Part 5: Firing the Phasers
At the conclusion of that last scene, it was 4 p.m. and lunchtime. (That’s right! Lunchtime at 4 p.m. These people worked hard!) David told me that lunch would be served on Stage 19 across the small alleyway that held the hair & make-up trailer. So I walked outside with Evan and Cecilia and worked my way over to Stage 19.
Inside were a few tables and a full lunch spread. As my plan for the entire day, I ate very lightly, sitting with Evan, Cecilia, Tag and the girl who was working as Linda Park’s stand-in. I had to tell her my story again, and it was nice sitting down with everyone.
Another person who was there was Jan, who was the person on set responsible for making sure the script was followed precisely in terms of words and continuity, etc. During each scene if an actor missed a word or needed help, she would follow along and correct and assist as needed. She was also responsible for making sure the pronunciations were right. Throughout the afternoon, she was usually near the set or back in the director’s chairs by the monitors, and we spoke briefly at one point as I told her my story. So every time she saw me throughout the day and into the evening the running joke was, “So, Jim, you still having fun?” And, of course, I would give her some kind of sarcastic response like, “Yeah, it’s OK. When can I get out of here?”
(A good example of the kind of stuff she had to do was make sure everyone had the right pronunciation on the rogue Vulcan named “V’Las”. There was much discussion of the proper pronunciation since this was only the second day of shooting on this episode and it was decided, as Gary Graham so eloquently put it, “I remember it by saying it like ‘V’Las Vegas.’” Another example of a correction was Trip at one point saying: “We are not leaving here without the captain,” but during a take he thought it made more sense to say “We are not leaving here without our captain.” The discussion went back and forth, but as they normally do, they kept it with the script so he said, “We are not leaving here without the captain.”)
“A Night in Sickbay”
I was anxious to get done eating, because on Stage 19 were a bunch of the other standing Star Trek sets that were not being used that day. Once I was done, I got up and went exploring a bit. These sets were every bit as impressive as the sets I had gone through earlier. I didn’t take any pictures of these, though, because I didn’t want to break any more rules and it wasn’t pitch dark.
The first set I walked into was sickbay, which was awesome. It was probably the set that looked the most different, because it was difficult to figure out exactly how it translated to the screen. (In fact, I tried to figure out where Archer and Phlox tried to catch the loose bat in “One Night in Sickbay” and wasn’t really sure which cubby hole it was.) Anyway, I came in through the back and then walked out of the main sickbay doors into a corridor (where there is a picture of me) and went on to find a turbolift, the brig, the mess hall, the captain’s mess, all the crew quarters sets and Archer’s quarters.
It was obviously exciting walking through these sets, and they were much more packaged and in disarray than the other sets, with plastic sheets covering everything and things not really set up. One cool item that I got to see outside the mess hall was the “star field” on a black sheet with the simple glittering stars. To repeat a theme of this recap, it was shockingly cool. When I stepped back and looked out the window, it really looked like a star field outside.
I also made a point to check out the food stations in the mess hall, working a few dials and sliding open the small replimat doors. After exploring the crew quarters, I got really turned around inside the sets, and stumbled into a few more corridors, back tracking from where I came to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. When I finally stepped out of the sets, I had no idea where I would be in Stage 19. I came out relatively near where I had gone in, at the far end of the tables where we had been eating. I walked back over and Cecilia and Evan and the others were having desert. I sat back down and then Cecilia offered to take a couple of pictures of me in the set, so we walked back into sickbay and were a bit surprised to find Jan taking a short little nap on one of the sickbay beds. It was pretty funny. So she got up and took a picture of me and Cecilia together, and then Cecilia took a picture of me in the corridor outside the sickbay doors.
After that, it was time to head back to work! However, on the way out, Cecilia pointed to a side door that led to the Stage 20 sets neighboring Stage 19. David had mentioned these sets to me before, as they are commonly known in the Trek production world as “planet hell,” where all the planet and cave sets are located. This is also the main area for the non-standing sets, created on an episode-by-episode basis. Although time was short, I took advantage of this opportunity to take a quick peak into these sets.
As I opened the door, and I know this is a big shock, but I was stunned! There were obviously people inside the stage working and building the sets, as many of them were half complete, but despite walking through these sets for a good 10 minutes, I never saw anyone, which was strange. The mountain/cave sets used throughout the Vulcan trilogy were incredible and I was surprised by how big they were, and, obviously, how real the cave settings looked. Additionally, the main set they were working on was a Vulcan Council Chamber, something never before seen on Trek. The set was fantastic, and was probably only about 60% done. I can’t wait to see the finish product when this Vulcan episode arc airs.*
*Note: they turned out incredible!
