Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Questionable Trek vol. 13

It seems the future will be dominated by uniforms and jumpsuits. Presumably function matters, but what about style? Star Trek seemed to go back and forth on this issue.

What makes a great science fiction uniform and which series/film had the best uniforms?

Scott's Answer: When we're talking about uniforms (or ships for that matter), I think we're really talking about two different things: how do they look/function within the Trek universe... and how do they appear to us, the 21st century TV viewer? In the real world, form follows function. But for films/TV shows, this doesn't always apply since the uniforms have to be visually interesting and stand up to scrutiny by obsessive geeks [cough]. I love the naval-style maroon jackets that were introduced in Star Trek II through they're rather impractical and all the decorations are a bit much. I like Kirk's admiral uniform in the first film and even the two-piece tunics aren't bad but there are too many variations, the colors are too dull, and I hate the one-piece jumpsuits, which hide nothing. Having said that, I also dislike the uniforms used in TNG in the first two seasons. Once they made the uniforms two-piece tunics with collars, they looked a little better and less like pajamas. The best variation of those uniforms were introduced in Star Trek: First Contact with a gray upper area and colored undershirt.

Andrew's Answer: What makes a good science fiction uniform? Hmm. A science fiction uniform should stand out. You represent a star empire and you want to impress the locals, so your threads need to project that you are something special. Stormtrooper uniforms are pretty good in that regard. So are the viper pilots in the original Battlestar Galactica. I would say the best uniforms are those like Napoleonic Era uniforms, only modernized. So turning to Star Trek, the closest we find are the red uniforms by the original cast in the films. These are decorative, cool looking, and yet practical too as the jacket gives you warmth but you can remove the jacket to do whatever labor you need. By comparison, the uniforms from the original series work well in California, but would be pretty miserable in Minnesotaworld. The jumpsuits from the Next Generation look like they would be fine, as functional jumpsuits always impress the ladies, but they don’t seem very comfortable as all the characters kept tugging at them, trying to make them fit. Plus, where do you keep your change? Not to mention, they are hardly impressive. . . oh look, Team Pajama is here to offer their usual surrender. So yeah, I’m going with the red-jacket look from the films.


Anonymous said...

I'm going to be out for the afternoon, but I'll be back to chime in later. :-)

Anonymous said...

The Wrath of Khan uniforms are the best. If you listen to the directory commentary on the DVD they talk about how they saw the movie as Horatio Hornblower in Space so the uniforms had a strong naval influence.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Getting your homemade Star Trek uniforms dry cleaned? ;)

AndrewPrice said...

Anon, I've heard that and it shows. They're very naval with a mix of the Horatio Hornblower uniforms along with more modern military elements. I like those a lot.

tryanmax said...

What was that suggestion I made a few weeks back about discussing the non-Starfleet ships, and I was told that was too nerdy? *ahem*

I have to agree with the consensus thus far that the maroon uniforms look the best. They actually seem more "human" than most of the other uniforms. Plus, they stack up better against the suits of armor that some of the other races seem to prefer. The TNG jumpsuits are way too namby-pamby in that regard.

I want to point out the Enterprise uniforms because they seem very realistic as well, though not very flashy.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, We're all about nerding out! ;)

Yeah, the suits of armor worn by people like the Klingons always make me wonder how they go to the bathroom? Of course, the same is true of the whole jumpsuit motive. I guess they strip down every time? Good times.

I agree that the maroon uniforms are the most human in the sense that they seem like something a space navy would actually have people wear and they seem most normal.

The Enterprise uniforms strike me as realistic as well.

darski said...

I think we have a winner! The WOK uniforms were always my fave.

I would like to mention the 'dark' uniforms from "Yesterday's Enterprise". it was most interesting to see what subtle changes could make in the impression given.

If we ever do a worst I think the original TNG uniforms - the "jammies" would take it hands down. Not only were they ugly they were dangerous. The spandex tension was causing back pain to all and sundry.

I'll be back soon to check in and update.

Tennessee Jed said...

first place goes to anything T'Pol use to wear. Sure, I know she was really part of the Federation, but . . .

I know everyone likes the WOK uniforms, but I like the originals. Very functional with clear color choices based on science, engineering, etc. It is probably unfair, but WOK uniforms remind the viewer Kirk was pokin' up.

AndrewPrice said...

darski, It sure sounds like we have a winner as everyone has so far favored the WOK uniforms.

I don't recall the dark uniforms from that episode?

Yeah, the original TNG uniforms were awful -- before they got the collars. They looked like pajamas and they looked uncomfortable and impractical -- like you couldn't actually move in them without them tearing. Very bad design.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I do have a soft spot for the originals. They just aren't very practical. But I do like them and they do symbolize Star Trek for me.

Doc Whoa said...

I'm going with the original uniforms as coolest. They were so different than anything else out there and still are. They totally stand out.

