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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

That time Toronto City Hall starred in Star Trek

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This articles was originally posted in October 2013; it’s being re-posted to celebrate the 50th anniversary of New City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square.

Toronto has made an appearance in the Star Trek universe twice and both times it’s been thanks to Nathan Phillips Square and City Hall.

When our new City Hall first opened in 1965, Viljo Revell‘s design was, famously, on the cutting edge of modernism. The curved concrete and clam dome were the stuff of the future. Even now, they have something of an otherworldly feeling.


The first time Toronto showed up in a story about the crew of the Enterprise was in 1969. It wasn’t on television, though: it was in a silly Star Trek comic book called “The Ghost Planet“. Kirk and Spock beam down to a world surrounded by rainbow rings, only to discover that it’s been ravaged by war. The city they beam into lies in ruins, but there’s Toronto City Hall, still standing. Nathan Phillips Square was the inspiration for the artwork. Kirk and Spock eventually discover the warlords responsible for the carnage (identical twins both named Justin) who trick the crew of the Enterprise into disabling the rainbow rings (which somehow force the Justins to be peaceful) so they can resume their war against each other. Eventually, the good guys realize what’s happening and McCoy projects film of the rings into the planet’s atmosphere to trick the Justins into putting down their weapons.

The second appearance was on Star Trek: The Next Generation — and it was equally brief. In the episode “Contagion,” the crew of the Enterprise investigates the destruction of a Federation ship. It turns out that it was destroyed by an alien probe from the long-dead Iconian race. The Iconians had the technology to travel all over the universe through portals; the probe traveled through a portal on auto-pilot and tried to re-write the programming of the Federation ship, which accidentally blew it up. When Picard and Data and Worf all travel to the deserted Iconian homeworld to investigate, they discover the portal technology. And at one point, the portal cycles through some of the possible destinations — one of which is Nathan Phillips Square.

While some other Iconian probes try to re-write the programming of the Enterprise — and of a nearby Romulan ship — the crew figures out how to fix it: They just reboot the ship’s computer.

But those appearances weren’t the only connection the square outside City Hall has to Star Trek. In 1991, Nathan Phillips Square played host to a celebration of Star Trek‘s 25th anniversary. George Takei, James Doohan, and Nichelle Nichols all came to take part in the festivities. And while the embedding on YouTube has been disabled, you can watch some highlights here.

A version of this post also appears on the The Toronto Dreams Project Historical Ephemera Blog.


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