We often get questions at Star Trek Phase II from our fans, wanting to know about one Trek thing or another. One of the questions that came up recently is “How many Recreation Room sets were there in Star Trek: The Original Series?”
It’s actually a rather interesting question.
One simple way of finding all the times a Recreation Room appeared in an episode is by looking through the original shooting scripts. It turns out that the Recreation Room shows up four (4) times during the first season. The first time we have a scripted “INT. [INTERIOR] RECREATION ROOM” scene is in episode 7, “The Naked Time.” This was the scene were Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Joe Tormolen got into a disease-induced spat with Lieutenants Sulu and Riley. This episode was the first of several times that the Recreation Room was simply a redress of the standard Briefing Room set. For this “INT. RECREATION ROOM” set, a bank of food synthesizer doors was added to the back wall, a monitor was added so that the crew could watch the Lakers play the Celtics, a small table was brought in against the back wall near the door with a coffee pot and some cups, and, of course, the large, angular Briefing Room table was removed and replaced with a number of cafeteria-like tables. (If we could see the “behind-the-camera” end of the Recreation Room, we’d probably see an old, beat up foosball table or maybe a Pac-Man video game machine.) All in all, the Briefing Room set looked pretty much like your average corporate break room.
The second time a scripted “INT. RECREATION ROOM” scene shows up is in episode 8, “Charlie X.” Mister Spock is playing his Vulcan harp/lute/lyre/lytherette/zither/dulcimer thing, Lieutenant Uhura is singing, and Yeoman Rand is playing solitaire/patience.
The “INT. RECREATION ROOM” shows up for a third time in episode 13, “The Conscience of the King.” A lonely Lieutenant Riley down in the Engineering Room calls up to the Recreation Room for some company. We also finally get to see that monitor on the back wall being used.
And then, for the fourth and last time in the first season, “INT. RECREATION ROOM” shows up in “The Alternative Factor.” One of the two Lazaruses (Lazari?) is enjoying a cup of (presumably) coffee and learns of the Enterprise‘s dilithium crystals.
The “INT. RECREATION ROOM” set shows up even fewer times in the second season; it had just three appearances. It shows up for its first appearance of the second season in episode 42, “The Trouble with Tribbles” (in two different scenes)–although the view screen for the back wall seems to have gone missing in the second season. (Quiz: Does anyone know where it ended up?)
The second appearance of the “INT. RECREATION ROOM” is in episode 44, “Journey to Babel.” All the crew have been chased out of their regular recreation area in order to make room for a formal diplomatic reception. In this instance, all the regular tables and most of the chairs have been cleared out, and there is now a large buffet table with exotic foods and beverages.
But there’s a bit of an oddity in this episode. In a later scene, later that same evening, when Vulcan Ambassador Sarek wanders into the room and has a bit of an altercation with the Tellarite Ambassador Gav, the set is actually identified somewhat differently. In this later scene, it’s referred to as “INT. RECREATION-LOUNGE ROOM.” Why the name change? Is this the same place as earlier in the episode? Is this “Recreation-Lounge” supposed to be someplace different? Or is it just meant to be the same room, but now it has been toned down into an after-hours place to schmooze? Why is it specified to be a “Recreation-Lounge?” (I have no answers; the questions are rhetorical.)
The “INT. RECREATION ROOM” shows up for the third and final time of the second season in episode 50, “By Any Other Name.” We see it a few different times. We see it when Kirk and the gang notice that the Kelvan Tomar is really enjoying his food. We see it when Mister Spock is play three-dimensional chess with Rojan, we see it when Kelinda comes in to get a follow-up “apology” from Captain Kirk, and then we see it again with the big brawl between Kirk and Rojan at the end of the episode.
Interestingly, that’s the last time we see the Briefing Room set redressed into the “INT. RECREATION ROOM” set. All told, it had seven (7) appearances.
