[Inside Trek] The Enterprise D Bridge Reconstruction
Nostalgia in long running series can be hard to balance, and for Star Trek itself it can be very hit or miss. Especially in a series like Picard that had nostalgia baked in from the word go -or engage – by bringing back one of the franchise’s most loved and iconic characters.
Despite the first season going out of it’s way to showcase a new side of Jean Luc Picard, and the second delving into a more personal journey while giving Q a worthy final send off, the third did the one thing Patrick Stewart initially didn’t want; it brought the entire Enterprise D Command crew back together for one final mission. But there was one part of the family that was lost since the series closed on that poker game: The Enterprise itself.
Meeting it’s theoretical end in Generations, the Enterprise-D suffered a warp core breach while in battle against the Duras sisters. Despite separating the saucer from the star drive section, the blast forced the saucer to crash land, making way for an all new Enterprise to debut for the movie era as we met the Enterprise E in their second outing, First Contact.
However, the D’s story didn’t end there. The saucer was removed from Veriddian III, dodging a primitive civilisation finding it, and was quietly restored in the Fleet Museum as a pet project of Georgie La Forge. In what remains a stunning moment in the show, in the penultimate episode Geordie reveals the restored Enterprise D – complete with a drive section pinched from another ship of the same class – Picard takes the centre seat and like no time had passed at all, gives the order; Engage.
Bringing back the Enterprise D was an ambitious idea, but one that truly worked because of the work put in to rebuild the Enterprise bridge. Initially deigned by Andrew Probert in the mid 80’s, the bridge was a massive step away from any other design. Built for comfort and under the idea that less is more due to advanced technology, it was almost bare bones with a focus on the central three Command crew, two forward stations mirroring the old Helm and a tactical station above the Captain – built nicely to get everyone in frame.
Since the set was torn down in 1994, nearly three decades from when the cast would set foot on it again, Picards production designer Dave Blass had a problem; there was next to nothing left, and no plans to how it was put together in the first place.
With almost nothing to go on, and the idea already under scrutiny for the time and cost rebuilding the iconic bridge would take, Blass went to one of the veterans of the Next Generation era, artist Mike Okuda who was the principal graphic designed and originator of the ‘Okudagram’ style of user interface which was still used on the modern Titan-A.
“We had some original drawings and art, but large chunks of it disappeared.” Okuda explained in an interview with Variety, “You realize you’re going to have to reconstruct a lot of this from scratch.”
And they did. Using set photos and screenshots to fill in the gaps, the entire bridge was recreated through meticulous research. Including the arch which, like everything else, had no information to how it was built. “You can only get so much information off a blueprint.” Blass explained to Variety, “The construction team printed out a full-size paper plan to lay it out and then used a number of templates to shape the final piece.”
The chairs, which also had to be sculpted from scratch, also proved to be a challenge/.. Not only in construction, but in finding the right materials and shades to bring the set to life using modern camera’s and lighting – which was a balance found by lighting director John Joffin. The carpets also proved difficult to replicate as the patterns used were no longer in production. Thankfully one piece of the puzzle still existed; the ships dedication plaque. Hunt on a hook instead of bolted to the wall to ensure it wasn’t damaged, the plaque used in the latter seasons of the Next Generation was the only original piece to be included on the brand new set build linking the old to the new.
Yet through perseverance, and with so many other sets to work on from the Shrike to Daystrom Station, as well as the multiple sets built for the Titan, the classic set was successfully rebuilt from scratch with only moments to go before filming began.
Bringing together such a classic and iconic design, and rebuilding it with modern elements such as fully functional animations on all the screens thanks to a huge step up in technology over 30 years, was a massive achievement. Taking nearly two months to complete alongside the rest of the construction work required, the set was only used for two days of filming.
Unfortunately due to the strikes in Hollywood, Blass hasn’t been working on any live projects/ But the veteran artist – who’s worked on some amazing shows including Preacher, The Boys, Longmire and many more – is selling his artwork signed via his twitter page. And we know full well when the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes are settled, he’ll be delivering more wonderful work wherever he goes next.
As for the Enterprise D set? Unlike the original, the recreation is being preserved as part of the Star Trek Archives to ensure it lives long and prospers for fans to enjoy for years to come.
Our latest issue of Comms takes a look at the last year of Star Trek, sci fi, superheropes and more!! With the usual features including What If, Fistful Of Data and more, the “All Good Things” issue of Comms is available as part of SFCQ2’s free membership! To find out more visit our Comms preview or Enlist Today!