Prepping for the Richard Taylor Interview

Tomorrow morning I will be having a phone conversation/interview with Richard Winn Taylor, who was the lead designer on Star Trek: The Motion Picture for Robert Abel & Associates, and who was responsible for the overall design of the USS Enterprise filming miniature for the film (as well as all the other spacecraft, as well as collaboration on the sets).



Early Review of Enterprise Model, Magicam Model Shop.
From left to right. Phil Rawlins, Gene Rodenberry,
Richard Taylor, Robert Wise, Bob Abel. 1978.
(Image: courtesy Richard Taylor website)

Needless to say, I am excited and look forward to hopefully getting way down-in-the-weeds about the design of the model, particularly the warp nacelles. What the design to fabrication translation process was. Hopefully this will help shed some light on some of the niggly little OCD-level questions about the final miniature and its design that myself and other Star Trek “rivet counters” have been obsessing over for years.

Towards that end, I have spent the last several evenings putting together a reference document so when he and I talk, we can use it as a cheatsheet if needed in order to be able to more effectively drill down into the minutiae.

I also pulled together a long list of questions myself, and a few other Trekker/modelers have had. It is a long and a very-granular level list. I just hope it doesn’t overwhelm the conversation and cause Mr. Taylor to beg off. I also need to consciously make the effort to let him do the bulk of the talking. (wry grin)

He graciously agreed to let me record the conversation, so I hope to transcribe it and make it available for fellow nerds to add the archival/documentation about the building of the Enterprise, and production of the film.

Below are the questions I hope to get to, time and his willingness permitting of course:

My Question Cheatsheet


(click images to enlarge)

Overall Methodology Questions

  1. Was there ever a master set of orthographic drawings that Jim Dow and those fabricating the model had to work from which had individual dimensions worked out and listed? 

    Or was a set of orthographic drawings produced at a specific drawing scale (1:1 to the model) from which all measurements were then derived by measuring the drawing(s) as needed?

  2. Did you work up the designs for the nacelles, or other major comments as part of the larger drawing(s) of the overall master drawing(s)? 

    Or did you simply break it down into the major sections and work on each separately and then bringing those back into the large design and assess it that way?

  3. How meticulous were the built dimensions as fabricated vs. the drawn dimensions of each component (i.e. was there much “slop” allowed in fabrication provided it looked good)?
  4. How were the shapes and dimensions translated/transferred from drawing to 3D fabrication (i.e. was it all derived from measuring the drawing(s) or where specific subcontinent and orthographic views and dimensions worked up ahead of time and used)?


General Layout Questions

  1. What insights can you give on the intended deck heights of the secondary, neck and primary hulls, and were they intended to be uniform throughout, or was there variance between the main hull sections?
  2. How were the deflector grid lines marked and scribed?

Primary Saucer Questions

  1. It has been reported (Jim Dow IIRC) that the fabrication of the main saucer was from a turned mold shape. Was the plastic skin then vacuformed over it, or was it a cast mold that plastic/resin was poured into?
  2. If it was vacuformed/laid over the turned form, was that additional size accounted for in the model dimensions (i.e. was the mold shapes reduced by the plastic thickness) or did the thickness of the plastic add to the outer dimension(s)?
  3. fabrication-study-05

  4. Do you have any photo references, or design insights into the saucer underside hatches (see images 03, 04, 05, 06)?
  5. In some publicity photos of the model, it shows the impulse engine lights glowing blue/white (see images 07, 08, 09), whereas in the movie itself, it was an orange/yellow light (see image 10).
    Was the lighting made so it could be different colors ? 

    Or was this simply a one time change made to the model lighting via a swapped lighting gel inside the impulse grille?

Secondary Hull Questions

  1. How was the underside curve below the fantail determined and fabricated (was it an paper ellipse pattern of a predetermined proportion used then marked for cutting/scribing)?
  2. What was the mysterious blue area (see images 10 and 11) just inside the shuttle bay doors (do you have any design drawings of this area)? 

    Was this a “blue screen” patch in the model intended originally for a FX shot to be stripped in?

