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Matt Jefferies

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Matt Jefferies unofficial credit Matt Jefferies official credit
Jefferies' "unofficial" credit...
...and his "official" one
"Some day, I'll fly away, way, way beyond the clouds!"
– Richard L. Jefferies, brother, 2008, citing a childhood statement Matt Jefferies made [1]
"Matt Jefferies was the most decent and devoted human being on the production team. He never lost his cool, never lost his temper."
– Robert Justman, Producer, 1996 (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, p. 169)

Walter Matthew "Matt" Jefferies, Jr. (12 August 192121 July 2003; age 81), nicknamed "Jeff" by his family and older brother to fellow Star Trek designer John Jefferies, was the art director and production designer on all three seasons of Star Trek: The Original Series, and has done some preliminary work as such on Star Trek: The Motion Picture, or rather its immediate predecessor, Star Trek: Phase II, albeit uncredited.

Visually, it was very much Matt Jefferies who has established the look of Star Trek and as such, his contributions had been signature and not to be underestimated. It was Jefferies who designed the original Enterprise studio model with its saucer-shaped hull, engineering hull, and two nacelles, as well as the type 1 and type 2 phaser designs seen in The Original Series, for which he, along with brother John, did the design drawings. His involvement in the Star Trek franchise started in 1964, when Gene Roddenberry asked Jefferies to design a starship for his new TV series. His signature design survived to influence starship designs in all subsequent Star Trek productions. As influential as his starship designs, was his bridge design. Apart from these, he designed the vast majority of the numerous sets, landscapes, props, and other ships (most notably the Klingon D7-class) for the original series.

Jefferies came to the attention of Roddenberry after the latter saw the 1957 Cold War movie Bombers B-52, on which Jefferies, as one of his earliest motion picture contributions, had served as a production designer, albeit uncredited. It was on the initiative of Roddenberry that Jefferies was unexpectedly released from the production he was working on at the time by his employer, Desilu Studios, to start work on the very first Star trek pilot, "The Cage". (The Making of Star Trek, p. 79) Upon meeting in early fall 1964, both men took an immediate shining to one and other, as they shared a common history. Both men had served in World War II as Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber pilots, though Roddenberry had served in the Pacific theater, whereas Jefferies had flown over Africa and Europe.[1] After Roddenberry had explained what he wanted to see, and more importantly, what he did not want to see in the design of the new starship Enterprise, Jefferies remembered leaving the meeting elated, "I could make him laugh, and we seemed like a perfect combination in that he was a real head-in-the-clouds dreamer, and I was a nuts-and-bolts man." (Star Trek Memories, p. 45) Little did he know upon leaving the meeting, what a challenge working on the show proved to be the next four years.

When Jefferies reported in for work on the first pilot, late 1964, he recalled, "When I started on Star Trek, Gene didn't even have an office, much less a secretary. Only Herb [Solow] was on the lot. But Gene came to the lot most days, and at first I dealt directly with him. Then the studio brought in a man by the name of Franz Bachelin, an old-time art director. They also brought in a friend of Desi [Arnaz], Art Director Pato Guzman from The Lucy Show. I was still a set designer, not an art director. I would have the bridge and the exterior of the ship to do and they were to do the rest." (Star Trek: The Original Series Sketchbook, p. 114) Both Art Directors Guzman and subsequently Bachelin, brought in after the former left, were Jefferies' superiors on "The Cage" at the time. Jefferies usually worked out his designs on paper with pencil and charcoal in black and white, but occasionally created full-color renderings, such as for the Enterprise – which actually sold Jefferies' final exterior design of the ship to the producers – and the bridge, in order to give the producers a more rounded feel for the intended design. However, after "The Cage" he all but dispensed with the full-color practice for the Original Series (though he did highlight a few of his later black-and-white sketches with additional colors).

