Are the color accents on the classic USS Enterprise bridge red or orange? For Star Trek: Discovery production designer Tamara Deverell, this question threatened not only her sanity but the entire Trek canon. In the latest episode of Discovery, we get a look at the inside of the old-school starship Enterprise as it appeared in the Michael Burnham era.
And it turns out the journey toward making this set was as epic as the history of the famous ship itself.
**SPOILER WARNING! Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, Episode 13, “Such Sweet Sorrow.”**
When Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) steps onto the famous bridge of the USS Enterprise in "Such Sweet Sorrow," she openly mocks the funky retro '60s colors of the original ship, saying “Orange, really? Eh.” It’s a funny line, but for Deverell, it was a moment she worried about for one specific reason.
“Georgiou says ‘orange,’ but in my mind, it’s a shade of red,” Deverell told SYFY WIRE. “I mean, it’s an orangey red. When I saw that line in the script I was worried. I got in touch with the writers and said, ‘Maybe she should be saying ‘red’ and not ‘orange’?” But that didn’t really work. It’s funnier to say orange.” When fans watch the original series, there might be some debate as to the color of the bridge railings and turbo-lift doors of the classic bridge because, as Deverell reveals, she had to go through multiple color studies to match what is known as “Enterprise Red” with what exists in canon. The problem is that in the original series, “Enterprise Red” did, at some points, look orange.
“There is a distinct Enterprise Red,” Deverell explains. “I actually took that color from the CBS archives ... and it was orange! In certain episodes of TOS, the red became more of an orange. I went insane looking at different color tests. It is red. But, in canon, it’s also orange. In the end, I think it was fine and everyone was happy.”
A longtime fan of the original series, Deverell says that her approach to designing and building the new version of the classic Enterprise came from a place of deep respect. “I wanted to echo and be sensitive to the original series,” she explains. “So we were looking a lot at the original bridge and its geometry and where everyone was sitting. Still, while we remained true to the design, there’s a new methodology. It was exciting, yes. Terrifying, a little bit, for sure. You can’t worry too much about the history of Star Trek when you work on stuff like this. You can only look at canon and try to follow it with our vision and our Discovery world in mind.”
Deverell also explains that though this is the first time we've seen the bridge and the corridors of the USS Enterprise on Discovery, the plans to recreate the interior of the iconic starship have been underway since the first season.
"Everybody really wanted to build, as a reveal at the end of Season 1. And we did reveal the exterior ship, but for a while there we were going to do the interior," she says. "We started drawing it up like a year ago. So when we came to build it, we already had it conceptualized for the most part."
Finally, for fans who are worried that this Enterprise set was a clever redress of the bridge of the USS Discovery or another ship seen on the series, Deverell wants to make it clear that is not the case. While it's true that some sets on Discovery Season 2 are modifications of old sets — Burnham's new science lab is a redress of Lorca's Season 1 ready room, for instance — the new Enterprise bridge is a completely new set. And, with the exception of the viewscreen, what you're seeing on screen is all a real, practical set.
"The Enterprise set was completely new," Deverell says. "We got a new stage and away we went. There was not one single element of it that was reused. What you're seeing was really there."
So, do you see orange doors or red doors? We know because Georgiou is a Terran, from the Mirror Universe, she has a different sensitivity to light than those of us from the prime universe. So, depending on what color you see on the Enterprise bridge — orange or red — it might reveal which universe you're really from!
Star Trek: Discovery only has one episode left in Season 2. That finale airs next Thursday, April 18, at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS All Access.