Linda Maye Adams

Going Obsolete: Movie Models in Science Fiction TV Shows


I’m wandering back in with a post prompted by today’s Daily Post has the following prompt: Of all the technologies that have gone extinct in your lifetime, which one do you miss the most? 

I grew up in Los Angeles watching science fiction TV shows like Star Trek, Buck Rogers, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Special effects designers didn’t have the computer technology then, so they had to come up with creative solutions. Sometimes they worked well, and sometimes they didn’t.

One of the things I like about these shows is something called a “model.” A show needed a spaceship or submarine, so they built it. Usually more than one was built, some bigger and some smaller, depending on what kind of filming the show needed to do.

These models could be incredibly detailed. I’ve been watching Star Trek (original series) on Me TV with my high definition TV set, and I’ve been astounded at how good the Enterprise looks on the screen. On the bad TVs of the past, the starship didn’t always look good, but the high definition TV brings out things I could never see!

But the models were expensive to build. That’s necessitated shows going to computer animation for ships.

Unfortunately, despite better technology, it really doesn’t look that much better. A lot of times, the ships are too dark, and they’re missing the elements that make them look real. If a model is moving underwater, you see the movement of the water around the ship, the splashing, and even the plants floating in the water. That’s usually missing or doesn’t like quite right with the modern technology.

The result is that I’m vaguely dissatisfied, even as computers make the special effects even flashier. It just loses a lot in the translation. There’s nothing like watching a model instead of a computer animation.

This video is from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and has pictures of some of the fabulous models on the show:

8 Comments

  1. Ooh. Some great memories of tiny boats tossing on miniscule seas! Teensy rockets blasting off for handball sized planets 🙂 Thanks for the memories!

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  2. A model would get all the more subtle movements right!

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