But I'll go with the Next Gen uniforms in the later seasons if I had to wear one personally. They look comfy and I think they do have pockets at that point. The film uniforms are too much like wearing a suit.

tryanmax said...

I think there is one other uniform that is almost bad enough to compete with the jammies and that is the lime green wrap that Kirk wore on occasion. IMO, it looks very feminine and inappropriate for a manly man like Kirk.

AndrewPrice said...

Doc, The Next Gen uniforms got better as they went along, especially once they got the collar. That made them look more like a uniform instead of pajamas.

And you're right, the original uniforms very much stick out compared to everything else in science fiction, which tends to be jumpsuits galore.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I hate that shirt. It's just wrong and I can't understand why they let Kirk wear it? What the heck?

K said...

You'd think that a society, like the later ST ones that has solved the major social problems would become even more highly involved with less important things like aesthetics or style. Subsequently, utilitarian outfits would no longer cut it and more stylist designs, perhaps even retro would be more likely to be used.

I can see an episode in the next iteration of ST about a crisis due to genetic manipulation of gender genes resulting in a critical shortage of fashion designers.

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

(sigh) Again, I don't own my own uniform!

In reference to darski's comment, the "alternate universe" uniforms in "Yesterday's Enterprise" were modifications of the standard uniforms but with black cuffs, closed collars, and cool Sam Browne-style belts. Click here.

Anonymous said...

tryanmax -

No worries about nerdy topics. :-)

In fact, I had pitched a handful of nerdy topics to Andrew a while ago but we figured now was as good a time as any to delve into some of them. I'm sure we'll get to ships eventually.

AndrewPrice said...

K, LOL! That would be pretty funny: "we've lost our fashion sense because we bred that gene right out of humanity! What ever will we do?!"

You would think that a world which claims to worship individuality (but doesn't) would have it's people dress more uniquely. But apparently not.

darski said...

@ Scott - thank you for the pic. My computer did a meltdown and needed a full restore - the whole afternoon was lost.

Someone pointed out that the "dark" uniforms represented a more defensive stance in keeping with the War motif. I use the term 'dark' in this episode to denote the despair and 'losing' themes shown so much.

I do like the original TOS uniforms as well - even that little hat tip to the sailor's bell-bottoms. That green "fatigues' top was a little much though. :P

Anonymous said...

No love for the feetie pajamas of the TNG...

I adore the naval-style uniforms of ST2 through early Generations. They had a very traditional kind of feel to them that appeals to me.

I also liked the main uniforms of Enterprise. Very utilitarian, if uninteresting and non-flashy.

But the best uniforms, hands down, weren't Federation. Klingons, man. Klingons.

Anonymous said...

annoyed -

The thing no one ever mentions about the Klingon uniforms is that they seemed to wear the same ones for almost a century! Starfleet changed looks every 10 years but the Klingons' wardrobe budget obviously went elsewhere. :-)

Having said that, the Klingon uniforms seen in Star Trek VI looked the best. I'm sure a lot of them were recycled from previous films but the "hero" uniforms worn by David Warner and Christopher Plummer were excellent.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, You don't have to hide the truth, we know you have a uniform. ;)

Ooooh, those uniforms! For some reason I was thinking about the uniforms in the Enterprise episode where they find the Defiant. Hmm. Yeah, I like those uniforms in that episode better.

AndrewPrice said...

darski, I like the original uniforms too. The bell bottoms actually work for me because they stand out.

AndrewPrice said...

annoyedelephants, The Klingon uniforms are pretty darn cool. I like the Romulan uniforms too.

Scott, Why change perfection? Besides, the Klingons are big on tradition!

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

I liked the Romulan uniforms later on. When they were featured on TNG, they had these ridiculously wide shoulders.

Kit said...

Star Trek 2-6 had the best uniforms.

(In my most humble opinion)

Kit said...

Outside of Trek, I kind of liked the 19th-century Prussian-esque uniforms of the Alliance officers on FIREFLY.

Anonymous said...

Kit -

It seems we're all in agreement about the movie uniforms. :-)

Re: the Alliance uniforms, I'm not calling out Firefly specifically, but whenever a sci-fi/fantasy script calls for characters or an alien race who are considered "fascist," it's as if every costume designer always goes back to WW2 as a reference.

Section 31 from DS9 would be a good example, along with the Imperial uniforms from the Star Wars trilogy.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Yep, I should have clarified -- I meant from Nemesis. It's kind of Japanese inspired.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, Those aren't bad. I still prefer the Napoleonic uniforms though. I think they're flashier and more impressive.

Commander Max said...

Sci-fi uniforms, AKA costumes.
I can say from experience the Klingon costumes are a nightmare to wear. Hot and very uncomfortable, plus you have make-up with a head piece and nose piece.

These days I would rather wear one of the human uniforms.

