‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Designers Discuss Modern Look For USS Enterprise, Reveal Alternative Designs And More

In addition to the Star Trek: Discovery cast panel at Fan Expo Canada in Toronto (see earlier TrekMovie report), there was a second Disco panel featuring behind the scenes people who work on creating the look of the show. Discovery art director Jody Clement moderated a panel featuring assistant costume designer Carly Nicodemo, costume designer Gersha Phillips, set designer Emilie Poulin, production designer Tamara Deverell, concept illustrator Ryan Dening, and motion graphics designer Tim Peel. The focus of the panel was giving insights into work for the first season, and TrekMovie was there to bring you all the highlights.

Reconciling modern tech for the TOS era

Much of the panel focused on a slide show featuring work from various members of the team from the first season of Discovery, but there was also a brief Q&A portion towards the end where the panel got into some of the more hot topics surrounding the show.  A fan asked the panel how they reconcile the 1966 technology with 2018 technology for the look of the USS Enterprise, which was introduced at the end of season one. Production designer Tamara Deverell fielded the question, saying:

I that we owe it to the fans to keep in time with the technology that we have. So, whereas we all love TOS and the carboard sets that they had. If we did that and offered that up to all of you, I think you would be sadly disappointed in this day and age. And so in keeping with the rhythm of the times and the technology that we have, with CAD, drafting, CNC printing [milling], and 3D printing. We are expanding our universe – going where no one has gone before.

Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham on USS Enterprise

Art director Jody Clement noted how the show has tried to use elements of the TOS era into their designs, saying:

Also, we have incorporated consoles, we do have lots of toggles and switches which are mixed in with technology from 2018. So, it’s an ode to The Original Series.

And perhaps the most interesting comment was then added by concept illustrator Ryan Dening, who revealed how he has drawn more from the TOS movies than the TOS TV series for inspiration:

I would also like to add that I tend to keep very closely to the movies, as opposed to the 1960’s series, especially The Undiscovered Country, which is as advanced as they could get. The Enterprise really, before the movies, is a bunch of cardboard sets. So, there has to be come a point we can give you more advanced technology than you have in your living room, or I think you would be kind of bored.

A panel from the USS Enterprise in Star Trek: Discovery

Season finale included deleted cease fire ceremony scene

As noted before, most of the panel focused on a slide show, which mostly featured sketches and concept art and behind the scenes photos for work on the first season. There was a restriction on photographs of the slideshow, but we can describe some of the highlights shown and discussed.

One of these was a still from a deleted scene from the season finale. It was described as a “treaty signing” [though the correct term for it is actually a cease fire] ceremony in a hall with the United Federation of Planets logo featured prominently painted into the floor. There were three Klingons including Mary Chieffo as L’rell, Claire McConnell as Dennas (House of D’Ghor) and, what appears to be Ujilli (House of Mo’Kai) who is played Damon Runyan. The Starfleet side also had three Admirals: an unknown human, Gorch (Tellarite) and Shukar (Andorian). It was revealed this scene was shot in Vaughan City Hall, the same building as the medal ceremony from the finale.

A deleted scene featuring a treaty signing with the Klingons was shot in this same building

More highlights from Discovery designer panel

The slideshow at the Discovery designers featured a look at a lot of different bits of concept art and sketches from the first season. While we can’t share the images, here below are some highlights from what we and how they described the work.

USS Discovery alternatives
  • Concept art for alternate designs of the USS Discovery bridge featured one with more traditionally sized bridge and layout — with the captains chair placement in the center and a station behind. A second bridge concept was laid out over two stories with sunken pits for forward console positions.
  • Early transporter set design for USS Discovery was a bit smaller and more like the TOS set, but the design changed when a budgetary decision was made to redress the larger (older tech) transporter room set from the USS Shenzhou.
  • Sketches for a torpedo room set were shown. An early script draft called for the set but as the script changed, the fairly large set, which was set laid out over two floors, was not built.
  • Alternative warp core concepts were shown for the USS Discovery, one of which was “very different” appeared somewhat similar to the core of the Kelvin-universe USS Enterprise seen in Into Darkness, and one that was “more related to the classic,” and the decision was to go with the more classic version.

The final version of the USS Discovery transporter room is actually a redress of the Shenzhou’s.

Harry Mudd’s father-in-law’s ship designed to be “Trumpian”
  • The ship owned by Baron Grimes (Stella Mudd’s father) is called “The Festoon,” and was designed with the direction to make “Donald Trump’s spaceship… over the top, big, ridiculous, super-yacht.”

The Festoon, as seen in the episode “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”

Season 2 could return to Molor’s shrine
  • The “Well of Molor” set from the Klingon homeworld in the season one finale was a redress of Emperor Georgiou’s quarters, and it was noted “believe it or not, we might be using this again sometime.”

Well of Molor as seen in “Will You Take My Hand,” the set may be visited again

Klingon trash talk
  • The Klingon drinking hall in season finale featured some graffiti, including one bit that said “Your mother has a flat forehead.”

Klingon drinking hall seen in “Will You Take My Hand?”

Star Trek: Discovery is available exclusively in the USA on CBS All Access. It airs in Canada on Space and streams on CraveTV. It is available on Netflix everywhere else.

The first season of Star Trek: Discovery will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on November 13th.

Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.

When not acting as our Toronto con reporter Angie Korporaal is a graphic designer and amateur prop builder. You can follow her as @korps on Twitter and Instagram.

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Any explanation for why the decks seem to be so damned tall? I mean on TOS that was because they didn’t have ceilings, they had to light down through the overheads, but on DSC that is not an issue, so … ? They cite TUC as a point of reference, and yet TUC had the tightest corridors ever seen in TREK, which stressed (overstressed?s) the crammed on ship feel.

And I do have to say that I find it infuriating that they keep talking about cardboard sets on TOS (that came up twice in just the above article!) It’s very difficult to take these folks seriously when they seem to have as little actual knowledge about TOS as Berman ever evinced. I have noticed cases where feature films have used foamcore on camera, specifically the flight deck in Hyams’ 2010, and it looked godawful because there were creases in the console, which you’d recognize from any time you dropped something on a cardboard box. I do not recall seeing that kind of egregious goof on TOS (and yeah, I do remember seeing plywood showing through, but plywood ain’t cardboard!)

Yes, they’ve said “cardboard” repeatedly, at various panels over the last year. Drives me freakin’ nuts. TOS was not a public access show done in someone’s basement. The sets were made of plywood like all sets of the era.

Yes, it’s as condescending as it is ahistorical. And, it’s lunacy to expect them to match TOS closely, but they could show a bit more deference to the aesthetic. It would be a design challenge to make that compatible with contemporary tastes, but not an insurmountable one, given the various modes of retro fashion.

One of the designers referred to drawing upon The Undiscovered Country for inspiration. Barring The Final Frontier, TUC was the worst in terms of design.
These sets look more like updates of Time Tunnel or Buck Rogers than they do of Star Trek.

I actually liked TFF’s sets (and the bit you saw in TVH). They seemed light and comfortable, like a ship I’d like to live aboard. The refit 1701 was dark, particularly in TWOK/TSFS, and it was disappointing to see that look come back with a vengeance in TUC’s 1701-A. But for the story they were telling, I suppose it works.

Ditto on the “cardboard”. It wasn’t the case, it didn’t happen, just stop. Stop denigrating previous productions to make yours look better and justify the creative choices you’ve made.

A lot of fans really liked the design from The Undiscovered Country as opposed to the hotel aesthetic of Final Frontier. The sets in the Undiscovered Country looked the most real of any of the Trek sets in my opinion.

Couldn’t agree more with this statement. Every time I hear “cardboard sets” from a Discovery staffer, it just reinforces my impression they are out of touch with TOS and lack the imaginative vision to use those sets as a strong basis for a creative redesign. Instead they threw the baby out with the bathwater and made an almost complete break from the rich design continuity that had been established.

It’s nothing that previous Trek actors haven’t pointed out before but I guess when it’s coming from these guys some fans have no problem bringing out the pitchforks.

Of course the “cheap” sets have been mentioned ad nauseam for decades, especially by the actors. However, the guy quoted in the article is the “concept illustrator” for the series. Someone like that should have a bit more respect and perspective on the entire franchise’s design history.

I don’t think that a lot of the sets we’ve seen on the show even look like they “keep very closely to the movies”, as it has been put. TUC might be the closest because of the dynamic lighting, and that’s about it.

They could have avoided all of this by setting this in a different parallel universe or setting it 30-50 years after Nemesis.

Yes, I know that some people wouldn’t be happy if they didn’t use the exact same props, sets and costumes, plywood and velour and all. Personally, it would have been nice if they had made an attempt at making just about everything that appeared in DIS that also appeared in TOS recognizable to the original TOS item, even if everything had been updated in some respect. As it stands, there are only a few DIS props that fit even remotely close to the TOS aesthetic. Everything else is completely foreign.

“Someone like that should have a bit more respect and perspective on the entire franchise’s design history.”

What kind of drugs do you take?

Absolutely agree. What we have from this panel is lip service, and not very good lip service at that. They’re not honoring the past, they’re tossing it out the back door.

