Franz Joseph and Star Trek’s Blueprint Culture

In 1977, when I was about nine, I saw the original Star Wars, and I certainly enjoyed it, but unlike many of my friends, I kept my allegiance to Star Trek — which was on every afternoon in reruns, and was also available as an animated series, novels, comic books, etc. My fourth-grade classmate Dean Weigh sold me his Star Trek Starfleet Technical Manual, a big paperback full of cross-sections and blueprints, diplomatic texts, and trivia. A little while later my sister found the Star Trek Enterprise blueprints at a rummage sale — in mint condition, except where someone had cut the price off of a cardboard insert.

As a kid, I devoured every inch of those texts, with a nerdy devotion that continues to this day. Sometimes when I’m trying to relax before bed, I will explore the layouts on the Star Trek Stages History page, which show how the sets for the various Star Trek shows were laid out.

Swarthmore associate professor of film and media studies Bob Rehak offers a fascinating glimpse into the work of Franz Joseph Schnaubelt, who approached the copyright holders of Star Trek and asked permission to create and sell the technical manual, during an era when the TV show seemed to be a dead property, but was steadily attracting loyal fans (like me) through reruns.

Star Trek Enterprise Bridge (Franz Joseph)In “lofting” the ship, however, he discovered several errors in scale and perspective, most stemming from the change from 203 to 430 personnel (and a corresponding change in length from 180 to 947 feet) made by Roddenberry and Jefferies during preproduction on the original series. He also noticed that the bridge was 36 degrees out of alignment with the rest of the saucer – throughout the series, Captain Kirk had been facing slightly to the left of the ship’s angle of travel, a mistake that had to do with the producers’ need to create dramatic visual compositions by placing the “turbolift” elevator so it was not directly behind the captain’s chair. Drafting the technical manual and ship blueprints was, then, largely a matter of reconciling the “imaginary” object of the Enterprise miniature with the “real” object of sets such as the bridge, sickbay, and engineering, explaining in graphic form how exterior and interior aspects of the Enterprise fit together into a coherent whole —Graphic Engine