with no connection to Starfleet's security blanket.
But make no mistake - Starfleet's presence will be felt in the guise of Captain Kathryn Janeway. This promises to be a whole lot of fun, and that's as it should be.
Star Trek has always been at its best when it's sense of fun is firing on all thrusters.
p.s. I'm really digging the Tellarite kid from the Star Trek: Prodigy promo image that dropped. I think he's gonna end up one of my favorite characters!
Him, or maybe the *Medusan in the travel suit.
John is a writer based in Las Vegas, and a product developer for ANOVOS
"This ship bears the name Discovery. Never has that been more fitting, or more prescient. She has carried us into the future, and it will be our privilege to make that future bright. Let us begin. Together." - Captain Saru of the U.S.S. DISCOVERY
Ten weeks to go in the Twenty Three Weeks of Star Trek, and the adventure just keeps getting more intense, and more fun! Oh, there may be SPOILERS here, but then you've already seen up to this point, right?
Finally! Discovery has her commanding officer, and of course it's Captain Saru! I've actually been waiting for Doug Jones to sit down in that captain's chair for a while now, and while Discovery may have another captain in its future, for now Saru is the best Kelpian for the job.
Last week's episode "Children of Earth" also brought us viewscreen-to-viewscreen with what our world looks like in 3189. And it's weird.
Having seceded from the United Federation of Planets after The Burn, Earth is an isolated planet. Insular, and shielded from any who might prey upon it. It's a huge departure from the founding member & powerful capital world of the Federation.
On arrival the Discovery finds the EDF (Earth Defence Force) protecting the planet, and they mean business. Jonathan Frakes does an exceptional job depicting the concern and near paranoia of the EDF's officers, and how that contrasts against our ship full of Starfleet officers.
I'm having so much fun with Discovery's new season. The story playing out here is turning into one of my favorites in the entire franchise, and I can't wait to visit Trill in this week's "Forget Me Not."
Did you know that from the very start of STAR TREK, a captain has always had the option of wearing a different uniform of the day from the rest of the crew?
During TOS, Captain James T. Kirk often wore one of two Command Green Wraparound Tunics. The First of these (and my favorite) can be seen in episodes like "The Enemy Within” and “Court Martial”.
I always thought it looked sharp. It's more structured and detailed than it's brighter second season counterpart.
I especially loved it's early first season “reverse helix” captain's rank braid on the shoulders.
Original Series costume designer William Ware Theiss was an absolute genius when it came to details and the braid on the shoulders is a perfect example.
On one level you can see where the shape he's chosen resembles the gold oak leaf clusters (sometimes called "Scrambled Eggs" by military service members) that adorn the bills of Command grade officer's service caps in the Armed Forces.
On another level Mr. Theiss is playing with a shape he used time and again and would eventually influence the design of the shoulders on his first season Next Generation uniform jumpsuits.
The green wraparound tunic Captain Kirk wears during the first season of Star Trek™: The Original Series is an optional tunic Starship captains are permitted to wear while on duty. The uniform displays his rank braid around the collar, and fastens using his Starfleet command division insignia.Shop Now
The Season two wraparound tunic is a bit less structured and so more form fitting than the season one version. It's also a slightly different weight of wool, and a lighter, warmer shade of green than the earlier version.
This style was worn in a number of episodes including "A Journey to Babel" and "The Trouble With Tribbles." Our replica of this famous uniform was designed with the invaluable assistance of the amazing Greg Jein.
Jein was gracious enough to allow us to examine an original 1967 wrap from his incredible collection. From this original William Shatner screen worn tunic we were allowed to take measurements, photos, and patterns, which enabled us to reproduce an extremely exacting replica that matches the original in every way including fabric weight and color.
This tunic uses custom-milled and dyed wool fabric and features second season captain's rank braid on the cuffs, Starfleet Insignia on the wraparound hook and loop fastener, and even utilizes the unique system of elastic “hook and eye” straps that attached the hem of this high waisted tunic to the uniform’s pants.
We worked hard to capture the essence of these screen-used original uniforms, so no expense was spared in faithfully recreating both of Captain Kirk's wraparound tunics.
We had the fabric custom milled & dyed, and discovered that the only way to attain the correct look and complex cornering was that each piece had to be hand stitched. A process requiring no less than three workers to complete each replica.
Of course the tunics feature Captain Kirk's Starfleet Command Division Insignia on the wraparound hook and loop fastener of his belt. And both of them utilize a unique system of elastic “hook and eye” straps that were used to attach the hem of this high waisted tunic to the uniform’s pants.
I love these uniforms! Command Green, and ready for anything.
Whether Captain Kirk was fighting himself, or trapped in a mountain of tribbles - he always looked cool in the final frontier!
John is a writer based in Las Vegas, and a product developer for ANOVOS.
Last week brought us the second episode of Star Trek: Discovery's third season, and some news about the future of the Star Trek Universe.
Last week's premiere episode gave us Commander Burnham's arrival in the 32nd century. "Far From Home" brings us the crew of the U.S.S. DISCOVERY herself, and it seems that everyone just kind of crashes into the future.
We've all just arrived in a lawless galaxy. Without the Federation & Starfleet, and with only limited travel possible - local traders, pirates, and petty warlords rule.
Look at that picture...saloon doors! If you ever wanted a return to Star Trek's early "Wagon Train to The Stars" concept, well here it is! New worlds to explore, checking in on settlements, assisting colonies. Connecting people with one another. That's what Star Trek always did best, and here it is again for all of us to enjoy & learn from.
All that, and mystery too. Where is Michael Burnham, what's happened to the galaxy in the 930 years that they've missed. Where is Starfleet, how did The United Federation of Planets collapse, and what's become of Earth?
We have enough adventures in 3188 to last us into 2021, and we can't wait to see what today’s episode brings us next! OH! And speaking of what’s next…
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STAR TREK™ DISCOVERY Captain's Duty Uniform
is available NOW for limited reservations. Grab yours before they're all SOLD OUT!
In what was perhaps the worst kept secret in the universe, Star Trek: Discovery has OFFICIALLY been renewed for it’s FOURTH season! Pre-production has been underway for quite a while under strict Covid protocols which included requiring Discovery’s cast and crew to quarantine before filming commences in Ontario, Canada on November 2nd. Beyond Discovery - Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds are already in heavy development, and all three shows will be in production in 2021.
Between those shows AND Star Trek: Lower Decks seasons 2 & 3, Star Trek: Prodigy, Star Trek: Section 31, Short Treks, The Ready Room (and maybe some other surprises) the next few years are going to be an amazing time to be a Trekkie, and we couldn’t be happier!
John is a writer based in Las Vegas, and a product developer for ANOVOS.