Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)

James "Jim(my)" W. Rugg (29 January 191913 February 2004; age 85) was an Emmy Award-nominated special effects artist who worked on all three seasons of Star Trek: The Original Series, excepting the two pilots, "The Cage" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before", where Joe Lombardi and Jack Briggs, as well as Bob Overbeck respectively, fulfilled the role. He was responsible for all the on-stage live production special effects, such as explosions. He most famously oversaw the iconic mechanical and wiring effects of the USS Enterprise main bridge, other standing sets, and special set pieces such as Nomad, Flint's M-4, and the Guardian of Forever. It was Captain James T. Kirk performer William Shatner who had put it very succinctly but spot-on, when he acknowledged Rugg in his memoirs, "If it blinked, beeped, moved, lit up or even exploded, it was rigged by Jim Rugg" (Star Trek Memories, 1994, p.125)

Much of Rugg's handiwork could explicitly be discerned on screen, among others in the series' most acclaimed episode, "The City on the Edge of Forever" where he was responsible for the lighting effects of the Guardian of Forever. Apart from this he constructed Spock's computer-aid to access the information in his tricorder for the episode, as his supervisor, Matt Jefferies, recalled, "When a script came out, Roddenberry would say, "I need something that supposedly does such and such...come up with something." So we would work together on the workbench with Jimmy Rugg and see what we could cobble together.", to which Rugg added, "We got a bunch of antique vacuum tubes – real '30s types – and added a few blinking lights among them." Rugg subsequently oversaw its destruction in the episode. (Cinefantastique, Vol 17 #2, p. 24)

Shatner's admiration for Rugg notwithstanding, his and his team's work was not entirely without its risks as both Shatner and co-star Leonard Nimoy could attest to. "Bill (Shatner) and I did have an experience – it might have been on "Arena", I don't remember which episode – but it was not an exterior moment. We were on a sound stage when it happened. There was an explosion that went off, off-camera, and typically, when there's a planned explosion in a scene in a movie, they will open the sound stage doors so the concussion has some place to go; it can go outside the doors. Well, they had failed to open the doors, so there was a big concussion within the building, and we were close to it, Bill and I. Since then, Bill and I both have a ringing in our ears, which is called tinnitus. We believe it was caused by that particular experience. It might have been on that episode, but it wasn't out at Vasquez Rocks. It was inside a sound stage.", Nimoy elaborated, recalling an accident. [1]

Somewhat operating in anonymity, he was nevertheless highly valued by the main responsible operations overseer, Producer Robert Justman, "Next, special effects wizard Jim Rugg and his crew wired every console so that any section could be removed without wreaking havoc upon the electronics in the remaining ones (This monumental job took many weeks of work, and only became operational shortly before we filmed our very first episode, "The Corbomite Maneuver".)" (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 17, p. 13), as well as by his direct department head whose designs he had to co-visualize, Art Director Matt Jefferies, who had stated, "And of course, blessed with not only John Dwyer, who was a very talented workaholic, and Jim Rugg on special effects, and what went on upstairs in the Art Department, I could depend on brother John, or whoever else was up there, that if any questions came up out of the mail [note: internal] about how something was working, they could solve it. And with that kind of help, Hell, you can't lose! I was in great shape!" (TOS Season 2 DVD-special feature, "Designing the Final Frontier") Aside from overseeing his own small team of electricians, he also worked closely together with colleagues Set Decorator John Dwyer and (from season two onward) Set Designer John Jefferies, the younger brother to Matt Jefferies, and their teams.

Late July 1977, Jim Rugg was brought back to the Star Trek franchise on recommendation of by then temporary Technical Consultant Matt Jefferies, to help out with the design and construction of the refit-Enterprise bridge set for the newly conceived Star Trek: Phase II television project. The operational manager for that project, Producer Robert Goodwin, noted in a progress memo dated 3 August 1977, "The shell [note: of the bridge] should be completed by the end of August. At the same time, Matt Jefferies, Joe Jennings and special-effects man Jim Rugg are at work designing and researching new types of instrumentation that will be used within the bridge, including new kinds of computer graphic displays, touch control switches, etc." (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 36) Yet, having completed most of the work on the bridge, when the project was upgraded to the movie Star Trek: The Motion Picture in late November 1977, Rugg opted to end his involvement, and even though the near complete bridge was used in the movie, his work went uncredited.

The Original Series occupied somewhat of a special place in Rugg's heart as he had held on to a substantial collection of screen-used production items until his death in 2004. [2] His collection came in handy though, when he donated his collection of screen-used Original Series captain's chair's buttons to Star Trek model maker Greg Jein, for use in the acclaimed Star Trek: The Next Generation sixth season homage episode "Relics", were they were featured on the partially reconstructed Original Series bridge set. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 24, issue 3/4, p. 26) On that episode, it was Dick Brownfield, originally a junior member on Rugg's team, who had gone on to become for the modern television franchise what Rugg had been for the Original Series, whereas a first season apprentice, Roger Dorney, went on to become a visual effects staffer on The Motion Picture, employed at Apogee, Inc..

Career outside Star Trek Edit

Hailing from North Dakota, Jim Rugg's family moved to Los Angeles in 1924, five years after his birth. After graduating from Redondo Union High School, he attended Pepperdine and UCLA. He became a ham radio operator in 1938 and served as a radio operator in the US Army during World War II. After the war he started a career in the burgeoning television industry.

During his long career in television, Rugg designed special effects for such series as Mission: Impossible, Hawaii Five-O, Barnaby Jones (starring Lee Meriwether), Cannon, and Perry Mason. He also worked on several feature films including River of No Return (1954, with Hal Baylor), Mary Poppins (1964), and Douglas Trumbull's 1972 science fiction film Silent Running, which also featured special effects and visual effects work by Jim Dow, Paul Kraus, Don Trumbull, John Dykstra, Richard Alexander, Robert Shepherd, Richard Yuricich, Bill Shourt, and Trumbull himself. Whether or not it had something to do with Star Trek, Trumbull's movie in particular made an impression on Rugg, "We all felt that we were doing something unusual. The grips and technicians and other people who worked on it all got spellbound by it. We'd all love to work for Doug Trumbull." [3] He missed out on working with Trumbull again, when he decided to leave Phase II, before Trumbull was brought in for its successor.

An unassuming man, virtually no published interviews with him on his work are known to exist, save for the comments he made on Silent Running for Cinefantastique magazine (Vol. 2 #3, November 1972). Rugg retired in 1981. His son Tom, one of four children, has recorded a statement his father made on that occasion, "If I never blow up another car, that's fine with me." [4] Tom Rugg actually had planned to write a book about his father's involvement with the Original Series as he had related in February 1993, hoping to talk his father into doing the book and working on it together. Yet, as he had stated four years later, "The book was never written. However, I gathered raw material for the book. I taped several hours of interviews with my father, getting details about the effects on each show. I also taped an interview with Al Jones , one of the other effects guys on the show. And I've transcribed most tapes, and my father has edited the transcriptions. Then I got busy with other things, and that's where the book sits. Will the book ever be written? I don't know. I hope so, but I'll need to find some time to do some more interviews (with other participants), or else decide to put together the book using what I have now." [5] Intervened by his father's death in 2004, the book has yet to materialize. Jim Rugg passed away at the age of 85, due to the complications from Alzheimer's disease.

Emmy Award Nomination Edit

As Mechanical Special Effects Jim Rugg received the following Emmy Award nomination, which has also been his only motion picture industry award consideration,

  • 1967 for TOS Season 1 in the category Individual Achievements in Art Direction and Allied Crafts, sole nominee

Further readings Edit

External links Edit

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