Early TNG jumpsuit analysis - Pre-TNG uniform timeline

Early TNG-era Starfleet Uniform Jumpsuit Analysis


Pre-TNG Uniform Timeline

In canon (that is, only taking into consideration what was actually seen on-screen during the film/TV franchise), it's not clear when exactly William Ware Theiss' TNG-era uniforms became the standard uniforms for Starfleet. All we really know for sure is that it seems to have been during "The Lost Era" between the launch of the Enterprise B  (as seen in Generations) and "Encounter at Farpoint" (as seen in The Next Generation).

TWOK-era "monster maroon" uniforms in Star Trek: Generations
Star Trek: Generations
Early TNG-era uniform jumpsuits in Star Trek: The Next Generation pilot
TNG, 1x1 "Encounter at Farpoint"


How and when the transition between the TWOK-era uniforms and the TNG-era uniforms was handled is a vague issue that's prompted considerable speculation over the years; were there different-style uniforms at some point in the mean time? Were the TNG-era uniforms phased in slowly, or did they show up all at once? After the very military, naval, almost Victorian-style TWOK-era uniforms, at what point did basically skin-tight spandex jumpsuits become trendy in Starfleet? etc., etc. ... 

The unenviable task of trying to deal with these questions in a way that would make sense - both chronologically, in-universe, and to the audience, visually - first fell to Theiss, of course, and then especially to Robert Blackman (the franchise's costume designer from The Next Generation's third season all the way through Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise). 

That the TNG-era uniforms were so drastically different from their TWOK-era predecessors was almost certainly an attempt to visually distance - or even disassociate - The Next Generation from the TOS-era movies as far as possible; after all, early TNG seemed determined to stylistically follow the "TOS mold" while simultaneously insisting to the audience that it absolutely wasn't just TOS again!

However, the lengthy gap of time between the TWOK and TNG eras (several decades), combined with the TWOK-era and TNG-era uniforms being so stylistically different, leaves one wondering what happened in the mean time. 


As mentioned in the previous section, with the possible exception of the TNG-era formal uniforms he created (and one other, which I'll mention later), William Ware Theiss' approach appears to have mainly been, "Ignore the TOS movie uniforms and pretend they never happened!" 

That in mind, it should come as no surprise that, at the beginning of The Next Generation's pilot, everyone was already in uniform; it wasn't like the Deep Space Nine pilot, when the main characters were first introduced wearing the existing (TNG-style) uniforms and gradually switched over to the new VOY-style uniforms over the course of the episode.

Early TNG-era uniform jumpsuits in Star Trek: The Next Generation pilot
TNG, 1x1 "Encounter at Farpoint"


The characters on Farpoint Station waiting for the Enterprise to arrive were already in uniform, as well.

Early TNG-era uniform jumpsuits in Star Trek: The Next Generation pilot
TNG, 1x1 "Encounter at Farpoint"


The only instance in which Theiss had to contend with the question was about a third of the way through The Next Generation's first season, in the episode "The Battle," during which Captain Picard mentally relives the events from 2355 (approximately eight years prior to the episode). 

By now, it should come as no surprise to you that, for these events, Theiss dressed the flashback characters in his TNG-era uniforms!

TNG jumpsuits worn by Stargazer crew during Captain Picard's flashback
TNG, 1x9 "The Battle"


However, given Theiss' apparent attitude and the fact that this was, in fact, ultimately just a mental hallucination brought on by an illegal telepathic device (with malicious intent, no less), I believe it worthy of mention here, but only as a possible example in the Starfleet uniform timeline, not necessarily a factual one.


That said, in The Next Generation's pilot, Theiss did dress Admiral McCoy in some trousers reminiscent of those from the TWOK-era, which I believe to have been intended to represent the character as a sort of relic and/or "living legend" from generations prior.

Admiral McCoy in Star Trek: The Next Generation pilot
TNG, 1x1
"Encounter at Farpoint"


Curiously, for the original wardrobe/make-up tests (as seen on The Next Generation season 1 Blu-Ray set), McCoy was dressed in a variation of his TWOK-era "monster maroon" uniform.

Admiral McCoy wardrobe/makeup test for Star Trek: The Next Generation pilot
Admiral McCoy wardrobe/makeup test for Star Trek: The Next Generation pilot
TNG, season 1 Blu-Ray special feature "Stardate Revisited (part 1)"


This may simply have been done out of convenience, as Deforest Kelley would have had numerous uniforms lying around from the first four TOS movies, and perhaps Theiss' TNG-era uniforms weren't quite ready yet. It could have simply been an experiment, an abandoned creative direction, or any number of other possibilities. 

In any event, it never made it on-screen (in-universe, that is), so it technically "doesn't count," but I mention it here because it may have been a source of creative inspiration for Robert Blackman, costume designer on The Next Generation from the third season forward. (Note the TNG-era communicator, and the lack of the right shoulder strap.)


