Star Trek Into Darkness: Intergalactic Fashions

Intergalactic Fashions

Returning costume designer Michael Kaplan would also expand his work on “Into Darkness” – work that, unlike most costuming, requires more imagination than research. “Star Trek is like doing a period movie but it’s a period movie where nothing exists from the period! You can’t go to thrift shops and costume houses and collect clothing,” he notes. “On Star Trek, everything has to be made, and if there are script changes or additions, there’s not something you can just pull out or have at hand. So an enormous amount of prep work goes into a film like this.”

For this new voyage, even the crew’s standard uniforms underwent tweaks. “We didn’t want to screw around too much with them, but we did want them to feel a bit more sophisticated and sexier,” Kaplan explains. “I silk-screened the uniforms with the boomerang pattern which you can see in close-ups. It’s a subtle change and the colors also changed a little bit. The red is a little more of a blood red. The blue has a little more green in it. The gold is a little more mustardy. The pants are also a little more fitted and we integrated some practical changes, too, so now the actors didn’t have to put their tops on over their heads because there’s an invisible zipper.”

One of the most exciting outfits this time around was clearly going to be Spock’s volcano-exploring suit – and Kaplan took the iconic imagery of the spacesuit in a new direction. “I thought about it for a long time, and I came up with the color copper, which I’ve never seen in a Sci-Fi movie,” he explains. “A spacesuit is always grey, silver, white or maybe even gold. But I just kept thinking about the reflection of the flames and I thought how beautiful it would be.”

The costume’s beauty however belies a high degree of intricacy. “It is a very extensive costume – and there’s a lot of wiring and mechanical engineering that went into it in addition to the look. Zach had to literally be bolted into it, so we added some quick-release mechanisms for him.”

Kaplan also handcrafted Starfleet wetsuits for several of the principal actors, including a ruby red number for Zoe Saldana’s Uhura. “I think Uhura’s wetsuit is one of J.J.’s favorite costumes in the film,” says Kaplan. “We really wanted these to look like Star Trek-style wetsuits so I designed something that I thought would be cutting edge and right for Star Trek.”

Other new looks include woven metal space suits with illuminated helmets, Starfleet dress uniforms and a cover-all-style Shuttle Suit used for casual travelling. The film also sees the Enterprise crew donning civilian clothes, aboard the Knormian Trade Vessel and on Kronos, which was another exciting element for Kaplan. “I wanted them to wear clothes that would be practical to the kind of conditions that they were going to – so they’re rough and ready. But I also really enjoyed working with the idea that each character was in their own self-created uniform,” he explains.

Saldana;s Outfit

Saldana was also excited about her outfit, saying: “I loved the leathery, Mad Max, nomadic clothing that keeps us inconspicuous on Kronos. Michael is as much an artist as he is a storyteller.”

On the darker side of things, Kaplan enjoyed coming up with uniforms for the crew of the Vengeance – using a grid-like pattern that plays tricks with the light — and for Benedict Cumberbatch’s villain. “For Benedict, I really liked the idea of long coats, so you see him moving through space with his coattails flying behind. When you first see him on Kronos, he’s backlit and J.J. and I thought it would be a good idea if we didn’t know who he was at first. You almost mistake his coat for a Klingon coat. Then he leaps down and you’re still not sure who it is because he’s wearing a hood and a mask and then all that comes off and you have the surprise of seeing Benedict.”

For the Klingon costumes, Kaplan utilized designs created for the first film but never seen by audiences. “We used a fabric for their storm trooper coats that looks like rhino or elephant skin,” he elucidates. “Their helmets are based on horseshoe crabs, which I thought would make a great design. Then we designed a whole other look for the warriors which is more practical for fighting.”

Another twist for Kaplan was the chance to design not just for unknown worlds but also for our own world – albeit the San Francisco and London of the 23rd century. Once again, he found himself looking both forwards and back in time. “Like the rest of the film, we wanted the designs on earth to be rooted in the 60s — but a plausibly futuristic version of that. We were inspired by designers like Christian Dior, Rudy Gernreich and Cortége – and then we made it our own.”

That, Kaplan says, is the bottom line when working with Abrams. “Everything has to be cool, but most of all it must reflect the emotional truth of the story we’re telling,” he summarizes.

Where Discovery Happens: Trekking to the National Ignition Facility

Gene Roddenberry once said of Star Trek: “Almost all of this comes out of my feeling that the human future is bright. We’re just beginning. We have wonders ahead of us. I don’t see how it can be any other way.” That spirit, which continues to draw millions to the space travel story he created more than 50 years ago, was inspired most of all by the ceaseless human drive for scientific discovery. Not surprisingly, over the years, the Star Trek philosophy has in turn inspired legions of young scientists, explorers and writers.

In a lovely ode to that cycle of inspiration, J. J. Abrams took “Star Trek Into Darkness” to an especially meaningful location: the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories, site of unprecedented research into the future of energy itself. Here, 192 of the world’s most intense laser beams are being used to crack the secrets of matter and anti-matter and to explore thermonuclear fusion. The work at NIS could one day result in a world-altering energy revolution, unchaining humanity from polluting, problematic, finite fuels, and even make space travel more viable.

As a classified government facility, NIF generally does not allow film crews . . . but Star Trek was something completely different. The links between Star Trek and the NIF go literally to their cores– after all, the Enterprise is fueled with deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen also known as “heavy hydrogen, as is the NIF. And many of the scientists who work at NIF admit to having cut their teeth watching Kirk and Spock try to push beyond the current boundaries of human knowledge.

Dr. Edward Moses, Principal Associate Director for NIF and the Photon Science Directorate, says: “For many years we’ve been waiting for Star Trek to realize they should be here! This is a very futuristic facility . . . and I think we’ve all been influenced by Star Trek’s vision of the future.”

For the filmmakers, NIF provided a location that could never be emulated in any other way — one that gave them an opportunity to delve into the ships unseen nuclear innards that create Star Fleet’s most advanced warp drive, allowing for faster-than-light travel. For NIF, it was a chance to see their laboratory interpreted through the eyes of a cinematic storyteller. “It was super exciting to see J.J. Abrams’ vision of what we do,” notes Moses.

Abrams couldn’t help but be moved not only by the technological beauty but by the feeling of being smack in the middle of a place where 21st Century science is leading to the 23rd Century of the film. “We were there just trying to shoot a movie, but all around us, these innovative scientists are working on technologies that will likely help the whole world,” he says. “The idea that one day the research at NIF could create clean, limitless energy is so exciting. On the one hand, it was simply a great location for the story. But more importantly, we were really honored to be welcomed there. These people are doing research that could alter the destiny of the planet the way the wheel or the light bulb did. We couldn’t even believe they let us in to shoot – and then, they were so excited about having us. So many people told us Star Trek inspired them to get involved in science.”

Throughout the production, a wide array of other scientists, artists and public figures flocked to the “Into Darkness” set to get their own personal glimpse at Star Trek in action. Their presence was a constant reminder of how universally alluring, and inspiring, the concept remains.

Summarizes Bryan Burk. “I think what pulls all these different people to Star Trek is the same thing that brings J.J. and our cast and crew: that sense of wonder at what our future might hold when we boldly leave earth to learn from different species and worlds. We’re all drawn to that promise of a future where there’s no more war on earth and whatever problems we have, we work them out together. That’s the Star Trek vision – and that is what is at stake in this story.”