When the Star Trek: The Motion Picture script called for a large never before seen recreation deck, the design team of immediately started wondering where it should be. Illustrator Andrew Probert considered the saucer centerline a good location for the room, below the Officers’ Lounge. He submitted a concept of how Spock’s shuttle arriving might look like through the windows of such room.
Today, such a scene would be shot on a blue screen stage, but when The Motion Picture was made, production designer Harold Michelson complained that he would not be able to get glass in the size Probert had suggested. It was agreed that the saucer centerline instead would be the location of the new recreation room. Here, the Enterprise model already provided windows, in a size Michelson was able to built.
Andrew Probert subsequently submitted a concept to show what the saucer’s cross section would look like, hoping that the Michelson would see the value in maintaining a level of continuity. The suggested terracing could have added a tremendous amount of visual interest to the scene but it was rejected in favor of the recreation room set that eventually ended up in the film. For, Probert remembers Michelson saying, “no one goes to a movie with a slide rule in his hand.”
Michelson defended his choice for the location of the recreation deck in a February 1980 interview with Fantastic Films magazine when he explained that he didn’t just want to see space in the background of the scene. “This was a big picture and I felt that we should be able to see the rest of the ship in those shots and create some sense of scale,” he argued.
In a separate interview with Starlog magazine 30 (January 1980), Michelson complained that there was a danger in being too logical in designing the sets. “We were bamboozled by technical advisors, people from NASA and other scientists.” They were apt to lose sight of the drama, he felt, in their insistence on accuracy. “And there was always a time element — no way we could do everything anybody might want us to do.”