Exclusive: Interview with Star Trek Production Designer Scott Chambliss

Scott Chambliss had worked with JJ Abrams for years, including on Alias and Mission: Impossible: III, but redesigning the Star Trek universe was probably his most ambitious undertaking. In an exclusive interview with TrekMovie, the production designer talks about the challenges of taking on Trek, fan feedback, and also what we can look forward to in the upcoming Art of Star Trek book.


Interview: Scott Chambliss – Production Designer on Star Trek

TrekMovie: Although you have been in production design for film and TV for a long time, including winning an Emmy for Alias, Star Trek was your first big science fiction project? Was that intimidating for you?

Scott Chambliss: The sci-fi being new to me is definitely true, that is also been true of every project in my career and that is one of things I love about the job I do. Every project I get to take on is a grad school thesis course. I can jump into something and learn everything I can about what it is and what is going on. And it changes, obviously, because it is a job to tell a visual story dramatically and articulately. So, in that respect, that was super-exciting. The drawback is the baggage that this story brings with it, because it is kind of like a religion for some people, at the most extreme. And at the least extreme, it has avid fans who cherish every detail of what has come before. Striking a balance between telling a dramatic visual story and not f–king with the canon in a way that disturbs the people that really cherish it, was the daunting bit and that required a lot of assistance from people who really knew the history of the story, like John Eaves.

TrekMovie: John was one of the only old-school guys you had on your team.

Scott Chambliss: He was. We were tasked to not re-invent, but kind of polish the story and make it interesting for not only the old audience, if they would stay with it, but for a new audience. And John was able to adapt in a really brilliant way, to stay plugged into both the history and honoring that, but also move with us into the future.

TrekMovie: Well I also think that both Ryan Church and James Clyne also did some great work tying those elements together, especially on the USS Kelvin, which has been a big fan favorite.

Scott Chambliss: That is how JJ [Abrams] and I wanted to start the movie, with ‘oh look it is a Star Trek space ship!’ and make it really recognizable. Supe it up and make it more lavish, because we had more money, but honor what has come before and make it familiar in a way that old fans would like. But that was also a dramatic ploy on our part, because in doing so, we wanted to create the highest contrast possible for the Enterprise. Because how do you make the Enterprise feel fresh and new, if it looks exactly like something we have seen for the last 40 years. The Kelvin was the contrast we did to hopefully make the Enterprise feel cool and new.

Kelvin made to create bridge from old to new

TrekMovie: Would you say doing the Enterprise inside and out was the most challenging and intimidating…

Scott Chambliss: [cutting off] Yes! Yes! And again, yes! [laughs] The outside actually came along pretty early in the game, because the whole idea that JJ embraced thoroughly was about using the Eero Saarinen approach–he was the futurist architect from the late 50s and 60s who designed the TWA terminal at JFK airport. I originally presented the concept of using him for inspiration simply for Starfleet Earth home base, the assembly hall, but he was so turned on by that, JJ suggested applying the concept to everything Starfleet. So that is when I really started playing with the exterior of the ship. But the interior, the bridge, all that iconic stuff, that was much more laborious.

60s era Eero Saarinen architecture inspired new Starfleet look

TrekMovie: Now that it is all done, looking back at all the production design for the movie, what do you think worked best, and maybe what do you think didn’t work as well as you may have wanted?

Scott Chambliss: I think for me, and for the intention that JJ and I had for telling the story visually, I think it all worked pretty well. I am not talking in context of what came before, but what we set out to do. If I could do something different, there is one sequence that I don’t like, in terms of my work, and that is the bar scene in Iowa. The interior, I just can’t stand that, with the location that I presented, I don’t think it worked at all. Fortunately for me, the rest rest of every element did work. The script was so great, the action was great, the performers were great, it was lit and edited beautifully, but visually speaking, I don’t think that worked.

TrekMovie: Was that a real location or a set?

Scott Chambliss: That was a real location, it was an American Legion location from World War II, in Los Angeles. That was my concept. We are in Iowa, it is old, it has been updated, but one of those places that has been there forever. But for me ultimately, it was too easy and I didn’t buy it. It didn’t have enough of its own identity. Everything else in the story, visually, was very sharply defined. But that set and that location wasn’t. I think I am the only one on the team that feels that way.