After the quick detour to Stage 20, I went back over to the Bridge set and everyone went straight back to work. First up on the docket was finishing up a bunch more shots of different angles on the scenes we’d been shooting all day. By this time it was around 5 p.m., and it was amazing to think that most of these people still had another six hours of hard work left.
Most of these shots didn’t involve me and didn’t require me sitting at my station. To get the best view during this time, I returned to my usual spot behind the director’s monitors. During one of the scenes, I happened to notice that the computer screens had not been reset to tactical alert when they were filming it and I was going to say something, but, of course, David was on top of it and immediately had them correct it for the second take. That guy was absolutely top-shelf quality. What a pro.
Another behind-the-scenes guy that I got to work with during my day on set was the legendary Director of Photography, Marvin Rush. He was an incredibly nice guy, and is obviously super respected in his field and beloved on set. But, turns out, he is also a little goofy and sometimes got a little off-focus. This required my guy David to rein him in a few times, which was pretty entertaining to watch.
During one shot Marvin came up to Connor. and at the conclusion of the take said something goofy to everyone like: "One day, we should all talk like Yoda..." Silence from everyone. "You know, like: 'Our captain back, we need, hmmm?'" Complete silence. No one reacts.
Then David says, "Oookay, let's get moving and set up for that next shot people." Absolutely classic little moment.
Following those shots, I had my last major scene, in which I would get to “return fire.” I would be firing the phasers on the bridge of the Enterprise. Holy crap. What a dream come true.
This scene began with Trip walking out of the ready room, past my station, taking a step down in front of the captain’s chair and settling in behind the helm. Those details are important because this was clearly the best blooper moment of the day, as on the first take, Trip came walking into his position and missed his mark and stumbled forward against the helm. It was pretty funny.*
*Note: I hoped this scene might make the Blu-Ray blooper real, but alas, it did not.
During the many “return fire” takes, I was basically going through my usual routine of pushing buttons and giving a nod to Trip. For this one, the buttons I decide to push were up to the left side of my console, since that is the direction I needed to face Trip. So we went through a few takes of this and it’s all good, except for on the last take, when the camera is shooting from over my shoulder I go through the routine, Roxann yells cut and that we are moving on, and I’m feeling pretty good and then the cameraman behind my shoulder says, “Yo, you forgot to nod on that one, man.” Arrgh! I forgot to nod! Oh well.
After that scene where I fired the freakin’ phasers on the Enterprise (!!!), I was back to my standard position behind the directors as they started setting up the next shot, which was a complete mystery to me. Turns out they were setting up for a very brief 30 second scene that was the last scene needed on the bridge and the last scene of the episode, in which Trip dramatically orders the ship to Andoria.
Prior to the start of this scene, David stepped up to make an introduction of Karen, their DGA intern who had been working on their set for three months. They had a nice little moment for her. Just prior to this, I noticed that both Dominick Keating (who plays Malcolm Reed) and Anthony Montgomery (Travis Mayweather) had made their way onto the set for their first shots of the day. It was early evening now and these two would be finishing up a few shots on the bridge and then would be shooting a shuttlepod scene.
A few minutes later I was watching them setting up this next shot and Karen came over and asked Cecilia to take her spot in the situation room. And then a couple of minutes later she came back and said they wanted me in the situation room too! Wooo hooo! I was going to get a chance to be in one more scene, and this one would be with four Enterprise regulars!
So I moved around the set and came in through the ready room door and took a spot in the situation room. As an example of my belief that David was taking care of me, I was positioned at the front corner of the room, directly in line with the captain’s chair and the camera. Cecilia was in the back of the room, and there is no way she was going to be seen in this scene. My odds of being seen in it are very long, but at least I was positioned in a place where I had at least a chance to be seen.
Basically the scene was very short: Trip walks in from the ready room, says to Malcolm, “Set a course for Andoria,” and Malcolm gives a surprised, “Andoria?,” and then Trip sits in the captain’s chair and says to Travis, “Maximum warp.” Dramatic end. Very, very cool.
After the first take, David came over to me and asked me to move over to my left, which I think was clearly designed to try and get me into the scene, because it was such a tight shot on Trip and Malcolm. So now I am at the closest point to the ready room door and the steps into the situation room that I could possibly be along the back wall. Anyway, I think I will at least be glimpsed in this scene, at a minimum.* And it is fair to say that going into this thing back in May when I won the auction, that is all I really expected. So to get that, plus all the other stuff where I’m in the middle of the action, is just truly incredible.
