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Prequel Problems: Star Trek and the Sixties Aesthetic

RyanF

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DS9 did manage a subtle effect with uniforms. In season 5, the uniforms were changed to match the more military grey and black style of the movie First Contact. Then they introduced a story line that Bashir had been replaced by a Changeling. They showed him being held captive, wearing the old style uniform (In Purgatory’s Shadow). This gave an indication that the Bashir we’d seen in the previous few episodes was the Changeling all along. In particular, it was the Changeling that recommended Sisko undergo an operation to stop him seeing visions in the episode Rapture.
Not directly related to different eras of uniforms, but in terms of different situations for different styles part of me will be forever irked at Voyager (amongst a myriad of other reasons) that they did not continue the black-on-division = ship assignment, division-on-black = station that Deep Space Nine seemed to go for in the first few seasons.
 

Makemakean

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A good article as always, Tom! I was positively surprised when I did some googling to find out that, indeed, the bridge of a modern warship is suspiciously similar to how the original Enterprise's bridge looked.

That being said, on the topic of the bridge of the 2009 movie's Enterprise looking like everything's an iPhone, like I am happy to bring up again and again, the whole idea of omnipresent touchscreens and the sleek designs of things, that is something that very much came about in the popular conception of what the future looked like as a direct consequence of Star Trek adopting such ideas (ironically because they were on a tight budget, and touchscreens were cheaper to make mockups of), and obviously when Apple and other companies design new hardware, it makes sense from business point of view that they look futuristic.

Consequently, I feel that if you are going to discuss the extent to which Star Trek looks dated, one needs to really acknowledge the massive impact that Star Trek has actually had on shaping our ideas of what is modern-looking and what isn't.
Thinking about this a little further, I suppose the difference lies in that when they introduced touchscreens in Star Trek, it wasn't because they wanted to make it look like the future, it was more that they knew that there was this one obscure piece of technology that was still only being speculated upon and nowhere near something that could be put in commercial development that they just went with because it was "utilitarian" and useful. Hence why most people who aren't millenials got their introduction to the very concept of touchscreens through Star Trek.

Perhaps that says something about how Star Trek should go about designing star ship bridges going forward: do not try to make it look like the future, because then your design is just going to end up looking like today's conception of the future. Try to design the bridge so that it would be as convenient and utilitarian as possible for the people having to work in it in doing their jobs, and once you have that figured out, just add some finishing touches to make it look sleek and clean. Then inevitably, it will end up looking futuristic.
 

Thande

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DS9 did manage a subtle effect with uniforms. In season 5, the uniforms were changed to match the more military grey and black style of the movie First Contact. Then they introduced a story line that Bashir had been replaced by a Changeling. They showed him being held captive, wearing the old style uniform (In Purgatory’s Shadow). This gave an indication that the Bashir we’d seen in the previous few episodes was the Changeling all along. In particular, it was the Changeling that recommended Sisko undergo an operation to stop him seeing visions in the episode Rapture.
In later Voyager episodes there was also the dissonance between them still having the old uniform and then Barclay and other Starfleet people in the Alpha Quadrant wearing the new uniform. In addition, Barclay (then lacking much info on Voyager) had created a holo simulation of the ship and crew in which he still had the Maquis crew members not wearing Starfleet uniform (as he didn't know they did) which was a nice touch.

Not directly related to different eras of uniforms, but in terms of different situations for different styles part of me will be forever irked at Voyager (amongst a myriad of other reasons) that they did not continue the black-on-division = ship assignment, division-on-black = station that Deep Space Nine seemed to go for in the first few seasons.
That problem was caused by Generations wanting to introduce a new shipboard uniform, but then running out of time or budget (IIRC) so they ended up inconsistently using the DS9 uniform and it became treated as slowly phased in new uniform.

Thinking about this a little further, I suppose the difference lies in that when they introduced touchscreens in Star Trek, it wasn't because they wanted to make it look like the future, it was more that they knew that there was this one obscure piece of technology that was still only being speculated upon and nowhere near something that could be put in commercial development that they just went with because it was "utilitarian" and useful. Hence why most people who aren't millenials got their introduction to the very concept of touchscreens through Star Trek.

