Wednesday, January 29, 2014

THE "LOST SET" OF STAR TREK: MATT JEFFERIES' OLD-SCHOOL 3D MODEL

Back in 1997, a book called "Star Trek Sketchbook: The Original Series" by Herb Sollow was published. While the book wasn't exactly groundbreaking, it did offer some new insights of which I, for one, was totally ignorant.

One of my favorite things was the so-called "Lost Set" – a cardboard scale model of the standing sets of the Starship Enterprise's interior as built at Desilu's Gower Studio (now Paramount).

Matt Jefferies original Enterprise interior model. All photos: Robbie Robinson
Matt Jefferies was Star Trek's Art Director and designer of such things as the Enterprise herself, the Galileo shuttle, hand phasers and so much more. As the Creator Of All Things, Matt was constantly being called upon by incoming directors for time on the sets so that they could figure out how to shoot their episodes. Keep in mind that for much of the first season's shooting, directors had no idea  what the sets looked like. Episodes were shot months in advance of airing so until Star Trek's premiere in September, 1966, no one had any idea of what things looked like. Everything was custom-made and unlike anything that had been seen before, and so the directors needed to plan in a new way.
The Bridge set featured moveable wedges for camera and lighing access
The problem was that all the permanent sets weren't really permanent. They were always taking things down and adding new things for the needs of a particular episode. Plus the studio was in use from dawn to dusk with the active shooting of episodes. So to meet the needs of these directors, Jefferies spent his own time and money to build a four foot by four foot three-dimensional scale model of Desilu Stage 9 to show an idealized version of all the sets and what could be made available for a given story. He hung it on the art department's wall and it gave the directors the only practical look possible of their sets that they would be shooting on a week or two later.
Sickbay is in the foreground with the Transporter off the the right.

Everything was there – the Bridge, Sickbay, Transporter Room, hallways – in short, everything a director would need to create their vision of the Enterprise. The Engineering set even featured the forced perspective section that helped make the set look bigger on screen than it actually was. Stand-alone modules like the Auxiliary Bridge were also included.

Jefferies completed the model by painting everything to approximate the actual set colors. The final effect is a very effective tool that was used throughout the three year run.

Scotty's Engineering set with forced perspective engine core.
The model had been stored for decades by Jefferies in his basement. Thankfully, he had squirreled it away so that future generations – us – would be able to marvel at his ingenuity.

This model presents one more aspect of film-making that made Star Trek work, and work incredibly well. Kudos to Mr. Jefferies and abilities to see and create a future that didn't yet exist!

If anyone knows of the model's current location, please drop me a line. I'd love to know its whereabouts!

EDIT: I've been told by a reliable source that this is now part of Paul Allen's collection at the Science Fiction Museum (or whatever it's called now) in Seattle.

LLAP

Don

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