I have friends that have some of the costumes/uniforms in question.
I never hear anybody complain about the TOS uniforms. But the costumes used in STTMP were a real nightmare, you needed assistance getting of them. Which made bathroom breaks interesting. But this problem influenced latter costumes.
I have a couple of friends that had NG jumpsuits made(tailored). They were quite happy with them, they found them comfortable to wear for a day or so.
I have another friend that had a B-5 uniform(latter, non-earth alliance) made. He said it was no different than work attire. Really comfortable.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, I can imagine that a Klingon costume would be pretty uncomfortable.

I would imagine the B-5 uniforms would feel like a modern suit. It seems about the same. I like the collars on the shirts, though I can't think of the name of them.

I would imagine TOS uniforms would be the most comfortable -- tee shirt and pants.

I didn't realize the STTMP uniforms were that hard to wear, but it doesn't surprise me now that I think about it. The belt is on the inside, there's no visible zipper or way to take them off and I think they even had pajama feet.

darski said...

Looking at the Romulan uniforms w/ Carolyn Seymore reminds me of a good discussion topic... favoured repeat guest cast members. just sayin'...

AndrewPrice said...

darski, That would be a good topic! Thanks.

Kit said...


The Alliance uniforms never seemed to me to be overtly fascist. More like 19th-century Prussian militarist (which is what they were based off of).

So close, but not quite.

Kit said...

If you watch the TNG, DS9, and VOY episodes keep an eye out for them pulling down on their shirts to straighten them.

They tended to wrinkle at the top of the chest and since the producers (Braga, Berman, etc.) were very big on there not being wrinkles so the actors wound up having to straighten them by down on them.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, I noticed that. They spend a lot of time tugging on their shirts. Picard in particular does it all the time.

Anonymous said...

I believe they referred to Patrick Stewart pulling down on his tunic as "the Picard maneuver." :-)

And Andrew, I agree with darski - that would make an excellent topic, though between all the series, IMHO DS9 had the best stock company of recurring actors.

rlaWTX said...

the uniforms in the original Battlestar Galactica!

Star Trek 2-piecers are so much better than 1-piecers.

How about Buck Rogers' white uniform? Or Wilma Deering's mini? ;)

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, Wilma Deering in anything was great! :)

I like the original Battlestar Galactica uniforms a lot.

Kit said...

"Star Trek 2-piecers are so much better than 1-piecers."


Amanda said...

Military organizations all have a working uniform and some sort of dress uniform. The Wrath of Khan uniforms are perfect for a dress uniform, but are impractical for everyday use (As you said, too many decorations and devices). I think the most practical working uniforms are the First Contact / later season DS9 uniforms. Although, it would be interesting to see what the 24th century equivalent of BDUs would be.

AndrewPrice said...

Amanda, That's a good point. I know both TOS and TNG tried to have dress uniforms a couple times, but they just didn't look all that right.

My guess is that future BDUs will look a lot like they do today because modern ones are really hard to top for form, fit or function.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I liked TOS uniforms (sans the horrible green wrap shirt) and the WOK uniforms the best, then the Enterprise uniforms.

Speaking of uniforms, when I joined the Navy in '79 we had horrible dress uniforms (for enlisted sailors) that looked like something designed by a demented office worker bureaucrat that actually liked bureaucratic office work.

They didn't remotely look like anything US Navy before it and they had replaced the dixie cup hat with the combination hat that looked similar to what chief's and officers wear.

Thankfully, not long after President Reagan took over the Navy reverted to the time honored crackerjacks (navy blue and summer whites) and the dixie cup hats.

Those are the perfect Navy dress uniforms for enlisted, IMO and what everyone identifies with when they think Navy.

As for work uniforms, I would prefer the BDU's they wear today, but the old dungarees weren't bad, particularly the bell bottom jean pants.

Incidently, all the uniforms of that time could be used as flotation devices. Probably today as well, although I'm not 100% positive on that.

Which is always nice if you find yourself making an unplanned visit to swim call. :^)

Anyhow, I'm no doubt biased for the bell bottom pants they wear in TOS.

AndrewPrice said...

A floatation device? That actually make a lot of sense assuming it works.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Oh it works alright. Everyone in bootcamp had to do it in a swimming pool.

The shirt was the most difficult to do, but the pants just needed to be wet, knotted at the leg bottoms and filled with air (like you would fill a trash bag with air by swishing it).
Oh, and you hafta take them off before doing the above, lol.

You can actually do the same thing with regular blue jeans (or any cotton pants) if they don't have holes in them.

The dixie cup works, but not as well for bigger 200 pound plus guys.
They will still float but just barely. Sort of a balancing act with hat and shirt and has to be done repeatedly but it does conserve energy and gives your legs time to rest up.

Regular floating on your back would work in calm seas, if you're luck enough to be or stay in calm seas.

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