Planet Surfaces in TOS and TOS Remastered

by Jörg Hillebrand, Anthony Pascale and Bernd Schneider, with comments from Max Gabl and Mike Okuda

General NotesRe-Used Matte PaintingsUnique Matte PaintingsStarbase 11


A variety of matte paintings appeared in The Original Series (TOS) as alien planet surfaces, either in the form of standalone paintings or in combination with full-size sets. The underlying goal of the matte paintings was to give each planet a distinct appearance, with sky colors, rock formations and architectural styles different from those on 20th century Earth. Still, owing mostly to budget restrictions, some of the matte paintings were later re-used for a different planet.

With the power of CGI, it was possible to correct these shortcomings in the remastered version of Star Trek (TOS-R), produced by CBS Digital from 2006 to 2008. In TOS-R, almost every planet surface looks different. Many of them were recreated digitally from scratch, and some were extensively altered compared to the TOS look.

Our article shows all planet matte paintings that appeared in TOS, and how these were redone for TOS Remastered. There are two categories. The first comprises the matte paintings that were re-used in TOS and hence required a diversification for the sake of plausibility in the first place. The second category is that of the matte paintings that remained unique in TOS. These were at least cleaned up for technical reasons and color-corrected for TOS-R. However, almost all of them were further modified. A couple of digital matte paintings were newly created in order to add still more distinctiveness, to match better with the planet's appearance from space or to provide a smoother transition between two scenes.

Our screen caps usually depict exactly corresponding shots of TOS and TOS-R. All headings and other categorizations refer to the original versions of the planet surfaces.

Mike Okuda was a co-producer of TOS-R. Most of the new planet surfaces were created by Max Gabl, using 3D models, digital painting and composition. See Max Gabl's portfolio with many animated illustrations of his work.


General Notes

Max Gabl tells us about the process of creating the matte paintings and on the photographic elements he included:

"Upon looking at some of my matte paintings, many ask me what photo reference I used and how I got to integrate it. Now, I can't really refer to particular photographs - as I don't use photographic reference in the sense one might expect - for the following reasons: With the exception of photographs purposely taken on set in the correct position and under the same lighting matching the live action, all other found photographic reference will never really match the light conditions on set, as every lighting scenario is unique. Same goes for lenses and position. And in realistic image making, it's all about the correct, unified lighting. Therefore, I can only use bits and pieces (textures) from many different photos - if available.

For the TOS-R surface mattes I almost exclusively had to rely on my painting skills and on custom-made 3D elements. As for the planets, I've used textures found in NASA photographs of our Planet Earth for the inhabited planets, and (downloaded) geological data for the bump maps (elevations). Again, there are no larger, cohesive, and recognizable pieces of photographic material left I could easily refer to. The problem with the NASA pictures was, that the planets were lit by the sun from a certain direction, casting shadows in a certain direction and thus not fully useable as such for texturing a 3D element which was to cast its own shadows."


Re-Used Matte Paintings

Five of the original Star Trek matte paintings (three of which were created for the two pilot episodes) were shown a second time to represent a different planet surface.

Rigel VII

One famous re-use is that of the matte painting first seen as Rigel VII in "The Cage" which, without any modifications, is shown as Holberg 917-G in TOS: "Requiem for Methuselah".

Rigel VII ("The Cage", TOS: "The Menagerie II") Essentially nothing was modified about Rigel VII in TOS-R: "The Menagerie II". Except for an overall contrast enhancement only some colors were changed, although the shapes of some of the rocks and bushes in the foreground look different as well. CBS-D added some subtle rippling to the water surface.

Max Gabl: "Because the image didn't hold up in HD (as Al Whitlock had to rush through these paintings as we know) I repainted the foreground in full and touched up the facade and the background planet, trying to stay as true as ever possible to the originals' style. Same goes for the Starbase 11 (TOS: 'Court Martial') painting."

Holberg 917-G (TOS: "Requiem for Metuselah") In contrast to the slightly retouched Rigel VII, the scenery for TOS-R: "Requiem for Methuselah" is a new matte painting of a planetscape with a Naboo-like castle. Only the color of the sky is still much the same as in TOS.


In one of the illusions created by the Talosians in "The Cage", Christopher Pike finds himself in a landscape he describes as Mojave on Earth. We can see the skyline of a city as a backdrop. This same painting appears again outside a window in TOS: "The Conscience of the King", here on the Planet Q. The matte painting is also visible in the end credits of TOS: "What are Little Girls Made of?", this time not through a window. This may easily be Planet Q as well.

