And as long as we're on the subject:
Many of Star Trek
's props and set decorations--and even costumes and hair and make-up--work on almost a subliminal level. Deela the Scalosian seems sexy; Nilz Baris seems officious. The Engineering room seems powerful. Sick Bay seems scientific and clinical; every place on the Enterprise
seems "unworldly" and futuristic.
One of the simplest ways of conveying this "unworldliness" or futuristic feeling is by making props and set decorations in odd shapes. We've seen round (instead of rectangular) playing cards on Star Trek
; we've seen odd hexagonal and boomerang wall decorations. We've seen that the "ray generator" is an odd shape with three odd prongs at the top; we've seen that Mr. Scott's engineering circuit "jumpers" were oddly-shaped little building blocks. So, Star Trek
art design is founded on the principle of odd shapes.
With this as a set up, there is a set decoration (well, two set decorations, really, since we always see them together), that do nothing more than decorate the set in the background and have an odd shape. They don't really have a name, and they aren't ever really touched by anyone so they aren't really props--merely set decorations.
These two white cone things have a wider base portion and a narrower but taller center portion. You can see them behind the "shower door" corrugated glass cabinet that is built into the wall between the Sickbay Examination room and the Sickbay Ward Room. (This is the same cabinet where Dr. McCoy kept his Saurian brandy bottles in "The Enemy Within.")
In fact, they are in nearly every single episode, starting with the very first regular production episode "The Corbomite Maneuver." Here's a shot from "The Corbomite Maneuver" (from the "Exam Room" side of the cabinet):
And here's a shot of these "white cone things" from the "Ward Room" side of the cabinet from "Journey to Babel:"
And just to show how little some things change even after three years and seventy-nine episodes, here's a shot from the final production episode "Turnabout Intruder:"
You can see that these "white cone things" are in the cabinet along with some other flasks and oddly-shaped containers and cylinders. (We never see the cabinet opened other than in "The Enemy Within," so we don't get a very good look at any of these things.)
These "white cone things" do make a couple of other appearances in Star Trek
besides showing up in Dr. McCoy's cabinet. They were used to decorate George Samuel Kirk's laboratory and office on Deneva. (In fact, it looks like several bottles and such that normally live in Dr. McCoy's cabinet were pulled out and used for this one shot):
The "white cone things" make another appearance later in "Operation--Annihilate!" in Dr. McCoy's laboratory--although they are upended into a couple of other pots or containers from Dr. McCoy's cabinet:
So what are these odd shaped things, anyway?
To most people, it's just an odd shape. But to folks who are musically inclined, you might recognize this item as a trombone mute. The mute gets inserted into the bell of the trombone to create a muted jazzy sound for the trombone.
There are lots of different styles of trombone mutes--some fancy, some not so fancy, some made out of brass themselves. These particular mutes used in Star Trek
were made by the Humes & Berg Manufacturing Company, Inc. in East Chicago, Indiana. They are "Stonelined Mutes." Here's a shot of one:
To prep them for Star Trek
, all the labels need to be scraped off, the small cork wedges up near the top of the cone need to be cut or sanded off and the metal scalloped edge around top edge of the larger "base" needs to be ground down to make a smooth top edge. The red paint at the base and tip need to be painted over to give the device (or whatever the heck this thing is) a smooth, even, glossy white finish.
Here are my two Humes & Berg Stonelined trombone mutes all tricked out to look like Star Trek
"white cone things," ready to be put into Dr. McCoy's cabinet in Sickbay the next time I'm at our studio in Port Henry, New York. They will probably just sit on the shelf in the cabinet, never to be seen clearly or even touched really:
If you ever want to put together an Internet production that is supposed to look like the original 1960s Star Trek
, I think anyone on the Star Trek Phase II
production team in just about any capacity could provide a word to the wise: the devil is in the details.
As always, please let me know if you have any questions or comments about props or set decorations.
Slideshow is at:
Star Trek Phase II