It turns out the third season brought a change to Star Trek and the “INT. RECREATION ROOM” set. For the third season, a new, much more ambitious Recreation Room set was called for. No longer would “INT. RECREATION ROOM” be realized simply by redressing the Briefing Room set. Instead, an altogether new set was constructed. The book The Making of Star Trek by Stephen Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry (on pages 187-188) has a brief discussion about how “INT. RECREATION ROOM” would be realized going forward for the third season:
“The primary hull’s eighth deck level contains four major facilities: a large recreation area, the main food preparation area (similar to the galley aboard our ships today), ship’s laundry, and a rather exotic entertainment center. Although this recreation area has never been shown in any past STAR TREK episodes, this set has now been built and will be seen in the third season. Gene describes it this way:
“MEN AND WOMEN ON A STARSHIP, SO LONG OUT OF CONTACT WITH EARTH AND SO LONG AWAY FROM OTHER PLANETS, TOO, WILL REQUIRE A FEELING OF FRESH AIR AND SKY AND WIND AND SCENTS. BECAUSE WE ARE, IN MANY RESPECTS, STILL ANIMALS, OUR MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL EQUILIBRIUM WILL REQUIRE THE FAMILIARITY OF THIS. MAN HAS BEEN TOO LONG A PART OF EARTH TO BE TOO LONG SEPARATED. THEREFORE WE INTEND TO BUILD A SIMULATED “OUTDOOR” RECREATION AREA WHICH GIVES A REALISTIC FEELING OF SKY, BREEZES, PLANTS, FOUNTAINS AND SO FORTH.
“ONE OF THE REASONS FOR MAKING A STARSHIP SO LARGE WOULD BE TO HAVE SOMETHING LIKE THIS — IN FACT TO CREATE A WHOLE “COMMUNITY” SO NECESSARY TO A SOCIAL ANIMAL. AN AUTOMATED STARSHIP LIKE OURS COULD PROBABLY BE OPERATED BY TEN PEOPLE IF NECESSARY, BUT IT WOULD BE A TERRIBLY LIMITED, UNHEALTHY, MISERABLE LIFE.”
As Whitfield indicated, this new “INT. RECREATION ROOM” set was indeed constructed and used. The first time we got to see it (well, the first time we were going to see it, because, strangely enough, the entire scene for which the new set was expressly constructed ended up on the cutting room floor) was in episode 57, “Elaan of Troyius.”
The Revised Final Draft script for “Elaan of Troyius” dated May 27, 1968 describes the new “INT. RECREATION ROOM” much like it is described in The Making of Star Trek:
Uhura is addressing Captain Kirk, dissuading him from interacting with the crazy Dohlman:
INT. RECREATION ROOM
Spock plays another strange rhythm.
(The scene continues, but that’s all the information we get about this new “INT. RECREATION ROOM” set.)
At this point, Art Director Matt Jefferies got to work designing this new set as described–as best he could with his limited third season budget, time, and resources. A planning sketch he made for this new Recreation Room set for episode 57 was sold at auction years ago:
In his drawing, you can see a few large planters, and lots of foliage. There’s a large planter in the center with what would appear to be a small, sparkly fountain, surrounded by what might be best described as an arbor–in a curvy Jefferies style. And then there are the curved arching bulkheads high overhead–or at least as high as they could go without bumping into the overhead lights and catwalks. These curving overhead bulkheads are, of course, reminiscent of the curving, nautical, radial beams we see in the wall and ceiling of the Briefing Room (and former Recreation Room) set.
At any rate, the new “INT. RECREATION ROOM” set as ultimately constructed for this “Elaan of Troyius” scene is pretty much what was described in the script–and pretty faithful to what Matt Jefferies had drawn. (My thanks to Dr. David Tilotta at StarTrekHistory.com for making his exceptional collection of Star Trek film clips and trims available to others, and for allowing me to reproduce some of this “Elaan of Troyius” lost footage.)
We don’t seem to have any flat rocks, but there are low benches in front of two, large, blue-greenish floor-to-ceiling panels. In fact, there’s even a centrally-located freestanding bench (which looks to be up on a platform of some kind) on which women can sunbathe. (Evidently the Rec Room is “outdoorsy” and “sunny” enough to do that.) And there’s a set of yellow double doors over at screen right.
As the camera pans left across this sunbather, you can make out her head back behind Uhura:
There’s a bank of food synthesizer slots way over at screen-left–and there’s the obligatory three-dimensional chess set on top of a black table top. (Table tops were painted black for the third season.)
There are large planters with, of course, lots of exotic alien plants and flowers including some colored pampas grass and ostrich feathers. And there are those four curvy arches going up to the ceiling, dividing the room into quadrants. And then, as the focal point, there is that main, center planter with the four yellow, upright, arbor-like pieces that recapitulate the upper arches, but this center planter seems to have been realized with plants in the middle, rather than a fountain as was initially planned. (Difficulties working through the logistics of the necessary plumbing?)
