Saturday, August 31, 2013


This story is about the recent overhaul of the original Galileo shuttlecraft prop from Star Trek, built in 1966. Here's my first-hand account of the prop prior to auction,

Trek prop geek Will Smith at the Johnson Space Center in Houston
at the unveiling of the refurbished Shuttlecraft Galileo
Will Smith is a Star Trek geek. No, not THAT Will Smith. The one I'm talking about is a contractor in Florida. He builds buildings by day and other things – Star Treky things – by night. Case in point, Will was recently called upon by the then-owner of the Galileo Shuttlecraft prop from the original Star Trek to help recreate a key piece for the old girl. A so-called "busy-box"(a high-tech-looking opening in the rear of the shuttle that was seen in several episodes) was needed for the project. Here's Will's story about how he recreated a piece of Star trek tech:

WOD: Will, you're the closest thing that I know of to being an expert on the Galileo outside of its original builders. Tell us a bit about your interest in and passion for the shuttle.

WS: Thank you for the compliment; I do have a great passion for the Galileo.  I have been interested in just about every aspect of the original series since it first aired.  When I first saw the episode “The Galileo Seven” I fell in love with the shuttlecraft and have been documenting it since. I actually have notebooks that date back to the early 1970’s with sketches and drawings I made from watching the show on TV. 
Will' s scratch-built studio scale Galileo model – 22 inches of detail.

In the mid to late 1970’s I was briefly involved with a gentlemen who was interested in buying the Galileo (I think it was going to cost $5,000 if I remember correctly) but he was a bit of an unusual character and nothing ever came of it. With the advent of DVD's and the internet, information on the Galileo has become easier to find and in 2006 I was able to put my research to use. I built a studio scale version of the Galileo which is still one of the favorite things in my collection. I have continued to collect every scrap of information I can find on the Galileo.

WOD: Your model is not just studio scale but studio accurate as well. So how did you then become involved in the BIG Galileo project?

WS: I got involved via an email from Adam Schneider, the owner. He knew of my research on TOS computer props and wanted to talk to me about building some stuff for the Galileo interior. At that point in the project some thought was given to having part of the interior completed (the computers on the back wall, chairs, etc. – the stuff that could be seen from the open main hatch). We discussed aspects of the project and had an immediate rapport. After several conversations I submitted a proposal to do the entire renovation.  I was (by far) the high bidder but I let Adam know that I still wanted to be involved if possible. The interior finishing idea was discarded, but it was then decided that the detailed area in the back that Spock and Scotty worked on in various episodes would be a cool thing to have. So I was asked to build the “busy-box” inside of the rear access panel. I was thrilled at the opportunity to contribute something that would actually be part of the completed Galileo.    

WOD: I'll bet. Of course, you were in pretty good company weren't you? Who were some of the other contributors?

WS: The list includes Gary Kerr, Doug Drexler, Mike Okuda, and Ed Miarecki, along with others who provided the renovation team with information and opinions on the Galileo. All of our initials are now on one of the access panels on the side of the Galileo. 

The pre-renovation Galileo looking a bit forlorn.
WOD: Very cool. That's some amazing company with which to be associated! You didn't actually get to see the Galileo in-person before you started your project, though. How did that work?

WS: I based my proposal on detailed photos provided by the owner, our discussions on the scope of the renovation and my knowledge of the Galileo. From the beginning it was obvious that only the structural parts of the Galileo would be used; the wood and pressboard were too far gone to attempt to salvage. The rear end was going to be totally rebuilt and I was given the size of the access hatch which in turn I used to size the different elements within. 

WOD: How did you approach your piece of the shuttle?

WS: I approached my part of the project as I do everything else – with tenacious research.  I know that without a good plan it is impossible to have a good result. I studied every single frame in every episode that showed the rear compartment. There are only two episodes that show the internal area inside the rear hatch. Not surprisingly there are differences in the arrangement and components between the two episodes. 

Scotty works his magic in "The Galileo Seven"
The same panel with different details in "Metamorphosis"
In “The Galileo Seven” the compartment was more cluttered compared to what we saw in “Metamorphosis”, so I took the best bits of each one. For instance in “The Galileo Seven”, on the back right side there are two black cylinders strapped to the back but in “Metamorphosis” the cylinders are red and do not have the ugly strapping seen in the earlier episode. The red cylinders looked much better and are seen in the close-up so that is what I used. Another element seen in “Metamorphosis” but not in “The Galileo Seven” was the lighted vent at the bottom.  The problem with the “Metamorphosis” version was that they removed some of the conduit in order to get a good view of the explosion for the camera but this made the compartment more open and less interesting. Using only the “Metamorphosis” version for this project would have the result of the compartment looking too bare. I felt that blending both versions made the box look more interesting so that's what i went with.

WOD: So walk us through your execution.

WS: Using screen caps and the known size of the hatch as a reference; I scaled off the sizes of the internal elements and pipes then did a 1:1 scale drawing of the interior compartment.  I wanted to make sure that the compartment would be as accurate as I could make it based on the two episodes.  During the scaling and drawing process it became pretty obvious that I was on the right track because the sizes of the pipes were coming out at standard sizes; always a good sign!  That was the most time-consuming part but frankly very enjoyable for me; – I love doing that kind of analysis. Once the drawing was complete it was a simple matter of just building the unit.