Dude! I was just thinking about whichever shuttle-podcast you brought that up soon as I read that. I actually 100% agree with the gist of what they’re saying — which makes inaccurately referring to the original sets as “cardboard” all the more unnecessary.

I generally like their designs too. It’s fine to speak about TOS and the design esthetic, and even talk about modern materials, etc. that help them do their job. By talking about modern production techniques it’s obvious and implied that of course TOS had limitations in its day. There’s no need to call it out with a somewhat derogatory sounding (and inaccurate) word like “cardboard.” I just wish they wouldn’t use it. I know they’re not purposefully trying to be jerks.

Yeah, I recall an episode where some crewmembers are feeding a cable through a hole in the deck of the Enterprise, and you can clearly see the 2x douglas fir framing around it. I think the creative team can be forgiven for the sloppy syntax….

It was cardboard. Get over it. No one wants to see that crap in 2018.

The show was very expensive for the era in which it was made, the effects were state of the art for television, i mean the effects of the models and bluescreen and composited optical shots, as good as they could be in the era of static pre motion control effects. No they were never movie quality nor were they intended to be.


I think you are confused about the technology/terminology.

I think you mean pre computer controlled moving camera motion effects.

Because it is more than obvious in the opening titles when the Enterprise goes swooshing across the screen that something is not remaining static, i.e. either the camera or the model or both are moving – just without the benefit of computer orchestrated control.

I suspect they use the term “cardboard” as a euphemism for “crappy”. Which just isn’t fair at all and I find its use insulting to the intelligence of fans of the series.

Berman may not have been a TOS fan, but under his control they created some very nice homages and recreations of TOS with the DS9 tribbles episode and the Enterprise Mirror Universe episodes on TOS Defiant. Those episodes showed that TOS could coexist very nicely with (then) modern Trek design.

By contrast the Discovery people seem to go out of their way to insult the TOS aesthetic in every interview.

No, they didn’t. “Relics,” “Trials and Tribble-ations,” and “Through a Mirror Darkly” showed that it was possible to do a one-off episodes that evoke a strong feeling of nostalgia. That is a very different aim than designing an entire series that’s tasked with bringing in a new generation of fans.

DISCO absolutely did the right thing in skipping the TOS/1960s aesthetic.

So basically you are saying screw the old generation because it is what the new generation wants? Star Trek is for all, why should there be a dividing line between the old and the new? They should have stuck with the time period sets in question, but it seems that at every STD review they insult the old series by saying we cannot be compatible with the old so we will make it new and call it original canon. Enterprise showed that it could be done, Star Trek Continues showed that it could be done, why is it so hard for STD to do it?

Would you prefer that TOS be done with the production aesthetics of Flash Gordon because it’s origins fans who had grown up wouldn’t be able to accept it? Because TOS was made only @30 years after Flash Gordon, and Discovery was made @50 years after TOS.

That is a poorly formed argument.

TOS shouldn’t use Flash Gordon production aesthetics because they are two distinct and separate fictional universes with no connection other than being science fiction shows.

Unless you mean to say that Discovery shouldn’t look like TOS’ production aesthetics because it is a distinctly separate universe with no connection to TOS.


Well, someone in the fanbase must like Flash Gordon aesthetics. How else do we account for how many times VOYAGER went to that well in its ‘Chaotica’ eps?

Actually all of the empress’ chamber stuff in DSC felt very FLASH GORDON to me, albeit it was the 1980 version it evoked. The set with all those tubes really reminded me also of PIZZA & PIPES, where you could eat a pie while listening to somebody play this enormous pipe organ.

I’m just curious Kmart, but are the only Star Trek shows you like are TOS and DS9? That’s just what I think hearing you talk about the others. Do you like the Kelvin movies at least?

I despise the Abrams-directed movies, but thought BEYOND had its heart in the right place, even if it was in a lot of ways more o’ the same. I actually choked up a couple times during BEYOND on first viewing, so that means it is the first TREK feature since the 80s to really move me emotionally (outside of the now-standard rage, that is.)

I like some of TAS too (always thought THE TIME TRAP and JIHAD should have been the basis for feature film TREKs, with the latter done as a kind of LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY TREKKING GENTLEMEN), but yeah, the only shows I’ve ever really been into are TOS and DS9.

And only really into 2/3rd of the latter, to be honest, as I don’t care one whit about trills and have very little interest in the Founders — for me, DS9 would have been nearly perfect if it had kept the Dominion as a very occasional recurring thing, like maybe the Borg, and focused on the Maquis, as STAR TREK in century 24 needed somebody or something with a Che’ level of magnetism to anchor things.

TAS is the only show I’ve never seen a single episode of. It just does NOTHING for me. I’ve always said I may give it a chance some day but still can’t get myself to sample it.

Anyway I was just curious lol. I’m the opposite since I basically love all of Star Trek. Discovery is currently last on my list but because it’s still pretty new and hasn’t worked the kinks out yet. I’ve always liked the Kelvin films but I just see them more as fun distractions. I don’t take them very seriously as the other movies and shows although none of those films are down as my worst but none as my favorites either. Kind of in the middle. We do agree Beyond is probably the best of them although oddly it’s the least repeatable for me to watch. I think that’s why it bombed, decent film but nothing you had to see over and over again.

DS9 is my favorite by far. I did love the Dominion war but I probably would’ve still loved it if they didn’t have it because it was just a unique show than the others that pushed Trek in a different way. I would love if we ever got something on that level again. Maybe one day we will again.

Thanks for the response!

Hell even THESE guys showed it could be done. Just look at the images from Pike’s Enterprise. For some idiot reason they just chose to ignore it until AFTER the first season. AFTER fans saw it and complained. Coincidence?

Yes, they did. DISCO made many mistakes. One of them was embracing an aesthetic that is antithetical to what they claim to be honoring.

No one is saying they should have slavishly copied TOS sets. We’re merely saying they could have done a tasteful yet modern looking update using the same colour pallets, overall design cues, and form, rather than a radical change. The Discovery phasers and tricorder were a perfect example of how the sets should have been handled.

Like the modern update of the VW beetle – updated, modern, yet still unmistakably a VW beetle. That’s how things should have been handled.

Except some people ARE saying that. Some people are saying they want more, some want less. That’s the problem. Your idea of a a “tasteful yet modern looking update” is some else’s blasphemy. Everyone has a exact picture in their mind of what should have been done. The problem is we have a million different pictures but everyone thinks they are the same,

True, GMP. But I think going that route would have satisfied the most viewers. At least regarding the look and feel of the show.

Agreed. You already know the Berman team would never have committed a full series or movie to replicating the TOS production design. You just already know this.

If STD wanted to blow off the aesthetic of the era, they should have chosen a different era to set their show in.

I liked “Trials and Tribble-ations” and “Through a Mirror, Darkly”, but both of those come off as nostalgia pieces to me. I don’t think those sets would work on a weekly basis in today’s high-def TV environment.

I think people really need to calm down and stop taking offense at everything. The production people on Discovery may not be PR people who are trained to only use talking points (so not to insult anyone) but they are professional trades people and they know what they are talking about. As it turns out Star Trek TOS set designer John Jeffries (brother to Matt) said they used wood and cardboard wrapped tubes on many TOS sets. That is not meant as a slight to TOS, that is simply just the reality of the budget and the technology they were working with back in the 1960s. There were no 3D printers back then that could fashion a custom designed set piece so they made due with what they could. It is not insulting that TOS used salt and pepper shakers as med scanners, or fake (I assume Styrofoam) boulders in Arena, etc. TOS was still cool!!

To add to Dean H above. TOS didn’t have Discovery’s budget. Sure they made economies, and I can believe that if they were able to fashion a cardboard tube to look like a durable 23rd Century tube, they would have done that. Ultimately, it’s about what appeared on screen..

Agreed and for sets that were produced over half a century ago, what ended up on screen looked very very good – even if they made of wood, cardboard or styrofoam.

You can use stuff like sonotube — used commercially to pour concrete — in tv and film and it looks terrific. They use it for the insets in Kirk’s quarters in TWOK, where the sliding slats are mounted. And Ken Adam used sonotube, wrapped with some kind of metal-looking mylar or paint, when Bond gets wailed on by Bambi and Thumper in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER. That’s being ingenious (and safe), not cheaping out. The DSC folk have really lost me forever with their cardboard fixation. And it isn’t like when somebody calls a character cardboard, this is somebody who uses actual physical materials employing the term, so it is doubly or triply inexcusable.

That pretty much sums it up.

If comments about cardboard have ‘lost you forever’ then I really doubt you were ever onboard to begin with. That’s not something that would pull you away from the show. Did you stop watching TNG because of the way Berman looked at TOS or never watch another TNG film because of how they decided to randomly kill off Kirk…

I stopped watching TNG because it sucked, and went back only when they started the open submission policy. I watched VOY long enough to see it was always going to suck, then stopped for good. Ditto for Ent (happened faster that time.) I wouldn’t have watched this at all except there was a free offer and my wife was intrigued.

They’ve ‘lost me forever’ refers to my interest in hearing b-t-s stuff from these folks (which means something, since writing about this kind stuff is one of the things I do, though if you’ll notice, there is a paucity of b-t-s stories on DSC, presumably owing to how unforthcoming CBS is about granting tech interviews on this show) — the show itself already lost me once I gritted my way through season 1.

