Non-Trekkies approaching "Star Trek" for the first time may find themselves a little frustrated by the franchise's tendency to swap out uniforms. One might wonder, for instance, why Captain Kirk (William Shatner) wore a golden uniform in the original "Star Trek" while Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) wore a red one in "Star Trek: The Next Generation." It seemed that, at some point, operations officers and command officers swapped colors for no adequately explained reason. Also, why did Starfleet return to the primary-color uniforms after the jacket-like, high-collared uniforms of the "Star Trek" movies?
The color swap may finally be addressed in an upcoming crossover special between "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds," a live-action show, and "Star Trek: Lower Decks," an animated one. The former show is set immediately before the events of the original "Star Trek," when captains were still wearing gold. The latter takes place shortly after the end of "Star Trek: Voyager" a century later, where captains wore red, and uniforms have more accents and zig-zag patterns. Given the lighthearted tone of both shows, it seems that a comment on the color swap might make for a throw-off joke that, regardless, will become official "Star Trek" canon.
There will also be the additional challenge of adapting the animated uniforms into actual clothes for live-action actors (the crossover will be in live-action). /Film's own Vanessa Armstrong recently talked to "Strange New Worlds" costume designer Bernadette Croft about what might be required in the transition, and what the blank-colored animated clothes would look like when fitted to real human bodies.
What To Include
One might note just from looking at the pictures that the uniforms in "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" are far more textured than the uniforms from classic "Star Trek" and "Next Generation" episodes. The older uniforms were solid colors and made from a non-wrinkly polyester-looking material. It wouldn't be until the 2009 "Star Trek" film that the uniforms would begin to incorporate a textured microprint, lending them a more shadowed, dynamic look. That texture would carry over into "Star Trek: Discovery" as well as "Strange New Worlds." "Lower Decks," of course, is animated in a broad stylized design, and that sort of detail wasn't included. The question then arises: Do the live-action "Lower Decks" uniforms include the microprint? Croft recalls asking herself that, and had to make some decisions about color. In her words:
"The key things to consider were: Were we going to use microprint on the uniforms? Should the fabric and colors be the same as the 'Strange New Worlds' uniforms? Interestingly, when you see the animation, the color of the pants is charcoal, they're not black. And also, the soles of the boots have this distinct logo. Even the way Mariner wears her uniform in this nonchalant way, she has her sleeves rolled — these are all very important references for me and I always had to take note of those particular things."
Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome) is one of the lead "Lower Decks" characters and fancies herself a rule-breaker and a rogue, something that has kept her an ensign for many years. Newsome will also be playing Mariner in live-action, and it seems Croft was sensitive to the way she wears her clothes in animated form.
One might also note that Ensign Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid) had purple hair in his "Lower Decks" animated form. What's more, it's styled to be sticking up in three messy points at all times. This is a classic design technique that assures audiences will be able to instantly recognize a character by their silhouette alone. For several episodes of "Lower Decks," one might be forgiven for thinking that Boimler's purple hair was merely a stylized way to depict a natural, dark color. It wouldn't be until later in the series that he mentions that he's "not a natural purple."
Quaid will be playing Boimler in the "Strange New Worlds" crossover, and questions had to be asked about creating the correct shade of purple, and if the style should be changed into something more "real world." Croft, being in charge of the costumes, could only wait for the "Strange New Worlds" hair and makeup department to make their decision about Boimler's hair. And while Croft doesn't reveal what exact grade of plum was ultimately selected — it will have to remain a surprise for audiences — she did say that she liked it. In Croft's words:
"I was very curious to see how purple we were going to go with Boimler's hair. They tested a few options, which was really interesting. Throughout prep, we consulted with the 'Lower Decks' showrunner Mike McMahan. He had to be involved to help us balance all of these elements so that it made sense for both shows. I cannot wait for this episode. I've seen it and it's so funny."
The second season of "Strange New Worlds" will debut on June 15, 2023. A teaser that has since been taken down gave us a very, very, very brief glimpse of Mariner and Boimler in live-action. Commence excitement.
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