We took first daughter, Kat, to Boston to visit third daughter, Jenn, and her husband, Chris. We had also made arrangements to visit the Star Trek The Original Series Set Tour. Long-time Trek friends Brian and Kathy Mix joined us in Boston to drive into the wilderness to find Ticonderoga. Being from Southern California, we’d never seen “the colors” in person. Calendars and photos do not do justice to a New England autumn. Along the way, we stopped at interesting restaurants, particularly for homemade pie.
We got up early the next morning to follow local suggestions to a ranch-house restaurant where other fans showed up, which always happens no matter where we end up. We soon filled our end of the restaurant. The alert waitress kept the coffee coming, so we were finally awake enough to go find the set tour.
We were well introduced ahead of time by James Cawley’s announcement that “Trimbles Set to Appear at Original Series Set Tour.” Unlike the theme attractions in California, the outside of the tour building is very unassuming. We were told the building had once been a grocery store. Inside the lobby, we met Cawley and several of the staff. The lobby had a small ticket sales counter, items for sale, and wonderful things on display: costumes, studio lights, and prosthetics.
The sets are not evident from the lobby. What you see is the back of a stage, as would’ve seen it at Gower or Paramount Studios. We passed through the doorway onto a passageway that led to the transporter. This was our first evidence of the detail that went into this set. The fans we met were amazing; many of them saw their work on the set as a labor of love. We were happy to see pleased grins when we praised their craftsmanship. The transporter was another cause of slowdown on the tour, while we explained how the transporter effect was done (it involved dropping glitter).
Son-in-law Chris Eplett and Brian Mix brought their fancy cameras and promptly started taking photos. Among friends from the Boston area were Michelle Ligouri and Chris M (to distinguish him from Chris Eplett). They arrived in TOS uniforms, providing ambiance.
We investigated Dr. McCoy’s sickbay - complete with beds that tipped, and medical lab, with a large Tribble in a jar. The lighting was very good; it was difficult not to stand there with mouths open. Kat enjoyed this set because Dr. McCoy is her favorite character. Kirk’s and Spock’s quarters were careful duplicates of the rooms we saw so many times on TV. Tour assistants pointed out some of the things they’d worked on, generously including fellow workers.
The “meeting room” was the set’s catch-all space. It was variously redressed as the lounge, reception room, chapel, mess hall, and military court, among other venues. Along with the 3-D chess set, there were many other props, including a handsome Vulcan lyre made by John (whose last name we don’t have – apologies). He demonstrated that the instrument could be played and asked us to autograph it on the back that already had several famous names.
One feature in a passageway was a big hit with everyone: the Jefferies Tube. Fans were not allowed to climb into it, but they could take photos at both ends. As with most sets, the engineering tube is not as long as it looks. Matt Jefferies designed this feature to make it possible for a story to move along. It turned up some amazing things at the old Desilu set. But that’s another blog.
While we were admiring the loving details of everything on display, others arrived to visit the set. Some were fans who’d worked the magic, and others had traveled to see it, just like us. John and I soon found ourselves sharing TOS stories (as usual) with anyone who wanted to listen. Kat’s heard all our stories, so she wandered around, a staff volunteer always with her. Chris and Brian brandished their cameras at every inch of the sets.
John’s favorite room (not counting the bridge set, of course) was the engine room. It was lit exactly as the original, and brought a tear of nostalgia to John’s eye. A very proud crew of hard workers were pleased to show off everything to an appreciative audience, and explained how they’d recreated the screen in front of the dilithium warp generators. With big smiles, they displayed all the winkie-blinkies. John didn’t miss his chance to get melodramatic in the engine room.
We eventually ended up on the bridge set, which was very realistic. Of course, everyone in our party had to sit in the Captain’s chair. Because why visit a TOS set and not sit in the Captain’s chair? Chris, our son-in-law, took a serious pose that needed a TOS uniform, not shorts and a Hawai’ian shirt. It turns out that not everyone on a tour gets to sit anywhere on the bridge set. John and I answered questions from tour visitors and reminisced about the original set and how many “true” Captain’s chairs exist in the world.
Both of us were surprised to be asked to autograph the fan edition of the Star Trek Concordance. James had found a copy somewhere, along with a fanzine with some of Bjo’s cartoons. Both publications are now some 50+ years old.
We went back through the whole set again, just to take it all in. The staff tried to keep people moving, but we weren’t much help. Practically everything we saw reminded us of a story or two, and we’d stop to tell it. So, the whole tour would stop. We’d start walking again, until we’d see something else, and stop. Everyone else would stop. We suspect the staff felt like they were herding butterflies.
Kat has made several visits both TV and movie sets at Desilu and at Paramount. She was thrilled to see this well-done replica and enjoyed looking at everything. She knows not to touch anything on a set. She was also pleased that the fans treated her as just another Trek fan, instead of a mentally handicapped person.
At the end of our tour, we presented James with a little plastic button from the original bridge set. We explained that when the Enterprise bridge set was donated to UCLA Theater Arts, it had been left outdoors. Hot weather popped many of the resin buttons off the set. Fans tried to save as much as they could, but weren’t particularly successful. We were given a small orange button that was found in the weeds and decided to present the button to James. He was delighted, and started figuring out where on the bridge set it should go.
All of us thoroughly enjoyed the day. Chris and Brian took over 1000 photos each, some of which illustrate this blog. We agreed that it’d be fun to visit the set again, perhaps for next year’s August Trekonderoga. We want to return to the set and the wonderful fans who built it.
Bjo and John Trimble are iconic figures in Star Trek history, as not only did they become known as “the fans who saved Star Trek,” but she wrote the seminal reference book, Star Trek Concordance, as well as a memoir, On the Good Ship Enterprise. They’ve written articles for many magazines and websites, including StarTrek.com.