    If so, what was intended to go in that space?

  3. fabrication-study-06

  4. Can you shed insights onto the “misalignment” of the cargo bay docking port deck-line not matching the deck-line of the aft fantail door (see images 14, 15, 16)

Warp Nacelle Questions

  1. In some publicity photos of the model the warp slats appear to cast a distinct purple/violet light (see images 07, 09). Was this simply an issue of bad color balance in the photos used for PR, or was the light ever “purple” but changed during production?
  2. What type of florescent light was in the nacelles to light the warp core?
  3. It has been reported that Dykem layout fluid (Steel Blue ? – see image 22) layout fluid was used for the warp slot colors (see image 22).However the warp grille faces look purple/violet in the Christie’s Auction photos (see image 21). 
    Does Dykem Dark Blue marking fluid applied to black/dark metal look purple instead of or is that faded or re-painted (by ILM for Star Trek:The Wrath of Khan)?
  4. Was Dykem simply painted over a clear plastic panel attached behind the grille piece to act as lighting gel?
  5. nacelle-fabrication-question-07-revWas Dykem the pure “Dykem steel blue” marking liquid used or was it mixed with the “Dykem red”?
  6. What type of material was the warp grille insert made of?
  7. How was the warp grille slot/grooves made (cut into material making up warp grille insert or built up of layers with spacers)?
  8. Were the warp grille groves parallel or radially cut/applied into/onto the material?
  9. What type of material was the warp flux chiller grille insert made of?
  10. Where the flux grille groves parallel cuts into material or slats/strips laid onto insert surface?
  11. Where the flux grille slats radially configured or parallel?
Component Fabrication Questions (illustrations)

Study Page 01


  1. How was core “cylinder” fabricated?
    It appears that the “cylinder” portion of the main body was fabricated/arrived at by splitting a “cylinder” and then have it attached to a rounded-off trapezoidal box structure which matches the basic cross-section shape from Matt Jeffries Phase II design work. (method A)

    Is this correct?

  2. If it was the above method A, how was the side-vent warp/flux grille vent opening positions determined?
  3. Were the vents “cut” into the “cylinder” portion of the main body then filled in with a center piece to form the concave “groove” that the warp and flux grille lines were fabricated into/onto?
  4. How was the vent opening eclipse (and basic size) determined and cut into the “cylinder” portion of the main body? 

    The assumption was/is you had a paper shape drawn up then wrapped onto the cylinder” portion of the main body then marked to be cut.

    Is this correct?

  5. How was the shape and dimensions of the vent opening “trough” worked out and fabricated? 

    The assumption was/is they were the convex side of the same shape and size as the “panels” that were “removed” from the “cylinder” pieces of the main body.

    Is this correct?


Study Page 02

  1. How was the aft taper transition made?
    It appears to be a “cylinder” of Bondo or other body-filler material that was added to match the core “cylinder” in the body, that was then sanded down to the narrow aft end core shape of the tip  (see images 01 and 02, page 03).

    Is this correct?

  2. The aft “fin” and spine attachment on the end/underside (see image 19) appears to have a slight widening at the base. The overall end-view cross section looks too shallow to reconcile with a uniform taper amount going aft when “sliced” laterally at a 40º angle (as shown in the Kimble blueprints, see image 20). 

    Was this spine and aft face flared slightly at the bottom via an “eyeballed” amount to help the lower taper radius?

Anyway. It is a massive amount of über-nerdom there and I hope it doesn’t end up being “too much” for the conversation. But hopefully this will aid myself in working out the most accurate blueprints for modeling fabrication of the Enterprise as seen in the ST:TMP era.

3 thoughts on “Prepping for the Richard Taylor Interview

  1. You have some typos in the first question of the Primary Saucer Questions(emphasis mine): “It has been reported (Jim Dow IIRC) that the fabrication of the MAIN SAUCE was from a turned saucer mold shape. Was the plastic skin then vacuformed over it, or was it a cast mold that plastic/resin was POUR into?” There may be others.(I swear, I got to the ‘main sauce’ one and almost sprayed coffee out of my nose!)


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