First aired in the only broadcast of the two-hour version of Encounter At Farpoint, the Cheerios Star Trek: The Next Generation sweepstakes commercial may be just a little bit on the cheesy side, but for fans of the show and admirers of the Galaxy-class U.S.S. Enterprise, it also offers several unique glimpses of the bridge – possibly in an unfinished state – that would never be seen in footage from the series itself.
For dramatic effect, the Enterprise bridge set is barely lit at all, a practice that wouldn’t see much use in the series’ own episodes. Deep Space Nine and Voyager would later employ lighting schemes that embraced the darkness, but the lighting on the Enterprise bridge would remain bright, flat, and stagey for most of the show’s run – even when the ship was losing power or was otherwise in trouble. The Enterprise bridge wasn’t seen like this again until Star Trek: Generations.
Given that the “red alert” status lights above the five rear duty stations appear to light up brightly here, it’s possible that the film crew for the commercial had access to the sets before they were completely finished. It’s interesting to note that the sides of the bridge – which at this point, if they were finished and installed, would have been the somewhat visually bland brown wall panels with red alert lights built in – are barely seen in this commercial at all.
But man, those trademark Michael Okuda “computer” panel graphics are certainly on display here, and seen from angles that the show’s actual directors simply didn’t use, from Tasha Yar’s tactical station to the helm itself. It may all seem just a little bit dated now, but for 1987, it was mind-blowingly futuristic stuff. What futuristic method was used to get two boxes of cereal to sit on the sloped console, however, remains a mystery.
The Enterprise set, as the most-filmed locale in The Next Generation, was lit to provide the maximum coverage of light for shooting with the minimum time required for setting up those lights. Constantly shooting it as dark as the Cheerios commercial would’ve required more timely and painstaking setups to make sure that just enough light was hitting the faces of the principal actors in any given scene without creating distracting reflections – each episode would’ve required more time to film. Already the most expensive hour-long drama being made in 1987, Next Generation simply had to make do with a brightly pre-lit set. But would the show have benefitted from a more moody look like this?
You can see the entire commercial for yourself here. Just click the “watch the TV ad” button.