The following year, with both Guzman and Bachelin gone, Jefferies was called back to the Star Trek production to work on the second pilot "Where No Man Has Gone Before", though now he had some bones to pick, "There were some problems in becoming an "official" art director. The application was put in to the union and I waited. A good friend of mine who was on the executive board told me what was happening. When my acceptance came up at a meeting, the president said, "Well, we'll table that for the time being, until the series [Star Trek] is canceled – there's no way it will get renewed. Matt won't be working, and Matt isn't working, that will take care of the problem and we can forget him." Well, I went and told Gene about it. Gene called Herb. Herb called me over and told me, "You're going to be working here as an art director until you are approved and sworn in, even if we have to keep you sweeping the stages to do it!" Well, thanks to Herb, I stayed. It finally got sorted out, and I got my official credit, sometime after the first season of Star Trek." (Star Trek: The Original Series Sketchbook, p. 114) It did not restrain Jefferies however, to work on the second pilot as set designer though. Incidentally, for "The Cage", Jefferies had already been credited as "Assistant Art Director", though per union rules he, being formally still a "Set Designer", was at that time not yet entitled to carry the title. But since the pilot was not aired, it never had been an issue.

Now officially designated "Art Director", Jefferies started to work on the first season regular series run, starting with the first regular series episode in 1966. He, at first, worked with fellow art director Rolland M. Brooks on the first season and the beginning of the second. After Brooks left the series, Jefferies became the sole production designer, or rather art director, for Star Trek. Very much one of the most influential production staffers on the visual look of The Original Series, since then attaining a near legendary status, at least where the Star Trek community is concerned, Jefferies was held in highest regard by producers Roddenberry, Solow and Robert Justman throughout his tenure at the franchise. Justman, as treasurer, in particularly, was deeply impressed with Jefferies' abilities to make do with the meager means he was allocated with, especially since he was the one who had to continuously inform Jefferies that his budget was slashed, every time the studio lowered the series' budget, and his art department was among the first where Justman looked for money to be saved.

A very appreciative Justman had said this of Jefferies, "His eyes got watery and he would find it difficult to speak when an over-budget show forced me to take away half his construction money. And I'd demand the impossible, that he still provide us with believable sets for less money then it should cost. He'd gulp a bit and finally said, in a very throaty voice, "Well...let me see what I can do. I'll give it a try." So Matt would try harder [note: from the second season onward greatly aided by his younger brother, Set Designer John, as well as Set Decorator John Dwyer and his team, who became very adept at scavenging for any and all items that could be used in set construction], and he always came through for us. And I always felt guilty, so I sent him a memo of thanks and prodded Gene to do the same. By union contract, Matt wasn't entitled to a raise until after his first six months as a full-fledged Art Director. I talked Gene into discussing the problem with Solow. He did, and Herb "bumped him up" immediately." But now, Jefferies' hard-won battle to officially gain the "Art Director" title back-fired on him. The act of appreciation did not sit well with his own Art Directors Union after having been so recently appointed "Art Director". Promoted to "Production Designer", a very desirable higher status title at the time (coming with its complementary financial amenities), the union effectively blocked his promotion, only allowing the use of the title on the first five aired regular series episodes (including the aired second pilot episode, "Where No Man Has Gone Before", for which he originally had been credited as "Set Designer"), where the title had already been featured. Nevertheless, Justman was determined to officially get Jefferies the title he so much believed he deserved and continued to lobby for it, though he ultimately never succeeded in doing so. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, pp. 111, 169, 173)

In a move that was somewhat reminiscent of the one he made back in 1964, Roddenberry sounded out Jefferies in 1977 to rejoin the franchise for the Star Trek: Phase II television project that was under development, or as brother Richard had put it, "January 1977, Michael Landon informed Matt that Gene had asked to "borrow" his art director for a few days." (Beyond the Clouds, p. 250) While he did some preliminary work in June on the redesign of the Enterprise, using as starting point the ship he designed for the Original Series, and which eventually resulted in the fabrication of detailed construction blueprintswbm based on his preliminary redesign sketches for the build of the Phase II Enterprise studio model. Other things Jefferies looked into for the project were the bridge, the air tram station, and a redesign for the Galileo shuttlecraft. Ultimately though, he decided to decline the offer as he was unwilling to give up his job at Landon's Little House on the Prairie. In his stead, he recommended Joe Jennings, his assistant during the original second season, for the position and who was subsequently hired as art director. (Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Series, p. 26 & color section; Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 8,  p. 84)

The series of interviews conducted with Jefferies for the 2000-2002 run of the publication Star Trek: The Magazine were the most elaborate ones, he has ever given on his work on Star Trek, and has helped to clear up some of the misconceptions that had evolved over the years on some of his work in Star Trek lore, such as the origins of the USS Enterprise's registry number and the raison d'etre for the D7-class studio model.

