September 28, 1997
On The Bridge Part II
When we last left our intrepid hero (that’s me) in last week’s column, he had just begun exploring the Paramount Pictures soundstage where the production team from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had re-created sets from the original classic Star Trek for use in a very special episode combining the two show’s casts via Forrest Gump technology.
(That sentence, by the way, sets a new record as the longest sentence ever written for this column. Yay!)
I had just begun my exploration of the set, when I saw … him.
"Act naturally," I told myself. "Act like you belong. Just survey the place, and see what happens."
But it was tough to keep my cool.
For there, not ten feet in front of me, was the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. To quote Scotty from "Relics," "No bloody A, no bloody B, no bloody C." This was the original series bridge, a classic piece of television history, re-created in front of my eyes. And besides my reporter friend (who was there to provide a cover story if I needed one), the only other person on the stage was a photographer.
He was breaking down his equipment following a photo shoot, the one my writer friend had told me about earlier. The production crew had all come over to this set to have their picture taken, because, quite frankly, this was a spectacular set. Everyone wanted to have a unique photo of themselves, standing on a piece of fabulously re-created history.
So to make the photos look as good as possible, the tech crew had all of the stage lights on, all of the blinky console displays blinking, all of the patterns and screens doing their thing. If you’ve ever seen a TV or movie set that’s not lit properly, especially a Star Trek set, where so much is dependent on computer readout screens and the like, you know what a big difference proper lighting can make.
This set was alive. This was the place where Captain Kirk had boldly led the Enterprise crew on mission after mission. This was a place of heroes and dreams.
"Wow," I said to the photographer, "they really did a nice job with this."
"Yeah," he said, and continued to pack up his gear. Still, no one else (except for my reporter friend) was anywhere near the set.
"Is this is the same set they used in that Scotty episode from Next Gen?" I asked, thinking that the question might give me some credibility.
"I don’t know," the photographer said, "I don’t usually work on this show." He was much more interested in packing his gear than talking to me, or finding out who I was. As far as he was concerned, I didn’t exist.
Which was fine by me. That meant I could play.
I spent the next 20 minutes in a state of nirvana. On the bridge, pressing buttons. Checking out the ship’s dedication plaque. Grabbing handles in a turbo-lift. Walking down orange and blue Enterprise corridors I’d fantasized of walking down since childhood. Living a dream.
The sets were fantastic. There was incredible attention to detail. I was a little surprised that the floor of the corridor was the simple cement floor of the soundstage, painted to look more floor-like. (Next time you see Deep Space Nine’s "Trials and Tribble-ations" episode, watch for the scene where Bashir and O’Brien pick a tribble up off the floor. If you look closely, you can see the cement pattern under the paint.)
Everywhere I turned in the corridors, familiar shapes greeted me. Big-time Trek fans know what I’m talking about: the "A"-frame style door, the alcove with a ladder, and of course, the classic Trek sliding doors, promising rooms behind them that, of course, didn’t exist on this set. But the illusion was complete. And the way the ceiling was built, there were times when all of your field of view was taken up with re-constructed Enterprise corridors and doors. It was hard not to imagine the countless times I’d wondered what it would be like to really live aboard that ship. Now, here I was, surrounded in three dimensions by the most realistic version of the classic Enterprise that could exist.
Eventually, I left. My reporter friend seemed to understand the personal significance of the visit for me, and waited patiently outside the set after his (or her – trying to protect his (or her!) identity!) tour. Nobody ever questioned us; no guard ever stopped us. Before we left, as I walked through those sets again and again, I couldn’t help but think that maybe there is a Great Bird of the Galaxy. And he spent this day making one of my childhood dreams come true.
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