Chambliss feels Iowa Bar set could have been more distinctive

TrekMovie: I have heard a lot of feedback on a lot of things, and I haven’t heard anyone complain about the look of the Iowa bar scene. In fact, in my review, and others noted this as well, it was appreciated that you guys didn’t do a whole ‘hey look we are in the future’ Star Wars cantina over the top thing, and you kept it realistic and relatable.

Scott Chambliss: Well that was the goal, to make it realistic and relatable, I just don’t think that it went strong enough in its own original direction, while maintaining the reliability. No matter what job I am doing, no matter how silly or important, I want it to be visually distinctive, otherwise what is the point?

TrekMovie: JJ seemed adamant to do as much location shooting as possible, requiring your team to ‘future-ize’ all sorts of things, from Long Beach City Hall, the Rose Chapel, etc. Did you prefer that, or would you have wanted to start from scratch and build your own sets?

Scott Chambliss: No preference, both are part of my job. Actually the excitement of finding locations we can adapt in all the projects he and I have done together is one of my favorite parts of the process, because I get to scour the world and see what is out there. I can see what might be a vivid and delicious way to tell the story we want.

Long Beach City Hall was transformed into Starfleet Academy

TrekMovie: Well, there is one location that has been a little controversial…

Scott Chambliss: Is it Budweiser?

TrekMovie: Why yes it is! The controversy, and I noted this in my review, was that while the notion of making it big, more industrial and even using a real-world location was fine. But there were a few shots where it just didn’t feel redressed enough, like when Kirk was chasing Scotty in the pipes, and it was just too obvious that this was just some factory somewhere, with 50s era fixtures, etc. The same was true in parts of the Kelvin, shot at the power plan in Long Beach, where again it took you out of the scene as it didn’t really feel like you were on a space ship. I thought it worked at times, but other times it didn’t, others just didn’t like it at all. So that is my feedback and their feedback.

Scott Chambliss: Fantastic, well everyone is entitled to their own opinion…I have nothing to say to that.

TrekMovie: Although I loved the movie, this was one of my criticisms of it. You know that Trekkies can get worked up over just about anything.

Scott Chambliss: [laughs] Totally, I see that. It is one of the things I was originally afraid of, but then came to appreciate. People who have loved this story, and all the series and movies for so many years…the passion they have for it and the knowledge, and what they want it to be, is really sweet. Although it is not a religion and not a cult, but it is something that that specific audience so passionately cares about. And how many of those things are there in the entertainment biz?

Chambliss appreciates the passion of Trek fans – even when nitpicking the ‘Bud-gineering’ sets

TrekMovie: Let’s talk about the book, "Star Trek: The Art of the Movie" which comes out around the time of the DVD and Blu-ray. Can you talk about what you are doing with regards to the book and what we are going to see?

Scott Chambliss: The book is a collection from all the visual collaborators on the movie, from costumes designers, prop masters, creature designers, make-up designers, all the people who part of our team, the visual effects team–all of that work is going to be represented in the book. We all have a voice in terms of telling the story in how we made the movie. What I have been doing is photo-editing the layouts, and adding a little bit of the back-story that hasn’t been there before, and also making sure the different artists are appropriately credited for their work. It has process photographs, it has drawings, it has got a lot. It is very cool.

TrekMovie: There were a number of things that were sketched out that were cut out of the final film or even the final script, are we going to see those in the book?

Scott Chambliss: Yes. Most of that stuff is in there. There was a lot of cool stuff that went away in the final edit, not because it didn’t work, but because it didn’t help the story. I would have to say the difference between the first cut that I saw that had a lot of that material and the final version, was night and day. That is where JJ and his editing team are such geniuses. They don’t worry about cutting waste, no matter how people love it, if it is not helping the story. The significant stuff is in the book, and it is pretty cool.

"Star Trek: The Art of the Movie" – including designs that didn’t make it into the final film

TrekMovie: Your team did a lot of work on some cool stuff which was cut, such as all the designs of the Rura Penthe prison. Is it hard for you to see that go from the final film?

Scott Chambliss: No, not really. As long as it is a good story and well told, I don’t really care what shows up and what doesn’t. Whatever makes the movie stronger, I am all for. I have to agree, I loved those sequences. They looked really cool and they gave the bad guy [Nero] a little more heft, but it didn’t help the story, so it made sense that JJ cut it.

