Matt Jefferies Galileo sketch

Building the Shuttlecraft Galileo

Matt Jefferies shuttlecraft sketch
Matt Jefferies shuttlecraft sketch
Matt Jefferies Galileo sketch
Closer to the final design

Halfway through the first season of Star Trek, the Enterprise got a shuttlecraft and, eventually, a place to put it in.

The shuttlecraft was not designed at the same time as the rest of the ship. The reason for that was simple — shuttlecraft do not get built until a storyline calls for one, because they are just too expensive. So Jefferies was not asked to produce one of these small, short ranged vessels until “The Galileo Seven” was written. “The Enterprise was never supposed to sit on a planet’s surface,” Jefferies said in an interview with Star Trek: The Magazine that was published in 2000, “so we needed something other than the transporter room. I think, looking at it in later years, it should probably have been a shuttle like a city bus, because several times a script came up that called for more people than we had seats for.”

I worked up sketches for it. But AMT, who were going to build the model in their shops in Phoenix in exchange for being able to market the kit of the Enterprise, felt it was beyond their capabilities, so it was designed by Gene Winfield, an automotive designer who had a custom body shop that primarily serviced the automotive industry through AMT. The Galileo as everybody knows it today was not my design. Overall I was a little disappointed but I think within their capabilities it was a good solution. And it did work, obviously. People did accept it.

Matt Jefferies shuttlecraft sketch
Matt Jefferies shuttlecraft sketch

Jefferies’ original design for the shuttle was for a less boxy spacecraft. “Basically it was a teardrop thing,” he said, “and the whole side panel, the outside door, would slide back, and you could just step right off on the ground. The seats were like bicycle seats mounted on each side of the keel.”

AMT duly produced a miniature of the shuttle. The design did not lend itself to Jefferies’ bicycle seat scheme, so he had to come up with an interior that worked with the exterior shape. The exterior “was a separate set,” he explained.

A certain percentage of that had to be done in the studio shops. They brought it all over in a big truck. It was on a steel frame; it was bulky, and it was heavy. I think if it had been lighter and easier to move, and of course if we’d had the time or the equipment, we would have probably got much more use out of it. We could have lowered it to the surface and had the doors open and the people get out or get in. But it would have taken a lot of engineering and probably beefing up the stage structure to be able to lower the thing as it was.

The Galileo interior
The Galileo interior

The producers used the Galileo miniature for the photography alongside the interior set, which was designed to accommodate the seven personnel the script called for. It was never specified how many shuttlecraft the Enterprise carried, but Jefferies assumed there were several and gave the Galileo the “number 7,” tacked onto the main starship registration number. The vessel was “destroyed” during that episode but was later seen in other shows — an inconsistency the producers and the fans have been happy to live with.

Jefferies also noticed that within a single script the description of the shuttle varied. “In one of Gene Coon’s stories [“Metamorphosis”] a description said there were no doors or opening in evidence and then once we got inside there four or five entrances and people kept coming into the thing. I went to Coon and said, ‘Mr Coon, what am I going to do?’ He said, ‘That’s your worry'”

Jefferies also designed a control console, but he did not consider this to be a major item. “We just tried to come up with something that looked sensible; some intrumentation they would have to have, compared to what could be done automatically on the Enterprise. Unless you had a story that involved a shuttlecraft entirely then it would have been such a quick, transitory thing that it would have been wasted effort.”

The Enterprise‘s shuttlebay was deemed to have room for several shuttles. Jefferies says, “We had the large curved clamshell doors at the back, and it didn’t look too much different from a lot of today’s modern hangers on the inside. The shuttlebay itself was only in miniature.” The view of the shuttlebay in the episode “Journey to Babel” was created by shooting through a set of sliding doors toward sections of the interior wall placed eight or ten feet further back. “All of our interior walls were of the same finish, which would have included the shuttlebay.”

The Galileo set
The Galileo set

The Galileo was reincarnated as the Galileo II for the season three episode “The Way to Eden,” after the writers had conceded that the original one no longer existed. However, the same model was used for photography. Jefferies came up with a range of other designs for potential shuttles and small vehicles, one of which he labeled the “Space Tug.”

Jefferies' space tug
Jefferies’ space tug

They were just noodling, daydreaming on my part. But of course the writers were as hard up for ideas as I was and sometimes we could spread a seed if they were looking for something different. There’s one with a man sitting in a bubble and then there was another one with a hook on the back as though it would be for towing. They’d be service vechicles around a space port or a navy yard kind of thing. We would have been able to work from the top of the stage on wires and float them or move them around. They would have been fun to do.

From “Designing the Galileo Shuttlecraft,” Star Trek: The Magazine 1, 12 (April 2000). Photographs from Enterprise Incidents magazine.

Leave a Reply