Exclusive: Interview with Star Trek Production Designer Scott Chambliss | TrekMovie.com
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Exclusive: Interview with Star Trek Production Designer Scott Chambliss September 25, 2009

by Anthony Pascale , Filed under: Art,Books,Interview,Star Trek (2009 film) , trackback

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. 



1. Odradek - September 25, 2009

Gutes Interview !

2. Thasc - September 25, 2009

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

3. Veridian - September 25, 2009

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.

4. Capt Mike of the Terran Empire - September 25, 2009

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.

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.

6. Capt Mike of the Terran Empire - September 25, 2009

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.

7. Nick Cook - September 25, 2009

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.

8. Nick Cook - September 25, 2009

That should be damn, obviously. Darn typos.

9. Lando - September 25, 2009

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?”

10. Lando - September 25, 2009

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?

11. Shatner_Fan_Prime - September 25, 2009

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

12. Imrahil - September 25, 2009

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

13. commodore z - September 25, 2009

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

14. Imrahil - September 25, 2009

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

15. CmdrR - September 25, 2009

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.

16. John from Cincinnati - September 25, 2009

Are black framed eyglasses a requirement in Hollywood now?

17. CarlG - September 25, 2009

@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.


18. ChristopherPike - September 25, 2009

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.

19. Chuck Watters - September 25, 2009

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.

20. TroubledTribble - September 25, 2009

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.

21. Lt. Bailey - September 25, 2009

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.

22. Anthony Thompson - September 25, 2009

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.

23. PunkSpocker - September 25, 2009

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

24. Anne - September 25, 2009

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.

25. THX-1138 - September 25, 2009

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.

26. TonyD - September 25, 2009

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.

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!

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…

28. N - September 25, 2009

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

29. Richard Daystrom - September 25, 2009

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?

30. THX-1138 - September 25, 2009


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.

31. Teddy C - September 25, 2009

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

32. me - September 25, 2009

“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.

33. Troubled Tribble - September 25, 2009

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!!!!

34. Lando - September 25, 2009

“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?

35. MH - September 25, 2009

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…

36. sebimeyer - September 25, 2009

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.

37. dmduncan - September 25, 2009

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.

38. Hat Rick - September 25, 2009

I still don’t understand:


39. DC - September 25, 2009

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

40. Kev-1 - September 25, 2009

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.

41. me - September 25, 2009


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.

42. C.S. Lewis - September 25, 2009

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!

43. Alec - September 25, 2009

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 genius Matt Jeffries would collect. I suppose it follows that you can’t say that production design wasn’t true to the spirit of TOS! But a lot of it just looked a little cheap to me.

The worst bit of production design is, unquestionably, the engineering set. JJ went on and on…and on and on… about trying to make this Star Trek feel ‘real’. Got it? REAL. But engineering didn’t feel real at all. It isn’t believable to suppose that an engineering dep. in the 23rd Century would use masses of water pipes and valves with steam blaring out. How can anyone argue otherwise? Given the apparent need for miles of water-pipes, valves, etc., it’s amazing that the crew also have micro technology on palm-pads, in communicators, phasers, etc., and the ability to travel faster than light and destroy planets! Sorry, but the engineering set takes you out of the whole film: it breaks the illusion of what you’re watching. It no longer feels real. It looks like something from ‘Battleship Potemkin’. Really, it’s not even new or shiny enough to be from ‘The Hunt For Red October’. TWOK can be seen as the benchmark Star Trek film. Look at what they did with engineering. It looks futuristic! Moreover, TWOK did this whilst overcoming JJ’s criticism: that the ship feels and looks all the same. TWOK did this in several ways. First, everyone in engineering wears a different uniform from the other ship personnel. The engineering set was a different colour to much of the rest of the ship. It had strange compartments (the radioactive box-thing) We see the bowls of the ship with the white-clad people marching up and down. The engineering crew carry equipment and masks. Horner gives them a different sounding music from the main character themes. Etc. In short, it was done much better.

All in all, though, a good film that set a benchmarch. The subsiquent films could be great.

44. sean - September 25, 2009


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.

45. Brian Kirsch - September 25, 2009

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?

