In TOS of Star Trek, the front ends of the Enterprise's engines seem to change color. I think people also called them "bussard collectors." Sometimes they are pink, like in the remastered version, but often times they are depicted as orange or red for many different toys and pictures of them. By orange, I mean like this:

TOS Enterprise with orange-ish Bussard Collectors

By pink, I mean like this in the remastered:

TOS Enterprise with pink-ish Bussard Collectors

So which is the "correct" one?

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    restored filming model at the Air and Space Musuem - laughingsquid.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/… – NKCampbell Oct 15 '18 at 22:25
  • By the way: Wikipedia has a page on the Bussard ramjet, and I believe you're correct that (in-universe) that's what the front caps of the nacelles were supposed to be. – David Z Oct 16 '18 at 6:10
  • It is possible that the Ex Astris Scientia site might have a comparison of the TOS and TOS-R Enterprises.They do have side by side comparisons of special effects shots for episodes of TOS and TOS-R. So they might discuss different Enterprise looks. ex-astris-scientia.org/articles/tos_ships.htm The nacelle caps were lit with the spinning lights when the warp engines were running in TOS, so that was the intended color operating color in TOS, while in TOS-R it seems to have a paler pinkish color when operating. – M. A. Golding Oct 16 '18 at 17:36

It appears that what color the globes on the front of the nacelles appeared depended on the exact parts in use and the precise lighting scheme. The Smithsonian Institution's exhibit page about the actual 1960s starship model has 76 photographs of the object and its various parts. Just looking at the first two images, it is clear that hemispheres may look either orange or pale pinkish gray, depending on the circumstances.

On display in 1987 Current Display

It is hard to say for certain, but those look like two different sets of globes, one much redder than the other. (The redder one, in the first image, lacks the striping pattern seen in the lower image.) The online exhibit site also includes an older photo, taken when the model was newly made, which shows yet a different set of hemispheres (with spines!) as well as a different "front disk."

Original configuration

Actually, I suspect that the solid orange globes appearing in the first picture above are actually ersatz, and the the pinkish ones are real. (See below for why.) See here for what they look like disassembled:

Disassembled model

And what they look like when lit up:


The lights behind the translucent hemisphere are clearly orange or orange-red.

Drawing all this information together, it appears that the hemispheres were of translucent grayish plastic, with orange lights behind them. When the internal lamps are off, or the model is strongly illuminated, you see the pale gray or pinkish gray hue. On the other hand, when the orange lamps are on, and the ambient lighting is low, the hemisphere glow orange.

Which color scheme is the "real" appearance is then rather ambiguous. The best you could say would that one scheme represents the way the visual design and special effects crew intended the ship to appear. My opinion on this point is that (to the extent they ever thought especially carefully about the question) they probably wanted the glowing orange appearance. And there is one further piece of evidence that points toward this being the intended color scheme; I think the different globes seen in the first picture, from the 1987 display, were actually a different set that were made to replace the originals when the model went on display, so that the hemispheres would still be strongly red-orange, even without the electric lamps needing to be on.

  • The picture of the Enterprise filming model sitting on a cradle at a curb looks like the "original". It was later modified to add a lighting effect to the domes - see my answer. – Anthony X Oct 16 '18 at 1:55
  • @AnthonyX Indeed, the caption for that photo says it was taken on Dec. 29, 1964 (shortly before the filming of "The Cage") outside the Production Model Shop in Burbank, presumably where it was made. – Buzz Oct 16 '18 at 2:05
  • I love that the model was just sitting on the sidewalk. These days, with all the fans, that would disappear in a heartbeat! – FreeMan Oct 16 '18 at 18:01

Buzz included a picture of the filming model sitting on a cradle on the ground. That is an early version of the Enterprise (there were a couple of rounds of changes). That picture is probably the one used in the original pilot ("The Cage"). The domes are opaque and look more brown than anything else. The model was later modified to add a lighting effect to the domes. It used small, old-fashioned Christmas lights in various colors. In each dome, there is a pattern of 5 larger orange lights which contribute the most to the overall color, but there are also smaller lights in a mixture of red, blue, and green. The domes themselves have no color; the color comes entirely from the lights inside. The domes are frosted so you don't clearly see the lights, and when not lit, the resulting color does end up a bit grayish, with a slight hue from the bulbs inside.

Depending on whether you are talking about the original, opaque domes, or the lighted version, lit or unlit, the answer will be different.

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