Perhaps that says something about how Star Trek should go about designing star ship bridges going forward: do not try to make it look like the future, because then your design is just going to end up looking like today's conception of the future. Try to design the bridge so that it would be as convenient and utilitarian as possible for the people having to work in it in doing their jobs, and once you have that figured out, just add some finishing touches to make it look sleek and clean. Then inevitably, it will end up looking futuristic.
At one point they wanted to make the Enterprise-D bridge have no control panels and be voice control only, but they felt it ended up lacking a sense of drama / coming across as silly.
 

Ncw8

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Thinking about this a little further, I suppose the difference lies in that when they introduced touchscreens in Star Trek, it wasn't because they wanted to make it look like the future, it was more that they knew that there was this one obscure piece of technology that was still only being speculated upon and nowhere near something that could be put in commercial development that they just went with because it was "utilitarian" and useful. Hence why most people who aren't millenials got their introduction to the very concept of touchscreens through Star Trek.
It was also partly to get around the fans noticing that one week the captain presses a button to fire the phasers, but in a previous episode he used it to order a coffee. By having the control panels display different control interfaces depending upon the task at hand they not only looked futuristic, but also avoided a lot of these fan arguments.
 

Makemakean

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It was also partly to get around the fans noticing that one week the captain presses a button to fire the phasers, but in a previous episode he used it to order a coffee. By having the control panels display different control interfaces depending upon the task at hand they not only looked futuristic, but also avoided a lot of these fan arguments.
"Now, ahead of us is the vessel carrying the Klingon ambassador. It is vital that the mission to transfer him to the negotiations at Vulcan runs smoothly. The most minor of mistakes might well trigger a nuclear war between the Federation and the Empire! Remember! No fuck-ups! Now, I'm going to tell Scotty to beam us over, but first I'm just going to order a cup of coffee by pressing this one button here-..."
 

RyanF

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In later Voyager episodes there was also the dissonance between them still having the old uniform and then Barclay and other Starfleet people in the Alpha Quadrant wearing the new uniform. In addition, Barclay (then lacking much info on Voyager) had created a holo simulation of the ship and crew in which he still had the Maquis crew members not wearing Starfleet uniform (as he didn't know they did) which was a nice touch.
Barclay should have been show-runner.

That problem was caused by Generations wanting to introduce a new shipboard uniform, but then running out of time or budget (IIRC) so they ended up inconsistently using the DS9 uniform and it became treated as slowly phased in new uniform.
Ah, I had known about the plans for new uniforms in Generations but never connected the collapse of that idea to the use of DS9 unfirosm.

Must have been very late in the day, since I'm sure I've seen images of action figures released to tie into Generations that have the new design. Sort of an elaborate version of the later TNG uniforms with some details copied from the Maroon Monsters like the addition of belts, strangely taking them a half-step toward the ATL ones featured in "Yesterday's Enterprise".

I know changes to Star Trek uniforms from a production standpoint as alternate history is the nichest of the nichest of the niche, but interesting if they went through with introducing the new designs. Presumably those would be the uniforms featured on Voyager, but might budget issues rear their head again which might mean there aren't enough of the new uniforms for the Maquis crew in the first season!
 

Thande

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Barclay should have been show-runner.
As with Year of Hell and that one where they get trapped in an anomaly and have to build a coalition, you sometimes feel people were using any excuse to do different interpretations on "what Voyager should have been".


Ah, I had known about the plans for new uniforms in Generations but never connected the collapse of that idea to the use of DS9 unfirosm.

Must have been very late in the day, since I'm sure I've seen images of action figures released to tie into Generations that have the new design. Sort of an elaborate version of the later TNG uniforms with some details copied from the Maroon Monsters like the addition of belts, strangely taking them a half-step toward the ATL ones featured in "Yesterday's Enterprise".

I know changes to Star Trek uniforms from a production standpoint as alternate history is the nichest of the nichest of the niche, but interesting if they went through with introducing the new designs. Presumably those would be the uniforms featured on Voyager, but might budget issues rear their head again which might mean there aren't enough of the new uniforms for the Maquis crew in the first season!
I think the details are a bit murky, because I know there's concept art for ace new uniforms in Generations which added back the wrist insignia from TOS (or real navies!) and the flap to evoke the TOS films:

1612527475067.png

but the only physical pictures of the ones that were nearly used and then cancelled I've seen were boring "like TNG but with a coloured collar" ones which feel pointless.

edit: Of course someone has made a Youtube video about this.

