Space Stations and Star Trek
by Archie Waugh
Models and Miniatures
Strange New Worlds Issue 14 - June/July
Space stations have a long history in science fiction television and movies.
Gene Roddenberry's scenario of enormous starships unable to land on planets assumes a
system of space stations and space dry-docks where construction and repairs takes place.
Until Star Trek: The Motion Picture, our view of this system was limited to Deep
Space Station K-7 from "The Trouble With Tribbles."
K-7 is in many ways a primitive prototype for Deep Space Nine (DS9); it has a
Federation administrator, recreation facilities (including a bar), and a variety of alien
guests engaged in a variety of semi-legal activities. There's even a slight structural
resemblance, with a central core surrounded by three extending arms. This station has
turned up in model form several times over the years; surprising, considering the brevity
of its appearance on screen.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture opened the floodgates on space stations. The
movie's expansive budget allowed for several spectacular station models, including the
drydock, earth-orbit station, and Epsilon 9. Subsequent films reused these models,
occasionally with new detailing and a name change. The most impressive of the film Treks
space stations was the miniature built for Star Trek III by Industrial Light and
magic. This miles-long, earth-orbiting spacedock, reused in every succeeding Trek film and
several Next Generation episodes, features the same sort of complex internal neon and
fiber-optic lighting system used on the DS9 model.
Designer Herman Zimmerman's DS9 is a throwback to the wheel-shaped stations common in
1950s B-movies and 2001: A Space Odyssey. This shape generally was used so that
such a station, when rotating, creates the effect of gravity in the outer ring. Star
Trek's technology assumes artificially generated gravity, making the ring design
something of an anachronism. Of course, DS9 was originally a Cardassian structure; their
architecture is evident in the patterns of threes and the many triangular details.
Apparently the Cardassians have the same fondness for the number three exhibited by the
Martians in Paramount's classic War of the Worlds (1953).
Typical of the fabulous world of Star Trek cross-references, is the beautiful
title montage of station shots that opens each episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
This opening sequence is homage to the beautiful Enterprise drydock montage in Star
Trek: The Motion Picture.