“TNG: Ubiquitous”

That’s what I like to call that familiar grating that turned up in everything from alien spacecraft to Federation furniture during Star Trek: The Next Generation’s run.


I was looking through tons of images I’ve downloaded over the years, trying to find ideas for my modeling and to catalog them for future reference.  As I was researching these screen captures, I was amazed to see how many instances of the grating I’d found.  I’ve been familiar with this form since the first season of TNG (they made some really cool little tables with it), but I never realized just how far it was utilized.  Hence the name, “TNG: Ubiquitous.”

I’m not entirely sure what they are exactly; is it some sort of industrial grating or something fashioned by the production team?  I suspect the former.  It appears to have made its debut overhead in the corridors and aft compartments of the the “Bounty,” the Klingon Bird-of-Prey from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.  It may have appeared sooner, but I haven’t found a particular instance of it yet.  Still looking.

Inside “The Bounty” from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

As a testament to the remarkable recyclability of Star Trek set dressings, it would show up not too long after in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s pilot episode “Encounter At Farpoint,”  in both temporary…

A short lived set from “Encounter at Farpoint.”

and permanent set assignments.

farpoint1_231transThe Next Generation’s transporter room, as it would appear (with a few changes) for seven seasons

It would eventually be used in ceilings, floors, walls, and even fashioned into some very interesting furniture bases for tables, desks and benches.

Little table…  Too cool.

It seems most noticeable in TNG’s first and second seasons, but it continues on through the entire run of the series and I’ve seen instances of it in both Deep Space 9 and Voyager.  However, I haven’t researched Enterprise at length.  There are even many examples of it in the Babylon 5 series, so that lends credence to the theory that it is an actual industrial product being recycled for use by multiple set design companies.

A Voyager appearance

At first I thought it was a rather simple core pattern; a flattened rectangular panel with twelve squarish holes in an egg carton orientation; offset with narrow angled sides along its length, each with two long rectangular holes.  All of these holes seemed to have rounded corners.  Lengthwise the pattern repeated regularly, while offsetting the repetition at width, giving the grating a wave like pattern.  Some type of support brace appears to run perpendicular to the central pattern through its lengthwise ends helping to further define the pattern’s boundaries.  Of course most non-hi-definition screen captures aren’t too pristine even when the imagery is in focus, and some applications of the grating placed it directly in front of a light source, further distorting my perceptions.

Prime source for my first model attempt

My first model attempt of the core pattern

Simple and elegant

Repeating the pattern and adding the bracing

I was very pleased with the initial results.  After running across some much clearer screen caps however, I realized the pattern wasn’t quite as elegant as I had envisioned, but no less complex.

Much clearer, brighter image of the grating minus back lighting

Another good example

The closest, clearest examination of the grating details.  Looks plastic?

The main holes were fairly accurate, but the angular offsets turned out to be little more than connectors repeating at regular intervals rather than a solid mass running the entire length with holes in it.  The connectors do manage to alternate in length though, thicker in the center of the pattern and thinner at its ends where the perpendicular bracing runs through.  The bracing itself also turned out to be a little more interesting from an angular standpoint.

Revised edition

Pattern, rinse, repeat

So far, I am pleased with these results and look forward to using this prop in some of my modeling.  I would very much like to find a way to mimic this pattern in a 2D texture format so that it can be used across larger surface areas with fewer polygon cost.  Being used as the floor grating for the Starbase 74 gangway from TNG’s first season episode, “11001001,”  I’ve been interested in recreating it in some form ever since my first attempts to model that over a decade ago.  Unfortunately, using this model in its present form for that large of an area would be render prohibitive.

Just a few more instances of “TNG: Ubiquitous”

Season One’s “Heart of Glory”

Season One’s “Too Short a Season”  (Ceiling appears to be recycled wall from “Encounter at Farpoint”)

Season One’s “Datalore” (The same set redressed?)

Season One’s “The Neutral Zone”

Season One’s “The Battle”

Season Two’s “Time Squared”

Season Two’s “The Outrageous Okona” (talk about recycling)

~ by starstation on June 14, 2011.

10 Responses to ““TNG: Ubiquitous””

  1. Great research – it brings a smile to my face to see what “Production Design” really means. And all those “alien” bipedal humanoids too! 😀 Whatever next?

  2. …are you still alive…? I miss your updates!

    • I live…

      But things have been busy of late, and I just haven’t had the spare time to marinate for hours in Lightwave as I long to.
      I’ll try and get something up in the near future.

  3. I understand. Life often gets in the way of what we really long to do…I appreciate your work. You’ve really inspired me to learn Lightwave myself!

  4. This pattern was also ubiquitous in parts of Babylon 5 as well, if I recall correctly.

    • I JUST noticed that yesterday watching a Season One DVD that I checked out at the library. I was actually debating whether or not to mention it in the blog! 😀

  5. Here is my first attempt. Whadya think? https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-snc6/283182_10150293358614489_312939564488_7637908_4860907_n.jpg

  6. Thanks! I’ve got more you might like at http://www.facebook.com/starship.dynamics. Check the photo section out!


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