46. C.S. Lewis - September 25, 2009

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

47. Lando - September 25, 2009

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.

48. Enterprise - September 25, 2009

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

49. RD - September 25, 2009

#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.

50. Brian Kirsch - September 25, 2009

#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.

51. Tanner Waterbury - September 25, 2009



52. Brian Kirsch - September 25, 2009

#49 –

“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”.”

I’m realy tired of the comparison to nuclear power plants., or nuclear vessels. You do realize that the difference between nuclear power and the power necessary for warp drive is immense, and totally different? Don’t you? You act like warp drive is the next step, LOL. That’s like the caveman saying after creating fire the next step is the combustion engine.
Yes, I dispute them. The fact is that none of us know.

53. Capt Mike of the Terran Empire - September 25, 2009

#35 Ok M.H Take a chill pill.I love the Movie and if you read my post I did say I hope he comes back for the next Movie. So please chill out.

54. Brian Kirsch - September 25, 2009

#49 –

“The sets ultimately didn’t bother me when I saw the film.”

My point exactly. Glad we agree!!

55. Frederick - September 25, 2009

I don’t mind the factory settings for the lower decks, where you might expect to see such things; but for a higi-tech matter-anti-matter engine? It needed to be the biggest, most exciting set they had. Maybe next time we’ll see the engine room proper.

56. Khan was framed - September 25, 2009

Yep… the Enterprise still looks awful from the neck down: the Saucer section is fine, but the secondary hull is too small & weirdly shaped & the nacelles are just stupid. They look like bell bottoms.

I’m with everyone who thought engineering looked bad too, it has no sense of function, i mean… where is the engine?

It took me a while to get used to the Enterprise E, but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this, it’s just tacky.

57. dmduncan - September 25, 2009

Re real “warp” technology:


58. RD - September 25, 2009

#52, more straw-men. The fact is that since none of us know, we are all right. No one’s opinion is more correct or right than another’s. If I had to, I would come a lot closer to believing a nuclear engineer than I would the set designer who’s never done science fiction before. While I may not know the theoretical physics behind what would be required for that kind of power plant, I’ll betcha that nuclear engineer sure as heck has a pretty good idea.

#54, don’t count me on your bandwagon just yet. I respect the opinions of others, especially when it comes to something which cannot proven one way or the other. This is science fiction after all and the fiction is art and art is in the eye of the beholder. While I was not notably distracted by the sets, they added nothing to the enjoyment for me – which is half the fun of any film (to some). I fully understand why someone would have a problem with the sets and can see how the sets could take someone out of the moment. If I had a say in the set design of the next film (and I don’t and most likely won’t), I would want the engineering section presented differently, because this just didn’t work for me.

There are moments in films when something is visually established and it brings a smile to your lips. I remember endless moments like that in Star Trek the Motion Picture as every new feature of the ship was revealed. Some I liked, some I didn’t. But moments like that are tools of the filmmaker. Arguably that’s half of 2001 A Space Odyssey. And even though a set may not distract from the story being presented, the fact that such an important area of the ship does not bring a smile to one’s lips upon first reveal is a failure in my book. I did not smile. Scotty is my favorite character as is the domain in which he works. It was an opportunity missed for me and others. Did it ruin the film? No. Am I wrong because I didn’t like it? NO.

59. Crewman Darnell - September 25, 2009

The brewery deck made me wince and groan out loud in the theater. I won’t apologize for an involuntary reaction caused by something that stood out as really dumb. Too bad Mr. Chambliss doesn’t show much concern about other set design critiques as he does of the Iowa Bar, which apparently nobody cares about. His dismissive tone isn’t very inspiring. If he is on board for the next film, I hope he changes his attitude a bit and makes better use of constructive criticism from the fans.

60. toddk - September 25, 2009

I have never been inside a brewery, so i can’t nit-pick about it. My nit-pick is the I-bridge but I-can live with it. Bartender!! gimmee two BUDWISER CLASSICS please!

61. SirBroiler - September 25, 2009

#45 – I think there is a bridge between the two extremes you describe. A combination of function a form that would have better satisfied fans on both sides of this debate.

