I recently started and finished watching the entire original series of “Star Trek” (three seasons, 1966-1969). One of the most striking elements of the show’s design was its use of costumes, all of which were designed by William Ware Theiss, who later designed costumes for such films as Harold and Maude (1971), Bound for Glory (1976), Who’ll Stop the Rain (1978), Goin’ South (1978) and Butch and Sundance: The Early Days (1979). This post honors seventeen of Theiss’ most inspired (and in many cases, most revealing) creations.
“What Are Little Girls Made Of?” [S1 E7] – Sherry Jackson, playing an android named Andrea, wears a rather flimsy set of overalls, while Ted Cassidy, as a menacing android named Ruk, wears what looks like a glued-together pile of random weird fabrics. I also like the boilersuit (if that’s the right terminology) worn by Dr. Korby (Michael Strong).
“Shore Leave” [S1 E15] – When the crew of the Enterprise makes the mistake of taking shore leave on a planet which is basically just a gigantic amusement park, Dr. McCoy’s “death” is resolved at the episode’s end by having merely been an illusion, like all the other bizarre events that happened; when he returns to his astonished crew, McCoy is accompanied by two Vegas-looking showgirls he fondly remembered from a past rendezvous.
“The Return of the Archons” [S1 E21] – Members of the Enterprise’s crew beam down to a world that appears to be modeled on the US circa the late 1800s, and before doing so, the crew members all don excellent, period-appropriate attire. My personal favorite look is Spock’s cloak, which would look unusual in most any era.
“A Taste of Armageddon” [S1 E23] – Dig some of these crazy outfits! I love whenever Theiss had to design hats for the guest actors.
“Amok Time” [S2 E1] – One of the all-time classic episodes of the original series, “Amok Time” features Spock in the throes of pon farr, the Vulcan mating cycle that occurs once every seven years. He and the Enterprise crew travel back to his home planet, also called Vulcan, where Spock expects to wed the bride chosen for him during childhood, T’Pring (Arlene Martel, who in 1961 had guest-starred as the morgue nurse with the catchphrase “Room for one more, honey!” in one of my favorite “Twilight Zone” episodes, “Twenty Two”). This scene shows T’Pring and also the leader of the Vulcans, T’Pau (veteran character actress Celia Lovsky). Naturally, complications ensue when T’Pring decides that a simple wedding is not enough and instead she would rather see Spock and Kirk engage in a fight to the death. Needless to say, all of the costumes are terrific.
“Who Mourns for Adonais?” [S2 E2] – Apollo (Michael Forest) uses his powers to dress Lt. Carolyn Palamas (Leslie Parrish) in a gown befitting Aphrodite, an outfit which is held up only by the weight of the train draped over the lieutenant’s shoulder. I only wish that this clip displayed the rich color and sparkle of the costume, which you can see in its perfection on the remastered DVD of the show, as well as the amount of leg visible on both sides of the skirt.
“Mirror, Mirror” [S2 E4] – How you know that Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, Scotty and Lt. Uhura have been transported to an parallel-universe version of the Enterprise: a) there are even skimpier costumes (nice abs, Nichelle Nichols!), b) everyone on the ship does Naziesque salutes and c) Mirror Universe Spock has a Beard of Evil.
“Journey to Babel” [S2 E10] – During a diplomatic mission in which the Enterprise carries ambassadors from many different worlds – including Spock’s Vulcan father, Sarek (Mark Lenard), and Spock’s human mother, Amanda (Jane Wyatt) – to a peace conference, you get to see the ship’s top-ranking officers in the jackets required for special occasions such as this one, as well as the diverse set of costumes worn by the plethora of life forms inhabiting the Enterprise during the voyage.
“Friday’s Child” [S2 E11] – These are truly both the funniest and the ugliest costumes that any guest villains had to wear on “Star Trek.” Get a look at those ponytails! Bonus: Julie Newmar as that week’s damsel in distress.
