Robert Comsol wrote:
I gave my Blu-rays a spin last night to check out some of the Excelsior footage.
In ST III they really avoided showing any vertical intermix element in the Scotty-Styles "Good night and up your shaft" scene.
While this could have been deliberate to avoid confusion with the engine room of the Enterprise, the back wall looks so vastly different from what we had seen in TMP and ST II (sufficient distinction, IMHO) that just showing any vertical intermix shaft element might have been something they tried to avoid.
Did the whole set still exist by the time of ST III or had they just used some leftover elements for Excelsior's engine room?
Oh, it is the same set. At first I thought the framing was done to avoid confusion, but after further reflection I think it just came down to cost.
I can't remember where I read it, but apparently the swirly effect seen in TMP and TWOK was created by a special effects artist on set (IIRC, the person that created the effect for TMP was brought back for TWOK to recreate his work). It wasn't just something they could flip a switch and turn on. This is why in TSFS we they used the TWOK ladder set as a stand in for the engine room, and probably why they avoided showing the intermix chamber -- it would have been more costly and complicated the production schedule to have the intermix chamber featured.
If we take a step back and look at it from a production perspective, it makes sense. Engineering is simply a set that serves aesthetic and information purposes. It provides a certain "look" and informs the audience about the environment (the part of the ship that makes it go). Changes from TOS through TNG reflect the changes in budget and the growing development of the "theory". In TOS, warp drive was powered by some vague mix of fusion, lithium, dilithium and antimatter. A room with a forced perspective chamber filled with PVC pipes separated by a mesh screen was more than adequate given the budget and story requirements. Add a few flashes and sparks at dramatic moments and you convey this is what makes the ship GO perfectly.
During development of phase ii, then the motion picture, ideas were refined. Warp was powered through some intermix of matter and antimatter. Large vertical and later horizontal conduits conveyed the idea of this power source being transferred to the warp nacelles. The appearance of these conduits changed as the budget increased -- going from a TV friendly column with simple glowing lights to a translucent glowing column of swirly... stuff. Considerations for widescreen led to the horizontal segment being constructed. Location of where the matter and antimatter were stored, and at what points they mixed were still ill defined.
Likewise, when TNG came along -- besides wanting to depict advancements in the past 80ish years the series set forward, the setpiece needed practical effects that could be managed with a television production schedule and budget. By this point, Probert had further refined his understand of the mechanics that it involved a combining of matter to antimatter, and shunting the resulting energy to the warp nacelles. The TNG core is a series of chasing florescent lights -- something that can be rigged up to turn on and off at a flip of a switch. Had TNG began as a theatrical film, it is likely that an effect more like the TMP intermix would have been depicted. But like most of the other sets, compromises were made for budget. Existing movie sets were modified or cannibalized in favor of producing from scratch. TNG engineering had to utilize the structure of the Phase II/TMP engineering -- a multi layered set oriented around a vertical core.
Is there any pre-production artwork for the Excelsior engine room anywhere? For a ship who was only a guest ship, we were already to get a different set for the bridge and turbolift. To accommodate, Engineering and Style's quarters were simple redresses of the existing Enterprise sets. Having a new engineering set for just one scene was probably never in the cards.