Whereas William Ware Theiss had created this issue and then more or less ignored it (Gene Roddenberry's potential instructions notwithstanding), Robert Blackman inherited it by default when he came on board the show, and he had to contend with it many, many more times over the remainder of the franchise. 

Blackman's strategy for answering this question - aside from actually acknowledging it, that is! - appears to have been to "bridge the gap" between the two uniform styles by gradually transforming the TWOK-era uniforms into the TNG-era ones, and he had numerous opportunities over the years to showcase various stages of the transition.

Seeing as Robert Fletcher's TWOK-era uniforms and William Ware Theiss' TNG-style uniforms were so very different, transforming the former into the latter was certainly no easy task - really, not even practical to even try to do, but Blackman certainly did the best he could, considering the situation he inherited and what he had to work with! 

I'll outline what we do know about the Starfleet uniform timeline here, in approximate chronological "stardate order" - that is, the order that events took place in-universe, although the actual episodes/movies referenced were in a different production order. 

Unsurprisingly, the TWOK-era uniforms were in full-swing in 2278, approximately 85 years prior to "Encounter at Farpoint," as evidenced by the crew of the Bozeman.

TWOK-era "Monster Maroon" uniforms worn by Bozeman crew
TNG, 5x18 "Cause and Effect"


(Interestingly, that actually predates the events depicted in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan by several years, possibly making this the earliest in-universe example of the TWOK-era uniforms seen on-camera!)


As mentioned previously, the TWOK-era uniforms were still in style at the time of the Enterprise B's launch in 2293, approximately 71 years prior to "Encounter at Farpoint."

TWOK-era "Monster Maroon" uniforms in Star Trek: Generations
Star Trek: Generations


Aaaand that's where things start to get a little hazy ...


In 2327, approximately 34 years prior to "Encounter at Farpoint" and shortly after Jean-Luc Picard graduated from Starfleet Academy, the TWOK-era uniforms were still in use, but the quilted turtleneck-style division shirts had been replaced with what appeared to be a T-shirt style shirt underneath.
TWOK-era "Monster Maroon" uniform worn by Ensign Picard
TNG, 6x15 "Tapestry"

TWOK-era "Monster Maroon" uniform worn by Ensign Picard and friends
TNG, 6x15 "Tapestry"


In 2343, approximately 20 years prior to "Encounter at Farpoint," the TWOK-era uniforms were still worn in this manner, as evidenced by the memory of Ian Andrew Troi that Deanna experienced inside of Lwaxana's mind during their telepathic connection. 

(It is worth noting that this telepathic projection may not have been Ian Troi as he appeared around the time of his death in 2343, but possibly previous to that year.)

TWOK-era "Monster Maroon" uniform worn by Ian Andrew Troi, Deanna Troi's father
TNG, 7x7 "Dark Page"


Around that time, major changes seem to have been made to the TWOK-era Starfleet uniforms. 

By 2344, approximately 19 years prior to "Encounter at Farpoint," the TWOK-era uniforms were still worn by Starfleet crew, but the undershirts had been eliminated entirely, as had the belts.

TWOK-era "Monster Maroon" uniforms worn by Enterprise C crew
TNG, 3x15 "Yesterday's Enterprise"


Curiously, though, the uniforms worn by the enlisted crew members were still worn with belts ...
TWOK-era enlished uniform worn by Enterprise C crew
TNG, 3x15 "Yesterday's Enterprise"


A few years later, around 2348 (approximately 15 years prior to "Encounter at Farpoint," the TWOK-era Starfleet insignia pin worn on the left chest had been replaced with the TNG-era communicator, as evidenced by the hologram Jack Crusher made for Wesley shortly after his birth. 

It also looks like the trousers' side stripes may have been removed, but it's difficult to tell for sure ...

TWOK-era "Monster Maroon" uniform worn by Jack Crusher, Wesley Crusher's father
TNG, 4x2 "Family"


Chronologically and in-universe, that was the last time that any variation of the TWOK-era uniforms were ever seen on-screen!

And really, considering the beginning and ending points, that's about as fluid a uniform transformation as could be reasonably expected, short of whipping up some transitional form-fitting, spandex, jumpsuit-style "monster maroon" uniforms (ew!). Good call, Mr. Blackman!


By the time of Jack Crusher's death in 2353 (approximately 10 years prior to "Encounter at Farpoint"), it appears that Theiss' TNG-era uniforms had become the standard, as evidenced by Beverly Crusher's flashback of herself and Captain Picard going to see Jack Crusher's body at what appeared to be a morgue.

Early TNG uniform jumpsuit worn by Captain Picard following Jack Crusher's death
TNG, 5x12 "Violations"


As mentioned previously, as of 2355 (approximately 8 years prior to "Encounter at Farpoint"), Starfleet crew seem to have donned Theiss' TNG-era uniforms, as evidenced by Captain Picard's hallucinatory recollection.