“The DSC folk have really lost me forever with their cardboard fixation.”


Kmart, did you have a bad experience with cardboard when you were young? We are here for you.

It had less to do with the budget and more to do with the materials available at the time. “The Cage” was one of the most expensive television pilots produced at the time and despite budget cuts for season 3, TOS was far from a low budget series.

They also didn’t have to worry about high-definition revealing the flaws in the turbolift doors or the control consoles. 480 was what they expected the audience to see, not 4K. The money they spent went a lot farther, because the TV viewer had a much less sharp or colorful image (and still about half the audience was watching in black-and-white, GE and NBC loved Star Trek because they wanted it to push customers to buy a new color TV.)

It’s a lazy response, especially after fielding questions for more than a year. It’s quite a contrast from the responses to similar questions from Herman Zimmerman in the TNG years and Scott Chambliss when he signed on in 2009.

Chambliss didn’t do all his necessary homework either. In an interview with me, he claimed that the reason he has all those reflective surfaces in the 09 is because he didn’t recall ever seeing that in past science fiction. HUHHHHHHHH? Has he never seen everything that got reflected in Bowman’s helmet in 2001? Or Spock’s in TMP? Or how you can see Kirk approaching Spock via reflection in bridge monitor in TFF, or god knows how many other times reflections have played out in SF?

I kind of hate that Chambliss used a lot of cool Calatrava like designs even more, because they seem at odds with the other stuff he did, which IMO mostly sucks.

Although part of me wishes Ron Cobb had gotten a crack at the E, I’m still happy with a lot of what Joe Jennings and Mike Minor did, and there are parts of Michaelson’s work that are nice (though the lighting from the floor thing is still immensely intensely stupid.)

Thank you DeanH! I wish some people would just take a step back and stop getting mad because this is Discovery. They obviously weren’t trying to insult TOS but were stating a fact that they have resources those builders and designers didn’t during that era.

I think people are just angry because in a way they are demeaning the production of TOS. While it could be cardboard, they could have used a more respectable tone while saying this. They could have just said “Yeah, it was cardboard but that was the material that was used at that time and we respect it”, instead they are basically referring to the fact it was cheap. This is like insulting an old person, just because they are old and not realizing the fact that there might still be a respectable person under all that aged look.

People have been calling out TOS for their crappy cardboard sets for years and years now. What’s new about this?

Maybe just that it’s because you’re piling on this time, that makes it SO much different and SO much more meaningful.

You should know by now that some people just don’t like facts.

In the feature films they used sound foam and plastic models right from the box. Cheap? Sure. And these were MOVIES. What it is made out of doesn’t really matter so long as it LOOKS good on camera. And regardless of what the STD sets were made from, they did NOTHING to evoke the era the show was supposedly set in. Nothing. It looked like post Nem prime or KU. But not Pike era Prime. Far from it.

They never said they were using TUC corridors as direct reference and they shouldn’t. Their whole point (and no they’re not being as gentle about it as some need them to be) is that if Trek is supposed to be our future, then that’s how they want it to look. The Discovery hallways look to be about the size of a hallway inside of a modern building here today. If it’s supposed to take place years and years and years into our future, there’s not particularly a reason why a ship hallway would be as tight as they were in TOS. Maybe they’re simply not being as tactful with how they explain it as they need to be, but they make a really valid point.

The halls WEREN’T tight in TOS, in fact they were way too wide for a ship, it was only so they could dolly the camera through that they were as wide as they were. But DSC seems like it is a ship built for genetically enhanced basketball players or something, which is very wasteful on a ship with limited resources (no replistuff yet, we assume?)

We have this thing called widescreen tv now.

Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha! So, ha ha, we have widescreen TVs so the halls in the sets should be wide?!? That is the funniest thing I have heard all day.
But actually, I like that argument. I don’t think I agree with it, but I like it.


That’s pretty much what they said on After Trek. Makes sense. TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY sets were built to fit the 4:3 aspect ratio.

Which has exactly WHAT to do with the physical space needed to move a dolly through a studio-built corridor in the 1960s?

The DSC sets seem more like they are built for tallscreen than widescreen, like maybe some idiot was thinking of shooting the show on their phone without bothering to turn it to panoramic view (excuse if I don’t know all the smart phone photo details, I can’t afford to own one myself.)

At least there is no scaffolding 20 ft in the air and people climbing down on ropes or a big atrium like on the Abramsverse Enterprise.

To me, I don’t think TOS tech is obsolete. Currently we are at the floating holo displays as being advanced tech. And pretty much every SciFi show is using it’s not unique. Star Trek supposed to be a trailblazer in inspiration for future tech.

If you think about it, TOS / Duotronics very well could be an evolution. The Buttons always looked like crystals than buttons and it’s said the iteration of computers will use crystal quantum systems. So one “button” is a multifuction system with gigabytes of information. Then phase out the holo displays for a type of virtual HUD, like modern HUDS, you can only see directly ahead. Which would give plausible reason why Sulu and Chekov really had no real displays to go by. And why we never saw it on screen. Because we were seeing it from the sides than from the seats of the navigator.

But not sure if the Discovery writers would even think of something like this. So would be nice if they did see this.

interesting idea

Azurian, I like your ideas, but getting the DSC writers to think is pretty much impossible.

Like the 23rd Century Salt Shakers that had to be replaced by ordinary salt shakers in “The Man Trap”, the sets and props still have to be recognizable to contemporary audiences. It also has to look interesting. Some guy standing around with a visor controlling the ship without an actual console in front of him might be the future of space travel, but it would be about as visually exciting as watching the grass grow on TV.

I really like your explanation of crystal buttons on TOS.

Star Trek was the 1960s vision of the future …
TNG was 1980s …
Both got some things right.

Holodecks would surely be the death of humanity. I’d choose to live in it myself lol!

TOS looks like a highschool play. TOS will never look like the future.

Love the look of the show and hats off to the design team! Can’t wait for season 2.

That frequent bashing of TOS’s design aesthetic is just annoying. If you don’t like flat surfaces and obtuse angles – fine, they’d done away with that by the time TMP came out for a good reason. But then they design a captain’s chair for Discovery that looks just as much like its underlying plywood frame as any prop on TOS – and furthermore it looks like its consoles would short out as soon as someone spilled a cup of coffee on it. That’s inconsequential if anything. But have those people ever looked at a TOS set besides the bridge and the transporter room? What about the swooping lines of the conference room? Or all the irridiscent glass detail used in many sets? There was so much besides “cardboard”.
Also, if you just look at some real-life spaceflight equipment: It’s not like it’s all shiny metal surfaces and brightly lit readouts featuring some super-fancy animated blinkenlights GUI! In fact, a lot of stuff is colour-coded. And colour-coding was an integral part of TOS’s design aesthetic! Yes, it was partly owed to a “Hooray for colour-TV!”-sentiment and sure, there were barren-looking sets, and in many cases it was very obviously plywood painted grey and some coloured adhesive strips or plastic greebles, but at least there was a consistency to it. Jumping to TUC design for no good reason just means arbitrarily skipping ahead 40 years in the Trek-timeline. That’s where some hard creative thinking would come in handy.

Said it before and I’ll say it again. There is updating out of necessity and redesigning for the sake of it. The chose to do the latter.

Those of us who have complained about the look of the show, the sets, the Klingons, etc, I would say a good 90% don’t want cardboard sets or exact reproductions of TOS in whatever other way. What we want is something recognisable. Something where you accept the need for some updating but you can still in your head convince yourself that it can just about fit in. But for Discovery in many cases they’re just thrown the baby out with the bath water and completely changed things. So I can getting tired of the “had to update for modern day techniques” argument because they have done a lot more than update things where it was a necessity.

Well said El Chup. This was my complaint about the redesign of the Mirror Universe emblems. There wasn’t a modern-day need to redesign that but they did it anyway. I think that is true of most everything on Disco. They are using the “cardboard 60’s” line as an excuse to change everything, they are changing things just to do it.


Exactly. Of course we don’t want exact reproductions of TOS sets, but what would be nice is something that calls back to, compliments, RESPECTS and expands upon the TOS aesthetic.

Boom. That’s it in a nutshell. The more I think about the 2009 movie the more I appreciate that they really took the best possible approach to rebooting Star Trek. Drop it into an alternate universe, have the design aesthetic echo what had come before and do pretty much whatever the heck it is you want to do.

Agreed. Discovery could have simply made it an alternate universe, then could have been free to do what they wished (which they’re obviously doing anyway).

I very, very strongly suspect that if Discovery had been set in an alternate timeline, we would have heard no end to the complaints of “What? ANOTHER new timeline? What was wrong with the original timeline! This show su…”

Really, it is impossible to please everyone. The Discovery team decided to do what they wanted to do. Some things worked, some didn’t. Same as TNG, DS9, VOY and ENT before it.

You could be completely right Thorny!

For the record I would’ve had no problem they did that and feel they probably should’ve done it. I have no issues with the Kelvin crew being in another universe and have defended that decision over and over again as well. I like that it gives them the freedom to do what they want now and even bring in things like the Borg if they wanted.

