Curious Recommendation: Designing the Final Frontier

Someday I want to write about my history with Star Trek. For me the franchise is not so much about a fictional universe or a narrative experience, but an example of how media, particularly television, get created, designed, developed, and produced. For now I’ll just mention this fascinating book I happened to pick up while on vacation. It was one of those old pre-Amazon experiences of just wandering into a bookstore and by chance seeing something on the shelf that caught my attention.

The authors of the book have gone through the episodes of the original Star Trek and attempted to identify the various bits of furniture and decor that were used to create the sets throughout the show — from the couches on alien planets to the classic chairs of the Enterprise’s bridge. It’s a great example of how the design crew of the show had to do what they could to create “strange new worlds” with limited time and budget. It’s also a good survey of Midcentury Modern aesthetics and of the artists and craftsmen who developed the style. An amusing point the books makes is these Midcentury Modern designs would have seemed old-fashioned to European tastes, even while being “futuristic” to American viewers of the time.

I’ve read a lot about the development, writing, casting, and even fashion of Star Trek, but this book presents yet another aspect of the show. I feel like going back and giving the original series another viewing just paying attention to the furniture!

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