Production Overview

The Enterprise as it appeared in the weekly series

The Enterprise as it appeared in the weekly series


After the second STAR TREK pilot was accepted by NBC, the weekly TV series went into production. Once again, the opportunity was seized, and revisions were made to the show’s cast, sets, costumes, and props.

And, once again, the Enterprise herself received a facelift. From the start, Gene Roddenberry had been pushing for more detail on the model–belivabilty was crucial to the fledgling series’ success. This final round of changes were intended to increase the model’s sense of scale and add more visual interest.

At the time of the first pilot, the Enterprise had been designed as a vessel which was theoretically around 500′ long, with a crew of 203. However, it seems that this was changed fairly late in the game (during the big model’s construction) to a 947′ long ship–doubling the vessel’s size.

By the time of the series proper, it was decided to beef up the crew compliment to 430, which would better fill out a larger ship. The revisions made to the 11-foot model were specifically designed to make the ship appear larger–to that end, the bridge dome was reduced in height, the main sensor/deflector dish reduced in diameter, and more windows added (which gave the illusion of more interior decks). Various tiny technical markings were also strategically placed, supplimenting the existing technical markings and structrual frame marker numbers.

A grid pattern composed of radial lines and concentric circles was lightly drawn on the upper and lower saucer section–apparently over the objections of Matt Jefferies, who wanted as clean and simple an exterior as possible for the ship. The saucer was also heavily re-weathered, and additional weathering was added to the rest of the model.

Most notable of all was the addition of the warp engine nacelle lighting effect. The original wooden engine domes were removed, and replaced with translucent orange-ish domes which revealed an elaborate setup within. Multicolored Christmas tree lights were installed inside each dome, and a motor rotated a set of “fan blades”. The pulsating lights and spinning fan blades gave the effect of the engines generating the massive amounts of power needed to achieve warp speed.

The changes made to the 11-footer were also copied on the smaller, static, 3-foot model, which appeared in a few episodes (such as “Tomorrow is Yesterday”). The majority of effects shots involving the 11-foot model were filmed early in the first season, although a few episode-specific shots (such as the Enterprise pulling up alongside the S.S. Botany Bay in “Space Seed”) were filmed as needed later on. Still, due to a tight budget, and the constant reuse of stock footage, the three seasons of STAR TREK utilized shots of all three versions of the model, although is is generally assumed that the theoretical starship “really” looked like the production version by the time of the weekly series.

This final incarnation of the 11-foot model remained essentially unchanged for the series’ run, with the following exceptions:

* Early publicity shots of the completed production-version model (some of which can be seen in Stephen E. Whitfield’s THE MAKING OF STAR TREK book) feature the lower saucer’s registry numbers in their first- and second-pilot orientation (i.e., the starboard side’s number is upside-down when looking at the ship head-on). However, this variant was never filmed–at least, not in shots used in the series itself. The numbers’ orientation were reversed when filming for the series began, so the starboard side’s number would be more easily readable from the most oft-used angles of the ship moving toward camera.

In these publicity shots, it also appears that the engine nacelles are missing the “fan blades” which rotate underneath the clear domes.

* A few shots of the production model feature a not-quite-correct flopped-decal orientation for the underside saucer registry numbers–a la the second pilot’s flopped decal shots. In these shots, however, the numbers don’t read correctly no matter which way the film was flopped! More often than not, these shots were used in episodes without being flopped at all. And, on a few occasions (“Shore Leave, “The Ultimate C0mputer”, etc.), existing non-reverse-decal footage of the model was flopped, even though this made the numbers read backwards!

* In the majority of the effects shots filmed early in the first season, the lower saucer has red (port) and green (starboard) blinker lights at 3:00 and 9:00. In a few shots, the lights reverse their positions (red-starboard, green-port)–presumably, the light bulbs were swapped in anticipation of the afforementioned reverse-decal shots.

However, in some first season shots, and virtually all second season shots (no new footage of the model was filmed for the much-maligned third season), the lower saucer’s lights are both white. And, in “The Immunity Syndrome”, there’s one shot where both lights seem to flash all three colors in sequence–both white, both red, both green!

After the series’ cancellation, the Starship Enterprise models sat in storage for years, before…well…we’ll get to that!


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