But yes I know many DO hate the idea of another universe and wanted to go back to the prime universe so I can’t blame them at all for doing that. But the show probably could’ve felt like it’s own thing if it was in another universe.

I don’t completely buy the aesthetic update for the modern audience schtick the producers keep repeating. Take a look at Prelude to Axanar on Youtube, where I think the original design asethetic actually still works just fine.

Agreed El Chup!

Again, this is such a weird disconnect to so many people. They can call the old set whatever they want, but NO ONE is saying they want Discovery or any Trek show to look or be designed that way. It’s a complete misnomer. All people are saying is just to take some of the look so it feels more connected to the era. That’s IT! That’s all most people want here.

I go back to an argument I said before, the uniforms! Why exactly did they have to completely change those to the point they are unrecognizable? To me that signifies the show had NO interest of connecting to TOS at all. They can talk and spin the sets issues but what was wrong with the uniforms? You couldn’t take ANY influence from those either??? Those are also ‘outdated’? Tell that to the Kelvin guys.

And now of course we are getting them in season 2. My guess to control the backlash. But I don’t get why couldn’t they have done things like that from day one?? It’s so weird.

I will never get the mentality of this. You want to set it near TOS but then want to avoid everything that looks and feels like that show. You don’t want to call it a reboot although everything about it feels and acts like a reboot. It’s all pretty bizarre to me.

“I will never get the mentality of this. You want to set it near TOS but then want to avoid everything that looks and feels like that show. You don’t want to call it a reboot although everything about it feels and acts like a reboot. It’s all pretty bizarre to me.”

Here too. I don’t get any of that at all. And I swear, the appearance of Enterprise and the look of THAT ship (including uniforms) is their way to reconcile the aesthetic issues that viewers complained about. Personally, I’d rather have better stories and characters first. But you can more easily change the sets, I guess.

Yep. Even the feature film’s Enterprise still evoked the Star Trek FEEL. And it was pretty darn different. Yet STD did NONE of that. NONE.

I always thought it was cool how they kept the original today Enterprise the same more or less. TNG Enterprise etc. Redesigning it sucks. They should have stayed post next gen or post undiscovered country, or just an alternative timeline.

“They should have stayed post next gen or post undiscovered country, or just an alternative timeline.” Exactly right, and all of these arguments about visuals would (mostly) go away.

Yep. The aesthetic complaints would nearly vanish but we would still have the bad plotting, writing and characters issue.

Why oh why, the constant need to run down the original show?
To quote the panellist in the article: “we all love TOS and the carboard sets that they had.”
This cuts to the heart of the problem I have with Discovery. Admittedly TOS production values now seem quite dated, but let’s remember many of those sets are in fact iconic.. They are definitely better than cardboard. Indeed they hold up quite well (even in high def) and on the whole don’t warrant the ridicule the new producers keep heaping upon them. It comes off as holier than thou and frankly leaves a bad taste…

This is the one panel which managed to really raise the ire of fans and as soon as I read ‘cardboard sets’ they pretty much lost me at that point.

Yes, good design is good design whether it’s rendered in cardboard or not. The Klingon buckles in TOS were bubble wrap, but they still looked good. There’s no point in them running down Matt Jefferies classic work because most of it has stood the test of time.

So when Enterprise did the “In a mirror, Darkly” episodes in 2005 which I loved, it was perfectly fine and celebrated that they were wandering around the Constitution class Defiant as it looked in the 60s, but in 2018 they think they “owe” it to fans to update it? wrong. They owe it to fans to get it right. We are why there is a show. Without fans there is no franchise.

I keep using the Star Wars example and I much prefer Star Trek. The last few movies (Force Awakens, Last Jedi, Rogue One) used era approriate asthetics and not once did anyone say “woah its wrong to see this look 30 years later” ?? Nope – instead we’re all continually having this conversation about how crappy the Klingons look and how they did a visual reboot nobody asked for.

Let me make it clear: STAR TREK IS FICTION. It’s not based on The technology of today. Imagine if a film maker made a period movie, say World War 1. Oh but, you know what – throw an iPad in their hands cause thats the tech we have today and we have to base it on what we have today, not what we had then… sounds stupid right? well, thats essentially what Discovery has done.

You nailed it Brian.

absolutely agree! They kept with the aesthetic of TOS…added on to it with visuals of areas we had never seen before, but kept the TOS look! It worked…

Absolutely, Brian. Upon first seeing Rogue One, my first thought was, “Wow, they really nailed the proper Star Wars look.” It is totally plausible that film took place right before 1977’s A New Hope. Say what you want about the new Star Wars films since Disney took over, but they look absolutely great and fit into continuity perfectly. Discovery, and the JJ films, have no respect for what came before (visually, in this instance).

Great analogy. Nice.

But the vast majority of WW II movies have Germans driving around in more modern Patton tanks that don’t even remotely look like the Tigers of the era. And I’ve lost count how many Uzis pop up in WW II with the most laughable anachronism being when they end up standing in for Nazi issued firearms.

And lets not get started on the use of inappropriate to the era automobiles…

hogans heros had a tiger tank they stole once and it was a differet tank they moded to look like a tiger tank and that show was made in the 60’s i would think the reason why there are inaccurate tanks guns and vehicals in some ww2 fims is because they just could not find or get the correct ones i would assume most of the real ones are long since turned to rust or are in the hands of privite collectors or museums and wont lend them out to a film company


Its not some. The vast majority of Hollywood’s WW II films in the decades immediately after the war have the AXIS powers using Allied war surplus equipment that they only bothered with paint to give them an AXIS enemy look.

This, despite the fact that during the war the Allies had very successful squad of Hollywood FX artists that were expert at making ghost divisions and equipment appear out of thin air wherever the Generals needed them to be to fool the enemy.

Hollywood always had the ability to do better on the equipment look, but the moguls wouldn’t budge on the budget for such.

I can only recall two films where they got the look of the WW II equipment for both the Allies and the Axis powers fairly close to era appropriate, and that was because the two film companies had chosen to film in Yugoslavia in the very late 60s where the US had dumped the vast majority of its obsolete WW II Sherman tanks, arms, etc. to meet a trade commitment and Yugoslavia was using WW II German arms prior from its previous occupation that it eventually repelled so there was plenty of working WW II gear available.

One of the films was “KELLY’S HEROES” and the other was filmed shortly before but it escapes me. I think it was about THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE?

Those sets in In a Mirror Darkly were just that, “fine.” They weren’t dynamic, they weren’t amazing, they looked like aged sets that didn’t fit especially when you cut back and forth between the NX01 sets. The difference with Star Wars is that the sets used in the original trilogy were far more detailed sets than the TOS sets ever were. It’s why TMP sets followed suit. If TMP sets were the first Trek sets then re-using that design would be a no-brainer but that’s not the case. Star Wars is also a space fantasy universe. It’s much easier to keep with that aesthetic. Hell, even they’re facing crap from fans for updating certain looks.

also the reason star wars tech did not change was cause it is set a long time ago not in the future like trek is

This. I agree with 85% of what you just said.

The TMP sets however already looked tacky in 1979 compared to the used-future look of SW, and this is reflected in some TMP reviews of the time.

It doesn’t surprise me though that even SW fans are having problems with this stuff. I mean this is literally the first time I’m hearing that, and yet I’m automatically, cynically inclined to accept it at face value.


And no, the Constitution class Defiant that appeared in IN A MIRROR, DARKLY wasn’t perfectly fine because it was identical to the newer USS Enterprise predominately used throughout most of the 1st series and not the more primitive ISS Enterprise that was used in MIRROR, MIRROR. It makes no sense that in 100 years the Empire’s Constitution class ships somehow “devolve” to the identical older look of the Enterprise as it appeared in the two original NBC pilots.

I need a little help understanding this comment.

The USS Defiant we see in IN A MIRROR, DARKLY is the same ship seen in THE THOLIAN WEB, a sistership of the Enterprise (the original episode used stock footage effects, just with an added optical glow to disguise 1701 and Enterprise on the hull). So of course, it should be more or less identical to Kirk’s USS Enterprise. It was sent back 100 years in time and into the Mirror Universe by the Interphase or whatever it was, where Evil Archer and Co. got wind of its existence.

So the Empire’s ships didn’t devolve, they should actually have gotten a 100 year head start because they got their hands on Constitution-class technology 100 years earlier. But they didn’t, because the ISS Enterprise was still roughly on par with the USS Enterprise in MIRROR, MIRROR (also stock footage, conveniently trimmed to prevent seeing USS instead of ISS on the hull.)

So this generally suggests that Empress Sato met an untimely end and the Defiant was destroyed before that technology could be applied to other ships by the Empire (and she would probably have postponed that technology sharing as long as possible to preserve her grip on the Empire.)


Now go to MIRROR, MIRROR and look at the ISS Enterprise which the DARKLY retcon means gets built AFTER the USS Defiant in the mirror universe. In MIRROR, MIRROR the ISS Enterprise uses rejiggered footage of the older Enterprise with spires, etc. Older features USS Defiant doesn’t have. Ergo, The Empire somehow devolves its Constitution class ships after acquiring the Defiant?

