In the first season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation “Arsenal of Freedom,” Commander Riker gets trapped in stasis on a planet by a floating sentry probe. More and more sentry probes fire on the away party, which includes Data, Lt. Yar, Captain Picard, and Dr. Crusher. And the more probes the team eliminates, the harder it becomes to keep destroying them as they are learning from the previous probe’s experience and adapting, much like the Borg. And, in the meantime, Geordi LaForge, who is in command of the Enterprise, faces an even larger version of the planet’s weapons. One would think the drones would have to be expensive pieces of equipment to come across as so destructive onscreen, but…
The original drone designed for this episode was too heavy to actually use so VFX director, Dan Curry, had to be a little, actually, a lot creative to construct a new drone. And he didn’t have a lot of time to do it. So what were his tools of choice? A plastic Easter egg, a shampoo bottle, a ribbed cover for computer cables, and a L’eggs pantyhose container. He cut part of the shampoo bottle away and glued the other parts together, added some paint and bright blue labeling tape, and created a killer robot…at least on screen.
Having practiced Tai Chi for many years, Curry, according to Star Trek The Artistry of Dan Curry, used his knowledge of moving slowly and put the robot on a stick and moved it in front of a greenscreen.
"“I had been doing Tai Chi for years. I was able to make the movements very smooth, and as we’d already shot the live-action footage, I was able to eyeball exactly where it should go. But, watching me, my colleagues though I was crazy and couldn’t stop laughing.”"
Who knew that a plastic Easter egg and a bigger L’eggs container could generate such a spark of creativity? I’m sure the next time I watch Arsenal of Freedom, I’m going to be thinking about how that weapon was made…and the genius who made it.