TNG jumpsuits worn by Stargazer crew during Captain Picard's flashback
TNG, 1x9 "The Battle"


This is a bit curious, though, as the Stargazer appeared to be a TOS movie-era ship ...

USS Stargazer
TNG, 1x9 "The Battle"


In fact, the bridge of the Stargazer looked eerily familiar ...

USS Stargazer bridge
TNG, 1x9 "The Battle"
Refit movie-era Enterprise bridge
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Enterprise A bridge (as seen in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home


On the other hand, consistency in Starfleet ship design makes sense, and they often built these ships to last! We know of numerous starships that were in service for decades (not the least of which was the Excelsior-class; plus, in the episode "Relics," Geordi even told Scotty that the Jenolen, a ship over eighty years old, might still have been in service at that time if it weren't so banged up! 

(And I'm sure that the existence of the TOS movie-era sets at the time of The Next Generation had absolutely nothing to do with any of this ...) 


A few years later, in 2358 (approximately 5 years prior to "Encounter at Farpoint"), Blackman wedged in this curious variation of a Starfleet admiral uniform, which appeared to be a stylistic hybrid of both the TWOK-era and TNG-era uniforms (albeit with the Voyager-era communicator - whoops):

Transitional uniform worn by Admiral Janeway, Captain Janeway's father
VOY, 3x15 "Coda"


Again, though, all three of the previous examples I mentioned were telepathically-induced recollections/hallucinations/impersonations, forcibly imposed by aliens with malicious intentions, so their reliability as evidence is questionable for our purposes, although they do seem to lend a certain amount of credence to each other.


In any event, even if we disregard all three of the previous examples, it still appears that Theiss' TNG-era Starfleet uniforms had at least appeared by 2353, as evidenced by the photo of Jeremiah Rossa's parents.

Early TNG jumpsuit worn by Jeremiah Rossa's (biological) father
TNG, 4x4 "Suddenly Human"


This seems to validate the visions/hallucinations/recollections/etc. as mentioned previously, at least in terms of the Starfleet uniform timeline.


Furthermore, there were three additional examples prior to "Encounter at Farpoint" during which we saw Theiss' TNG-era uniforms being worn by Starfleet crew. 

The first was in the Victory's away team sensor logs, about a year before "Encounter at Farpoint," during which Geordi La Forge was still a junior officer and on an away mission with several other crew members, all of whom donned Theiss' TNG-era uniforms.

Early TNG uniform jumpsuits worn by Victory crew
Early TNG uniform jumpsuits worn by Victory crew
TNG, 4x18 "Identity Crisis"


The second was Lieutenant "Thomas" Riker, who was a transporter clone of "William" Riker from perhaps a year or so prior to "Encounter at Farpoint."

Early TNG uniform variant worn by Thomas Riker
TNG, 6x24 "Second Chances"


Curiously, though, while his uniform was obviously the Theiss-style, it was an unusual variant in two ways: first, it was a jacket, rather than a jumpsuit; and second, it appears to have been made from wool gabardine, as Blackman's TNG-era uniform jackets were, rather than jumbo spandex. (See my TNG jacket analysis for more on this variant.)


And finally, in The Next Generation's final episode, we saw that, at the time of the Enterprise D's launch, all the crew members were already in Theiss' TNG-era Starfleet uniforms (unlike the Deep Space Nine pilot, in which the crew members were introduced in the existing, familiar Starfleet uniforms and changed into the new ones over the course of the episode).

Early TNG uniforms worn by Enterprise D crew in Star Trek: The Next Generation's final episode
TNG, 7x25 "All Good Things ..."


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3 comments:

  1. You know what's dawned on me reading this: the TWOK-TUC enlisted jumpers could've been cannibalized to create a "hybrid"/"bridge" uniform between both eras. Changing details, such as removing the quilted-turtleneck collars, re-dying them, giving them TNG combadges, putting the rank pips on the sleeve band, or what have you. Be a fascinating exercise.

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    Replies
    1. That's an interesting idea! Even more so since those enlisted jumpsuits evolved out of the ones from TMP!

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  2. As I got done reading that article you wrote, about the changing of the uniform styles, it came to me, that it probably would've might work if , Starfleet would've maybe combined just a little bit of the styles of uniforms, from t.o.s movie era costumes and t.n.g series ,and Voyager series era uniform costumes. And put some kind of rank symbol band around the end of the sleeves, to indicate whether the command rank , or any other branch in Starfleet was , junior, grade , or any other of grade the officer was in the rank the officer was in Starfleet. And maybe a little bit more on the variation of those styles of uniforms that I mentioned , above. What do you other people think of , about that ????????

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