But the “devolved design” is much less of a mystery than why after 100 years they were still using the Constitution-class design at all. I think this means Sato met an untimely end, and the Defiant’s technology was never reverse-engineered. That left the Empire back where it started, and had to work their way up to the Constitution-class the old-fashioned way. Hence ISS Enterprise was still more or less the same as USS Enterprise (plus or minus a few years and a nacelle cap spike or two.)


That the technology which the Empire culture usurped and hadn’t developed on its own stagnated isn’t that unusual. There’s a learning curve that gets extended by secrecy.

If the culture doesn’t do science based open communication and free exchange of ideas it is very difficult for such rapid technological leaps to take place like we’ve experienced in the past 100 years.

There’s also a lack of diversity similar to the problems of inbreeding in biology when military secrecy only allows a handful of scientists to discover what is truly known.

ISS Enterprise:

comment image

USS Defiant:

comment image

That’s a good theory, but we know that didn’t happen in the Empire because Archer’s ISS Enterprise was the same as our universe’s NX-01. So they were at comparable technology level up to 2150 or so.

And lets not forget that Germany in 1933-45 was hardly a free and open society, but they were years ahead of everyone else in military technology as late as 1944.

The only real in-universe explanation is that the Defiant was lost before its secrets could be learned and applied to other Empire ships.


Re: a good theory,

Thanks to DISCOVERY we know nothing of the kind. The Empire Archer’s father could have stolen the NX design from the Prime or some other universe.

The following is non-canonical, but when Shatner approached Berman to do a guest spot on ENTERPRISE, he had a story that he pitched that revealed the Tantalus Field device wasn’t a disintegrator but actually banished people from the Mirror universe to a secret penal colony the Empire maintained in the Prime universe.

ST will always age faster than SW. Partly because it’s based on sci-fi tech instead of science fantasy tech. And partly because it will just never shed its TV-production roots no matter what.

ST will also always be extrapolated and reinterpreted from our present day. There are two reasons for this. A: Every ST wants to be mainstream and accessible to mainstream audiences, even if the previous ST was lame and unsuccessful in affording or being allowed that privilege. And B: ST’s too-much-touted “hopeful future” premise requires that its utopia would always be made to appear reachable from the present day.

To both these ends (primarily the first one) ST will always be *retroactively* updating its designs, as well as silently re-writing its own history wherever or whenever needed. This bridge was already crossed in 1979 and there was never any uncrossing it.

I thought that Enterprise episode sucked. It was just a lame nostalgia episode.

They owe it to fans to get it right. We are why there is a show. Without fans there is no franchise.

I couldn’t disagree more.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the episode as a fan, I also recognized that it was pure fan service. There was nothing realistic about the way the Defiant looked, especially compared to the NX01 — I especially hate the effort to make the unseen areas of the ship look like what might have been designed for TOS. But that’s the Hallmark of Berman’s latter years — give the hard core fans what they want, and ignore attracting new fans. They don’t owe anything to the fans, at least not to extent that they sacrifice attracting new fans. The old fans are dying off. If the franchise is to survive, they have to address the needs of a modern audience.

Moreover, Star Trek is, and always has been, meant to be our future. Not the future as imagined in the 1960s, or the future imagined in the 1930s, or the future imagined by Jules Verne — but the future imagined today. Allowing the visual palette to stagnate by ignoring current technology, and new theoretical concepts, is just as bad as allowing the narrative to stagnate by just recycling the same stories over and over. Trek is a product of its time, and the future the that time imagines for itself. It’s not a nostalgic homage to that period in which it was originally created.

@Curious Cadet

Bravo 👏👏👏👏👏

Funny story regarding Rogue One… The team designing weapons for the stormtoopers had versions for the director to view. He looked at them and picked ones he liked, as directors will do. One of the models he dismissed the prop guy said, “This is a duplicate of what they used in A New Hope.” Director Edwards immediately backpedaled and said, “Let’s go with that one.”

Every time they sneer at “cardboard sets,” I vomit in my mouth. I love this show’s cast, but the ENTIRE above-the-line creative team is filled with arrogant half-wits who can’t stop insulting TOS. Every producer and writer on this show needs to be replaced if it’s going to have any chance of long-term success.

Some of the TOS sets may look outdated by today’s standards (personally I disagree) but they were not made of “cardboard”. Idiotic, uninformed, condescending comments like that drive me crazy.

TOS sets, as the remaster shows, are designed, staged and lit beautifully. There is something magical, and perhaps aspirational in the way the pale blue walls and shadows play with the lighting on the faces of characters. It’s almost never just “lit” so that the action can be seen. Well directed episodes allow the camera to use the Enterprise as more than just a ship, it’s a home, it’s an environment, and the beats are dramatic. Discovery was one thing, but to take the Enterprise down a notch to conform to the aesthetics of this new series, raises up the viewers’ critical eyes and tampers their nostalgic hearts.

i love the changes they made to the tos era it now looks like the future not the past cause when i watched tos for the first time in 2016 i was saying this does not look like the future of our time it looks like it fits more a long time ago in a galaxy far far away then 2 centuries from now and due to the dated way everything was from the acting to the sets i barely made it through the 3 seasons the only thing i get nestolgic over sometimes is certian types of music and how rap/hipho[ is not as good as it was when i was growing up in the early 2000s but i also prefer alot of the 60’s rock artists exspecially the beatles over todays rock music the one thing i did notice is that pop music has not really changed much since the early 2000’s

Good points Michelle. I find it interesting that some feel TOS was 100 percent perfect when in reality, it was full of plot, acting and production holes that you could shoot a “canon” ball through. That said, the show was still ground-breaking and awesome especially for its time and the franchise is still going strong. You did bring up a good point – You watched it for the first time in 2016 and you thought it looked dated. The production team has to balance between trying to appeal to older fans like some of those on this board (incl myself) and new fans who don’t see TOS through perhaps the rose coloured glasses of their youth. So far I think they are doing a great job but of course, not everyone is going to be happy.

Look, you wanna update the look of the show, fine. But please offer some sort of explanation as to why things are so different (eg. alternate universe, Q intervention, time travel butterfly effect etc.). Instead they expect us to just accept this as a visual reboot. At least the Abramsverse made some effort to do this.

You guys do know that lots of the sets were made out of cardboard as well as chipboard, paper marche, spare parts, etc. They used every day objects to make their set dressing. Salt and pepper shakers for medical instruments.
Heck, I love the cardboard aesthetic of TOS as much as the next guy, love the nostalgia, but don’t want to watch a new show looking like that. Come on.

TOS was state of the art at the time. The “cardboard set” crap is just that–crap. The sets were not shabby or subpar. They were of the era, and far better than what Doctor Who or Lost in Space were doing at the time.

It was cheap and lame. Sorry but it just is. No one in their right mind would watch a show that look like that now. Hell, people hardly watched TOS when it first aired.

@HN4 – Sorry, but it just wasn’t. At the time (did you miss those words before?), it was state of the art. The show had a reasonably high budget FOR THE TIME. (Notice those words again? AT THE TIME. Not “now” as you said but AT THE TIME.)

Nobody said “Let’s use exactly the same construction techniques NOW.” Nope, nothing even remotely like that. But that is what you seem to be replying to–something nobody said.

Nothing about my previous comment is inaccurate. Yours is just sneering and replying to something *nobody* said.

Paul, at the time is wasn’t subpar. But by today’s standards, it is. Sorry to burst your bubble, but even the styrofoam rocks didn’t look real back in the day. Technology has advanced and those sets would look horrible in UHD.

Nobody said to do the same exact sets in UHD. Pure straw-man fallacy on your part.

Your first sentence literally restates what I state in my first sentence, but then you go on to sneer about bursting my bubble. Um…what bubble? How does my statement, which YOU agreed with, imply that I want EXACTLY THOSE SETS now?

Nothing I said suggests that. Nothing.

Sorry to burst YOUR bubble, but my comment stands (and you agreed with it).


I agree with your state of the art point, but when you drag LOST IN SPACE’s ship set design into it, that becomes quite another discussion.

Both sets were heavily influenced by the film FORBIDDEN PLANET with LOST IN SPACE having the advantage of Robert Kinoshita from the film working for it.

So between the two shows, LIS’ set is a bit more successful in evoking the Kinoshita FORBIDDEN PLANET’s cinematic “this tech looks and feels as if it actually works” aesthetic.

In almost all other ways one can compare LIS to TREK, LIS suffers in the comparison, but in this one area it did not.

FWIW, back when both shows were airing and Trek was brand spanking new, I recall reading an article where ST’s set designer and prop maker were lusting after LIS’ set and prop budget because they imagined that it must far exceed their own in admiring the look it achieved.

Oh, and while we are at it, public radio’s KPCC:


makes it quite clear that neither was TNG, which came after it, ever made to look good on anything greater than 500 lines of resolution.

Yet when LiS was selling its stuff off and Trek folk went to see if there was anything they could use, supposedly the report back was that everything looked like it came off a WWII era submarine. Pretty sure that was in the Solow/Justman book, so I assume a fairly high level of veracity. I’d like to see closups of the J2 controls though, I think some of it looked good in the wide shots …

Interestingly enough, one of the LIS freezing tubes did make its way over to Trek for The Empath. Loved Kinoshita’s gorgeous set designs of the Jupiter. Lots of atomic-age curves, chrome and glass. Trek’s designers went a completely different route, as they should’ve. Unlike LIS, being 30 years in the future, Trek was 300 years in the future…it needed to look unlike anything else….and it succeeded brilliantly.


