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Space Oddities And Design Secrets From Star Trek: Discovery's Production Team

Photos courtesy of CBS.

How do you create a universe that's both familiar and unexpected? By boldy going where no Star Trek series has gone before.

By Nate Millado.

Massive, feature-film size sets! Sleeker uniforms! Jaw-dropping plot twists! Redesigned Klingons! To inform this novel voyage in the Star Trek universe, "We had to up the ante," says Star Trek: Discovery production designer Tamara Deverell, "but still embrace the stylistic elements that are key to Star Trek." We chat with Discovery's talented trio—Deverell, costume designer Gersha Phillips, and prop master Mario Moreira—to get their inspiration behind one of television's most ambitious shows.

Stream Star Trek: Discovery exclusively on CBS All Access.

If Looks Could Kill

A triptych of concept art of Captain Sylvia Tilly and Mirror Sarek.

Pictured: Captain Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) and Mirror Sarek (James Frain).

Photos courtesy of CBS.

"In order to rise in rank, you had to kill your predecessor. That's where the idea of the armor came from." — Gersha Phillips, Star Trek: Discovery costume designer, on reimagining the Terran uniforms

Laser-cut leather is foiled and painted and overlaid onto the breastplate, while the modern twist on the sash belt is a nod to the original series (TOS) episode "Mirror, Mirror."

Something To Talk About

A Star Trek Discovery communicator.

Photos courtesy of CBS.

"I love what we did with the communicator," says Star Trek: Discovery prop master Mario Moreira, who's in charge of not only the show's iconic gadgets and weapons but everything an actor handles on set.

Discovery takes place a decade before TOS. "So we looked at smartphones of today, compared them to ones of 10 years ago, and reverse-engineered based on ideas we found when we took them apart." The communicator has a slimmer profile but is larger than the one you see in TOS.

The Emperor Wears New Clothes

Concept art and actual image of Emperor Georgiou shiny gold armor and gold cloak.

Photos courtesy of CBS.

Emperor Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) looks also happen to be Star Trek: Discovery costume designer Gersha Phillips' favorite from Season 1: "Whenever Michelle puts things on, she does something with them that's just quite magical," she shares.

Set Phasers To Stun

A detail image of a phaser and Specialist Burnham weilding the phaser weapon.

Pictured: Specialist Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) wielding a phaser.

Photos courtesy of CBS.

"What would this phaser look like 10 years before, in the hands of a company that was more military-driven as opposed to exploratory driven? We took the lines of the phaser [in TOS], but it's definitely a more aggressive, tougher weapon than what it becomes later on." — Mario Moreira, Star Trek: Discovery prop master, on the creating the phaser weapon

Badges Of Honor

A starfleet uniform with four types of insignia/badges detailed.

Pictured: Command insignia badge (top left), Medical insignia badge (top right), Operations insignia badge (bottom right), Science insignia badge (bottom left).

Photos courtesy of CBS.

Phillips drew inspiration from films like Aliens and Prometheus, and fashion designers like Alexander McQueen—which heavily influenced Mirror Sarek's look.

Fancy Fleet

A detailed concept image of a medical bay set from Star Trek Discovery.

Photos courtesy of CBS.

"When we did the Terran ship, which oversized Discovery by 3000 percent, it was supposed to be like a city in a ship. So I pitched to the writers that it had its own sun in the middle, and the whole ship is built around this solar power source. And the writers took that and incorporated a mycelial power source into the story. To me, one of the most exciting aspects of working on this show is the collaborative back-and-forth." — Tamara Deverell, Star Trek: Discovery production designer, on creating the ISS Charon, the Terran Empire starship

Shine Bright Like A Diamond

A full rendering of a white Klingon costume and a closer detail image showing the fine detail work and incorporated crystals.

The ornate uniform comprises a leather tunic molded for texture, a chest plate adorned with Swarovski crystals, and hoof-toe boots.

Photos courtesy of CBS.

"The mandate for the Klingons was to make them less humanoid. And because Klingons have two of everything—two hearts, double organs—you need a bigger body aesthetic." — Gersha Phillips, Star Trek: Discovery costume designer, on the Klingons unique look

A Fine Art

Three Klingon weapons.

Pictured, clockwise from the top: Klingon Bat'Leh, Klingon Disrupter Rifle, Pulse Rifle.

Photos courtesy of CBS.

"We had an artist we were working with basically take watered down black ink and start doing swooshes on paper. And then a concept artist took those swooshes to create rather dangerous pieces of art. Because they needed to be lightweight, we milled a lot of it out of aluminum, then fused acrylic resin on top for texture, and hand-chipped to give it that stone look." — Mario Moreira, Star Trek: Discovery production designer, on how they recreated the classic Klingon Bat'Leth weapon

Originally published in Watch Magazine, July-August 2018.

Stream Star Trek: Discovery exclusively on CBS All Access.

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