TrekMovie: Let’s assume the same team gets together for the next movie, including yourself. Have you put any thought into what you might like to do? What kind of challenges you would like to take on?

Scott Chambliss: No. I really don’t think about that kind of stuff. When I am done with a project it is over, and despite having worked so often with JJ in the past, I never take it for granted that I will work on the next one. I hope every project comes together because it is people choosing the people they want to work with and the best people for the job. I wouldn’t say that just because I designed the most recent Star Trek, that I am the best person for the next one.

Also the other thing that I think that is important to get across for people that are not in the biz and for people who are really passionately follow this stuff, I think there is the impression that what you see on the screen is 100% what we set out to do. Honestly, what ends up on the screen is always a miracle, because there is the script version of what you intend to make, then in production you wind up creating another version where you are collaborating with all these people who have all these different gifts, and in post-production it becomes another movie, quite different from what you thought you were making. That was certainly the case on every episode of Alias, and to a degree it was the case on Star Trek. We had this notion of the movie we were making, visually and with characters and all of that stuff. But the fullness of it, and the detail, and the strength wasn’t revealed until the very long post-production process. And so when people look at a thing
like a set, like Budweiser, or they look at a performance of one of the main characters, and they go ‘that was always the intention’, sometimes you dive in for the best version of what you intend to do, and you hope for the best. Sometimes it is universally accepted and appreciated, and other times it is not. Nothing about the film making process is concrete from the get-go, I guess that is what I am saying.

Chambliss on the bridge of the USS Enterprise


See Chambliss, Zimmerman and more this Sunday in LA
On Sunday September 27th the Art Directors Guild Film Society will be honoring the the designers of Star Trek movies at an event at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. Here is a blurb explaining the event from the press release.

John Jefferies, Joseph R. Jennings, Herman Zimmerman and Scott Chambliss will participate in a panel discussion to be moderated by Production Illustrator Daren R. Dochterman, featuring video clips from their work on Star Trek, as well as a screening of the Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Documentary video clips of the late Harold Michelson, Production Designer of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, will also be shown

General admission: $10. American Cinematheque members: $7. Students/Seniors with valid ID: $8. 24-hour ticket information is available at 323-466-FILM (3456).

Art book coming November
And you can pre-order "Star Trek: The Art of the Movie" which comes out November 17th. 


Sort by:   newest | oldest
September 25, 2009 2:00 pm

Gutes Interview !

September 25, 2009 2:04 pm

That last shot of Chambliss on the bridge, looks like the Enterprise has contracted a computer virus. Check out the colourful displays! :p

September 25, 2009 2:05 pm

meh. While I loved the movie I was underwhelmed with the production design. Too much “form” not enough “function”, and to me not enough of a nod to the original.

Capt Mike of the Terran Empire
September 25, 2009 2:09 pm

Wow. What a great Interview. I agree that the Factory look for both the Kelvin and the Big e Just did not work. I thought the Iowa bar worked very well and loved those scenes. City hall as starfleet acedemy was just great. Can’t wait to read the boo and see it on Dvd. Especialy with the deleted scenes.

September 25, 2009 2:12 pm

Best designed bridge set since TOS. The brewery doesn’t bug me. Seemed odd at first but there actually should be places like that on the Enterprise. He did a damned good job. And I thought the Hella Bar scene was fine too.

Capt Mike of the Terran Empire
September 25, 2009 2:13 pm

I hope they bring him back f9or the next Movie. But please change the Engeneering section to look like an Engerneering from the future instead of a 21st centure factory.

Nick Cook
September 25, 2009 2:15 pm

I still hate the dam redressed Budweiser sets. Everything else worked fine for me, and I think it’s a shame that that one creative decision breaks the illusion for me. I hope they’ll rethink that one next time, but somehow I doubt it.

Nick Cook
September 25, 2009 2:15 pm

That should be damn, obviously. Darn typos.

September 25, 2009 2:34 pm

What, no: “I am proud of the engineering sets?” or “Yeah, we know, we are going to change that in the next one.”, but instead an “Fine you didn’t like it, but I don’t care?”

September 25, 2009 2:36 pm

I mean he seems to be pretty annoyed by his own creation of the bar, which was perfectly fine btw, but he really is like “what should I care?” about the factory?