That’s some admirable fansplaining but mistaken. The original sets were built to implement Roddenberry’s concepts as they existed prior to filming of the 1st pilot which wasn’t going to be as far into the future as you assert. However, Roddenberry most definitely pursued FORBIDDEN PLANET which did take place in the 23rd century and it is irrelevant that another production usurped its aesthetics for 1997 – the Trek team was still envious of it.

Yeah, Roddenberry was very strongly influenced by Forbidden Planet to the point that it’s almost a pre-pre pilot for Star Trek. (I head-canon FP as a pre-UFP space mission. It fits very well into the same universe as Trek.)


If such an LIS set auction did in fact occur, I’m totally shocked. Because I had moved to SoCal by then and was carefully monitoring FOX anticipating such a sale. And when I got wind they were going to do a real estate auction of the back lot I reached out and was told there was nothing to sell as they had just bulldozed the whole thing over to make it more real estate sale appealing, including the full size Jupiter II they built for their final season.

What you describe sounds to me more like the VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA sets. Not that Allen was above commandeering some of it for repurposing in LIS.

Disinvited: I love the Jupiter II in every way, and the Forbidden Planet influences are both obvious and well documented. But the sets were still very 50s-era and stagelike more often than not.

One of my favorite LiS scenes is from the 3rd season’s “The Antimatter Man” where we see the characters on a walkway through space, with wispy fog drifting off the walkway and the characters seeming to walk through nothingness.

Rewatching it now, you see just how silly and primitive it really was.

I love Lost in Space (old and new–that’s a different conversation to be had), but I think Trek’s sets were a notch above and a day ahead of LiS. FMMV. :)


I was limiting the discussion to a comparisons of the two ships’ stages. But yes, once you introduce all the stages Allen constructed for LIS after, STAR TREK wins hands down.

Outside of the Jupiter, if Allen wasn’t location shooting the stages he’d have constructed, with the possible exceptions of the Full-sized parking lot Jupiter II, Spacepod and Chariot; were much closer to the ones Trek’s Melkotians placed our heroes.

Its been fun sharing the LIS love, thanks.

Sadly most people here live in a fantasy world. Just be glad they have no power over Trek.

There is a lot of cardboard and plywood used on sets even today. I bet we find plywood all over the STD sets in Toronto.

This notion that the TOS sets were made of cardboard – a preposterous claim made more than once by people involved in this production – is willfully ignorant and condescending.

Love your level-headed podcasting, dude. I would agree it seems really awkward and uninformed, for people actually working on a TV series, to describe earlier TV sets that way. However I hardly think they are being condescending, or meaning to be. (Though I’ve no doubt you guys are able to follow and retain recollection of their comments far more closely than I would ever have the time or patience to.)

If they’d simply set the show in a time period post-TNG, or simply said Discovery takes place in a (slightly) different timeline/universe, there would be no need to justify the look of the show whatsoever and fake-pander fans. This is their mess, let them keep trying to justify it.

there is a new cbs all access trek series set 20 years after nemesis comming soon it will feature capt picard

Yes, I’m aware of that, michelle, but that show is not the issue here. Completely changing and not respecting the established look of a supposed-Prime TOS era show, is.

The awards ceremony chambers scene was actually filmed in Vaughan City Hall down the road from where I live. Not Toronto. We watched from the outside that day. Was autumn 2017.


You’re quite right. I’ve updated the article.

Pah, current materials and techniques are NOT the issue. The problem is that these Discovery makers want their jam on both sides – they want to totally redesign most elements differently from the look of the TOS show, while still wanting us to accept their radically-different choices are a believable transition to it’s overall look…so that they can make use of previously popular Trek characters such as as ‘Spock’ etc.

Well, they can’t have it both ways.

And considering the wildly differing direction they took with various production design choices, it doesn’t surprise me to learn that the look of later TOS movies inform their designs, rather than the classic show it purports to be a near-sequel to.

So no matter what, I can only look on Discovery as being a ‘separate alternate universe’ storyline, where my own ‘Trek Canon’ goes.

Sure, I hope they end up introducing a classic TOS-looking ‘flat-headed’ Kor-like ‘Klingon House’ or two for the sake of those who were disgruntled on that aspect…but they also really needed to give us something along the lines of the iconic D-7 battle cruiser for things to gel properly, instead of the overly-ornate frilly-looking craft they envisioned. Personally, I’d have preferred a non-‘Klingon’ storyline in the first place, but mainly I would have preferred an ‘update’ closer to their overall classic TOS look and outfit.

Just my 2 cents.

A very appreciated 2 cents, here.

Especially this: “So no matter what, I can only look on Discovery as being a ‘separate alternate universe’ storyline, where my own ‘Trek Canon’ goes.”

Me too.

I meant to type near-prequel instead of near-sequel.

I think it best to think of STD as just a reboot. Not a different timeline or universe. Just a show set in a rebooted Trek universe. If one thinks of it that way, they can do whatever they want. I just wish they would officially call it that, since that is exactly what the first season looks like.

I was at the production panel on Saturday and when they mentioned cardboard, I knew it was going to hit the fan on this site. After reading many posts, I am really happy TOS was not made five years earlier in black and white. That said, I understand and empathize with the opinions above, even if I don’t agree with them. Fan’s opinions are just that, just like my fellow hockey fans don’t agree with everything I say about our favorite teams. And even though I am sure some of what we see over the next five years will suck and some of it will be awesome, I am still looking forward to seeing what they come up with. Bottom line is, the Trek franchise is in better shape than it has been in over a decade, so I am happy – even if it isn’t exactly the same as something that was made over half a century ago.

So here’s the thing – from my perspective at least. Fans who point to Rogue One and say “you can do the old look and make it look good” must remember that 70s Star Wars production design and sets were MILES ahead of TOS sets (just being honest there). So it would be easier to bring those into the modern era and film them to make them look even more dynamic than they originally did. While it was great nostalgia in the DS9 and Enterprise episodes, those TOS sets didn’t look dynamic. They looked notably aged. You can only do so much with projecting lights on flat gray walls and passing it as the interior of a room. I love the old sets but they have a point. Star Wars is also a space fantasy film, if Trek is supposed to be our future, it should look like our Future, not our past ideas of what the future would look like.

PEB, not sure I agree with all that but… As has been said many times, we acknowledge that the production values were 1960’s not 2018. Personally, the issue I have is that Discovery pays too little attention to the established TOS design aesthetic, although realistically I’m not expecting a recreation.

I kind of agree with you there. I see the 60s inspiration in costume and props but it’s very clear that the inspiration with design is from TMP films more than TOS show itself.

Nothing to apologize for updating the aesthetic. When TMP got the go-ahead, I doubt anyone, anywhere seriously suggested they needed to recreate the 60’s era set in all its primary color glory.

@ Phil – rather than ending up predominantly ‘beige’, would the overhauled Enterprise bridge and crew outfits in ST:TMP have looked more interesting onscreen with a splash more primary coloring? – personally, I’ll always maintain yes. I still enjoy a rewatch of that particular movie’s director’s cut, but it’s a blander-looking aesthetic for sure, at times. However…it’s also set a good while later than the TOS episode production design, so gets away with it’s it’s altered look comfortably enough. (I much prefer the look of TWOK’s particular redesigned bridge and outfits onwards however).

On the other hand, this Discovery show is meant to be a short lead-in to the established TOS episodes era – and if the makers don’t wish to invest in ‘upgrading’ their various elements to tie-in with it in a reasonably faithful manner, then why should I invest much faith in whatever they come up with?

Was TWOK bridge a vast redesign or was it just lit differently with minor changes? The different to me were the uniforms. The blood red with black pants gave it a more realistic look. The difference in TMP sets were just how highly detailed they were from ships to interiors.

Meyer supposedly spent sixty grand just adding blinkies to the bridge on his first walkthrough, but except for repositioning work stations, nothing major changed that I recall. They added a bunch of cassette tape album cases on the walls, so that cost almost exactly nothing. Presumably they added the little joystick torp launcher too, that looks way too modern and feeble to be a TMP design IMO.

I don’t know. It certainly is a source of amusement to me that people complaining about updating TOS’ look to bring it in line with that of the ship Discovery keep forgetting that the design of Discovery herself is one that’s been updated from the early 1970s. The two are NOT as wide apart as concept designs in the production era as people keep inflating them to be.

And I am curious how much, if any, Phase II’s television pre-production designs influenced the current show? I seem to recall a lot of that prior TV prep work was discarded as not “cinematic” enough for TMP?

But they didn’t set TMP in the same era as TOS. They moved forward. Therein lies the difference.

“Cardboard sets?” The fact they used the term “cardboard” as much as they did makes me think they used it knowing it would insult some hardcore fans. How could anyone in the business refer to the TOS sets as being made out of cardboard, when they know that they were made of plywood? Why be so condescending to TOS unless they enjoy enraging the fan base, maybe to get some more press? The fact they act this way towards TOS really annoys me, and I am glad I do not pay for CBS ALL Access. I would not want to give these arrogant people my money.

