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
What's Happening with
STAR TREK Strange New Worlds
There's been a lot going on lately in almost every corner of our lives. The headlines are almost overwhelming. Winter storms, the continuing pandemic, freak tornados, presidential decrees, spring training, congressional actions...it's all a bit too much. So you could certainly be forgiven for missing perhaps my favorite piece of news - Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has embarked on its first season of production.
Cast & Crew assembled this week at the new CBS Stages Canada near Toronto. Literally "The Stages that Star Trek Built" this is a brand new studio that houses no less than six soundstages, production offices, support facilities, and auxiliary services for large-scale television and film production.
The opening and continued expansion of CBS Stages Canada is proof positive of the enormous success of this modern era of Star Trek productions.
The standing sets for the U.S.S. ENTERPRISE (and other locations as needed) are here, which allows Star Trek: Discovery to remain in production at the same time down the road in Shepperton Studios Toronto. Star Trek: Picard also got underway in LA this week, and this marks the first time since 1999 that two or more Star Trek television shows have been in near simultaneous production (DS9 season 7 & VOY season 5). This is turning out to be a great year for Star Trek’s 55th Anniversary!
So with Strange New Worlds on the horizon, it's worth discussing its place in the timeline. The last time we saw the Enterprise the year was 2258, and she was leaving Earth to undertake Captain Christopher Pike's second five year mission. This was after the U.S.S. Discovery left that era for the far distant future of 3189. After that we were treated to three more Short Treks involving one or more of the Enterprise's crew (though we're never told specifically when those stories take place).
2258 is a fantastic time for a series like this to be set in. It's close enough to TOS, but mostly unexplored in the timeline. We know that at this point in "the history of the future," Captain Pike's eventual successor is serving somewhere in Starfleet. He's most likely a Lieutenant aboard the U.S.S. Farragut and probably itching for promotion to Lt. Commander. And that's about it. Giving Strange New Worlds a whole new final frontier of stories to explore.
It's been said more than once by SNW's creators & producers, that this new show is something of a throwback to an earlier era of TV story telling style. The show is designed to feel more episodic (think "Planet of the Week''), than its sibling shows. And, more of an emphasis placed on the sort of morality/adventure mixture that Star Trek: The Original Series excelled at.
The Original Series itself is an important player in the development of SNW.
If done correctly, Strange New Worlds will be an important companion series to the original in fascinating ways. It will give us new adventures that will (hopefully) entertain and thrill new Trekkies and old, while at the same time preparing the way for the inevitable arrival of the Star Trek franchise's first & greatest captain. A captain I honestly hope we never really see in the new show.
Strange New Worlds is by all rights Captain Pike's show (as much as it is Lieutenant Spock's, and Number One's), and so I hope the producers can resist the urge to introduce us to his replacement.
I'd be happy with a cameo at the end of the last episode... maybe.
A handshake during the Enterprise's change of command ceremony. That would be enough for me. And should be enough for anybody. After all, science fiction has told us for decades that two iterations of the same person shouldn't meet. If that's the case then our Captain Pike just shouldn't hang out with our Captain Kirk.
I've heard a lot of fans talk about how much they love Anson Mount's performance as Captain Christopher Pike. I do too.
But, I would be remiss as a lifelong Trekkie if I didn't point out that on paper Captains Pike & Kirk are nearly the same character. Toss out the name change and back story (it's less than half an hour from Iowa to Mojave by standard shuttlecraft), and you have essentially the same character. Oh, when we meet Jeffery Hunter's Chris Pike in "The Menagerie'' when he's sullen and contemplating leaving Starfleet due to the ship's recent events. But that does not define who he was, and by the end of that adventure he's discovered his purpose again. He possesses a renewed sense of self and desire to explore.
That's the Chris Pike we meet in Discovery season 2. An energized, "ready for anything" Captain Pike. He's a charismatic leader with wit, and an effortless (seeming) command style. Remind you of anyone? Captain Kirk is (in almost any way that matters) Captain Pike and vice versa. If you can write one, you can write the other. Their motives, ways, and means are so similar as to be identical.
Thus if you like one, chances are you'll like the other. Of course everyone's perception is different, and I'll leave it up to you to see or not - their similarities.
Either way, I'm delighted. Any chance to go aboard the Enterprise makes me happy. I grew up to be a fan of the entire franchise, but The Original Series is my childhood home. It's the one place in all of Star Trek where I am most comfortable. I'm happiest "living" somewhere between 2233 and 2293 (look it up), and Strange New Worlds is going to take all of us there. Transport us all the way back to NCC-1701.
Look at that! No letters after the number and no alternate universe...
Just THE U.S.S. ENTERPRISE.
Its Home. I can't wait! ...Are we there yet?
John is a writer based in Las Vegas, and a product developer for ANOVOS.