Will's conceptual drawing.
The interior of the hatch has a lip that protrudes inside so my component had to slide over the top of the lip and still fit in the area inside the Galileo around the steel frame.  Needless to say the interior of the box dimensions were critical. The box itself was made of ¾” wood with the back being ¼” plywood.  The original compartment appears to have been made from masonite so I painted the box with Rustoleum “Rusty Metal Primer” which was a close match to the original masonite color.

I made the bottom lighted vent out of aluminum stock and used white and red acrylic inside to defuse the light at the vents holes as was seen in “Metamorphosis.” For the lighting I used cold cathode tubes and they look beautiful but since I’m not sure how the Galileo will be displayed, this effect may never be seen.

The box starts out with glowy stuff.
There is really nothing remarkable about the conduit. I used grey PVC of various sizes and some metal conduit as well. I opted not to paint the conduit but to leave it the natural grey colors even though there was some variation from what was seen on screen. I wanted to make this component as maintenance free as possible and didn’t want the paint to flake off in 20 years. The hardest part of the pipes was getting the bends to match what was seen on screen. I identified all of the colored bands that were on the pipes and duplicated those but also added a few more to cover some of the conduit joints so that the cracks wouldn’t be visible. Again these small details would not be seen on TV but they would in person so I added some extra colored banding.

The details start to come together.
In “The Galileo Seven” the  cylinders on the right appear black and can barely been seen.  They also appear to be attached quite crudely with exposed straps so I went with the “Metamorphosis” version. For these I used anodized red aluminum cylinders – water bottles. In the “Metamorphosis” version these have either a silver or gold strip around the top; it was impossible to tell so I went with gold because it looked better. These were attached by screws from the back of the unit and also glue. Since this was going to be shipped to New Jersey and then trucked to Houston; I wanted to make sure everything was securely attached.

On the original we see all kinds of circuit boards on the interior of the hatch but also in “Metamorphosis” we can see a blue circuit board in the upper left side.  It is barely visible and hard to see so getting the details correct was impossible. For this I went with a blue ASUS motherboard and modified it by adding some colored tape, greeblies and a bunch of resin buttons courtesy of Tim “Tektrek” from the The resin bits helped hide the motherboard origin but also gave it that TOS look.  

The finished box prior to installation.
In “The Galileo Seven” above the right hand cylinders we see some sort of circular thing that appears to be a dark wheel of some sort but it was impossible to see any detail at all. In my replica this area was void of detail and sticking a wheel in there would look horrible under close scrutiny so I opted to do something different there.As homage to TOS I used some orange Plexiglas and a couple of split conduit and made a greebly that I thought would look like if came from TOS.  I covered the split pipes in black and silver and hopefully it looks futuristic and like it belongs there.  

Another element I added was a couple of aluminum cover plates on the inside with some various notations from TOS. The thought being that you could remove them to have access to something behind them. I also added some small resin buttons and lights just to add some detail. 

WOD: So you built this much the same way the original would have been built – by using easy-to-find, off the shelf materials and then using them creatively. It looks perfect!

WS: I was very pleased with the way that it turned out and I got a very enthusiastic response from the owner so I think we were both happy with the final product. In truth I don’t know that any of the interior that I built will be seen; it all depends on how the Galileo is displayed. But at least we will know what’s behind the hatch!
Will and his installed creation at the unveiling in Houston.
WOD: Well it would certainly be a cool detail to have open for viewers to see. Especially with the lights on! How was it installed? 

Ready for Scotty to go to work.
WS: The guys who did the renovation installed it. I shipped it to them and apparently it slipped right into place; no problems. I think it got to them the morning that was doing an interview so it was installed and ready by the time it began. I was somewhat relieved when I saw it installed.    

WOD: Could you sum up the experience for us?

WS: Finally seeing the Galileo properly restored is a dream come true and I commend the owner for taking on the project. I think the renovation team did an excellent job and since the Galileo will be permanently displayed indoors at the Johnson Space Flight center, she should never again suffer the fate that she has endured for nearly 50 years – that of being stored outdoors. The renovation team really went the extra mile and in truth the Galileo is in better condition now then when she was delivered to the TOS set. Having her on public display at the JSC is just so cool!  Since so many astronauts and engineers were influenced by Star Trek, it seems a fitting place for the Galileo. For my part it was a real pleasure working with the team. It was a perfect partnership!
The finished Galileo on display at the Johnson Space Center.
WOD: Tell the readers a bit about your TOS Graphics site. 

WS: One thing that separated TOS from other shows was that the instrumentation appeared believable as a working piece of equipment not just some random flashing lights. As a lover of that aspect of the show, I have documented many aspects of TOS in great detail, including all of the bridge displays and control panels. I had thought of writing a book but I think it would only sell a dozen copies! I recently did new accurate graphics for the decal sheet of the AMT / Round 2 re-release of the TOS bridge model kit so at least something has come from my efforts. I will continue to update the site with new information until I die which hopefully will be a LONG time from now!!! You'll find it at TOSgraphics

WOD: Thanks for that. I can't tell you how impressive your work on the Galileo is, Will. It really looks like it just came off the original set. And to have a piece on display in perpetuity must be a very satisfying experience. Thanks for sharing your expertise with fans everywhere. 

WS: Thank you for the opportunity to share the building of the Galileo busy box. It was a blast to create!

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