Uhh not to diminish your anger but just a heads up that one of TOS’ set designers John Jefferies did say they used wood and cardboard on the Jefferies tube set and in the walls of the TOS sets. I hope you know that the boulders used in Arena were obviously styrofoam, paper mache or some something similar. All that said, the designers did a great job using the tech and materials they had nearly FIFTY-FIVE years ago.

There’s a lot of selective memory when it comes to what Disco team says and does vs what the old guard said and did

That Jeffies tube is almost certainly a sonotube, material used for pouring concrete, and is used in big expensive films too, because it is an effective way to make that shape work on film. They were used on the walls of Kirk’s quarters in TWOK, and Ken Adam used them (wrapped in some metal foil) in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER. It is not like using cardboard, per se, but a reinforced paper-based material that is rigid. There have been times on TOS when they used the corrugation beneath the cardboard as DRESSING — I think the boxes in ERRAND OF MERCY when Kirk blows stuff up are dressed that way — but they were not used for construction, because it doesn’t work, due to lack of rigidity and that it doesn’t photograph well.

One last thing I will say after attending the last two years of Disco production staff panels at Fan Expo Toronto – I was really impressed with the majority of production people I met and they are EXTREMELY passionate and dedicated to the difficult task of making the show something that can appeal to the majority of older fans like myself but at the same time growing a new younger audience watching on a new medium. Looking at the THOUSANDS of Disco fans who showed up for the cast panel, I think they are accomplishing just that – and that was with virtually NO web or print promotion from Fan Expo due to the last minute panel confirmations. Thanks to the production team for giving up their last summer holiday weekend to come out to entertain us Trek fans. I hope we see them back next year – maybe for a combined Disco/Picard production panel.

I think these guys honestly want to impress us.. but some of the things they say do seem to belie that. Couple that with what Discovery has shown on screen so far and a toxic recipe is created.
TNG took three years to gain any kind of mass acceptance, so uisng that as a precedent, I guess the new guys are still in a period of grace.

TNG was also set 80-90 years after TOS. That amount of time buys a lot of leeway when it comes to design, ship, technology and uniform changes. Which I thought were well done and respected what came before while updating it. Discovery is set 10 years before TOS, and it looks like it belongs 80-90 years after TNG. Visuals matter, especially if they’re insisting this is all transpiring in the same timeline.

…don’t confuse bodies that show up for a panel at a con as vigilant fans of the show. I’ve ducked into many a panel, with friends, just to sit down and catch my second wind!


Damn straight about that.

One caveat, I take a long line at the Q&A mike as a contra-indicator that the room’s full of doggie resters.

Confirmed. The ability to fill a room does not mean something has been widely accepted.

Wow. Cardboard sets?? Yeah…and the ships were hung on strings. Is it THAT hard to be just a little informed about your subject…so you don’t come off sounding like a fool?

That’s simply wrong about the “cardboard sets.” When Enterprise and TNG reconstructed a Constitution Class ship, the 1960s sets looked amazing. And when we saw the exterior, also amazing. The idea that they needed to redesign the EXTERIOR is hardly due to the way it looked in the 1960s.

“When Enterprise and TNG reconstructed a Constitution Class ship, the 1960s sets looked amazing.”
It’s true. Those original sets, especially the Bridge, are design classics, pure and simple.

It looked like crap to me.

i cant belive everything you just said is wrong the brother of the the tos set and ship designer matt jeffries even said they used a mix of wood cardboard and other materials in the sets also they only used part of the tos set in relics and the ds9 episodes and spliced it in with original footage and the defiant sets did not look very dynamic exspecially when they did the jump cuts back to the nx-01 which sets were very dynamic and also it is one thing for a episode or 2 like the tng episode the ds9 episode and the 2 ent episodes to use it not a whole series also even then when they made those episodes they did not have the tech the do now to make sets and set peices like they do now
plus trek is suposes to be set in our future not a period peice like western or a cop show or a civil-vietnam war films

…the use of the TOS sets wasn’t meant to be “dynamic”…their use was to serve as reference and call back to the way the original Enterprise looked. The new series respected the aesthetic as a historically accurate representation of that particular era in Star Trek’s fictional history. Discovery, however, has pretty much screwed the pooch in that regard. The series is an abomination.

Whoa whoa whoa! Punctuation is your friend! What you wrote there is damn near indecipherable.

I wish I could have seen this panel! Sounds really good. I hope someone leaks something on Youtube.

Discovery seems to go out of its way to retcon and overwrite what many consider to be the “TOS” aesthetic. This is exactly what makes it so controversial to old school fans. For them, it is another middle finger to all their extrapolated fan designs and synthesized head canon that was so blatantly ignored by Discovery’s staff. Was there ever a memorandum that the Trek production crew heed the “it should be this way” logic of its fans? Not really, and that probably hurt a lot of feelings and relegated a majority of fan designs to irrelevance.

I’ve always reasoned that the 60’s visuals of TOS was more or less a simplified and exaggerated version of the real events that occurred during that period. And since 2001, TPTB has been slowly red-pilling the fanbase of that fact. The real reason is that time marches on and demanding that a 21st Century series look more primitive than a 1966 production is just downright insane.

Discovery tackles this issue once more with increased depth coupled with a strange, heavy handed social justice filter (more on that later). DIS effectively re-visualizes the prime universe TOS era in its own aesthetic terms. The canon obsessed folks (to put it mildly), are in a frenzy. Desperately trying to make sense and haphazardly connect vastly different and contradicting interpretations of the material. There was never a master plan to connect everything seamlessly to 100% canon perfection. Hell, even Gene Roddenberry himself wanted to retcon some things on the spot. So, it is always wise to view Star Trek as separate entities of their time: (1960’s TOS, 1980’s TNG, 2010’s DSC, etc.). Whatever connections they have to each other is just fanservice bonus. But the existence of DIS poses tough questions: Has Discovery taken this artistic license too far? Why are some social and political themes so heavy handed? And is there an absolute limit on how something can be redesigned?

“Back in April of 2017 the task of the Enterprise making an appearance came to be and work was to start right away,” Eaves says. “The task started with the guideline that the Enterprise for Discovery had to be 25% different otherwise production would have most likely been able to use the original design from the 60’s but that couldn’t happen so we took Jefferies original concepts and with great care tried to be as faithful as possible. We had the advantage of a ten-year gap in Trek history to retro the ship a bit with elements that could be removed and replaced somewhere in the time frame of Discovery and the Original series.”

John Eaves.

THEY ADMITTED IT. They have to change it by 25% because of legal reasons, because it’s not the same license as the original series. Stop trying to do damage control, and just admit that this is a different universe.

The end game here is CBS, Alex Klutzman and the Bad Robot crew want to overwrite the original timeline, so this the only Star Trek that you can watch. They want to make it “less nerdy” so the cool kids who don’t actually watch television and stare at their phones until they hear an explosion, won’t have to be weighed down by the past history. But the joke is on them, because the audience they so desperately want to court, doesn’t actually show up and spend money.

Bad Robot is not involved in the making of this series.

Ah yes this old conspiracy theory chestnut…

CBS and Paramount hold the rights to Star Trek. No one else.

CBS owns all rights to all Trek TV properties. They have no need to change anything for any legal reason.

Eaves was speculating when he said that. You’ve also removed the context that he thought it might be because of needing to pay the Matt Jefferies estate royalties, NOT any licensing issue with the design itself. The Jefferies idea also doesn’t make sense, people working for TV shows don’t own the content they create for a show, the studio that hired them does.
The producers simply wanted the Enterprise to look more “Disco”, it’s pretty obvious.

Bad Robot is a production company hired by Paramount to make the films, no more no less.

Alex Kurtzman hasn’t been associated with Bad Robot since 2013.

His own production company, Secret Hideout, which has a good relationship with CBS from delivering other shows to them, is who is producing Discovery (and future shows).

Secret Hideout is a production company hired by CBS to make new TV shows, no more, no less.

Stop peddling nonsense here.

Regarding the repeated “cardboard sets” comments…

It’s important to remember that with WWII, the Korean War and the draft, many of the designers who worked on TOS had served in the military and knew what the inside of a large vessel looks like. When I toured an aircraft carrier, it really felt like the TOS Enterprise. Those walls weren’t straight and simple because they were made out of cardboard (obviously they were plywood, just like the current set walls), they were straight and simple because that was how the creators believed a space-going vessel would look.

So while it’s certainly possible that these designers have toured actual exploration vessels, it is tempting to think that the differences we’re seeing aren’t due to budget and technology, but due to a period when there was a draft and a period long after the last draft card was sent out.

Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy Discovery and am looking forward to the new season. I love how they’ve handled the props, the uniforms, and even the rework of the Enterprise. I just disagree with the trashing of TOS.

Excellent comment, thanks for reminding folks about the historical context surrounding the production of TOS. Matt Jefferies was of course a pilot during WWII and it informed a lot of his work. Similarly, Bob Justman was a Navy man and that certainly shows too. They all had a great sense of what felt real and practical, and thus believable, for 1966.