Never a science fiction fan, Star Trek was for Matt Jefferies an assignment like any of his others, albeit one he tackled with professionalism, and when the Original Series wrapped, he moved on, not giving a second thought on the work he had done on the show. He was therefore taken aback and mystified when Star Trek became the runaway success it did in syndication in the 1970s. He admitted in 1987, "I still don't understand it, I think if we'd known it was gonna last so long and be studied by so many people we'd probably have been so frightened of it we'd never have been able to make a decision." (Cinefantastique, Vol 17 #2, p. 27) While honored by the growing admiration, it was also a reason for him to shy away from every form of public expression of acclaim, the Star Trek conventions in particular, though not for want of invitations as he received a multitude of them. Only trice did Jefferies made a public Star Trek appearance, and the first one was already somewhat of a traumatic experience for him. A bit ushered on by Paramount Pictures, he reluctantly conceded to attend the highly-publicized 1996 Pasadena Star Trek convention, but once there he was mobbed by well-meaning admirers to such an extend, that he had to be delivered by police. Jefferies vowed to his wife, Mary-Ann, never to attend a convention again. (Beyond the Clouds, p. 264) Four years later though, he relented a bit when Star Trek Archivist Penny Juday asked him personally to attend William Campbell's FantastiCon V 2Kwbm science fiction convention, Star Trek themed that year and held on 14-16 July, 2000, in Los Angeles. Campbell had founded this convention as a charity for the benefit of "Motion Picture & Television Fund", a charitable organization that offered assistance and care to those in the motion picture industry with limited or no resources. Together with a multitude of other Star Trek staffers he attended the Gala Awards Dinner on the 14th, and was pleasantly surprised when he was awarded by the organization with the honorary Shooting Star Award, which was presented to Jefferies by Juday. [2]

Born and raised with a deep sense of the Christian belief system, Jefferies followed up on his attendance at Campbell's charity event the subsequent year, when he, along with his brother John, sold off virtually all of their Original Series production items, including all of his design art, still in their possession in the Profiles in History The Star Trek Auction of 12 December 2001, in order to raise funding for the Motion Picture & Television Fund". Prior to the auction, most of Jefferies' Star Trek design art, much of which previously unseen, was published in Star Trek: The Original Series Sketchbook and the interview issues of Star Trek: The Magazine.

In addition to his reluctance of engaging in the Star Trek cultural phenomena, Jefferies has confessed to a lack of enthrallment for all post-The Original Series reincarnations of Star Trek, having stated in a BBC interview, shortly before his death in 2003, in regard to The Motion Picture, "I went to the first movie. I was invited to the screening. I fell asleep. John Dwyer noticed it from across the screening room and said, "Matt, wake up." Fortunately nobody else in there knew me.", and in regard to Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Gene asked me how I liked the show, and I said that he had taken the bridge of my ship and turned it into the lobby of the Hilton. And I have just never watched any of them since. I’m lost." [3] Still, he has expressed his professional admiration for his successors on the newer shows, when he exclaimed, "I'm dumbfounded by what you've people have done!" at the June 2001 Visual Effects Society Festival, his third and last public Star Trek appearance and where he was one of the Star Trek visual effects guests of honor. [X]wbm

Robert Justman and Matt Jeffries

Old friends reunited...with Robert Justman (l) in Jefferies' final brush with the Star Trek franchise, 15 July 2003

Nevertheless, it was in his honor that the crawl spaces on all Starfleet vessels are named Jefferies tubes, a reference used throughout the entire Star Trek franchise. While the denominator was first heard in The Next Generation, it had already been used as a behind-the-scenes production in-joke during the run of the Original Series, as Jefferies himself had indicated, "Somebody hung the name Jefferies Tube on it. It wasn't me, but the name stuck and I used it in some of my sketches!"" (Star Trek: The Original Series Sketchbook, p. 72) Likewise, the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "First Flight" mentioned Captain Jefferies, who was also named in honor of Matt Jefferies.

