The dangers of chicken wire on TNG

Image courtesy Hero Collector
Image courtesy Hero Collector /

TNG used chicken wire to create one of the greatest enemy ships

Years ago, when Star Trek: The Next Generation was about to air one of its most important episodes, Gary Hutzel, the visual effects coordinator, was tasked with creating an enemy ship—the Borg cube. But this wasn’t going to be just any cube. It would appear on The Best of Both Worlds which has been lauded as the most daring cliffhanger in Star Trek history. So this cube, as all other Borg vehicles, had to look menacing, and the special effects the production team had planned would need to be astounding. The only problem was there wasn’t really a big budget for a big budget effect.

Hutzel recounted the problem to The Hollywood Reporter for its special tribute to the two-part episodes which aired at the end of the series third season—”Star Trek’: The Story of the Most Daring Cliffhanger in ‘Next Generation’ History.” Because they couldn’t afford to hire a modeler to make the Borg cube which was set to explode onscreen, Hutzel said they had to build it with a “whole bunch of models.” To hold everything together, he used chicken wire over a framework which he then stapled before attaching a board and attaching plastic all around the piece.

TNG used what it could afford for special effects

Then came the dangerous part. Back in 1990, when an explosion was warranted for a show, the special effects/visual effects department used primer cord or detonation cord. (Because of how dangerous it is, primer cord isn’t used now.) But at the time, that was what Hutzel and his team were working with.

They hung the cube on one of the sounds stages for the pyrotechnician to rig it. He loaded it with primer cord, and away went the cube. Hutzel had no way of knowing just how dangerous using chicken wire with primer cord, was though.

"“I didn’t know that putting chicken wire inside of something with primer cord would cause it to become a big grenade. And so when it went off, stuff flew everywhere. Fortunately it was a safe situation and no one got hurt. They’d cleared the stage before we fired it, but we came back in and saw the mess on the floor and bits of chicken wire stuck on the walls.”"

So the explosion didn’t just look dangerous onscreen! Fortunately, thanks to CGI and new special effects, our favorite Star Trek shows can create explosions that don’t affect the walls, floors, or potentially, people!

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