 

Makemakean

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That problem was caused by Generations wanting to introduce a new shipboard uniform, but then running out of time or budget (IIRC) so they ended up inconsistently using the DS9 uniform and it became treated as slowly phased in new uniform.
In my head canon, the reason for the radical shift in styles of uniforms between The Motion Picture and Wrath of Khan was that Starfleet basically just realized that they could make drastic savings by just lowering the air temperature in their spaceships by a few degrees and making their crews wear thicker uniforms.

Presumably, when the very next year after the introduction of the new uniforms, they discovered in their internal surveys that job satisfaction rate had dramatically increased among women crew members, they were stunned and are still trying to figure out if this is a case of correlation implying causation, or just pure chance.
 

Thande

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In my head canon, the reason for the radical shift in styles of uniforms between The Motion Picture and Wrath of Khan was that Starfleet basically just realized that they could make drastic savings by just lowering the air temperature in their spaceships by a few degrees and making their crews wear thicker uniforms.

Presumably, when the very next year after the introduction of the new uniforms, they discovered in their internal surveys that job satisfaction rate had dramatically increased among women crew members, they were stunned and are still trying to figure out if this is a case of correlation implying causation, or just pure chance.
Ultimately trying to come up with Watsonian solutions for things like this is a bit of a fool's errand, because what on earth (or off it) could be the explanation for the Enterprise bridge design changing every time between the later TOS films, including moving the turbolift shaft?
 

Makemakean

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I think the details are a bit murky, because I know there's concept art for ace new uniforms in Generations which added back the wrist insignia from TOS (or real navies!) and the flap to evoke the TOS films:

View attachment 32195

On the topic of wrist insignias, my father once had a look at this one drawing I had made of Emperor Arthur from the Swedish Strangerverse. Commented that with my PoD being what it was, that uniform couldn't possibly exist, because the very idea of having an embroidered knot on the sleeve was actually something that was introduced as a direct reference to how Admiral Nelson only had one arm, and so needed to tie that sleeve up when out for duty.
 

Thande

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On the topic of wrist insignias, my father once had a look at this one drawing I had made of Emperor Arthur from the Swedish Strangerverse. Commented that with my PoD being what it was, that uniform couldn't possibly exist, because the very idea of having an embroidered knot on the sleeve was actually something that was introduced as a direct reference to how Admiral Nelson only had one arm, and so needed to tie that sleeve up when out for duty.
That definitely smells of urban myth to me, but I'll have to check to make sure. For one, why would the US Navy use it then?
 

Makemakean

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That definitely smells of urban myth to me, but I'll have to check to make sure. For one, why would the US Navy use it then?
Same reason why even though the hand-in-coat gesture predated Napoleon, he really helped to make it popular, I would assume?

Napoleon was a great military commander, therefore, other military commanders, even in armies that had fought against Napoleon, wanted to emulate him and be likened to him. Hence, even though Nelson hadn't served in the US Navy, American admirals would much appreciate a reference to a great naval commander as part of their uniforms.

But that is just speculation.
 

Alex Richards

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Looks like an evolution of the buttons? Design? on earlier uniforms to me.

See this painting of Admiral Lord Anson.

1612529475102.png
 

Redolegna

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It was also partly to get around the fans noticing that one week the captain presses a button to fire the phasers, but in a previous episode he used it to order a coffee. By having the control panels display different control interfaces depending upon the task at hand they not only looked futuristic, but also avoided a lot of these fan arguments.
My goodness, the very essence of the Trump Coke button.

They really were good at predicting the future! And then he made the Space Force!
 

Ogrebear

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Nice article, enjoyed reading that a lot.

The one era I think you will never see on screen again will the TMP uniform era. TOS/Movies/TNG+ yup, TMP? Nope!

Thing about Discovery, it is either a reboot or set it its own universe, its the only way to reconcile its tech and aesthetic with TOS.

Set Discovery in 2390 and suddenly all the tech and aesthetic problems go away as the presented tech looks like an evolution of what was in DS9/Voyager. Even the Klingon war (but not the aesthetic) fits as it was predicted 'the Empire is dying' and the the war is their last hurrah. If you must have a Spock make him Spock's grandson or something.
 
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