The Star Trek TNG Effect Hidden In DS9 And Voyager

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

For Star Trek fans, one of the more sublime joys is realizing when different props and set pieces are creatively used in different ways for future episodes.

These are often the most unassuming things, including the matte painting that is the establishing shot of the titular location in the TNG episode “Angel One.” The artwork is very striking in its debut episode, but even more interesting is that this Star Trek: The Next Generation matte painting was later imaginatively re-used for the spinoff shows Deep Space Nine and Voyager.

The One Good Part Of Angel One

For the story about this legendary matte painting to make any sense, we need to give a brief overview of the episode in which it was first used. “Angel One” is the episode where Captain Picard and crew are trying to rescue male survivors of a shipwrecked freighter and must negotiate with the leaders of a planet ruled by women. The episode was originally meant to be an allegory for apartheid, but everyone remembers it as a weirdly sexual ep where Riker wears a top that makes it look like he was dressed for a Magic Mike audition.

Still, there are things to appreciate (besides Jonathan Frake’s bare chest, even!) in even the worst Star Trek episode, and in “Angel One,” one of those things is a beautiful matte painting. The franchise has made creative use of matte paintings from the very beginning, and the designers of The Next Generation elevated these paintings into a true art form. 

The Establishing Shot

In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Angel One,” this initial matte painting does a great job of establishing what this new planet looks like. The painting is used to give us both closer looks and farther looks at alien architecture, both at night and during the day. Whether this decision was driven by a true love for the painting or just budget-friendly decision-making, this was one bit of art that fans would see again and again, though it sometimes looked dramatically different.

Same Painting Different Episode

Originally, the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Samaritan Snare” just used the matte painting as is to create the look of Starbase 515, the location where Captain Picard had heart surgery.

Perhaps feeling guilty about shamelessly reusing the exact same art, Paramount had the establishing shots for the Starbase changed for the remastered version of this episode. The original painting was used with a different hue in the later TNG episode “First Contact,” though it was supplemented by an entirely new painting in the same style.

Same Painting But Now In Klingon Form

In its final appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation, the original matte painting was more substantially changed for the episode “The Mind’s Eye.” Since it had to represent a Klingon colony, the trees were removed, a few buildings were added, and the general architecture was made to look more Klingon.

Used In Later Series

This is the most unique the painting would ever look: later when the painting was used in the DS9 episode “Dax” and the Voyager episode “Ex Post Facto,” it looks just like Angel One except for small changes (the addition of one building in DS9 and extra leaves in Voyager).

For longtime Star Trek fans, this frequently re-used matte painting serves as a reminder of how the franchise constantly builds upon itself. Some audiences dislike the reused set pieces, but we find the clever ways of reusing this beautiful art to sometimes be more fascinating than the episodes themselves. Speaking of original art, we have a couple of questions for “Angel One” actor Jonathan Frakes…do you still have that wild top, and do you ever wear it on the Paramount lot for special occasions?

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