Actually – I think the interior designs of Archer’s Enterprise nailed it.

It’s fun to see the arguments on both sides. Spirited debate is entertaining for sure.

62. JimJ - September 25, 2009

I think Mr. Chambliss showed a lot of care in his work and interview with Anthony, except in one case: engineering. Frankly, it bugged me a little bit because you really couldn’t get your “berings straight” about where you even were at in the place. In TOS-ENT you always had a frame of reference and could tell exactly what part of engineering you were in. This was just a jumbled mess that was hard to distinguish. I get what they were trying to do, but it was just too much change, to the point of not being recognizable at all. Did it make me like the movie less? NOPE. Do I feel that a change in engineering for the next movie should be made? HELL YES! It just needs to fit more in with the rest of the Trek’s, is all I think. Does Chambliss respect that an expert like Anthony doesn’t care for it…or that a lot of fans feel that way? Apparently not!!

The bar? No problem. Engineering, problem that could easily be fixed and explained (Scotty took those “beer bins” and created his own alcohol distilling plant, therefore he needed to redesign engineering-lol). Seriously, they could come up with something and make a lot of fans happy.

63. Brian Kirsch - September 25, 2009

#57 –

The straw men are in your head only, sorry. With all due respect to current nuclear engineers, they are the equivilant of the caveman when it comes to warp drive technology. I’m sure the caveman would know what a combustion engine looked like. Or, if it makes you happy, ask a 19th century scientist to design a nuclear power plant.

Again, you contradict yourself. The sets didn’t detract at all, but yet you make it a point. Some of us were more involved in the movie as a whole, not looking for things to nitpick.

I smiled, cried, and laughed during this film. I feel sorry for you that you were so busy looking for reasons not to like it that you missed that experience.

We’re all well aware of your love for TMP, and your closet hatred of this film. Do us all a favor, and yourself, and come out of the closet.

64. Brian Kirsch - September 25, 2009

And BTW, in case some of you missed it…….. the whole engineering section debate was decided by the budget and the studio, so cut JJ and Chris some slack. IMHO they pulled it off very well, and didn’t distract at all for me.

65. Dr. Image - September 25, 2009

What a snotty, arrogant attitude this guy has. (Braga, anyone?)
Obviously, he hasn’t “gotten it” yet, as far as Trek goes.
Should’ve let Eaves handle the designs instead. At very least he has respect for the property, not to mention loads more class and talent.

66. Brian Kirsch - September 25, 2009

#63 –

Yes, you saw it 30 years ago on the big screen, spruced up, shined up, and expanded.

If you saw it now, on the big screen, you might enjoy it but most of the theater would be groaning, or laughing

67. Spockish - September 25, 2009

A Movie set Production designer becomes great when they only have coins and sand on the beach with big waves then you tell them you need this or that, and they give you the Grand Canyon. And most are forced to work with what hey have or can afford. The brewery may not look good or even bad but that is what they could afford. Again you may want diamonds but you can only pay for Man Made pressed Carbon rocks, you have to live with what you can pay for.

68. pock speared - September 25, 2009

wow. i thought i was way lonely on the bar scene being a missed possibility. i’ve seen bars in new york that haven’t changed since the 40’s, and in iowa, well, give them a century to catch up, lovingly. the problem is that our culture keeps installing dumber and dumber bells and whistles into drinking establishments to kowtow to dumber and dumber expectations, while an honest irish pub keeps polishing the old taps. any good shipyard bar keeps it shite&gear original, ‘cuz the seaman trust it that way.

perhaps the brewery/engineering sets, which i adored*, were the answer to the lame-ish bar scene.

(*and i do mean ADORED. best set in the film. i was amazed at the lovely juxtaposition between the “brain” bridge was the “rivets and valves” engineering. don’t bother flaming me back on that one, please, let me have it. it was the one part of the film that was truly an original take. lens flares, i like too, maybe not so much, but engineering was faakkinbrillianyadaftcoontz. sir. itwuznotribbleatall.)

69. mr. mugato - September 25, 2009

What was the purpose of the salad shooters?