Mojave, Earth ( "The Cage", TOS: "The Menagerie II") In TOS-R: "The Menagerie II" we can see a revised cityscape of Mojave. Especially the previously abrupt transition from the set border to the matte painting in the background was smoothed, effectively adding depth to the scene.
Planet Q (TOS: "The Conscience of the King") The surface of Planet Q was not modified for TOS-R: "The Conscience of the King". The planet model, on the other hand, was created from scratch like all other TOS planets, and it is not purple like the matte but dull green. The reddish sky color may be attributed to the sunset though, and indeed there is a purple seam around the planet towards its dark side.
Unnamed planet (TOS: "What are Little Girls Made of?" end credits) The sequence was not modified for TOS-R.

Delta Vega

The matte painting produced for the Delta Vega lithium cracking facility in the second pilot, TOS: "Where No Man Has Gone Before", was later on modified to represent the Tantalus Penal Colony in TOS: "Dagger of the Mind". The towering refinery tanks in the background were eliminated, and the entrance door to the administration building was changed. The matte painting is usually attributed to Al Whitlock, but it was reportedly created by Garson Citron.

Delta Vega (TOS: "Where No Man Has Gone Before") For the remastered episodes the Delta Vega facility was graphically enhanced but kept largely the way it was, probably out of reverence for this groundbreaking episode.

Mike Okuda: "Max did a second version of the matte painting. The first was in daylight, but the second was retouched to be a pre-dawn view of the facility."

Tantalus V (TOS: "Dagger of the Mind") The matte painting for the remastered episode is completely new and has nothing in common with the TOS version. Note the stripes in the sky on the latter image, which correspond with the planet's rings as seen from space. The whole body of the scenery, including the stripes, is a CGI model. After applying texture and lighting, Max Gabl added details by painting over the image.

Eminiar VII

The striking cityscape of Eminiar VII from TOS: "A Taste of Armageddon" was re-used for the third-season episode "Wink of an Eye", here acting as the Scalosian homeworld. It was only modified with a blue hue that corresponded with the planet's blue appearance from space. The matte painting appeared in newly filmed takes with the Enterprise crew at the beginning and with the Scalosians towards the end.

Eminiar VII (TOS: "A Taste of Armageddon") In TOS-R: "A Taste of Armageddon" Eminiar VII is represented by a new CGI that very closely follows the lines of the old matte painting, but includes new features such as hovertrain lines.
Scalos (TOS: "Wink of an Eye") In order to accomplish the necessary distinction, a new scenery was created for TOS-R: "Wink of an Eye", now showing Scalos in more natural colors. Max Gabl combined a CGI rendering of the buildings with some digital painting of the vegetation and finally inserted the characters in the foreground. From space, the planet appears more Earth-like in TOS-R instead of plain blue. The new Scalos still re-uses some buildings of Eminiar VII, such as the characteristic "inverted pyramid".

Janus VI

Large industrial facilities could be seen in the underground of Horta's planet in TOS: "Devil in the Dark". A portion of the matte painting was later inserted into the background of the Providers' hideout on Triskelion (TOS: "The Gamesters of Triskelion").

Janus VI (TOS: "Devil in the Dark") For TOS-R the matte painting of the underground facility on Janus VI was replaced with a new CGI. The basic look and the arrangement of the structures remained largely the same.

Max Gabl: "Almost a full painting, with the exception of a few painted over 3D elements."

Triskelion (TOS: "The Gamesters of Triskelion") Nothing was changed about the underground on Triskelion, so in TOS-R it still looks essentially the same as the Federation facility on Janus VI.


Unique Matte Paintings

The following matte paintings were not re-used during TOS. Still, almost all of them received a makeover for TOS-R. In some cases new digital mattes were created where there used to be none in TOS.

