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Spacedock-type
USS Enterprise approaches the Earth Spacedock.jpg

The Earth Spacedock

Type: Orbital Docking Station
Owner: United Federation of Planets
Operator: Starfleet
Status: Active (2372)
Earth Spacedock, underside.jpg

The Earth Spacedock underside

The Spacedock-type was a space station and starbase design in use, by Starfleet and the United Federation of Planets, during the late 23rd and 24th centuries.

Technical arrangement

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Spacedock type LCARS

A LCARS display of the upper section of Starbase 74

The Spacedock-type had a massive layout that was designed to harbor numerous starships inside its upper, mushroom-formed section. The interior docking bay could be accessed by four pairs of large space doors evenly spaced along the outer hull. Each set of space doors was located directly between two of the docking structures located inside. One of these pairs of space doors was just wide enough to allow passage of a Template:ShipClass vessel, while another could allow the passage of a Template:ShipClass vessel. (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock; Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home; TNG: "11001001")

Stations commissioned

Appendices

Appearances

Background information

The number and orientation of the space doors was displayed on panels used in the control booth for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The panels in question were sold at the It's A Wrap! sale and auction. [1]

Design origins

The Spacedock-type was designed by David Carson and Nilo Rodis at Industrial Light & Magic. They took their cue from the story outline for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Carson later recalled, "I was trying to work out how we could make this space station interesting, and I thought, 'What if it is so big that the Enterprise actually goes into it?' I did a drawing of a space station that was big enough. It was a bit clunky, but Nilo took that and in his typical fashion turned it into a really wonderful design. So we presented this idea." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 8, p. 48)

Spacedock (Earth) sketch

Spacedock concept sketch

In one concept sketch, a progenitor of the final Spacedock-type has an "NC" registry prefix and exhibits the mushroom-like aspect of the eventual style. The latter element developed from Nilo Rodis maintaining that the dock have a unique look, intentionally varying the facility's design from the results of ILM's recent work on the Star Wars franchise. "We pitched a whole bunch of design ideas to Harve [Bennett] and Leonard [Nimoy]," said Rodis. "I wanted to make sure it had nothing whatsoever to do with 'Star Wars', so it was more reality-based in its own Star Trek way." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 8, pp. 48-49) Owing to its distinctive appearance, this type of space station actually was, behind the scenes, nicknamed "mushroom". (Penny Juday, TNG Season 2 DVD special feature "Inside Starfleet Archives, Penny Juday, Star Trek Coordinator")

As David Carson originally conceived of the dock, the facility was meant to rotate as it proceeded on its orbit, which meant that vessels maneuvering into the space station would have to synchronize their motion with the dock. A couple of early drawings that Carson illustrated of the station, such as of the Enterprise entering Spacedock, were designed to show how this docking system would look in storyboards. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 8, p. 49) In fact, storyboards were used to fully plan Star Trek III's docking sequence. (the

Having been granted approval for the concept of the Spacedock-type's internal docking bay, David Carson and Nilo Rodis were also called upon to work out how the interior should look. Rather than having the Enterprise seem little while interacting with the spacedock, the dock itself obviously had to look massive, though Carson and Rodis found it challenging to achieve the latter instead of the former. In fact, Rodis was highly devoted to solving this issue. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 8, p. 49)

The idea of the Spacedock having a large group of windows, through which the Enterprise could be seen docking, partly solved the difficulty regarding perspective, the presence of people providing a reference point for scale. The notion of the windows was devised by David Carson after realizing that, when he and Nilo Rodis flew down to Los Angeles, they could see their plane from the terminal just before they boarded the aircraft. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 8, p. 49)

Since not all the shots featuring the Spacedock could include individuals, the dock still had to appear gigantic in comparison with the associated starships themselves. "Because there was no architectural detail on the inside, I needed an element that defined how big this space was," explained Nilo Rodis. "The only way I could really give you the sense of distance was by establishing some kind of perspective. We could do that vertically, but we also needed to do it between them with beams or columns of light." The inclusion of the lights also added a sense of grandeur that was somewhat appropriate to the feel of the motion picture shots, and emphasized the largeness of not only the spacedock but also the ships. Rodis noted, "Without that element it just wasn't magic." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 8, pp. 49-50)

Models, sets and reappearances

As the process of designing the Spacedock-type's exterior neared completion, ILM created a handful of study models for the dock, showing several alternative configurations in preparation for the construction of the final studio model. "There were four or five study models," remembered supervising model-maker Steve Gawley. "The one that we finalized actually used good parts from two or three of them. It was a question of taking the top of this one, and the bottom of that one." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 8, p. 21) Refining the Spacedock's details progressed with advice from the producers. For instance, the dock underwent numerous modifications during the course of one particular day, while suggestions were offered by Leonard Nimoy, Harve Bennett and Ralph Winter, Star Trek III's associate producer. (The Making of the Trek Films, 3rd ed., p. 53) "During one meeting, in particular, we had a space station that was getting pretty close, but they wanted a few things changed," said effects supervisor Kenneth Ralston. "So we took it over to [modelmaker] Bill George, and half an hour later he came back with the changes. Then we talked about it again and changed it some more." (Cinefex, No. 18, p. 43)

Earth Spacedock (under construction)

The Spacedock interior set being prepared for filming during the production of The Search for Spock

The full-scale studio model for the Spacedock-type's exterior was built at ILM. The interior of the Earth Spacedock was represented by a large miniature.

