CC Television: The Cars of Star Trek

Star Trek is one of my all time favorite television shows, so I was surprised to find that it has never gotten the proper CC treatment.

You would think that a TV show set in outer space in the 23rd century would have little use for automobiles, and you would be right, mostly. However, the crew of the Enterprise did make several visits to the Earth of the past (always the 1960’s, for some reason), as well as to some Earth-like planets.

First up “Miri,” episode 8 of season 1.  The Enterprise comes upon a planet that is almost an exact duplicate of Earth, even down to the shape of the continents. The reason for this extraordinary similarity is never explained, and this similarity is never discussed again as the crew beams planetside.

The shot above represents the first appearance of any cars in Star Trek. You have to look fast, however, as it lasts only a few seconds. The gear heads over at imcdb.org have not been able to identify the car in the middle of this shot, so perhaps the braintrust here could do them a solid by helping them out. The car in the foreground is a 1947 Cadillac Fleetwood 75, which you can more clearly see in the shots below.

Sharp-eyed Andy Griffith fans (if there is such a thing) will recognize this set as Desilu’s 40-acre back lot, which stood in for Mayberry on the Andy Griffith Show.

The Cadillac crest is clearly visible in this shot. For those worried about such a nice car being abused so badly, realize that when this was filmed in 1966, the Caddy was just 19 year old. That would be like worrying about weathering up a 1998 Cadillac Seville today.

Next up is “City on the Edge of Forever,” widely regarded by fans as the best episode of the original series, and one of the best of any of the Star Trek series. Dr. McCoy suffers an accidental drug overdose, beams down to a mysterious planet and jumps through a time portal back to depression-era New York City where he prevents Joan Collins from being killed, which allows the Nazis to win World War II, and wipes the Enterprise from existence. Kirk and Spock have to go back in time through the portal to set things right. OK, it sounds kind of ridiculous as I typed it out just now, but it plays out far better than it sounds.

Nothing say period piece better than old-timey cars, so here we see a 1930 Buick Series 40 shortly after Kirk and Spock arrive in the past.

Here we see a 1930 Chevrolet Universal in another establishing shot.

Bonus fact: This episode was also filmed on the Desilu Back 40. Here we see Kirk and Edith Keeler walking by Floyd’s Barber Shop. Apparently he started out in New York before moving to Mayberry.

Here we see Edith Keeler about to get run over by a 1939 GMC AC Series truck. This truck also made several appearances on Mission: Impossible (which was also produced by Desilu).

Season 2 would see the Enterprise encounter another Earth-like planet, Sigma Iota II in the 17th episode, “A Piece of the Action.” This time, the residents modeled their civilization after a book on Chicago mobs left by an earlier visiting spacecraft.

In this shot, Kirk and Spock sit on the bumper of a 1931 Cadillac V-12 Model 370-A, offering a kid a piece of the action. Those look like aftermarket turn signals, or perhaps Sigma Iota II has different vehicle safety equipment standards.

Here we see Kirk and Spock approach the driver of a 1930 Cadillac Series 353, again with those weird Sigma Iotian turn signals.

Lest you think the Sigma Iotians were all about their Cadillacs, here we see a humble 1925 Studebaker Standard Six, with Spock and the Cadillac V-12 just visible behind (and the studio back lot visible behind that).

The next cars wouldn’t appear until the 21st episode of the second season. Officially titled “Patterns of Force,” it is better know to most people as “That Nazi Episode.” I won’t even bother trying to explain how Nazis show up on a different planet (the in-episode explanation is frankly ridiculous), so we’ll jump straight to the cars.

As with the previous episodes, having period cars does wonders in aiding suspension of disbelief, in this case transforming the same studio back lot into the Nazi planet of Ekos. Nazis of course mean German cars, and this episode delivers. Above we see a 1937 Mercedes-Benz Type 230. It must never rain on Ekos, as the header mounted wiper blades have been removed.

In this shot of the Ekosian Chancellory, we see a 1940 Volkswagen Kübelwagen parked out front. Bonus fact: The building used for this scene is actually Paramount office building. It must have amused Gene Roddenberry to no end to hang swasticas on the building of the Studio executives he so despised.

In”Bread and Circuses,” the Enterprise visits yet another Earth-like planet, this time a modern-day world where where the Roman Empire never fell.

This episode features cars that are at least somewhat alien, and not obviously Earth production cars. The car pictured above is referred to in the episode as the Jupiter 8. This is an odd thing for a Roman civilization to do, as it would be akin to us naming a car after God or Jesus, but whatever.

In actuality, the Jupiter 8 was a custom car named Reactor, created by famed custom car creator Gene Winfield (who was also also responsible for the design of the original series shuttlecraft).  The picture above isn’t from the episode, but gives you a better idea of what the Reactor looked like.

The Reactor went on to appear in other TV series, including Batman (above left), and Bewitched (above right).

Allow me now to serve up the final original series episode with cars, second season’s “Assignment: Earth.” This episode was actually an attempt by Gene Roddenberry to launch a Star Trek spinoff set in then current-day 1968, which is why the main cast appears less than usual. I just rewatched this episode recently, and I still can’t really tell you what it is about. How the Enterprise got to 1968 isn’t really explained, and the story involves some dimension shifting humanoid alien and a space launch. The highlight of this episode is a guest appearance by a very young Teri Garr, who steals every scene she is in.

Here’s a 1968 Plymouth Satellite, filling in as a government car. Note that actual government cars of the time would have been extremely unlikely to have whitewall tires or full hubcaps. Since this episode was filmed in 1968, this marks the only current model year car to appear in an original Star Trek episode.

Here is a 1967 Dodge Coronet from the same episode, more correctly trimmed for a government car.

Much of the space center shots in this episode are in fact NASA stock footage. This 1965 Plymouth Belvedere is part of said footage, but at least that makes it a genuine US government car.

Lastly, we have a 1966 Ford Falcon, parked next to the 1968 Plymouth Satellite from the previous scene. The steelwork kind of creates the optical illusion of it being a coupe, but the coupe actually had a different roofline.

Star Trek’s third season is generally considered it worst, and that is certainly true from a car spotting standpoint – no car appear in any third season episodes.

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