Rigel XII (TOS: "Mudd's Women") The barren surface of Rigel XII was redone for TOS-R. The TOS foreground of styrofoam rocks was not included anymore. The hills in the background look similar in TOS-R, with the notable addition of the miners' accommodations. These were visible as full-size sets already in the TOS episode. While Rigel XII as seen from space was deep blue, the surface in TOS had only a slightly blue hue. In TOS-R both views are brown.
M 113 (TOS: "The Man Trap") The planet scenery with the orange studio backdrop and the concrete-like stone blocks was replaced with a completely new digital matte painting, very similar in its structure and color but with more impressive ruins. Max Gabl paid attention to match the new parts with the basic setup of the old footage.
Psi 2000 (TOS: "The Naked Time") We never saw the surface of this blue ice planet in TOS, but just a generic cloudy sky. For TOS-R a completely new matte painting with high mountains was created, including the building of the research outpost. Max Gabl composed it using two images of real mountains. The planet as seen from space is not quite as blue any longer, but the surface was given a distinct bluish hue.
Exo III (TOS: "What are Little Girls Made of?") One location shoot of the cavern was replaced with a very similar yet different digital image. We can see that the new version includes parts of the old scene in the upper right, as we switch between the two screen caps.

Mike Okuda: "The purpose of the painting was to increase the depth and the scope of the underground cavern."

Cestus III (TOS: "Arena") For TOS-R the matte paintings of the fort were overall cleaned up. In addition to the phaser burns already visible in TOS a blast crater was added in the foreground. The whole image was extended to widescreen. The most obvious change, however, is the removal of odd-looking "mountain" on the top in favor of a more realistic hilly landscape including a blue sky.

The "mountain" in the original take was actually a sheet of metal in the foreground of the scene, close to the camera. This masking may have been intentional and may have been deemed necessary to obscure some recognizable rocks in the background. The "western fort" set was located directly at Vasquez Rocks, where the fight scenes between Kirk and the Gorn captain were shot that are supposed to take place on a different planet.

Max Gabl: "If you look closely, it is a piece of bent metal sheet. Here at CBSD we were looking at it for a week, until we realized it."

Guardian of Forever (TOS: "The City on the Edge of Forever") Besides a color correction, a cityscape was added in the far background at the left edge, and the stones in the left foreground were accordingly extended.
Pyris VII (TOS: "Catspaw") A shot from TOS that showed just the entrance as a life-size set was replaced with a new digital matte painting of the entire castle. The TOS-R gate matches exactly with the one from TOS. Max Gabl accomplished this by digitally extending the very TOS scene with a new digital image.
Vulcan (TOS: "Amok Time") All shots of Vulcan in this TOS episode combined live-action scenes with a simple red background. This was changed for TOS-R. When Spock, Kirk and McCoy have just beamed down, a few seconds of rather insignificant footage was replaced with impressive long shots of the planet surface. These put the place of the koon-ut-kal-if-fee on top of a high mountain spire, inspired by "Star Trek III", which is connected on two sides with rock bridges. In the background we can supposedly see the city of ShirKahr as in TAS: "Yesteryear". The background, including the city, is a painting, the foreground was created by Max Gabl as a 3D render and painted over.
Planet Mutations - Vulcan
892-IV (TOS: "Bread and Circuses") Besides a color correction there is only one subtle change to the location shoot: Two celestial bodies (probably moons) were put into the sky.
Kelvan planet (TOS: "By Any Other Name") When the landing party is materializing, a close view of the planet set was replaced with a digitally created long shot that includes the TOS scene in its lower center and retains the purple sky. The big moon is new in TOS-R as well. The planetary body of the Kelvan planet, previously one of countless re-uses of the same model, was given an only slightly purple hue.

Max Gabl: "The foreground contains overpainted 3D elements and the mid and background is a full painting."

Sigma Draconis VI (TOS: "Spock's Brain") In TOS the planet surface consisted of a 1/1 scale set with snowy rocks, bare trees and a blue sky backdrop. This basic setup was retained for TOS-R, only shown from an elevated position now. The rocks and trees look even identical, although everything was apparently created from scratch. A huge mountain range was inserted into the background. If the TOS-R scene is really supposed to be congruent, the mountain tops should have been already visible in TOS though.

Max Gabl: "This is a full painting. The perspective had to be heavily distorted to accommodate the viewing angle of the live actors and to squeeze the mountain range and some sky into it."

Ardana (TOS: "The Cloud-Minders") The cloud city of Stratos was represented by a small model dangling from the studio ceiling in the TOS episode. For TOS-R the various shots of Stratos from the surface were replaced with all-new matte paintings with more detail and realism. The city's structure (now CGI) and the colors remained largely the same.

When the Troyglyte falls down, the shots in the original and in the remastered episode are based on the same basic photo of Wadi Hadramawt. One of the shots from the surface was replaced with a close view of the city, now looking down at the planet. The lower half of this image shows the NASA photo again that has been distorted to accommodate the different perspective.