In Star Trek III, the Spacedock lounge was actually a set constructed on a live-action bluescreen stage at ILM. (Cinefex, No. 18, p. 51) The lounge had to be filmed there, at ILM's Marin County headquarters, as it was the only place with a big enough bluescreen, which the set was arranged in front of. "We had the biggest bluescreen ever built," commented effects cameraman Scott Farrar. "It was created for the speeder bike chase and Jabba's barge in 'Return of the Jedi'. It was enormous." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 8, p. 24) Harve Bennett and Leonard Nimoy traveled to Marin County to participate in the shooting of the lounge scenes. With only the bottom halves of the room's window frames having been constructed on the set, a matte painting was later used to visually extend them. The contents of the windows, footage of the interior docking bay, was additionally composited into the shots of the lounge. Ken Ralston was extremely pleased with the finalized footage, happily referring to it as "tremendous." He commented, "You get all this scope and scale that doesn't occur most of the time, and we could only do a shot like that because of the very large blue screen we have here at ILM." (Cinefex, No. 18, p. 52)

The original miniature for the Earth Spacedock's interior docking bay from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock was destroyed after the end of filming. (citation needededit) The model was reassembled for Star Trek IV, complete with its huge network of fiber optic lights. (Trek: The Unauthorized Story of the Movies, p. 123) Despite being rebuilt, the miniature closely resembled its original counterpart. (text commentary, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (Special Edition) DVD) It was still twenty feet in diameter. Jeff Mann, the film's model shop supervisor, described the rebuilding of the docking bay model as a "major undertaking" and went to say, "We had wanted to use stock footage of the interior of the space dock from Star Trek III. We hoped that we could take some of the old effects elements from that scene and composite them with some new movement, but nothing worked quite right, so we had to refurbish and rebuild it. It was an expensive undertaking." (The Making of the Trek Films, 3rd ed., p. 69)

The set for Spacedock's control booth from Star Trek III was reused for Star Trek IV. The panels on the set had new control graphics, however, mainly because earlier panel graphics had deteriorated while in storage since the previous movie. (text commentary, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (Special Edition) DVD) It was ILM who composited the footage filmed on this set together with the background of the docking bay. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 17, No. 3/4, p. 47)

Depicting the Earth Spacedock in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (both an exterior view of the facility, as well as a shot of the station's docking bay) involved re-composites of stock footage from the previous film. (text commentary, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (Special Edition) DVD)

For a shot wherein the Enterprise's senior officers approach Spacedock from Earth in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, visual effects artists at ILM invested much contemplation on how to magnificently demonstrate the Spacedock. "We really wanted to open the film up [at that point] and show the grandeur of space," explained effects art director William George. "Immediately I thought of 2001 – in particular, the docking sequence between the Orion space clipper and the double-wheeled Space Station One. I also got the bug in my mind to do an angle on the spacedock that hadn't been done before. I looked at the model from all angles, and eventually ended up lying down on the ground to look up at it before I realized that was the perfect shot – it hadn't been seen before, plus it was the natural angle of approach if you were coming up from Earth." (Cinefex, No. 49, p. 48)

By the time Star Trek VI entered production, the set for Spacedock's interior docking bay no longer existed. Since all that was deemed necessary for the film was a first-person perspective shot of the spacedoors and the immediately surrounding wall area while the Enterprise departed the facility, a pie-shaped miniature was built to show these elements of the spacedock. This model included miniature lights to represent the space station's moving approach lights. Model maker Charles Wiley examined the miniature on stage, immediately before it was filmed. (Cinefex, No. 49, pp. 48 & 49)

USS Enterprise-D docking concept by Andrew Probert

Probert's docking concept

Footage of the Earth Spacedock was reused more than once in Star Trek: The Next Generation, with the USS Enterprise-D simply superimposed over the motion picture Enterprise, even though the former starship was intended to be considerably larger than the latter vessel. For these TNG appearances, Andrew Probert wanted the Spacedock-type to be used differently than in the movies. "Going into the Spacedock was ludicrous, and I was fighting tooth and nail to get them to not do that," Probert stated. "The producers simply shrugged their shoulders and said, 'Well, we'll say it's a bigger Spacedock,' but that logic really didn't work for me. The system that I proposed was that the Enterprise to be serviced and docked on the existing space station's exterior, because it has an umbrella-like rim -- a mushroom head, if you will -- under which the Enterprise could have been docked by connecting the dorsal replenishment systems, but... there's a lot of things that sort of fell by the wayside, and it is what it is." Probert even drew a sketch, dated 3 November 1987, to show his proposed docking method, before his suggestion was declined. [2] The inclusion of the Spacedock-type's interior docking bay in TNG was done with the use of a matte painting that Probert also illustrated. A photographic matte was added to the shot, in order to show crew members walking through a gangway tunnel. (The Art of Star Trek, p. 84)

The enclosure around Drafting Room 5 at Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards, as seen in "Booby Trap", was also quite similar to the interior of this type of spacedock.

Earth spacedock model in storage

Penny Juday and the "mushroom" in storage

The exterior model of the Spacedock-type ended up in storage at Paramount, under the aegis of Penny Juday. (TNG Season 2 DVD-special feature: "Inside Starfleet Archives, Penny Juday, Star Trek Coordinator")

Apocrypha

According to the novelization of Star Trek III, the Spacedock-type space doors were actually "radiation-shield doors" and the facility is described as allowing people to work outside the enclosed ships without exposing them to the radiation of space.

According to the Star Trek Space Ships (1996) calendar, for the month of April, this type of docking facility was identified as an Ournal-class Space Station with an NCC registry prefix. From this same source, a total number of twelve of these stations were built. [3] (citation needededit)

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