When Star Trek: The Motion Picture called for a large, never-before-seen recreation deck, the design team immediately started wondering where on the ship it should be.

Illustrator Andrew Probert suggested situating the new deck right below the officers’ lounge. He submitted a concept art showing how Spock’s arrival could be dramatized by observing his shuttle through the enormous windows of this new recreation room.

Today such a scene would be shot on a blue-screen stage. At the time, Production Designer Harold Michelson’s problem was that he couldn’t possibly get glass in the required size to build the set.

He argued for putting the recreation deck in the back of the saucer section, next to the impulse engines. There were already windows on the model there and Michelson felt he could build the right set for it.

Probert saw a problem, though. He pointed out that the saucer curved downward at the edges and submitted a concept art for a terraced recreation room that would both maintain continuity and make the scene more interesting.

Michelson rejected the idea as too complicated. Probert remembers him saying: “No one goes to a movie with a slide rule in his hand.”

Michelson defended his decision in an interview with Starlog magazine in January 1980, arguing that there was a danger in being too logical in designing the sets.

“We were bamboozled by technical advisors, people from NASA and other scientists,” he said. They were apt to lose sight of the drama, Michelson felt, in their insistence on accuracy.

And there was always a time element — no way we could do everything anybody might want us to do.

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June 25, 2007

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