“A Piece of the Action” [S2 E17] – Kirk and Spock in 1920s-era suits and fedoras! I’ll bet these costumes were half the reason why this episode, set on a planet that believes in Prohibition-era Chicago as the ideal model for their society, was put into production in the first place.
“Assignment: Earth” [S2 E26] – The final episode of season two was also essentially a pilot for a show (of the same name) that Gene Roddenberry was hoping to launch; it didn’t happen, so instead we’re stuck with these weird “Star Trek” episode that focuses more on a Doctor Who-type character (played by Robert Lansing) and his companion (Teri Garr) than on Kirk, Spock or anything else happening on the Enterprise. Kirk and Spock (the latter of whom has a hat to hide his Vulcan ears) wear some great 1968-era outfits, though, and Teri Garr’s kind of psychedelic outfit is cute.
Warning: this clip contains strobe effects and many bright, flashing lights.
“Is There in Truth No Beauty?” [S3 E5] – Diana Muldaur is one of my favorite actresses who appeared on “Star Trek”; not only am I partial to her since she was born in Brooklyn, but she also holds the distinction of being one of the few guest stars to play multiple characters in multiple episodes. Each of Diana Muldaur’s characters was an intelligent, high-ranking woman working either in Starfleet or elsewhere in the Federation; in season two episode “Return to Tomorrow” she played Dr. Ann Mulhall, a science officer (described as an “astrobiologist”) newly assigned to the Enterprise during that episode, and in “Is There No Beauty?” she plays Dr. Miranda Jones, assistant to the Medusan ambassador Kollos. I used a clip from the latter episode because Muldaur’s Dr. Jones has a fantastic upswept hairdo and she wears many beautiful gowns – besides this one (seen here in full length), there is a blue gown and also a black gown that looks incredible in motion – and all of the outfits are covered in “sensor webs” to aid her since she is blind (though the other characters don’t realize it until near the end of the episode).
P.S. Diana Muldaur’s “Star Trek” career continued twenty years later when she had a recurring role as Dr. Pulaski on the TV series “Star Trek: The Next Generation” in 1988.
“For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky” [S3 E8] – Natira (Katherine Woodville) and her fellow countrymen on the world of Yonada wear many colorful designs, clearly utilizing a lot of whatever CBS had available (“Star Trek” was always a low-budget show, especially in its final season).
“Plato’s Stepchildren” [S3 310] – Primarily famous as the episode in which Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) share a kiss (a first for interracial kisses on American television), “Plato’s Stepchildren” also makes great use of glittery togas and laurels. (Our heroes are prisoners on a planet based on ancient Greek history and mythology, where all the beings there have telekinetic powers which hold Kirk, Spock, Uhura and Nurse Christine Chapel captive.) The forced kiss between Spock and Christine is particularly cruel not just because Spock is incapable of emotion, but because it is established early in season one that Christine has a crush – obviously unrequited – on her Vulcan comrade.
“The Way to Eden” [S3 E20] – Most fans describe this episode as one of “Star Trek’s” worst. I mean, yeah, it’s all about hippies in space, but look at Charles Napier’s outfit! A horrible hairpiece, a costume that looks like a typical challenge-losing design from “Project Runway,” and extremely high boots. All that, and he sings too!
(Oh, and by the way, the bald fellow you see at 0:13 is Skip Homeier.)
“The Savage Curtain” [S3 E22] – Probably best remembered as the episode that involves a projection of Abraham Lincoln (played by Lee Bergere), we see the Enterprise’s top officers wearing their special-event finery (like we also saw in the “Journey to Babel” clip), but I particularly love Scotty’s kilt, the tartan fabric of which connects to the top of his uniform jacket.
“All Our Yesterdays” [S3 E23] – The series’ penultimate episode might have the most entertaining costume reveal of all. Stuck in a musty cave during an ice age, Zarabeth (Mariette Hartley) sees her opportunity for romance when Spock and McCoy fall through a time portal and end up in her neck of the woods, so to speak; the lonely woman instantly falls in love with Spock, and despite the freezing cold temperatures, Zarabeth has clearly made the right choice for what to wear under her winter coat.