September 21, 1997
On The Bridge
Here’s a story. It might be true.
So as I may have mentioned before, KCAL-TV, my former employer, is located on the Paramount Pictures lot in Hollywood. The Paramount sound stages have been home to numerous classic TV shows over the years: Happy Days, I Love Lucy, Cheers, and, of course, Claude’s Crib.
The Paramount lot is also home to the various incarnations of the Star Trek saga. Since 1964, different stages have housed different sets, but it’s all been confined to the Paramount Lot. From The Original Series, to the movies, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and now, Voyager, a whole lot of Star Trek has come together on the Paramount lot. And one of the advantages of working on the Paramount lot has been the opportunity to take a daily "exercise walk" around the lot, checking out what’s going on in and around the various sound stages; not just Trek stages, mind you – as someone wanting a career in TV, I made it my business to learn where production offices were, what shows filmed on what stages, etc.
Now, as I mentioned last week, the show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine did a rather wonderful episode within the last year. The premise: The crew was thrown back in time to the time frame of the original Star Trek series, and interacted with the classic characters in a series of expertly realized Forrest Gump-style special effects scenes. (You know, modern actors are seamlessly incorporated with footage shot years earlier. Looks great when it’s done right.)
In order to get the proper film of the modern day actors, the production company re-created several of the sets from the original Star Trek on (I believe it was) Stage 10. Rumors about what the set looked like swept the lot. On my daily walk past the area, we could sometimes see what looked like a corridor from the classic series, but that was about it. Other times, we saw groups of people milling about outside in the classic 1960’s-style Trek uniforms.
Usually, that would be cool enough.
What happened next borders on the unreal.
A friend of mine has written for one of the modern Trek shows, and pulled in every favor he could to get a tour of the set. Apparently, he snuck in just in time, because on the last day of filming on these sets, the associate director threw a mild fit, insisting that all visitors leave (there had apparently been a non-stop flow of people, causing quite a disruption) because they actually had to FILM the episode. So everyone was booted. The AD then called lunch, left, and my writer friend and his contact snuck back in.
I was at work that day, and my friend called after his tour. "Dude, you have got to go check it out," he said. I agreed, but how? I didn’t know anyone who could help get me in. He told me that filming on the set had wrapped up shortly after lunch, and the production company was now taking photos of themselves on the reconstructed bridge of the original Starship Enterprise. Maybe I should just wander over, and see what was going on.
So wander I did. I grabbed a reporter buddy of mine (always helps to have a minor celebrity along when you’re planning on breaking and entering – "But officer, this is ____ from KCAL, you’ve seen him on TV, he’s a reporter … we’re just checking things out …"
But I never had to use that line of defense.
When my reporter friend and I approached Stage 10, the place looked deserted.
Where earlier there had been Paramount security guards, now no one stood watch.
Where earlier there had been locked doors, now stood open the massive sound stage entrance.
Where before the set was like a forbidden fortress, now, it beckoned like a welcome friend.
There was nobody there. Nobody. And so, I decided, hey, what the heck, why don’t I step in and take a look around.
Which seemed like a perfectly good idea … until I saw … him.
TO BE CONTINUED
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