September 25, 2009 2:41 pm

This Enterprise (exterior and interior) did not look as good as the classic one. Period.

September 25, 2009 2:41 pm

Yeah, I think that’s sort of an “I know better than you do” attitude.

commodore z
September 25, 2009 2:47 pm

You gotta admit, the engine room was just plain embarassing.

September 25, 2009 3:04 pm

Sorry, my last message (#12) was in response to #10’s comment on the interview. Not on #11 (with which I agree).

September 25, 2009 3:19 pm

Hoping for a new bridge and less brewery-esque lower decks. But, I can see why they worked in some ways. Certainly the huge, cluttered complexity is a beautiful thing for the engineering sets. I’d just rather not see valve wheels and exposed rivets on a vessel that goes 445298574975239573459823753498 miles an hour. As for the bridge, it’s got some great space for acting, but I just don’t buy the 10,000,000,000,000 watt lighting. The entire command crew would be bouncing off the bulkheads.

I’m sure we’ll get some adjustments in the sequel. You know engineers; they love to change things.

Bottom line: TWOKprise is still the gold standard, as far as I’m concerned. But, I still love the new adventure.

John from Cincinnati
September 25, 2009 3:21 pm

Are black framed eyglasses a requirement in Hollywood now?

September 25, 2009 3:29 pm

@16: Yes, we should definately focus on what the man is wearing on his face, rather than the crazy interesting job that he does for a living.


September 25, 2009 3:29 pm

I liked the new bridge set and its clean white look. Particularly effective at red alert and in more subdued lighting or during tight viewscreen shots from behind the Captain’s chair… the arrival at Vulcan for instance.

As a Brit, the Engineering sets looked positively Victorian. Like something out of Jules Verne. In terms of a space age look, if had no money for a TMP style core/reactor set… then I would’ve probably looked at oil refinery. Places like that have steel and chrome pipework, rather than old fashioned hydrants and rivetted bolts everywhere.

Chuck Watters
September 25, 2009 3:36 pm

Engineering was fine for a cruise ship of today but for a Starship of the 23rd century —– you guys missed the ball on that one . I said it once before —- there should have been a shot of Enterprise leaving the ship yards.

September 25, 2009 3:42 pm

I agree with y’all. None of will be here 100 years from now, but I can damn well guarantee that ship engineering sections will not look like anything we have ever seen. I spent ten years in the Navy and served aboard ships
commisioned in the 50’s to modern nuclear ships and the differences just in that 60 year span is remarkable. Can’t even guess what 200 years from now will look like. Just know it won’t look like a redressed Budweiser plant.

One last thing!! This is for JJ Abrams. Get rid of the damned lense flares. No Captain on any combatant ship is going to have bright flashy lights glaring in his eyes during a battle. Why do you think when we go to battle stations wll bright lights are extinguished? If you want to make it real, go aboard a real ship and observe one of their training drills.

Lt. Bailey
September 25, 2009 3:52 pm

Alternate time line or not… I just cannot accept the look of the ships factory engineering section(s). That does not make sense if they are to be 200 years in the future with a 20th century brewery look. What ever happene to miniturization??? Maybe it is because we have been used to 40 years of Star Trek engine rooms looking like they do, we get this new re-imagined version of an engine room we think it does not work…and it doesn’t. The engine room on the NX-01 (which is only a warp 5 engine) looks more futuristic than wha we saw in this ST11.

Anthony Thompson
September 25, 2009 3:54 pm

Another set that didn’t work was the Starfleet base where Scotty was found. When Kirk and Spock come in through the steel industrial door a megaphone is clearly visible above them. Didn’t buy that at all.

September 25, 2009 3:58 pm

#16: The only dude who can wear black frame glasses is Quinto! Oh, and the unibrow too! I kid because I love.

September 25, 2009 4:14 pm

wow, am I the only person who didn’t care about the Budwiser set? I thought it looked fine, it is not like they spent the whole movie in it.

September 25, 2009 4:17 pm

I really hope they are listening. It’s not OK to be flippant about a set design that didn’t work. It’s not a factory. Things arent being made there. There should be a power plant and the systems to monitor and operate the plant and tie it into propulsion. The brewery was just gizmos and doohickeys for gizmos and doohickeys sake. A good set designer will have some purpose to all the blinkies and flashies. There is probably always going to be an element of GNDN, but save yourself the trouble of the clutter and put it behind a panel. In good old Star Trek tradition.

