TOS's largest one time prop.

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by T'Girl, Nov 26, 2012.

  1. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    [​IMG][​IMG]

    I recently rewatched Paradise Syndrome, and I got to thinking about the large obelisk in that episode, the asteroid deflector. Where did the production crew come up with this thing? Was it an existing monument that was modified for use in the show?. Or did they build it just for a single episode?

    With the pedestal it's fairly large.

    Even if it's just painted plywood, constructing the structure would seem to be beyond the budget of the usually cash strapped 1960's show. Again to be used once.

    Consider the money (and time) it cost just to build the shuttlecraft.

    I've considered that it might have already existed, someone else built it for another purpose, and the Star Trek crew discovered it and pressed it into service.

    Anyone know? Construction photos would be nice.

    :)
     
  2. Forbin

    Forbin Admiral Admiral

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    I recall seeing set design sketches for it in one of the Trek coffee table books, so yeah, I believe it was built just for the episode.
     
  3. ItsGreen

    ItsGreen Commander Red Shirt

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  4. Myko

    Myko Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    To be honest, it's not that big to construct. Take all the flat surfaces and try to build walls from them and you get barely a full room's worth.
     
  5. SchwEnt

    SchwEnt Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Still impressive, especially for a one-shot, especially for the low low budget 3rd season.

    I'm surprised it got made. Given the lack of money in the 3rd season, I'd think doing the location shooting alone would have used up this eps funds. I'd think they'd find some other way to save money and show only the control room of the deflector or some other way to hint at it, rather than full-scale real article.
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    It's really not that much bigger than the interior sets they'd construct on the swing stage for a given episode. Compare it to, say, the Oracle room in "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky and My Gosh, This Is an Awfully Long Title, Isn't It?" A similar amount of wood (presumably) and paint and decorations to suggest alien script, just put together to represent the outside of a structure rather than the inside. The biggest difference is that it was trucked out to the Franklin Reservoir instead of erected on Stage 10.

    As for the budgetary issue, "The Paradise Syndrome" was the only extended location shoot in the entire season -- the only other exterior shooting in S3 was the swordfight scene in "All Our Yesterdays," which I assume was on the backlot. So the lack of location work elsewhere in the season would explain why they were able to afford a fairly elaborate location shoot in this one episode.

    Oh, and would "prop" be the right word for this? A prop is something used or handled by an actor. I'd think this might go under the category of scenery instead. The actors do interact with it physically, but the same would go for a fake building facade on the backlot when the actors go through its door, say, and I don't think that would qualify that facade as a prop.
     
  7. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Franklin Canyon reservoir is north of LA in the mountains, they would have had to clear a site (bulldozer?), truck everything up there, union crew, construction equipment, materials, scaffolding and likely a small crane. One day (maybe two) for construction.

    Then the production crew and actors would show up, if they lined it all up, single day shooting on location.

    And when the shoot was over, I would imagine their permit would require everything be removed again, although being the sixties the site probably wouldn't have had to be restore to it's original state, like it would today.

    Pricey.

    :)
     
  8. TremblingBluStar

    TremblingBluStar Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Well, as far as the budget of Trek goes, I believe the "slashed" budget of the third season is one of those myths that doesn't hold up under scrutiny. If I recall correctly, the original budget for the first season was around $200,000 per episode, or about $1.3 million today. The budget for the third season was $185,000 per episode. Smaller, but hardly slashed. I wish I could find the site where I found these figures. If someone else has a source, that would be great!

    While cast probably took a larger chunk of that, keep in mind they didn't have to spend that entire amount on each episode. So cheaper bottle shows like "Day of the Dove" could be used to save money for larger episodes.

    I recently watched season 1-3 on Netflix, and the thing that struck me, aside from the occasional 2005 era CGI, is that season 3 wasn't all that bad! Yes, there were very poorly written episodes like "Spock's Brain" and "This Way to Eden", but as a whole it was only slightly lesser in quality than the previous two. It was clear that writers had been shuffled, and Roddenberry took more of a hands off role in that characters behaved uncharacteristic at times, but it certainly wasn't cheap looking compared to the previous seasons.
     
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Funny, I thought season 3 looked a lot cheaper. Almost no location work, less convincing or more minimalist studio sets, fewer guest stars and extras. Although sometimes they made the simplicity of the set design into an aesthetic virtue, as in "Spectre of the Gun" or "The Empath."
     
  10. Forbin

    Forbin Admiral Admiral

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  11. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Wasn't Apollo's temple from Who Mourns for Adonais? fairly large as well?
     