Aside from this, Jefferies became revered by numerous later Star Trek production staffers, especially by those working in the art and visual effects departments, such as Doug Drexler (whose marriage with Dorothy Duder Jefferies attended [X]wbm), Michael Okuda (with whom Jefferies developed a friendship later in life), Bill George and many others. How evident this reverence was, was exemplified when Jefferies was lured to Paramount Pictures under the pretense of discussing a video chronicling the origins of The Original Series (actually the TOS Season 2 DVD "Designing the Final Frontier"-special, released a year later). Upon entering the screening room Jefferies was greeted by a host of Star Trek staffers, old and new, and family members who had assembled to honor him. Hosted by Penny Juday, a humbled Jefferies made use of the surprise tribute, to again express his appreciation, but also his befuddlement, for the accolades his Star Trek work had gained him, "I find it very difficult to comprehend, honestly, how design work that I did oh-so-many years ago has been accepted and continues to be accepted by millions of Star Trek fans throughout the world." The tribute took place on 15 July 2003, a mere six days before his death. (Beyond the Clouds, pp. 285-286)

Career outside Star Trek

Hailing from the East Coast and growing up in the Depression Era, Matt Jefferies graduated from the Thomas Jefferson Highs School in Richmond, Virginia and directly enrolled into the military, where he attended a number of technical classes. As he had developed a passion for aviation in the interbellum years, he wanted to join the United States Air Force to serve as pilot and on the outset of World War II switched over from the infantry which he had initially joined. Jefferies elaborated, "I went in with an infantry National Guard unit, the First Regiment of the Virginia Greys. But I took a short discharge and re-enlisted, giving up my Tech Sergeant stripes and going back as a private in the Army Air Corps. Then I went to aircraft mechanics, engine specialist, B-17 schools and overseas -- to England first in the summer of 1942, then to Africa, Sicily and Italy. In the last year and a half, I was in flight tests, where as a Tech Sergeant, I was engineer co-pilot in B-17's, B-24's, B-25's, and B-26's." (Inside Star Trek, issue 4, p. 2) As B-17 co-pilot over Africa, Jefferies famously survived a mid-air collision with a German fighter plane. His war time services earned him the Air Medal (as it had Roddenberry) and the Bronze Star. Directly after the war Jefferies served as a Tech Inspector for the air force until his enlistment was up. His brush with death in the war did nothing to dampen his enthusiasm for aviation after the war, and in the post-war years he personally restored his own plane, a 1935 Waco YOC. Its registry, NC17740, has in Star Trek lore given rise to a decades long myth that the USS Enterprise received its registry from his plane, a notion Jefferies finally dispelled himself in 2000. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 10,  p. 26) Upon his discharge from the service he, after an apprenticeship under New York illustrator William Heaslip, became an aviation illustrator at the aircraft manufacturer Erco, followed in 1948 by an illustrator's position at the Library of Congress. A detailed cutaway drawing of a Seversky P-35 airplane, he did for the magazine Air Trails HOBBIES for Young Men earned Jefferies his first nation wide recognition. (Beyond the Clouds, p. 209)

Jefferies' first brush with the motion picture industry came in 1956, when he was asked by Warner Brothers for technical input on the X-2 Bell experimental rocket plane for the movie Toward the Unknown. Less than a year later, he received a phone-call from his younger brother, Hollywood Art Director Philip and the first of three brothers to work in the motion picture industry, who was looking for an art director for another Warner Brothers aviation movie, the earlier mentioned Cold War movie Bombers B-52. The studio was, at a time when art directors/production illustrators were relatively sparse in Hollywood, looking for an illustrator with detailed knowledge on the bomber, and as Matt Jefferies, the aviation enthusiast, had an extensive library of B-52 manuals, he was hired on the spot. Matt was the first of the Jefferies brothers, Philip persuaded to make the move to Hollywood, the youngest, John, being brought over later by him in 1962. (Beyond the Clouds, pp. 211, 213, 222)