And look at me. Not one mention of bar-code scanners. As it turned out, I wasn’t bugged by them when the movie was playing.

September 25, 2009 4:39 pm

While I enjoyed the movie overall and thought that they really nailed the characters, I’ve felt right from my first viewing that the look of the film was by far its biggest failing. For me, ST:TMP was the high water mark of Trek production design and this latest effort fell far short of that benchmark.

Other than the bridge, the corridors and maybe the transporter, the rest of the Enterprise (and most of the remaining Starfleet sets like the outpost where we first see Scotty) just looked too 20th century with way too many recognizable yet anachronistic fixtures like steam valves and loudspeakers. That may have been a deliberate decision on the part of the filmmakers to make it all more relateable to the mainstream moviegoer but in terms of visual style it all looked pretty mundane and forgettable.

In reading Chambliss’ comments I get the vibe that he and the rest of the crew are happy with the look they came up with but if that’s the direction they continue to follow in the next movie I for one will be really disappointed. As I said before, the Enterprise is just as much a character as its flesh and blood inhabitants and its sets deserve more consideration than what they got here.

September 25, 2009 4:39 pm

3, 4, 7 and the rest…

And the Original Series sets were so EFFING FANTASTIC!

Get off of the “greatness” of the Original Series design. IT WAS PLYWOOD AND CHICKEN WIRE FOR CHRIST SAKE!!! You dorks need to start bitching about something else…like why none of you can get laid!

These nitpicks are VERY disrespectful towards Mr. Chambliss and his time for this interview. You should all be embarrassed. GROW UP AND LEARN SOME RESPECT! Even if you didn’t like something you don’t bitch openly about it in front of the person responsible!!! PITIFUL…

September 25, 2009 4:50 pm

Is the book called Art of the Movie or Art of the Film?

Richard Daystrom
September 25, 2009 4:51 pm

Hell, The Engine Room on my 1979 commissioned U.S. Destroyer would have looked more realistic than the brewery. I loved the movie but the brewery is a problem for me. Why spend all the money and not come up with something a bit more plausible and more “Trek” looking that had come before. Even though the Bridge wasn’t “exact” to TOS I accepted it.
I had a hard time accepting the large water pipes for one. Anybody remember Sonic Showers from STTMP?

September 25, 2009 4:51 pm


Thank you Mrs. Chambliss. Your son appreciates you backing him up.

One thing that can be said for the original series: At least it was ORIGINAL (Look! I can use all caps too!). Need an engineering set? Build one. BTW, TOS had sets designed by Matt Jeffries, universally hailed as a brilliant TV designer. Don’t even compare what he did with a shoe-string budget for a TV show in the 60’s with a $150 million big screen production.

And I have a question: If I don’t like something, where am I supposed to “bitch about it”? It’s not like the guy is standing here with me. If he were, I would say the same thing AP did. Tell him that he did some good work but the engineering set didn’t work.

Teddy C
September 25, 2009 4:57 pm

Hey MH, you need to stop putting down people for having opinions. “…dont bitch openly about it….” Are you new to the internet?

September 25, 2009 5:02 pm

“Get off of the “greatness” of the Original Series design. IT WAS PLYWOOD AND CHICKEN WIRE FOR CHRIST SAKE!!! ”

The TOS movie designs were better. ;)

BTW: Why do you post here, when you hate TOS? Fake Trekkie.

Troubled Tribble
September 25, 2009 5:03 pm

How should I say this? Well here goes!

For some reason I get the feeling that JJ and his production crew haven’t figured out that Trek fans aren’t just freaks and nerds that crawl out of the shadows every time a new “TREK” movie comes out. We are adults and professionals who go out and daily work for a living just like everyone else. And some of us work in nuclear power plants, are electronics technicians, some even work for NASA!!

Our point of view is not trivial or nit-picky. We actually know what the hell we are talking about. So why can’t they treat us as they would any other professional that they work with when they are researching and designing a set? How about a little professional courtesy and respect?

