star trek toronto city hall

That time Toronto City Hall appeared on Star Trek

It's surely one of the nerdiest bits of Toronto trivia, but those who know about Toronto's appearance in the 37th episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation tend to view the occasion with a sort of pride that outweighs the actual significance of the event.

For the uninitiated, the story goes like this. While investigating the loss of a Federation ship whose computer began to strangely malfunction, the Enterprise stumbles upon a probe sent from an alien race known as the Iconians. Soon Captain Picard's ship also starts malfunctioning.

In an effort to investigate, Picard, Data and Worf travel to Iconia to see if they can uncover something that will help them solve the problem. While there, they uncover the key to the Iconians' sophistication: they possess the technology to travel through space via portals.

While the Enterprise away-team investigates a remaining control centre on the deserted planet, they discover one of these portals. As it cycles through gateways to other planets, Nathan Phillips Square appears as one of the options.

It's a somewhat bizarre choice, but also completely fitting.

Why fitting?

Because the architecture of Viljo Revell's City Hall is made for a Star Trek episode. One can imagine that under the control of the Federation, this particular brand of futuristic modernism would be the chief architectural style adopted for Earth.

Even if this episode was made in 1989, the creators knew they needed an urban scene that would match the aesthetic of the show.

Who knows how many American viewers recognize the building when it appears? I'm not sure that's the point, though. It's the architecture itself that's being heralded here, not the building's location in Toronto or its status as our civic headquarters.

It was also fitting because Toronto was a town that was cuckoo for Star Trek. From massive conventions to community access TV, this city loved the adventures of the Federation, and in particular The Next Generation (TNG) series.

City Hall's cameo is a brief one, happening twice in a five minute span of the episode before the control centre is set to self destruct and the crew use the portal to escape from the Iconian Homeland.

It's probably one of the geekiest chapters in Toronto television history, but I still remember the silly excitement I felt when I first saw it while watching TNG re-runs.

If only Picard had taken the portal to Toronto. Now that would have been an historic episode.


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