Before Star Trek he further worked for Warner Brothers on the movies, The Old Man and the Sea (1958, as production illustrator), Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959, as set designer) and The Crowded Sky (1960, as set designer), all uncredited. In 1960 he moved over to Desilu Studios, where he worked as set designer on the television productions The Untouchables, Mission: Impossible, and Ben Casey, the series – which was not Desilu property, but produced on their lot nevertheless – from which he was unexpectedly pulled by his employer, after he returned from a holiday, only to find himself working on the new Star Trek show. It gave him a scare though, as he recalled, "I had been working for Desilu as a sort of assistant art director in Ben Casey. And during the run of that show I's taken four weeks off, during which time I went to the New York World's Fair and visited with family in Virginia. At the end of my vacation I came back to work, walked into my little cubicle and found it empty. My drawing board and my drafting tools were gone. So I went into my boss's office and said, "I don't know where all my stuff is, but where the hell is the next Casey script?" He said, "Forget it, you're not on the show anymore." So I figured, "Well, I guess that serves me right for being a smartass and taking a month off." But as it turned out, my boss wasn't firing me at all." (Star Trek Memories, pp. 44-45)

Matt Jefferies discusses War Of The Worlds TV series with George Pal

Jefferies and Pal (l) discussing the War Of The Worlds TV series; notice the disassembled starboard nacelle of the original eleven-foot Enterprise studio model in the background

In between the first and second pilot of Star trek Jefferies did,"(...)the pilot for Mission: Impossible and then a lovely little western called The Long Hunt of April Savage. Herb Solow was in charge of both of those. Then I was loaned out to Disney to do a set for one of their movies, after which I returned to Star Trek." (Star Trek: The Original Series Sketchbook, p. 114) During the production of the second season of the Original Series Jefferies became acquainted with Stephen Edward Poe, whom he befriended. Poe had been given unrestricted access to the production for the reference book The Making of Star Trek, he was writing at the time, as part of the deal he had brokered between Desilu and model kit company Aluminum Metal Toys (AMT). During their interview sessions, they came up, aside from conceiving the D7 model kit, with the 1968 Strategic Space Command concept for Poe's account AMT, being a themed science fiction model kit line AMT wanted to introduce in order to capitalize on the huge success of their first two Star Trek model kits, the USS Enterprise (No. S921) and the Klingon Battle cruiser (No. S952). [X]wbm The first model kit of the line, the Leif Ericson (No. S954), designed by Jefferies, was a commercial failure, and the project was dropped by AMT. Nevertheless, Jefferies appeared to have been quite taken with his Leif Ericson design and resubmitted his design seven years later as the Pegasus when he was working as production designer for legendary science fiction movie maker George Pal for his proposed War of the Worlds television series, an intended follow-up of his classic 1953 Paramount Pictures War of the Worlds movie. Unfortunately, like the Strategic Space Command concept, the proposed series too did not came to fruition. [4] It should be noted that Matt Jefferies designed the construction plans for the first three outings in AMT's Star Trek model kit line in his spare time in initial conjuncture with Poe, but that both men were excluded from any and all royalties arrangements resulting from their hugely successful sales. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, p. 173)

Though mostly remembered for his work on Star Trek, at the time, it was but a small part of his career, and he has always considered it as such. It was aviation that has always been and remained his true passion. Afterwards he worked on productions such as the 1970s-1980s television series Love, American Style, Little House on the Prairie, Father Murphy and Dallas, with the television movie The Killing Stone (1978, and like Little House and Father Murphy a Michael Landon production, with whom Jefferies enjoyed a close working relationship) his last recorded motion picture work. He particularly enjoyed working for Little House, which, apart from being a higher paid job and his close working relationship with Landon, also resonated with his childhood during the Depression Era, according to his brother Richard, and it was therefore that he choose not to return to the Star Trek franchise. [5] Richard further stated in this regard, elaborating on the fact that Matt, like most of his kin, valued strong family ties, "Matt often said that he enjoyed his work on Little House on the Prairie more than anything else he had done in the film industry. Matt was a history buff. He derived great pleasure from remembrances of days and events of the past. He marveled at the entrepreneurial zeal of the pioneers. The men and women who settled in the great plains and in the West were a sturdy and resourceful lot. Matt admired their spirit of adventure. Designing the sets for the mythical town of Walnut Grove brought to mind their ominous hardships. Michael Landon an John Hawkins shared Matt's passion for bringing to screen a true representation of family life on the prairie." (Beyond the Clouds, p. 245)

