If you don’t know Herman Zimmerman’s name, you certainly know his work. Mr. Zimmerman has been the production designer on almost every Star Trek project for the last two decades, helping define the look of almost every Trek era. Star Trek XI will be the first film to without Mr. Zimmerman since the 80s, but the veteran designer tells TrekMovie.com he is just fine with that.
I have enjoyed being the keeper of the flame as far as the look of the franchise since 1987. I knew Gene Roddenberry personally and was always a fan of the show,never dreaming I would work on it when I was a young art director at NBC in the 60s. I have had a hell of a good time. It is more fun than work, but I am officially retired.
Zimmerman tells TrekMovie.com that he never expected to be asked, nor did he want to be production designer for JJ Abrams Star Trek XI. He was not surprised at all to learn that Scott Chambliss was chosen, saying "It’s a natural to gravitate to the people who have worked with you in the past." However the production designer for 16 films and TV shows is quick to point out that Chambliss didn’t just get the job merely due to his long time association with Abrams
You should always take your hat off to anyone who gets the job of production designer because he didn’t get it because he is someone’s nephew. He got it because he earned it. I am sure Scott Chambliss has done his homework and will do an excellent job.
Zimmerman was impressed with Chambliss’ work with Mission: Impossible III, quipping "what’s not to like?" He also noted the historical significance of Chambliss’ working on both the Trek and the MI franchises:
Those two icons of popular television literature and are being rediscovered, and Scott Chambliss has the opportunity to reinvent both of them.
The man who defined the look for ever Trek film since Star Trek V recognizes that the choice of an entirely new team to head up the franchise signals a change for Star Trek.
His [Abrams] charge from Paramount management is to come up with a new direction for the Star Trek franchise. Coming up with an idea that sits under the vision of Gene Roddenberry, a positive vision of human kinds future is still something that has to fit into the envelope of what is happening in today’s society and today’s science. It is entirely appropriate at this time and probably necessary that the franchise get a new kick in the butt.
Even though he is happy sitting this one out, Zimmerman does have some thoughts on how he would approach the look of the original Star Trek series. The designer feels that for the exteriors you can’t do much to improve on the original design, but feels that the interiors could use a little sprucing up. "The bridge of the Enterprise is such an opportunity," enthuses Zimmerman. If the film is truly set in the period before TOS, Zimmerman hopes they take some cues from the functional and more realistic looking bridge of the NX-01 from Star Trek: Enterprise. "If I were doing the picture that is what I would do"
Star Trek isn’t entirely out of Mr. Zimmerman’s life just yet. Recently has has been doing some work on the upcoming Star Trek: The Tour, which will hopefully be traveling across the country later this year. He also hopes to write a book on production design, which would of course include some of his work on Trek. And does he have any specific advice for Trek’s new production designer Chambliss?
I wouldn’t presume. I would be honored to answer any questions they had.