Throughout the productions of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager, one sound stage was primarily for “swing sets,” which are temporary sets built for limited use, sometimes just for a single episode. Nicknamed “Planet Hell,” stage 16 on the Paramount lot has portrayed various exotic planets and locations year after year in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
If there was an equivalent to “Planet Hell” in the natural world, it would be Griffith Park, which encompasses more than 4,000 acres. Star Trek has a legacy of capitalizing on the region’s diverse terrain going all the way back to the filming of The Original Series.
Not including Star Trek: Discovery, which films in Toronto, most Star Trek productions have been shot on sound stages at Paramount Pictures off Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. Located a mere few miles due north of the studio lot, the words “Griffith Park” must have elicited sighs of relief from cast and crew upon receiving their on-location call sheets.
The infamous Vasquez Rocks have become an iconic image in Trek history, notably beginning with Kirk-Gorn fight in “Arena.” The unique rock formations in Santa Clarita even made their way into the Kelvin timeline’s depiction of Vulcan in Star Trek (2009). But if we’re looking at the mileage, this east section of the Santa Monica Mountain Range is the heart of Star Trek on-location filming history.
Here’s a rundown of Star Trek episodes that were filmed in Griffith Park, along with a few side-by-side comparisons featuring the real-life locations.
Maybe the most unique environment in Griffith Park, the lower-level walking path in Fern Dell makes you feel like you’ve been transported to tropical jungle -- or at the very least a Rainforest Café. Several different species of, you guessed it, fern plants and trees align the sidewalk for about a quarter mile, turning this unsuspecting region into a jungle promenade. A natural spring runs serpentine throughout the path, which has created several ponds that are inhabited by fish, turtles and future ensigns with poor balance. The main section of Fern Dell serves as a port for several trailheads, including many that lead to Griffith Observatory.
Star Trek: The Next Generation, Pilot “Encounter at Farpoint, Part I”
Season 1, Episode 1
When newly christened First Officer Riker seeks out the Enterprise’s holodeck in TNG pilot episode “Encounter at Farpoint,” he’s really stepping into Fern Dell. Today, it’s hard to tell where exactly Riker heard Data whistling “Pop Goes the Weasel” or where we watched him pull Wesley out of the water. The episode must have captured Fern Dell at its foliage peak or, more likely, additional plants were brought in by set dressers for the scene. (Although, you can still see Fern Dell’s trademark hanging plants in several shots.)
The active streams and ponds within Fern Dell provided the perfect setting for Captain Sisko and Vedek Bareil’s walk-and-talk on Bajor. It’s still easy to spot where this scene was filmed, as they ended up leaving quite a bit of the area’s infrastructure on-screen, including one of the walking bridges and Fern Dell’s signature log-shaped railings.
This region of the park boasts several 100-foot rock walls and a mini-cavern system leftover from an early 20th century quarry operation. On the Batman TV series starring the late Adam West, one of the entrances provided the establishing shot for the Batcave’s exterior. In Star Trek, Bronson Canyon supplied environments for numerous planets in all the first five television shows. Located just a quick walk from Bronson Avenue, it’s probably one of the most-accessible and convenient locations from a production standpoint.
Star Trek (TOS), “Bread and Circuses”
Season 2, Episode 25
Before they face off against gladiators on 892-IV, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are taken to the Bronson Canyon caves that portrayed the hideout for The Children of the Son.
Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Darmok”
Season 5, Episode 2
Captain Picard and Dathon attempt to overcome their language barrier in front of this recognizable rock face at Bronson.
Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Ensign Ro”
Season 5, Episode 3
Captain Picard and Ensign Ro take a memorable stroll down this marketplace on Valo II, which was filmed along a stretch of land adjacent to the caves. Today, someone (or a group effort) has created concentric circles using nearby rocks.
Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Attached”
Season 7, Episode 8
Dr. Crusher and Captain Picard exit a cave on Kesprytt III and walk directly onto the same stretch of land that stood in for Valo II. By rationing camera angle degrees, the TNG production crew got a lot out of this particular canyon section.
Star Trek: Voyager, “The 37's”
Season 2, Episode 1
Following an SOS signal they picked up in space, Tom Paris lands their ship on an unknown planet that shares a rock wall with “Attached.” Green screen was particularly needed since these scenes were filmed with the infamous Hollywood sign visible in the background.
If you were to stand on the hill line behind Captain Picard and Dathon, turn around and you’ll realize that you’re also standing on the mound where the Voyager crew discovered Amelia Earhart’s plane.
On the far east side of the mountain range is Cedar Grove, an easily accessible mini-forest within Griffith Park. Hikers often pop through the densely wooded picnic area on their way to popular trailheads and photo ops, such as the Helipad Overlook and the Mt. Hollywood trail.
Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Gambit, Part I”
Season 7, Episode 4
First Officer Riker, Lt. Worf, and Lt. La Forge engage in a phaser shootout on Barradas III amidst the land patch’s distinct cedar trees.
The grove also stood in for a remote area outside of New York City where Captain Archer met with Vosk.
A Los Angeles landmark, Griffith Observatory offers incredible views of Hollywood and downtown L.A. Featuring numerous space and science exhibits, it’s become one of the city’s most-popular tourist destinations. The observatory is also home to Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon, where visitors enter the 200-seat theater and watch a Nimoy-hosted documentary about the observatory’s 80-year history.
Star Trek: Voyager, “Future's End, Part I”
Season 3, Episode 8
Sarah Silverman portrayed Rain Robinson, a young astronomer working at Griffith Observatory. Tuvok and Paris find themselves in a phaser shootout across on the Observatory’s back lawn.
Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 1 Wrap Party
March 29th, 1988
The Observatory was also where Star Trek: The Next Generation had its first season wrap party. Above one of the arched hallway entrances hung a banner that read “Congratulations on the First 25 Voyages.” Denise Crosby was there to celebrate with the cast as well, even after she had already exited the series.
Joe Bergren is a writer and media coordinator for ET Live. His interests include "Star" related franchises and retro celebrity scandals, as well as niche subjects like his very cool dog.