Star Trek: Discovery costume designer Gersha Phillips — who we talked to back in August ahead of the new season — had a whole lot do to for Season 2, between the introduction of Section 31 and a return to the Klingon Empire, but perhaps the most daunting challenge was reviving the classic Trek uniforms for the modern era.
First seen with the arrival of Captain Pike (Anson Mount) and his crew in “Brother” back in January, the gold, red, and blue Starfleet costumes marked the third reimagining of the 60’s-era outfits in Trek production, after two versions of those tunics were used in the Kelvin Timeline films over the past decade.
In a new interview with ComicBook.com, Phillips spoke about the challenges in developing the new look for these costumes — and one big oversight that was thankfully caught before Season 2 got too far into production.
When I looked at our uniform, and I thought about how I could use the same shape and apply it to the Enterprise uniform — I was really happy that our collar if you look at the black collar, it still has that almost like little V-neck feel that the original uniforms have. And I thought that even in the [Kelvin] movies they try to update them.
As soon as they mentioned that I was going to have to do the uniforms, I pitched this idea that we would take our Discovery uniform and apply the colors and, basically, just update it into the Enterprise uniform. And I think that it just made the most sense, because what we’re saying is, we’re continuing in our storyline. That’s how they would evolve.
They say that the Disco uniform is the old uniform, and everybody’s moving to this new Constitution-class [uniform] because it was a Constitution-class ship. It was a special ship, and it had the newer uniforms. So eventually, in our Disco timeline, everybody would end up wearing those uniforms.
She also talked about how the now-familiar Discovery uniforms started out in the direction of the classic Trek coloring, but it just didn’t quite work out in the way the production team envisioned.
I was doing a different version of the three colors. And each time we did it, nobody liked them. There was a comment, the first time they thought it was too similar, it wasn’t different enough, or it wasn’t our own statement enough. And then the final one, we went with these sort of lighter colors. The idea is that they were sort of like metallic colors, and they just didn’t look good.
We actually got so far as we built them, we ordered the fabric in large quantities of yardage, and we camera tested them on the ship and the combination just did not work because the ship actually overrode the uniform. They weren’t striking enough.
We used the gold for sure, and we used the original, and I think the red and even the blue. At one stage, those three colors were the colors we were going to do, but we were doing them with the other compression panels, so definitely those three colors. The yellow is called “Harvest Gold,” I believe. The blue is called “Denim Blue” and the red is called “Merlot Red”. They’re actual Pantone colors. We did have those. I think one of the iterations of the first group we had those colors.
One of the things we were looking at back then was with command, gold, one of the things we tried is each color would have a different colored pant. So gold had olive pants, the red had brown pants, and the blue had navy pants. So we had even that combination, which looks crazy in my mind now, when I think back at it. I’m like, “Why would we try such a crazy thing?” But it was an idea of one of the producers, and you go on the journey, and you say, “OK, let’s try.”
The colors in those uniforms were much less forgiving than our navy is.
Finally, Phillips revealed a bit of an on-set disaster — as far as costuming issues go — in how the final versions of the Enterprise uniforms tied into the 23rd century look familiar from the Original Series: the rank braids, signature features around the wrists of each officer, weren’t part of the design… until it was noticed they were missing.
The only thing that we didn’t actually think about was rank at the time, because in [Discovery[, the rank was done with pips on the badges. So, when we first shot the first few days of Enterprise uniforms, we forgot to put rank on.
I forgot who told us, I think it was marketing, actually, saw that we hadn’t any indication of rank on our uniform — so me and my team, we spent like a night of trying to figure out how we were going to add rank bars on their uniforms.
So that was an interesting journey, and it all happened during one night, so we had to figure that out… Then they had to go back and CGI all the stripes on the days that we didn’t do it.
We don’t know about you, readers, but we’re sure glad that one got fixed!
You can read the full interview with Gersha Phillips over at ComicBook.com, where the designer also talks about the new look of Section 31 and the challenges of creating both the Terran and Klingon Empire costumes for Star Trek: Discovery.