Though not a science fiction fan, Jefferies took in later life an interest in real world spaceflight, particularly NASA's space shuttle program. And while he was not present with the other Star Trek alumnni at the unveiling of the Enterprise (OV-101), the one named for his starship, he did on NASA's invitation attend the first free-flight test of the shuttle on 12 August 1977. (Beyond the Clouds, pp. 285-286)

After his retirement, Jefferies became a prolific aviation artist, also remaining otherwise active in the world of aviation. While renowned in Star Trek lore, Jefferies likewise had something of a standing in aviation circles, as his brother Richard attested to, when Matt attended a forum held at the American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum, "A neatly attired man threaded his way through the crowd, reached out to shake Matt's hand, and said, "I feel honored to meet you. I have admired your work since I was a boy. I am head of this department. It is because of you and your extraordinary work that I became an engineer." Needless to say Matt was overcome by the adulation. He later remarked that never in his wildest dreams did he think that his work would inspire one to choose engineering as a profession." (Beyond the Clouds, p. 272)

Survived by his wife Mary-Ann, Jefferies died of congestive heart failure (as did Roddenberry) after a fight with cancer, the illness his younger brother Phil (31 May 19256 April 1987; age 61) had already succumbed to years earlier. Matt Jefferies had a third, by eighteen months younger, sibling, the aforementioned Richard, who has written a biography on his brother, published in 2008 (see below). He was spurred on to write the work, not only by Star Trek fans, but by aviation fans as well, he met after the funeral service of his brother. On its title, Beyond the Clouds, Richard had stated in an interview, "When my brother was a little boy, he said, "Some day, I'll fly away, way, way beyond the clouds."" [6] His beloved Waco YOC airplane is currently owned by the Virginia Aeronautical Historical Society and resides at the Virginia Aviation Museum, Richmond, Virginia, whereas the famous starship he designed, is residing in the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.

Star Trek Awards

Matt Jefferies receives the Shooting Star Award from Penny Juday

Jefferies receiving his Shooting Star Award from Juday

Matt Jefferies received the following award and nomination for his work on Star Trek, incidentally the only award considerations he has ever received for his work in the motion picture industry.

Emmy Award Nomination

As "Art Director", Matt Jefferies was the only television Star Trek visual effects production illustrator ever considered as such for an Emmy Award, even though the latter title did not yet exist in the franchise at the time. The distinction between visual effects and special effects did not yet exist, and only came slowly into being from the mid-1980s onward. Until then the design of these were lumped together under the denomination "Art Director"/"Production Designer". This echoed what Jefferies himself had said in 1968 when he was asked to describe his duties, "I'm responsible for everything they photograph, except the people. It entails the initial designs of the sets, supervising the building, colors, painting, everything that's on the stage or location, having it ready for the camera and within the budget. It calls for working with the director, set decorator, carpenters, painters, special effects, the whole ball of wax." (Inside Star Trek, p. 2) After the split production designer was the title for the designers of special effects, such as props and, most notably, sets. But even though visual, and special effects are currently separate departments, production illustrator is a subordinate position under production designer, at least in the Star Trek franchise, and considered Art Department.

  • 1969 for TOS Season 3 in the category Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction and Scenic Design, shared with set decorator John Dwyer.

Shooting Star Award

Jefferies received the following honorary Shooting Star Award from the FantastiCon Science-Fiction Convention

Star Trek interviews

Further reading


  1. For other pilots among Star Trek personnel, see Gene Roddenberry, James Doohan, Franz Bachelin, Michael Dorn, and brother John Jefferies.

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