‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Season 4 Special Effects: AR Wall and Flamethrowers

The flamethrowers on the set of “Star Trek: Discovery”

Paramount The flamethrowers on the set of “Star Trek: Discovery”

It is pretty easy to say that the special effects of films and television shows have gotten a whole lot better over the past few years. Thanks to the introduction of computers in the 1980s, and its eventual integration into the storytelling process, shows and movies look more realistic than ever. 

That certainly is true for “Star Trek.” At its start, the minds who made the sets for the show in the late 1960s had to be both very practical and very frugal. As detailed in the book, “Star Trek: The Original Series – A Celebration,” it was up to designer Matt Jefferies to create the look of the Enterprise interior, starbases, and nearly all alien planets which Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and the rest of the crew would encounter.

‘TOS’ Behind the Scenes

“When you were putting together the alien stuff, you had to be fairly ingenious to make it look different every week with very few resources,” Jefferies is quoted as saying in the book. “But there was nobody to say I was wrong — they hadn’t been there either!”

The book also shares how Jefferies used foam to create many walls, caverns, and unusual environmental pieces. But he could use the foam only so many times. 

“Some caverns were done with Reynolds Wrap,” Jefferies said. “As soon as we were through with it, it was so damn fragile that we’d ashcan it.”

A Real-Life ‘Holodeck’

Those days of foam and plastic wrap are long gone, as now the producers of science fiction shows have a nearly limitless palette to paint with. Thanks to a new type of technology known as Augmented Reality, or AR, actors, directors, and photographers can immerse themselves in a completely new world.

Pioneered a few years ago on the Disney+ series, “The Mandalorian,” this new AR technology is a collection of screens that project an environment behind the sets and actors. These screens can show nearly anything, and the camera’s movement often dictates what is shown from what angle.

“For those of you viewers who are not familiar with it, it’s massive, like, 250 or 270 degree LED screens that go all the way around,” explains “Discovery” showrunner Michelle Paradise in a new video

“What’s really cool about it is that it projects the image of the place right on the wall, and what’s on the screens move along with our cameras,” said Paradise


The bridge set of the Discovery appears to have had some new additions when compared to last season. Thanks to sharp-eyed fans, we now know about a real-world special effect that is used when the ship is in danger: Flamethrowers.

The flamethrowers are mounted on the back walls and columns of the Discovery bridge set and are used in the first episode of Season 4, “Kobayashi Maru.” 

In fact, there is a new Reddit conversation dedicated to understanding the new flame effects, which you can see in the clip above, starting at :16 seconds.

One fan explained that these flamethrowers represented “plasma fires from the Electro-Plasma Systems, which is what Federation Starships use for power distribution.”

That explanation did not satisfy most fans, who were not happy about exposed flames shooting out behind the crew.

“I just can’t imagine what kind of science would make the bridge look like a KISS concert when it takes damage,” said another fan.

“I just thought — In the 32nd Century, they solved the ‘exploding console problem’ with ‘flame thrower walls?’” another fan asked. 

Another fan created a video counting the number and use of the flamethrowers from the episode, while another created a slow-motion version look at the flames.

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