“There is an energy barrier at the rim of your galaxy….”
“Yes, I know. We’ve been there.”-Rojan and Captain Kirk in “By Any Other Name” discussing the famous purple barrier from “Where No Man Has Gone Before”
To produce a TV show about spaceships and laser guns and transporters, it goes without saying that someone is going to have to create the special effects that will make the whole thing believable. Luckily, Desilu had one of the oldest special effects houses in Hollywood on site as an independent contractor, and they were eager to work on Star Trek.
The Howard A. Anderson Co. was founded in 1927, barely a decade and a half after the first studio in Hollywood, Universal, had opened its doors. Unfortunately, since films did not regularly credit outside contractors (or, to be brutally honest, much of anyone) until the mid-’50s, I can’t relate much of their accomplishments from those times. One credit that I can dispute is that of Anderson creating the opening credits for I Love Lucy, which is reported by Inside Star Trek and Memory Alpha, the main Star Trek Wikipedia clone on the internet. The original sequence was animated by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera in secret (as the two were still subject to their exclusive contract with MGM). If anything, they handled the syndicated “satin heart” opening, which featured minimal animation work. The company is credited with effects work on The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour (“special photographic effects”), so the Anderson Company certainly had a long-standing relationship with Desilu beside renting space on the studio lot.
By 1964, Howard A. Anderson had retired, handing control over to his sons Howard, Jr. and Darrell. Both sons were experienced hands at the company, however, and enthusiastic to to take on a challenge like Star Trek. With schlocky films to their credit like King Dinosaur and 12 to the Moon to their credit, it’s easy to see why: Star Trek represented a potentially star-making turn. However, just for the footage of the Enterprise itself, the Anderson Company faced a huge challenge-literally. The model was a massive 11 feet, two inches long, and weighed 220 pounds. As detailed by the Smithsonian, the model was made of much more mundane materials than a modern reader would expect:
“Primarily constructed of poplar wood, vacu-formed plastic, rolled sheet metal tubes for both the engine pods from the back of the struts to the start of the nacelle caps, and plastic for the main sensor dish and detailing (light covers, etc.). The front and rear of the engine pods or nacelles are of wood. The nacelle grill plates brass. Rolled steel wires were also inserted through its original pipe support for lights.” [Note: The lights were added after “The Cage” was produced.]
Not exactly high-tech building materials, to be sure. More troubling, however, was how late the model was in being made. So late, in fact, that images of the three-foot reference model built by Richard C. Datin, Jr. being delivered to Roddenberry by Datin himself during location shooting of “The Cage”. (Datin was also responsible for the larger model, though a good deal of its construction was sub-contracted.) The 11-foot model ended up not being used that much in the making of “The Cage” as a result. However, the finished episode was ready for scoring in January, making any crises over the delivery of the model minor at best.
Next time, we’ll discuss the last element of “The Cage” before discussing the episode itself: the music.