Actually, there may or may not be two of these planters with the arbor-contraptions: Mister Spock is facing one, but there’s also one behind him, too. (Candidly, I think it’s probably just the same one; they probably just moved Leonard Nimoy around so they could get a reverse angle for him with Rec Room stuff for a background–and without having to light or, likely, even construct, an extra part of the set behind him.)
So that’s it: the newly constructed “INT. RECREATION ROOM” set for Star Trek‘s third season. Ultimately, it probably fell a little short of what everyone’s hopes for it were. But it had the virtue of being its own set, rather than simply a redress of the Briefing Room. So even though it might not have lived up to its potential, at least the “INT. RECREATION ROOM” finally got some respect with its own dedicated set. (As a side note, although the set is described as “resembling a psychedelic arboretum,” the “Arboretum” was never actually the name for this room, nor was it called the “Botany Lab;” this room was always just the “Recreation Room.”)
Although the set ended up on the cutting room floor for “Elaan of Troyius” and we didn’t really get a chance to see it in that episode, the “INT. RECREATION ROOM” set did finally show up in one (and just one) other episode in the third season. It appeared in episode 60, “And The Children Shall Lead.” The set was pretty much as we last saw it (well, as we would have seen it) in “Elaan….”
It has the same two low benches in front of the blue-greenish panels (although they are lit more purpleish this time out).
There’s the same yellow double door entrance on the right:
…and the bank of food synthesizers on the left:
(The synthesizers figure prominently in the scene, of course.) All the same planters are present, as is the central planter with the arbor. The same overhead arches are present. The only thing that seems to have changed is the centrally-located freestanding bench for sunbathing has been removed and replaced with a table and benches at which the Starnes Expedition kids and Captain Kirk sat to eat ice cream.
Oh, and they added a section way over at screen right with a wall communicator.
So that’s it–the one and only time we actually got to see this fancy new third season Recreation Room set was in “And The Children Shall Lead.” (We might have seen it again, if Star Trek had lasted longer than just three seasons.)
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: “Well, so what about all those other off-hours places we saw? What rooms were those?” A list of those miscellaneous other “off-duty” rooms would be:
The room onboard ship where Kirk and Charlie Evans did some some exercising and Judo techniques.
The room onboard ship where Lieutenant Sulu was working with a bunch of plants when Yeoman Rand and (what appeared to be) Crewman Green dropped in
The room onboard ship where Lieutenant Robert Tomlinson and Ensign Angela Martine were to be married
The room onboard ship where Khan Noonian Singh had a “coming out” dinner with all the senior officers
The room onboard ship where we first saw the children of the ill-fated Starnes Expedition summon up The Gorgan
The room onboard ship where the senior officers were having dinner with Dr. Miranda Jones and Dr. Lawrence Marvick
The two interconnected rooms onboard ship where Captain Kirk attempted to keep Dr. Miranda Jones’ telepathic mind occupied
The room onboard ship where a memorial service was held for the presumed-dead Captain Kirk
The room onboard ship where Kang, Mara, and the rest of the Klingons were detained
The room onboard ship outside of which Mister Spock could be seen eavesdropping as Lokai addressed some of the crew
The room onboard ship where Captain Kirk and Mister Spock enjoyed some drinks with Commissioner Bele
The room onboard ship where all of Dr. Sevrin’s followers stayed (and did their plotting)
The room onboard ship where Adam, Mavig, and Mister Spock had a jam session
(Although those various rooms were not identified as “INT. RECREATION ROOM,” I’ll write more about those different Enterprise rooms in a later installment.)
If you want to know more about that deleted scene from “Elaan of Troyius,” readers are encouraged to check out a nice article about it at the StarTrekHistory.com web site:
As always, questions, comments, feedback, and, of course, “shares,” “likes,” or “+1s” are always appreciated.
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*It should be noted that Uhura makes a fairly common misquote. The actual quote comes from the opening lines of the play The Mourning Bride from 1697 by British playwright William Congreve: “Music has charms to soothe a savage breast / To soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.” (The other famous quote from this play is: “Heaven has no rage, like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury, like a woman scorned.” This is usually simply paraphrased as “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”)