Any info' about the "Planet Killer" filming model?

Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by Redfern, Jan 27, 2012.

  1. Redfern

    Redfern Commodore Commodore

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    Do any definitive articles, accounts or even transcribed anecdotes exist concerning the construction of the titular prop from "The Doomsday Machine"? I plan to model the "weapon" in digital form, one that I will share with the 3D community for use in their various fan projects. If I had some insight as to the materials and methods used on the physical prop, that knowledge might help me make it a bit more screen accurate. The "holy grail" of background information would be snapshots of the model under construction, before the crew filmed it. But since "behind the scenes" snaps of the Enterprise are somewhat rare themselves, I realize there is little to no chance photos of the DDM miniature exist. Still, it does not hurt to ask.

    I remember the recent YouTube interview with Norman Spinrad discussing the episode and his comment about the prop supposedly being a "wind-sock" dipped in cement. But I suspect that observation was said purely tongue in cheek. A concrete based "spacecraft" model would be far to unwieldy (read: heavy) to film suspended upon wires or even upon a support rod. Plus, it looks nothing like concrete. Theorizing from screen captures, I suspect the "cone" was constructed from multiple, overlapping sheets of cardboard, probably painted and covered with a layer of translucent, wrinkled cellophane to give it an irradecent "shimmer". These pieces possibly covered a frame of chicken wire. The various side on "panning" shots as well as the slow "zoom" into the "maw" appear to be static, photographic cutouts. Notice how the perspective never changed in those shots. Only when the artifact "swung about" to face the audience does it appear the camera crew used the model itself rather than a photographic cutout.

    Of course, all this is merely wild theory based upon final production footage. I could well be wrong.

    But any information anyone can relay I'll greatly appreciate!

    Sincerely,

    Bill
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    From my own attempts to analyze the Planet Killer, I'd say its core is made of wood; what you can see of the interior of the maw (the part without the special effects) looks like roughly carved/dug-out wood to me. And we know that the Enterprise miniature itself was mostly made of wood, so it's consistent with the techniques used in the day.

    But the exterior is definitely wrapped in sheets of some clear plastic, though it looks thicker than cellophane to me. It's really remarkably crude when you examine it closely, considering how effective it was.
     
  3. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I enjoyed the snack food tie-in.
    [​IMG]
     
  4. Terengo

    Terengo Commander Red Shirt

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    You are so right
     
  5. Redfern

    Redfern Commodore Commodore

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    I think we can even see a couple strips of cellophane adhesive tape bracing the cellophane sheets around the "maw". And in some screen captures, it looks like those plastic sheets overlap one another, going around the edge of the "maw", almost like blades in a turbine jet engine.

    I've addressed this same question at the Starship Modelers' forum and the first (and only) reply so far wants to take Spinrad's comment about a cement dipped wind-sock at face value. I just can't "buy" that.

    Sincerely,

    Bill
     
  6. Captain Tracy

    Captain Tracy Commander Red Shirt

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    You will never figure it out,.. the hull is solid Neutronium, and the heavy sub-space interference which the thing emits makes any analysis impossible. :rommie:

    I could not resist ;)
     
  7. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The best theory I've seen for the model's construction was put forth by Daren Dochterman over on The Replica Prop Forum (his most specific posts about the construction (link) and images to support his idea (link)). His thought is that it was made of "gaffer's foil" (the foil used on film sets to shape light or make improptu flags) wrapped blue lighting gel material. This would have allowed a small stage light to have been put inside it. Shaw also chimes in on the possible use of the Catspaw 3.5" metal Enterprise in the episode. Here's the full thread (link).

    Looking at photos, you can see the foil-like texture and these odd strips that look like tape folded around the maw.

    It's not a windsock dipped in concrete, that's pretty clear.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2012
  8. Redfern

    Redfern Commodore Commodore

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    I'll examine those links when I return home. (Something is causing the browser to "crash" when accessing here at the office.)

    Thanks for the informative (and some humorous) replies so far! :techman:

    Sincerely,

    Bill
     
  9. Borjis

    Borjis Commodore Commodore

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    I have some of that material here at my studio, I can't think of anything else the dooms day machine could be made of.

    Seems highly plausible.
     
  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    May I suggest an experiment? If you have that material on hand, would you be willing to try to create a replica of the Planet Killer and post photos for comparison? Maybe the way to answer the question of how it was built is to try to build one that looks just like it.
     
  11. Ziz

    Ziz Commodore Commodore

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    Those links are using "therpf.com" not "thereplicapropforum.com" URL they've been using since their main domain got kidnapped and held for ransom a month or so ago.
     
  12. Ziz

    Ziz Commodore Commodore

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    Doesn't even have to be the whole thing, just a section as proof-of-concept.
     
  13. plynch

    plynch Commodore Commodore

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    In universe, was it conical, or just so long, perspective made it look tapered?
     
  14. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    We did see it in a straight-on side view when the phaser beams were hitting it. It was definitely a cone.
     
  15. plynch

    plynch Commodore Commodore

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    Yeah, watched it last night. Conical. And dammit, comical at the end (the ep), where Kirk has a one liner and the orch plays the cutesy music. ARRGHH! O for a serious ending after such great drama, a la COTEOF. or even PrivateLi'l War.
     
  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^Well, it's not as if "The Doomsday Machine" is a particularly deep episode. It's basically TOS's special-effects extravaganza, a story driven mainly by action and spectacle over story. If you ask me, the only thing that makes it work is Sol Kaplan's fantastic musical score. If it had been tracked with stock music instead, I don't think it would have anywhere near the same reputation.
     
  17. Gep Malakai

    Gep Malakai Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Off-topic, but you might want to know that last month, the RPF server and registration at GoDaddy.com were attacked by a Russian hacker who cloned the server and transferred control of "therpf.com" to himself. The real site is up and running at thereplicapropforums.com, but the site you just linked to is a Russian clone. Current information from the folks at the real site suggests he stole it to hold the URL ransom and to gain the revenue from their Google Adsense impressions. In the wake of the takeover, some members reported their own websites were attacked from Russian IP addresses. So by linking to the old site, you're potentially helping a hacker earn money, and exposing yourself and whoever clicks through to any Trojans or malware he might have loaded the forums up with.

    The guys at the real RPF are trying to contact as many people as possible to top them from visiting the fake site. If you have a Replica Prop Forums account, more information can be found here and here.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2012
  18. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Or maybe people like some action and spectacle.

    As for the story - well - the episode was nominated for a Hugo award. However, I won't speak to the criteria used for the nomination. Fans also seem to really like Balance of Terror, too, a lot. The music of The Doomsday Machine is memorable, but that's not why I like the episode so much. I personally like it just because it's a space battle, and it was pulled off without getting too cheesy. It's a nice change of pace.

    Fighting a giant robot in space is also an intriguing concept. Kirk's hypothesis of the backstory is fascinating, beyond the subtext of Armageddon, and raises some interesting unanswered questions (that I prefer to remain unanswered) with respect to exactly who was fighting the war.
     
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Which doesn't reflect on my point. BoT has a much stronger character/drama focus, and its visual effects (despite the inclusion of a new miniature) are fairly crude and basic. "Doomsday," more than any other TOS episode, is about showing off breathtaking visual effects, and I think it comes at the expense of the show's usual rich, intelligent storytelling.
     
  20. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Oh, I thought The Immunity Syndrome was the one all about the effects.
     

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