*Note: I ended up being clearly visible in this dramatic shot, moments before “To Be Continued” flashed up on the screen. Wow.
As we were filming this final scene, there were a couple of interesting notes. One was a classic exchange between Connor, Dominick, Anthony and Roxann.
First, before we even started filming this scene, David stepped up and made a special introduction saying, “Your attention everyone, I just wanted to make sure everyone knows about the special guest we have on the set today, and who is doing a great job.” (I’m paraphrasing, as I can’t really remember exactly what he said, but I did note that he didn’t say “psychotic fan and expensive charity auction winner,” but instead just introduced me as a special guest and mentioned where I work and made it sound better than I deserved. So that was cool.) This is another validation of my calculated efforts to make sure they knew I was a normal dude who was a professional in my field, and quite separated from the potential knuckleheads who could have won this thing. Obviously it was cooler to be introduced as a professional in my field as opposed to some “wally auction winner.”)
After the introduction there was a nice little round of applause and Dominick Keating said something to me, but I couldn’t really hear him and had to give him a fake, laughing acknowledgement as Gary Graham stepped over in full Vulcan make-up and said, “Excellent. Good to have you here.” We shook hands and then he said, “So, you work in soccer? Great. My kids all played, great stuff. Here is what I’m trying to figure out, though. I’ve been on this show for four years now, and this is my first time ever on the bridge, and you’re here one day and they have you putting out coolant leaks? That’s not right.”
When he said this I immediately moved into geeky fan mode because I quickly said, “You know, when I was watching you in the earlier scenes, I was thinking to myself, ‘I bet that is the first time he has ever been on the bridge.’” That was one of my favorite moments of the day.
The next great moment, which was also one of my favorites of the day, came after the initial rehearsal of this final scene. The last line has Connor saying, “Maximum warp.” Connor then says, “Shouldn’t it be ‘maximum warp, Travis.’” After a little discussion, Roxann comes up to the stage and very wisely says, “No, this is the last shot of the show and we don’t want the last word of the show to be ‘Travis’ no offense, Anthony.” This is a great point and an indicator of someone thinking about the big picture. So at this point, Dominick, who has been cracking jokes since he arrived, says, “I think you should say ‘Maximum Warp, uh, uh,’ and act like you can’t remember his name.” Laughter all around. That was hysterical.
After that final scene there was one more thing they needed to shoot on the bridge, and they were a bunch of reverse shots from behind Trip looking back at the view screen. I had an idea that this was coming through the commands David was barking out, and I can’t remember exactly what I was doing, but I saw the hustle bustle starting at the front of the set (pulling out the cameras, lighting, etc.) and then I got distracted and was talking to someone or something, but it wasn’t more than two or three minutes, and I turned around and WHAM, the entire bridge was enclosed, the view screen was in place and the green screen was hanging in the view screen. It was truly impressive.
At that point I moved off the bridge set and back to my usual position to watch these last few scenes being shot. It was cool to watch the shooting of the scenes with the green screen. Basically they were shooting just three or four quick shots directly over Trip’s shoulders and no one else was needed.
At the conclusion of those shots, they broke down the bridge set and moved everything back to another corner of the stage for a scene with Dominick and Anthony in the shuttlepod. Once again, I was just so impressed with how hard these people work. I mean, it was right around 8 p.m. on a Friday night. Everyone has been working since 8 a.m. or earlier. And they get done with all the stuff on the bridge and they have to move EVERYTHING all the way to the other corner of this huge sound stage. By everything, I mean, two cameras, including the huge crane and the tracks they lay it down on to move it, a bunch of lighting, the connected monitors for the director to watch the footage, etc. Just unreal.
As they were making the changes, David approached me and said this would be a good time to get some pictures, so this guy, who has been swamped and working and under pressure all day, takes the time to shoot basically all the pictures I ended up taking. One funny moment during the pictures was when JR and Evan were egging me on in the captain’s chair, and I said, “Watch my Jim Kirk impersonation.” (That’s the blurry shot below of me leaning forward with my forearm on my knees. (Too bad it didn’t come out, but it was a fun moment.
I was hoping to get a shot of me with the Enterprise dedication plaque, but unfortunately, someone had already taken it down and put it away for safekeeping. The moment was funny because David was called away, so Karen was taking the last couple of pictures and I said, “Oh I really want to get one by the dedication plaque,” and she said, “The what?” And I was like, “Yeah, you have only been here for three months. The dedication plaques are the staple of all the Trek bridges,” and as I moved over to the corner where it was I noticed it was gone. Oops. Bummer, but no biggie. The last picture I took was of me pulling the lever.