From the Vault: My Matt Jefferies Story

For any non–Star Trek people reading this, the late Matt Jefferies designed the original Starship Enterprise, its bridge, sickbay, and shuttlecraft interior, the Klingon cruiser, and numerous other sets and props including the phasers. During the shooting of Star Trek: The Original Series, the access tubes Scotty often had to crawl into to save the ship became known as Jefferies tubes behind the scenes. During the run of Star Trek: The Next Generation, they were referred to by that name on-screen, becoming a canon Starfleet term, a fitting tribute to all the contributions Matt made to the franchise.

Beyond CloudsRichard Jefferies wrote a biography of his brother called Beyond the Clouds. When he was trying to get it published, he submitted the manuscript to Zenith Press, my then day job. Matt had served in World War II and also did a lot of aviation art, so Richard hoped that an imprint specializing in military history would be interested. Little did Richard know it would fall into the lap of a die-hard Trek fan and published Trek author!

Although Matt’s background had obvious relevance to the Zenith line, I knew it just wasn’t going to find a home with us. The pub board would have perceived it as too much of a marketing challenge, appealing to various niche interests without a great amount of overlap. I would have loved to work with Richard on the manuscript, but all I could do was give him advice and support as he moved on to search for another publisher.

When the book eventually came out in March 2008, Richard sent me an inscribed copy, which was so kind of him. By then, however, the Zenith offices had moved, and Richard had shipped it to the old address. It took the USPS a week to get the book from St. Paul to Minneapolis across the river, causing me some anxious days worried that it had disappeared into the maw of the mail, but it finally arrived. It’s a loving tribute, heavily illustrated with Matt’s work as well as contributions in his honor from many of his artist friends. Check out the book’s website, mattjefferies.com (where the ever-gracious Richard even included my then web address in the links).

*Photo caption: Scotty saves the Enterprise from within a Jefferies tube in “That Which Survives,” which, I believe, is the episode that introduced the “reverse the polarity” trope into the Trek lexicon.

[Original version posted on my defunct Live Journal, May 8, 2008]


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