Quotidian Greeble Wall
Laying the synonyms on thick
Since I’ve already assigned the term ‘ubiquitous’ to another set element of the Star Trek franchise, I thought I would push the synonymous limits of my thesaurus and give my actual favorite set element its due. I actually started this particular entry almost a year ago, but I never finished it, so I thought I would top it off during this period of lull.
This greeble wall was very prevalent in its own right during the early Star Trek films and into The Next Generation. It’s actually a pretty clever method of representing unspecified mechanics on set. It’s a seemingly complex collection of boxy equipment with tubes piping throughout, eventually running off towards the outermost borders. Though I’m not certain of its material composition (plastic or fiberglass?), I’m fairly confident this typical element of set dressing is a single, large, rectangular panel with heavy relief details molded into its surface. In fact, one of those relief details is clearly a casting of another prop commonly seen throughout the franchise; a plastic columnar container sporting octagonal sides for much of its length, with more circular tips and/or end caps. Their octagonal shape, along with certain protruding and recessed surface details, aide in their stability while stacked. It’s just the hint of LEGO to come. While I always suspected the shape to be a modification of some functional real-world object (as many sci-fi props sometimes are), I just recently learned that this is a real container used for the storage and shipping of sonobuoys. Real naval origins it would seem.
It was seen as a utilitarian prop in The Motion Picture and even as set dressing in The Wrath of Khan.
TNG used them frequently for a props as well.
The subject panel’s pipe details are all patterned in a way that allow the panel to line up and connect perfectly with another copy of itself rotated a full 180 degrees (or set end to end with no rotation). Undoubtedly, this is all in order to mix up the pattern flow and double (or more) the apparent surface area while maintaining some consistency. It has an almost LEGO like genius to it, but with a detail rich kick.
It shows up in the cargo bay near the airlock turboshaft,
the floor of the transporter room,
under the intermix shaft of the engineering set (though it can be difficult to see),
and of course in the airlock set as seen above (in that interior shot and in Kirk’s exterior airlock scene, both cut from the theatrical release).
I think it’s also visible (its truly first appearance) within the bridge of the Imperial Klingon Cruiser at the beginning of the film.
They also appear towards the end of the film, in the Voyager Probe complex at the heart of the V’Ger entity, though (with a few exceptions) they appear almost totally inverted, almost as if they were the actual molds used to originally form the greeble panels!
Onto The Wrath of Khan: With heavily recycled sets to help ease budgets, it continues to show up in TWOK, seen again in engineering, and to much better effect.
It was used extensively in the Starfleet Academy simulator set as well.
Spacelab Regula I prominently included it in the transporter room.
This transporter room would be recycled a bit for the Old City Transporter Station used in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, Uhura’s convenient new posting…
The greeble wall would seemingly bookend its own film appearances in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home by showing up in yet another Klingon ship, the stolen Klingon Bird of Prey. Though of note, TVH’s bird of prey was a virtual cornucopia (Bounty?) of recycled parts.
One of the best examples ever (for reference purposes) was in the first season TNG episode “Hide And Q.”
Another good TNG example was the first season episode “Too Short A Season,” where the “quotidian greeble wall” and the “ubiquitous grating” would share the glory. 😀