The biggest challenge in designing the world of Axanar is designing with TOS in mind. In the timeline, TOS comes 21 years after the events of Axanar. The first season of TOS takes place in 2266, while Axanar takes place in 2245, the year of the launch of the Enterprise. But TOS is an almost 50 year old vision of the future. And it is a vision of the future built within a very strict 1960’s TV budget that frankly, looks VERY dated at times, while overall holding up rather well. But it is still a 50 year old show and our vision of the future has changed radically in that time.
So you can’t simply go backwards from TOS 21 years or else you look like the Flash Gordon movie serial starring Buster Crabb! Enterprise did the right thing, they moved FORWARD from our current time frame. What would early warp flight look like knowing what we know now.
There are a whole group of fans who think you have to be slavish to the limitations of TOS and its 1960’s vision of the future (which used 1950’s tech in many cases). They think this is “canon” and so we have to look OLDER than TOS.
Well, we just disagree. No film maker is going to make a TOS era Star Trek today and use 50 year old cheap buttons, switches and toggles. Because NO ONE thinks that is the way our future will look and most viewers won’t accept that as anything but cheesy. Sure, TOS purists love it, and it is nostalgic to see those 60’s sets, but that is a tiny minority. And for you people, there are Star Trek fan films, who do a wonderful job of slavishly re-creating the look of that time, most notably Star Trek: New Voyages, which has the most accurate sets out there. (There are actually 3 TOS bridge sets in the USA, New York, Georgia and Oklahoma).
Now on the other hand, we can’t go all Minority Report on the interfaces, as that is too different from TOS. We want to show a universe that at least looks similar. One where a viewer can draw a line between two periods. I happen to think that the USS Kelvin actually did a fair job of this as their bridge LOOKED like it was a Star Trek bridge. Now JJ didn’t carry that over to other things. His Enterprise is hideous and his Klingon Bird of Prey makes no sense. But for the USS Kelvin, (which was 2233) and the Kobayashi Maru simulator that it shared components with, you could see a Star Trek lineage. There were cues from both Enterprise 72 years earlier, and TOS. Round bridge, big captains chair etc. It wasn’t SO out of line with Enterprise and TOS.
Now the USS Ares bridge will be VERY close to a TOS bridge because we are building a TOS bridge basically, and then finishing it with different consoles, monitors and stations in the command well (and a different Captain’s chair!). That way we stay close to TOS but don’t look like bad 50’s Sci Fi. I think Star Trek fans will love it.
So how do these differences show up? How do we take a modern look at classic Star Trek? Well, let’s take a look at our consoles. While the bridge will be basically the same, every monitor and panel will be different.
TOS Communications panel (courtesy TOSgraphics.com):
USS Ares concept art for communications panel:
The idea is we can swap the panels out to make a TOS bridge if we want as well. And yes, 2001 is a major design influence because of its timelessness. That is a movie, that 50 years later, still looks like a possible future.
So don’t tell me we need to look older than TOS. That is simply not going to happen. But what we will do is, as we did in Prelude to Axanar, evolve the universe and show you how you make Star Trek look cool again.