Mike Okuda: "The image of the planetscape is based on the same photograph used by Cinema Research Corp in creating the episode's original visual effects in 1969. That photograph was taken by astronauts on the Gemini IV orbital mission in 1965 and shows the Hadramawt Plateau dry river basin in Yemen. For the remastered effect, Dwayne A. Day of the National Research Council and John Hargenreder of the NASA History Office combed through NASA archives at NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C. to find the original photograph for the remastered visual effects team. (The distant mountains on the horizon are based on a different photo, taken by astronauts on the International Space Station.)"

Eden (TOS: "The Way to Eden") In TOS we could see a river bank, with an exotic plant indicating that it is an alien world. In TOS-R this was replaced with a completely new CGI landscape akin to Yosemite Park, again with a river, and with high mountains in the background. The planet apparently has at least two moons. The same two moons are visible from space as well.

Mike Okuda: "This was a very quick painting, based closely on a photo of Yosemite. Fruit on one of the trees matches the fruit seen later in the episode, and CBS-D created some nice ripples on the river."


Starbase 11

Starbase 11 deserves special attention because this facility appears in two episodes, namely in "Court Martial" and later in "The Menagerie I", where is can be seen in different scenes.

In TOS: "Court Martial" the starbase is represented by one of Star Trek's most famous matte paintings, showing a planet surface with a red sunrise or sunset and with a variety of towering futuristic buildings. In TOS: "The Menagerie I" the starbase can be seen at daytime. The TOS matte painting of this episode shows the starbase from a different perspective than in "Court Martial" too. The building style and especially the "crane" is similar although none of the structures seems to be located in the field of view of the earlier matte. There is now a ringed planet in the sky. The sky itself is purple, although the planet appears blue from space.

Starbase 11 (TOS: "Court Martial") Comparably little was changed about the classic matte painting. In one scene at sunset the sky now has a purplish hue, and a shuttlecraft was inserted.

In another shot we can see the ringed planet that so far only appeared in TOS: "The Menagerie I"; it was even inserted in one shot of the Starbase 11 planet from space in TOS-R: "Court Martial".

Finally, one of the various shots was replaced with a night view from the surface, as in TOS: "The Menagerie I".

Starbase 11 (TOS: "The Menagerie I") In the opening shot of the teaser, the foreground with three people in Starfleet uniforms remained the same in TOS-R. The matte painting was newly created, although it closely resembles the original. The color of the sky was switched to a different shade of purple, matching with the new appearance of the planet as seen from space. The ringed planet is still present in the sky. Other than that, the buildings appear in more reasonable colors and exhibit a bit more detail. We can now see people walk in the background too, adding depth and realism to the scene.

Christopher Pike is sitting in his wheelchair in front of a window that shows a part of the starbase. At this time it is night in TOS, whereas the plot logic tells us that Kirk, Spock and McCoy, who have arrived at bright daylight, meet with the surprised Mendez and then with Pike in a matter of at most one hour. This error was corrected in TOS-R by showing daylight outside the window. Also, the perspective of the towers outside the window was fixed. They may have been simple backlit pieces of cardboard in TOS.

Night falls over Starbase 11 after the teaser in TOS-R, again fixing the error that it was always daytime outside and night inside in TOS, but now in reverse direction.The new outside night view shows the starbase from the same angle as in the opening shot, still with the ring planet.

On an interesting side note, in one of the new shots of Starbase 11's "mall" we can see Denise and Mike Okuda in Starfleet uniforms.

Mike and Denise Okuda: "Also appearing in the background and in the building on the right are numerous others from CBS Digital, including visual effects supervisor Niel Wray, coordinator Wendy Ruiz, producer David Rossi, visual effects producer Toni Pace Carstensen, and project executive producer David LaFountaine."

Opening shot...
...minutes later...
...hours later


See Also

Planets in TOS and TOS Remastered - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 - survey of the TOS planet models and how they were remastered

Starships in TOS and TOS Remastered - "before & after" comparison of all ships that appeared in the series



Special thanks to Matt Wright who provided most of the preliminary TOS-R screen caps for The current HD caps are from Trek Caps or from TrekCore. Thanks to Florian Haag for a correction about Scalos. The information that the "western fort" from "Arena" was located next to Vasquez Rocks comes from Memory Alpha. Gary Citron informed me that his father, Garson Citron, created the lithium cracking plant.


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