After all. We aren’t just fans. Maybe some of what we say should be taken into consideration. After all, we only want the best for the Star Trek franchise. JJ we really do want you all to succeed!!! And we do have the utmost respect for all of you and what you have accomplished.

We’re just bouncing ideas at you. Maybe we seem overly critical of your work,from you point of view, but that’s just because we care!!!!

September 25, 2009 5:04 pm

“5. dmduncan – September 25, 2009
Best designed bridge set since TOS. The brewery doesn’t bug me. Seemed odd at first but there actually should be places like that on the Enterprise. He did a damned good job. And I thought the Hella Bar scene was fine too.”

Is there anything about this movie that is not “the best since TOS” to you?

September 25, 2009 5:11 pm

32 Actually I have been a Trek fan for over 30 years. And the Original Series is by far my favorite. BUT, it is not perfect. This thread is about the 2009 film and not the original series my friend. So it is the people hailing the Original and denouncing the new Trek that should not be in this thread.

I don’t worship The Original Series like most of you Trek Fundamentalists out there. I enjoy it immensely, but not to a fault.

31. You need to realize the hypocrisy of your statements as well. You admonish me for “putting down” other people’s opinions, but put mine down in the process?!!! You must be one of those Tea Party members…

September 25, 2009 5:14 pm

The thing I loved about the TNG sets was that it always seemed to stress function. The LCARS graphical design. for example, looked cool, but it was also clearly readable on screen.

I am not so sure the same was achieved in the latest movie. Sometimes clutter is not that good.

Also didn’t care about the “industrial” look of the lower decks on both ships.

September 25, 2009 5:15 pm

24: “wow, am I the only person who didn’t care about the Budwiser set?”

No Anne. I’m with you on that too. And Matt Jefferies argued against the need for an engine room set at all, arguing that the ship’s engineering functions could be controlled from the bridge.

And I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but there will probably still be lots of nuts and bolts and rivets in the 23rd century as well, particularly on parts that need to be disassembled, replaced, and/or fixed.

27: “Get off of the “greatness” of the Original Series design. IT WAS PLYWOOD AND CHICKEN WIRE FOR CHRIST SAKE!!!”

Hey, I’m with you on laying off Chambliss. I think he did an excellent job, and it was cool to see yet another vision of Star Trek’s design from a completely different person. I thought it was fantastic. But as for TOS sets, it doesn’t matter what they were made of—hell, they could have even made of paper or never even left the sheet—they were some brilliant designs no matter what.

Hat Rick
September 25, 2009 5:17 pm

I still don’t understand:


September 25, 2009 5:21 pm

Looking at that last pic, I gotta say, I really like the new bridge especially without all the “extra” lighting and lens flare.

September 25, 2009 5:28 pm

I think Mr. Chambliss had an impossible job trying to please everybody and I can live with the Enterprise except for engineering. I just would like to have seen more functionality and fewer decorative lights, glass panels, etc. I do like the STTMP set designs, best, though. For example Lee Cole designed B-1 panels and worked on bridge controls. I’ll definitely take a look at the book. If it’s good, I’ll get one. And I do see the curvature of the TWA terminal in some of these designs, for what it’s worth.

September 25, 2009 5:30 pm


I don’t say TOS was perfect.
I just say STXI was not perfect, too.It was an average movie, fun but not very profound.
The design had some great elements (Academy, Kelvin, bridge design …) and some weak points (engineering, too many distracting lights on the bridge)

And the mistakes that were done can be changed for STXII. But when nobody mentions them and just sees STXI through rose-colored glasses nothing will improve for STXII.
STXI was OK, but still with a lot of room for improvements.

C.S. Lewis
September 25, 2009 5:32 pm

Blasphemy does a good job of making your point, Sir. I can tell from your demonstrated respect that you care deeply about people and their beliefs, especially beliefs core to their essence.

C.S. Lewis

27. MH – September 25, 2009

3, 4, 7 and the rest…

And the Original Series sets were so EFFING FANTASTIC!

Get off of the “greatness” of the Original Series design. IT WAS PLYWOOD AND CHICKEN WIRE FOR CHRIST SAKE!!! You dorks need to start bitching about something else…like why none of you can get laid!