This is what Discovery’s design team could have done to update the design aesthetic and still be true to the TOS look and feel… this CGI is brilliant: https://vimeo.com/12023417

That’s not bad. I don’t really like around the turbolift but otherwise pretty good. The matchmoving was really good.

Hmm. That’s an impressive demo. Interesting because it also lets producers retrofit TOS to match the updated aesthetic – cuts both ways. TOS: The Special Edition? :)

TOS sets still look great if you ask me.

Yeah. The original designers (Matt Jefferies!) manage to do better with so-called cardboard than the current designers have done with their “CAD, grafting (?), COC printing, and 3D printing”.

I didn’t recognize the grafting reference either, and I’ve interviewed several production designers, most of them working on VFX-heavy shows, in the last couple of years. Ah well, some homework for the near-future!

My guess is that she said “CAD drafting” ?

I turned in a story once (about GENERATIONS, I think), talking about a ‘near-subliminal barrel distortion’ for a particular lens,but somehow by the time it hit print, it turned into “veneer subliminal barrel distortion” — which is utterly meaningless, given that any wood-like veneer on a camera lens would essentially be a lens cover!

Lost something in the translation there, Butch.

We didn’t ask you.

HN4, you’ve been very active making your opinions well known in the comments here. Now you’re gatekeeping, by trying impose who gets an opinion and who doesn’t. You’ve been warned about your commenting behavior a few times in the past and were given a final warning the last time, so you’re done. Bye.

Instead of arguing with those who have their panties in a twist over them calling the TOS sets “cardboard”, I’m just going to point out that “Your mother has a flat forehead.” is an awesome Klingon putdown. I plan to use it whenever possible!

“Your mother has a flat forehead.”

Klingons can be really nasty people!

So no respect for TOS if they keep saying cardboard.

TOS was plywood just like modern sets.

I expect these guys to screw up the iconic vessel.

Cardboard cardboard cardboard

Less holo communicators and more viewscreen communication would be awesome.

I like a lot of the production design – and am fine with the updating of the 1701 – but I do feel there are missed opportunities with ‘older’ Federation design. Why is it all so obviously Earth, per Enterprise? Wouldn’t some hybrid Earth, Vulcan, Andorian ship designs be interesting for older classes? I mean, why would such long-established interstellar civilisations so quickly plump for Earth aesthetics?

Leaving aside the drama over “cardboard,” I think there are two ways to look at this. One, is to take the rigidly literal approach that says what we saw on screen from 1966-1969 IS the world as it exactly will be. Two, is to take it as a set of figurative concepts, and understand that, within the experiences of its creators, the technology and budget of the time, the popular understanding of the audience, etc – any TV series’ depiction of that conceptual world is inevitably limited, and will look dated once real-world technology surpasses it, production technology improves, and the show gets a higher budget. The literalist interpretation is what some commenters here seem to use. But I think that approach is fundamentally flawed. How can you constrain a vision of the future to an interpretation made in the mid-1960s, that was intended for low-definition television broadcasts, not 4K remastered cinema, at that? (Digression: I mean, was Star Trek of the 60s even *that* futuristic? It certainly wasn’t in terms of gender roles. Where were the women captains, doctors, engineers? Most times they were miniskirted, at best lawyers, but mostly glorified secretaries, stenographers, and telephone switchboard operators. It was Mad Men in space jumpsuits! But that’s a separate topic.) One commenter made the argument that we wouldn’t put an iPad in the hands of a WWII soldier. Well, of course not – that is a period piece, we know what technology existed, what uniforms looked like, what vehicles and weapons were in use. 2265 is 247 years in the future. In just a century we went from coal-burning everything, horse-drawn carriages and gaslight to electric mass transit, solar farms and LEDs, wireless instant knowledge everywhere, pocket supercomputers, genetic engineering – and these things are still evolving, and they continue to reshape the world. Scientific progress is like compound interest – should we not destroy ourselves, science will continue to build on science in ways we cannot even predict right now; hence science fiction, which tries to navigate how we, as humans, will adapt to the abilities that new science will give us. In reality we have *no idea* what the real technology of 2265 will be, what it will look like, how human society will be reshaped by it. I could very well make the argument that the cosmetic changes we see on screen are in fact very conservative. Hallways? Sliding doors? Elevators? Transporters? Why doesn’t everyone have the ability to zap around instantly, from anywhere to anywhere, like Q? Why don’t people have personal shields? Or nanites that auto-repair any injury? Why aren’t the humans of 2265 practically immortal? Phasers and photon torpedoes? I think we can all imagine things that aren’t updates of WWII anti-aircraft tracer rounds… HD touchscreens and augmented reality displays? That’s the Facebook offices in 2018. Why not a shared mental construct with no physical control surfaces at all? Instead of a metal can of atmosphere, why not a USS Enterprise that is dimensionally transcendental, sentient, grown from genetically engineered material, linked to the crew telepathically — well, that’s the TARDIS, but you see what I mean. Updating the cosmetic appearance of a TV stage set to match the expectations of a modern audience is really just par for the course. It’s not really a reimagining of anything. To me, the idea that a starship in an unknowably advanced 2265 would resemble the interior of a 1940s US Navy aircraft carrier, is hidebound and traditional. Almost quaint, like someone in 1771 imagining that in 2018 we’d all be travelling by steam-assisted horse catapults or something. So that’s why I think people shouldn’t really get upset over slightly more contemporary sets for a TV show. With all due respect to the hardworking designers and tradespeople building those sets in Toronto, if we are to be honest, they’re doing an iteration on an old concept, not an entirely new concept. For future iterations of Trek, wouldn’t it be something to really be *more* imaginative. Even in the context of Star Trek, the ideas of a crew, a captain, adventures exploring the human condition and morality, the idea of the Federation, etc, can be the same – nothing in that concept dictates that they have to take place on a future-ized version of a 20th century sailing vessel IN SPACE. I often draw the comparison between Trek and Shakespeare in that these are works that are well known, have a canon, characters. The difference is that Shakespeare is constantly re-staged, reworked, reinterpreted, at every level from Shakespeare-in-the-Park (I recently saw one done in 1980s Miami Vice garb) to big-budget movies. No-one gets up in arms over a modern-dress Much Ado About Nothing (like Joss Whedon’s recent movie) or a version of Richard III set in a World… Read more »

@ Fred J – just to throw this out there, but there’s actually a THIRD way to look at things, and it’s the one I happen to like for my own ‘TREK canon’ nowadays to allow for TOS’s ‘retro’ looks in certain areas in this day and age –

I just look on the WHOLE show (and by default, all it’s spin-off shows which are supposedly part of the same ‘prime timeline’) as being an ‘alternate universe’ version to our own actual Earth and timeline…where things progressed very differently!

So I don’t look on the Trek shows (and movies) as showing the actual history of our planet Earth anymore, but rather an ‘alternate’ history showing an Earth and solar system which is very similar to our own in many ways…but with plenty of differences compared to ours, especially the way ‘technology’ progressed.

(…and fashion!) ;)

But bear with me, as in addition to this particular ‘workaround’ to allow for anything that would be considered ‘dated’ or ‘outmoded’ nowadays, things get even more complicated for my own favoured ‘TREK canon’…

…as personally, I like to compartmentalize the TOS show (and it’s movies up until the finale of ‘The Undiscovered Country’) into a separate ‘alternative universe’ storyline of their OWN (the true ‘prime timeline’ universe, if you will)…and prefer to look on the other spin-off shows and movies (including the Shatner/Stewart ‘Generations’ movie) as showing a completely different ‘alternate universe’ storyline of it’s own, but with similar characters…with JJ’s ‘kelvin timeline’ diverging from THAT into a third ‘timeline’ all of it’s own.

And finally, I then look on the ‘Discovery’ show as showing a FOURTH ‘alternate universe’ storyline in addition to all that, as it certainly doesn’t fit in comfortably with anything else! – so they can add four ‘Spocks’ and several ‘Captain Picards’ to this show as far as I’m concerned, as very little ties into the original show logically, as it is.

That is indeed another way to look at it. I like the idea of canon as a springboard for stories, but not something to be put on a pedestal, or a set of chains to restrict the imagination.

My thoughts exactly. Have you read any of the Culture books by Iain M Banks?

The Festoon, hm?

Registry number, please?

Sigh…So once again, they acknowledge that they changed aesthetics… Because They Can.
They ‘Think” that they owe it to us.
They ‘Think” that we’d be bored by the TOS aesthetic.
So… who did they ask to confirm the validity of their thoughts? …Bueller…?

Did they notice that *nobody* got bored with and/or criticized the design aesthetic of, say, Star Trek Continues?
**Anything done in the TOS or Pre-TOS era is a period piece**
Not getting how this can be confusing to anybody… :-\

“So, whereas we all love TOS and the carboard sets that they had. If we did that and offered that up to all of you, I think you would be sadly disappointed in this day and age. ”

This kind of explanation is insulting to fans. We all know the ship designs will not get reproduced down to the last staple. But it was certainly possible to evoke the feel of the era while updating things. It looks like they did it for Pike’s Enterprise. Yet Discovery looks like it belongs 100 years after that time. It might have helped if they had gone with the “more traditional” bridge layout. Although it is still worth noting that none of these things would have salvaged the terrible plot and misuse of characters.