Graphic tape detail on Star Trek: TNG

Michael Okuda • 12 January 2022
Tape detail in the Star Trek TNG episode "The Naked Now."

I used to have a lot of fun at Paramount, adding last-minute tech-ish detailing on Star Trek sets and props using Chartpak pinstripe graphic tape and an X-acto knife. Judicious use of thin stripes implied access panels, circuits, controls, safety markings, and more.

When I first described the idea to Star Trek: TNG producer Bob Justman early in the show’s first season, he was skeptical and he told me not to do it. The problem was that I had only described the process to him, so he didn’t have a chance to see what it would look like.

Several weeks later, during prep for the second episode, I decided to try it anyhow. I figured even if Bob hated the finished product, it would be easy to remove. So, one day during lunch, I went down to Stage 9 and added some gratuitous graphic detail around a doorway on the Starship Tsiolokovsky interior set. As I worked, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, Bob Justman walking across the other side of the stage. He spotted me and started striding purposefully in my direction. He clearly intended to tell me to stop. I kept working, pretending not to see him. Then, Bob saw what I was doing. He paused and realized that graphic tape detailing looked good.

More importantly, the pragmatic producer realized that this was an inexpensive way to add a lot of production value to the set. He watched me for a few moments more. Then, Bob turned and left without a word. I kept working. From that point on, “taping” became an important way to add a touch of quick tech-ish coolness to our sets.