September 25, 2009 5:32 pm
I’m really surprised to hear that Scott didn’t like the bar set. I mean, how can you make a bar distinctive? A bar is a bar: alcohol, people, music, chairs. Am I missing something? I liked the look and purpose of it. The bar sets the scene for the adventure into space. I liked the contrast here between the simple bar on a dirt path in the middle of nowhere and the journey into space and onto the Enterprise. One of the problems with past Star Trek is that it focuses too much on space and the audience can loose perspective. By having lots of scenes on Earth, with recognisable and believable locals, such as the city-like Iowa bar and the modern-university like Starfleet Academy, the audience can root themselves in the story. They can identify these places as their home (at least their home-planet) and form an emotional connection with it in a way that can’t be done with black, undefined, repetitive space or some distant planet that is quickly introduced with a strange name. Having said all this, I won’t pretend that I’m a huge fan of the production design. And I won’t sugar-coat my criticisms. I was quite disappointed by how much of the Enterprise looked, given that this film had a budget that was huge: surpassing the collective budgets of the first 6 films! The use of joy-sticks, barcode readers, and over-arching library-esq lamps on the bridge were redolent of the sort of inventory TOS cash-strapped… Read more »
September 25, 2009 5:32 pm


You aren’t the only one. Those sets didn’t bother me in the slightest. Certainly no more than using the exact same set as 14 different rooms by simply changing the lighting *cough* TOS *cough*. Ultimately, no one knows what the engineering deck of a 23rd Century starship will look like, but boy do we have a whole smatterin’ of folks that think they do.

Brian Kirsch
September 25, 2009 5:37 pm

For the record, it all worked for me. Maybe I was paying too much attention to the story and characters to obsess about the sets.

The Big E is beautiful. Trust me, it will grow on you.

Engineering actually worked for me, though I agree it can be tweaked. Much more realistic than anything before, on tv or in the movies.

Imagine an engineering section that moves a large starship through space by generating a warp field. Would it look more like this, or a greatroom with some flashy panels with flashy buttons and a big flourescent tube?

Or maybe you prefer a greatroom with flashy panels with flashy buttons, some large tubes that form a maze, and a screened-off triangular “something” that seems to go on for hundreds of feet.

You can’t have it both ways Do you prefer the realistic guts of a starship, or do you prefer the unrealistic pretty look, for visual purposes?

C.S. Lewis
September 25, 2009 5:44 pm

The sets did not especially take me into the story, so in that regard it was difficult to suspend disbelief. The story itself also lacked coherence. It is a series of skits and vignettes that have no clear point to them. Having said that, the story of the USS Kelvin was one of the best heroic battle stories I know. Up there with Avincourt.

C.S. Lewis

September 25, 2009 5:49 pm

LOL, what the hell are “realistic guts of a starship” from the 24th century? For me that what the engine rooms of the previous movies and shows looked like. Certainly it’s not that oil rig we’ve seen in this movie.

September 25, 2009 6:02 pm

I love it when posters act like a character and talk BS for the whole post.

September 25, 2009 6:06 pm

#33. Troubled Tribble wrote: “And some of us work in nuclear power plants, are electronics technicians, some even work for NASA!!”

The most eloquent and well stated argument I have read in a long time … what is it doing on Trekmovie?

And what is with all the strawmen being tossed around here? The argument is NOT about how much better the new sets are to TOS sets, but about how appropriate the set design was to itself. Seriously, nobody is saying TOS looked better than ST09. But that ST09 was inconsistent at best.

When someone who has spent years in the Navy tells you in #20 it wouldn’t look like this 200 years from now, or works in a nuclear power plant tells you it is unrealistic, why on Earth would anyone dispute them? Unless of course you want to call them a liar. In the end I don’t believe it was ever about realism, but about looking “cool”.

The sets ultimately didn’t bother me when I saw the film. However, as Mr. Chambliss continues to obsess over his admitted failure in making the Iowa bar more distinctive (something no one else gave a rats ass about), certain sets like engineering did absolutely nothing “distinctively” for me. He proves his own point that art is in the eye of the beholder.

Brian Kirsch
September 25, 2009 6:10 pm

#47 –

My guess is that you live in video game world. Do some research on what actual warp drive technology would require, in regards to space required, elements required, actual mechanical equipment required. And, to make you happy deduct 90% due to advances in the next 200 years. It still won’t look like a greatroom with a big flourescent tube in the middle. Sorry if that looks “realistic” to you.