This means I'm seeking the first three-dimensionally computer-modeled and rendered imagery used in Star Trek.

We know there was extensive 3D CGI used in DS9 (Odo) and Voyager (USS Voyager). But what is the earliest use in TNG or any of the TOS movies?

Note that to satisfy this question, there needs to have been a meaningful model built in 3D and then rendered, as I'm sure there was a lot of post-processing done by computer in TNG and there were many 2D images generated for effects (e.g. Okudagrams) and the line between what would constitute computer-generated 2D images and merely digital image manipulation would be kind of blurry. Manually generated images from multiple views that were meant to appear 3D do not count.

  • 1
    Obsolete speculation: "The Game" is the first obvious example, but it is not until season 5. I imagine there is an earlier occurrence. The blob that casts a shadow in "Identity Crisis" also comes to mind, but I don't even know if this was not meres a 2D image. Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 20:45
  • In “The Dauphin,” CGI was likely used to show the transformation of the Allasomorph into other species. Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 17:59

3 Answers 3


According to the CGI article on Memory Alpha:

The very first CGI used was in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, where Lucasfilm Graphics Group, then a subsidiary of Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), was responsible for the "Project Genesis" demonstration sequence effect, the very first fully textured 3D CGI representation shown in the motion picture business to a general public.

So per to the article, which is thoroughly detailed on the use of CGI in the franchise, the first use of a fully textured 3D CGI then would be the Genesis Effect, seen here (1982):

As luck would have it, there's actually "making of" video available on youtube:

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    Of course! I didn't think of that! Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 20:35
  • Perhaps you want this link: youtube.com/watch?v=52XlyMbxxh8&t=54s Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 20:38
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    Sure, but the video quality in the Making Of doesn't really do it justice. Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 20:50
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    The team that worked on this would later be a part of starting Pixar - pixartouchbook.com/blog/2009/7/16/star-trek.html
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 21:08
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    Quite interesting that this CGI sequence was part of a video presetation depicting something which hadn't happened yet, so also a CGI sequence in the context of the story. This leaves the question about when CGI was first used to represent something which was real within the narrative fiction.
    – Philipp
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 12:09

With regard to TNG, the first explicitly CGI object seen in the show is the gigantic force-field erected by Q at approx 4 minutes in.

enter image description here

We have confirmation (from Wil Wheaton, the actor who portrayed Wesley Crusher) that this was indeed a computer-generated effect rather than a physical model or a video-effect.

"There's a mystery at Farpoint, and he's totally going to solve it...just as soon as he figures out how to get past this giant CGI net that's arrived out of nowhere and is cockblocking his ship."

Memories of the Future - Volume 1

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    Sounds right, but do we really know Wil Weaton is doing anything more than speculating like we are? Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 21:13
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    Also, do we know how the planets in the opening credits were generated? Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 21:14
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    @ThePopMachine - I believe they were matte paintings with various lighting effects and VFX matting but not CGI
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 22:10
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    What about the Enterprise? It sure looks ray traced to me, we see it in the intro and it is also the first thing we see after the intro credits, while Picard does his captain's log entry. Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 10:10
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    For a moment I read that as being a computer effect from Wheaton, instead of a confirmation from Wheaton and I wondered if Wheaton actually was a genius programmer or something. (Also, typo: h in Wheaton.)
    – muru
    Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 0:50

As for the first rendered 3D object, I would say that would be

The Crystalline Entity, from S1E13, Datalore

From Memory Alpha: Crystalline Entity

In its very first appearance, the Crystalline Entity was one of the very first CGI sequences used in the Star Trek franchise. It was built and rendered by Chris Alsop at The Post Group.

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    What about the Q mesh from Encounter at Farpoint?
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 20:42
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    @Valorum - as a force field, it's arguable whether or not it constitutes an object.
    – Jules
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 9:11
  • @Jules, asker is asking for any imagery. There does not appear to be any requirement for what that imagery is of.
    – Gnemlock
    Commented Mar 25, 2018 at 8:46

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