  12. Doug Otte

    Doug Otte Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Yes, but Apollo's temple was an indoor set.

    I agree w/ T'Girl. It seems to be a big expense, and something I never thought about before. Even if it's just cheap wood, it would seem very costly to truck to the location, assemble it, film it (while hoping it doesn't rain), then disassemble and cart it away.
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Well, they had to truck the structures for Miramanee's village out to the location as well. It wasn't a very large village, just five fairly basic structures and a number of canoes, but the total amount of material involved seems at least as great as the amount of wood that would've gone into building the obelisk.

    And if you think about it, the weight and volume of all those pieces of scenery probably wasn't as substantial as the weight and volume of the cameras, sound equipment, lights, generators, trailers for the cast and crew, craft services (food) table, etc. that they would've had to truck out to the location anyway. It's not like they normally would've just driven up there in a pickup. Location shooting is a major operation. Transporting and erecting the obelisk would've been a relatively small part of the total logistics.
     
  14. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Inside Star Trek: The Real Story quotes the third season budget at $178,500 per episode (page 399). The second season budget was $187,500 per episode (page 317) according to the same book. Memory Alpha quotes the average first season budget at $190,635 per episode, although skimming I can't find the page number.

    Although the decrease might not seem like a lot of money, when you take into account two years of salary increases for each of the regular and semi-regular actors (not to mention the additional increase in pay Nimoy negotiated for after the first season) it is. It doesn't help that many of the costs of production are fixed. Since you can't cut the salaries being drawn for above-the-line costs (writing, directing, acting) -- many of which are actually increasing -- that means the money has to come from below-the-line areas of the production. That's one of the reasons why only two episodes in the entire season went on location.
     
  15. Redfern

    Redfern Commodore Commodore

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    And it's possible only two sides of the structure was built. Was the facade ever shot from the right side or the back? That would have saved some expense, both materials and labor.

    Regardless, it was one of the most impressive elements depicted in Trek.

    Sincerely,

    Bill
     
  16. Terengo

    Terengo Commander Red Shirt

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    We can see three sides of the object in the pictures. Not sure how much it would save to leave off the 4th side (although it might have made it easier to get inside to assemble it).
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I doubt they would've built the fourth side if it didn't appear on camera. At least, they wouldn't have painted it.
     
  18. TremblingBluStar

    TremblingBluStar Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I figured performer salaries were an issue and a reason why the budget was an issue in the third season. However, given only three of the cast members received top billing, I'm not sure how much of an issue this was in reality.

    Either way, I didn't get the impression that the last season was substantially cheaper looking than the others. The writing took a nosedive. I think "That Which Survives", or "This Way to Eden", "Spock's Brain", "And the Children Shall Lead" and "Turnabout Intruder" prove this. There were still a number of good, classic episodes regardless.

    One thing I have noticed about season 3 is that the costume budget for female guest stars was much, much skimpier than in previous seasons!
     
  19. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    Desilu had a huge overhead charge that ate up a lot of budget, but was that overhead carried over when Paramount took over?

    With less overhead, they might have had MORE of the budget actually available to use for the actual production 3rd season, which would explain how they could drop 90 grand on just the vfx for THOLIAN (that is the figure Mike Minor was quoted as citing when interviewed about his career in ENTERPRISE INCIDENTS magazine. Occasionally I wondered if it was a typo, but 9 grand sounds way low, even for back then, given that it was something like a three month stint to put that stuff together for the episode.)

    Also you've got rear projection on the bridge a few times, which, while it saves on opticals, costs in stage time to set up. And great bits like the aforementioned obelisk (which must have been built solid, because it would have been blowing in the breeze if it was a lightweight construct) and the klingon cruiser - especially that nice bit of animation when it gets vaporized into milk in DOVE.
     
  20. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelley were not the only three actors with contracts that guaranteed annual raises. Koenig, Takei, and Doohan also received annual raises. Nichols was was paid as a day player, although she may have received a raise at some point. Since she didn't have a contract (only a hand-shake deal), there's no paper trail as far as I know. I don't have her memoir, so I can't consult it for more information, but it might say.

    Inside Star Trek: The Real Story suggests that an important difference between season three and the first two years is that the third season producers did not have the money to "junk" stories and/or scripts that were not working out (page 399). I'm not sure of the veracity of this claim; certainly, the third season junked a few potential episodes, but it may well have done so less times than in the first and second season.