Harold Michelson

Designing The Motion Picture’s Recreation Deck

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 a new recreation room.

Today, such a scene would be shot on a blue-screen stage. But at the time, Production Designer Harold Michelson couldn’t have got glass in the required size.

He suggested putting the recreation deck in the back of the saucer section, next to the impulse engines. There were already large windows on the Enterprise 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 visually 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.”

Recreation deck game
Recreation deck concept art

Michelson defended his decision in an interview with Starlog magazine in January 1980, arguing 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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