Star Trek: The Original Series presented an entirely unique world to dazzled audiences in the 1960s. Each week, we discovered new aliens, distant green planets, future technology and the complex workings of the Federation.
Naturally, this meant a ton of props and sets had to be built, for not very much money. The production crew did a brilliant job, led by creative whizzes like set designer and art director Walter M. Jefferies. The production could turn garbage into gold — literally, they would sometimes dig through the trash at Desilu Studios for discarded materials to repurpose.
You can spot lots of clever little details if you know where to look. The crew even hid some little in-jokes to amuse themselves. Here are some of our favorites.
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The Klingon's belt buckles are bubble wrap.
Yep, that's just gold-painted bubble wrap. That's not so strange. Batman's utility belt was once made out of sponges.
The Fesarius was made out of ping pong balls.
The production crew behind Star Trek had a knack for fashioning cool props from everyday items. This spherical ship seen in "The Corbomite Maneuver" was fashioned from ping pong balls split in half.
D-Day hero James Doohan was missing his right middle finger.
Doohan served in the Canadian Infantry in World War II, landing at Juno Beach on D-Day. After taking down two snipers and holding position on higher ground for the evening, he was hit by six rounds of friendly fire, including one in his right hand. His finger was amputated. As an actor, he tried to conceal this, but you can spot his war wound here and there, like when Scotty carries a platter of Tribbles.
Shatner's name was contractually larger than Nimoy's in the opening credits.
A production memo from September 1966 mandated, "Please note that Leonard’s credit is to be no more than 75% of the type that we afford to William Shatner." The credits would go through several minor tweaks over the three seasons. A few episodes in, "Also Starring" was added above Nimoy's name, for example.
Kirk has a different middle name early on.
Everyone knows the good captain is named James T. Kirk — the T standing for Tiberius. However, in "Where No Man Has Gone Before," the second pilot made for the series, we see a tombstone above an open grave marked for Kirk. It reads "James R. Kirk."
"Spock's Brain" is the only episode aside from the first pilot in which characters walk in front of a moving star field on the viewscreen.
The infamous third season opener remains much derided but it did feature a decent budget for effects. In this scene, Enterprise crew walk back and forth before moving stars on the viewscreen. This may not seem like much, but typically the viewscreen was added as a layered effect — or sometimes it was merely a static picture. This effect was achieved through rear projection.
The Aldebaran whiskey bottles are just George Dickel Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey.
See? They were really good about recycling.
Bottle: SoftFocusVintage / Etsy
"Shore Leave" was the only episode to show the normal Enterprise orbiting a planet from right to left.
At the beginning of "Mirror, Mirror" we see the Enterprise flip from moving its normal left-to-right direction to flying right-to-left. This was done to clearly signal they suddenly jumped to an evil alternate universe. Otherwise, the starship would always move from left to right around planets. However, this rule was broken once — for good reason. In "Shore Leave" the vessel is zooming the opposite direction. Why? The green planet used in the optical effect was obviously Earth, as you could make out the familiar coastline of North America. They flipped it so that it was not so obviously fake. This shot was replaced with CGI graphics in the digital remaster — and, yes, the Enterprise was finally fixed to move left-to-right.
Different Starfleet ships wore different uniform badges.
Everyone recognizes the iconic curved arrowhead shape of Starfleet, as it is now a symbol for the entire franchise. However, initially the insignia was only primarily worn by Enterprise crew members. In the original series, each ship in Starfleet had a unique insignia. Take this preztel-like insignia worn by the U.S.S. Constellation crew members in "The Doomsday Machine." You can spot a different rectangular one worn by the U.S.S. Exeter crew in "The Omega Glory." It was only later in movies that the Enterprise's "delta" insignia came to represent the entire Starfleet.
Kirk and Spock visited Mayberry a couple times.
As it was a Desilu production, Star Trek often shot outdoors on the studio's Forty Acres backlot, also home of The Andy Griffith Show. Thus, you can spot the familiar landmarks of Mayberry in "Miri," "The City on the Edge of Forever," "The Return of the Archons" and "A Piece of the Action" — but Mayberry can best be seen in the first two.
Some pipes in the Enterprise were labeled "GNDN" as an inside joke to mean "Goes Nowhere, Does Nothing."
Look, you can hold that Trident Scanner up to the tubes all day, but they don't do anything. For that matter, neither does the Trident Scanner. Make-believe is fun!