It all started with the NCC-1701.
This September will mark the 45th anniversary of the original series Star Trek. Due to the five series and 11 -- soon to be 12 -- films carrying on the name Star Trek, this enduring theme seems much older than it is. It is hard to imagine that TOS premiered years before man walked on the moon. At any rate, the world was advancing the race for space back then, and it was easy to see a future of starships and moon bases by the early 2000's. Space 1999, Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, 2001: A Space Odyssey and even Blade Runner had us believing we all would be living in futuristic cities, flying in cars and encountering the unknown. Now that that fantastic future has come and in some cases passed, it's sad to think we are not bounding towards space at the fever pitch we were in the 60's. Thanks to the television and movie industries, though, fantasy and futures that might be still guide our inner fantasies of science-fiction wonders. For those of us that were around or grew up watching the original Star Trek, we were introduced to a very romantic and wonderful time of great stories and great imaginations of what was to come. We glimpsed some of the most fantastic spacecraft designs, with the very believable vehicles from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the very futuristic capsule design from the original Planet of the Apes based loosely on the nose section of the North American X-10.
The sense of design in the 1960s was that of a gritty believability, and pushing that envelope to the ultimate was an artist/pilot named Matt Jefferies. Matt was the original designer of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 and his aviation background and his common-sense approach of modern design enabled him to create one of the most iconic spacecrafts of all time. There are many fine articles out there about the entire design process, about how and why Matt did what he did, and reading his process you can see how much believability he put into his design. The spotlight of this article, however, will be the 11'2” shooting Enterprise miniature built in Burbank, California. The job was awarded in the mid-1960's to model shop supervisor Richard Datin, who hired a small crew of modelers to assemble the models for the upcoming series.
Volmer Jensen, Mel Keys and Vernon Sion were the men who would build this fantastic ship and handle it throughout the series run. At least three major refits were made to the Enterprise as the show ran, and you can see the changes throughout the episodes. The original model was a static piece and had virtually no electronics. The second change came with the addition of some lights and a smaller bridge module atop the saucer, and the third change came with illuminated domes being added the fronts of the nacelles, domes replacing the grid pattern on the back of the nacelles, and the removal of the opaque dome antennas seen on the previous versions of the ship. You'll notice that all of the ship shots favored one side of the model, and this was due to the fact the new electronics wiring could not be put into the model and the wiring had to be run on the outside of the inner nacelle strut, thus limiting the model’s ability to be shot from the other side.
The miniatures were filmed at both the Howard Anderson Studio and by Linwood Dunn at the Dunn's Film Effects Studio of Hollywood. The two companies produced the stock footage that would be used throughout the series as well as all the specialty shots that would be needed for story-specific shots. These were the early days of blue screen and a lot of the problems of hard matte lines and sections of the ship dissolving into the backgrounds only added to the gritty look of the beautiful VFX shots. Matt's ship and the models created from his designs had a huge impact on me and defiantly guided my future in more ways than I can recall.
I came across an auction of photos of those behind-the-scenes shots of the Enterprise a few years back, many of which I had never seen, and I am very excited to be sharing them with you today. Better yet, I went back to the street where the famous shot of the three modelers are standing with the big model of the E in Burbank, and as an extra shot you can get a view of a then-and-now image with very little change to the surrounding locations. Ironically, just one street over to the north is the home of Art Craft Plating, where all the gold Enterprises were plated for both the ready room display cases from First Contact and Nemesis.
And now for this month’s installment of the Red Dress Series we are traveling up north to the High Sierras of Bishop, California, to the home town of Miss Elizabeth Meacham. Elizabeth is a 20-year-old sport and fitness model who loves to do clothing and commercial modeling. I saw her portfolio just a few days ago and was so excited to ask her if she would like to give the Trek theme ago. After an enthusiastic “Yes!” we did this shoot on Wednesday afternoon for today’s article. Talk about getting something done at the 11th hour. Haaa! Elizabeth is a blond, blue-eyed beauty and coming in at 5'2”, she's a powerhouse of passion and an elegant talent. This is her third year as a model, and with her lovely and confident style she is well on her way to making her dreams come true. Miss Elizabeth’s take on the Red Dress Series is nothing short of breathtaking, and I'm sure you'll agree she has done the era of the 1960’s with a flare and personal creativity that’s made for one awesome shoot. Thank you so for the opportunity to work with you, Elizabeth. And be sure to check out more of Elizabeth's work at her Model Mayhem page.
Until next time… John