70. Balok - September 25, 2009

Hey, I know they had to go for a fresh new look, even though the original E was so much better then new E and all the money they threw at at it.

Now, the reason the Kelvin is universely liked by old and new fans is because it looked believable as a ship that was at least several decades before TOS timeline.

71. CarlG - September 25, 2009

@38: Very


Don’t worry about it.

@24: no, I didn’t mind the set, either. I would’ve been happy if Engineering had had a big glowy blue thing that went “rumble”, but the TOS Engineering set didn’t have one either, so, yeah.

@65: How will he ever “get Trek” if he isn’t allowed to try stuff out? Better a design that some love and some gripe about than a design that makes everyone say, “meh”.

I think the brewery would have looked great as the Kelvin Engineering, though. It would fit in nicely with the industrial look of the Kelvin, especially if the more “brewery-y” aspects of it were obscured by moody red alert lighting, smoke and battle debris, etc.

I was thinking, iIs it possible that Engineering was one of the last sets to be kitted out? Maybe it was a rush job, or they were only able to obtain rights to film at that location at the last minute, or something.

72. Will_H - September 25, 2009

Good interview. Only thing is I wish he would of said something to the engineering bit. I hope they change that for the next movie, because even though I had a lot to nit pick in the movie, for production design that was with out a doubt my hugest beef. I’d go as far to call that and EPIC FAIL of production design. It was too big to fit in the ship, you could tell it was a redress, and it looked like it might power a steam ship, but nothing even from this era, not to mention a Star Ship from the 23rd century. If they just redo that into something good next movie I think most of us Trekkies won’t nit pick it, we’ll just be happy and leave it at that.

73. CarlG - September 25, 2009

@69: “salad shooters”?

74. IcebreakerX - September 25, 2009

For me, the engineering sets didn’t work because they evoked memories of other movies with other big ships with big engine rooms with grimy pipes and big reactors and the like… Namely Titanic.

The ‘plant’ type of look is also typically used in movies as… Plants and factories on Earth, so the visuals end up evoking a sense of familiarity that can be disorienting or disordered. With the brewery sets, the visuals (as well as knowledge of where the scenes were shot) felt incongruent with the idea of a spaceship traveling through space, regardless of`canon.

If the visual design of the Enterprise was like the Kelvin or RDM’s Battlestars, the contrast wouldn’t be nearly as visible and people probably wouldn’t have noticed as much. Most people probably don’t have a beef with the idea behind dirtier lower decks. It makes sense. It’s more the execution.

75. dmduncan - September 25, 2009

Cowbell. The engineering set needs more cowbell.

76. The Riddler - September 25, 2009

He didn’t like the budwiser set comment did he? Of course Trek Movie back tracks on that saying it’s fans nitpicking instead of having balls to say it’s a valid criticisim.

Oh well. No surprises there.

77. THX-1138 - September 25, 2009


Sorry, but you lose all credibility with your first post. You can try to backpedal but you have already loosed the demon with the vitriol of your first post. You slapped first and were slapped back.

Brian Kirsch, I can see that you have a lot of passion for your viewpoint but I would submit the major flaw in your argument being that there is no comparison between the reality of a nuclear powered propulsion control center and a warp drive engine room. Because the latter does not exist, but in speculation and in the fancy of the film-maker. Of course Star Trek has a 40 year history and with it comes our concept of what it is SUPPOSED to look like. When the design clearly flies in the face and seemingly disregards that aesthetic it’s only natural to expect those of us who have bought into the vision of designers for the last 40 years to not buy the new completely different design.

78. Ensign RedShirt - September 26, 2009

New movie had a great cast, a very average story(which will become more and more obvious after people get a DVD or Blu Ray of it and really examine it), and lousy production design(outside of the Narada, which looked very cool), in my opinion.

I agree with #26-Trek production design peaked with TMP.

79. Paul Simpson - September 26, 2009

Nice interview! One thing regarding Star Trek: The Art of the Film – there are going to be two exclusive supplements in the official Magazine tied in to the book, in issues 23 and 24. Two eight-page pull out sections contain completely new images that add to the ones contained in the book – not reprints, but alternates for which there simply wasn’t room. One appears to whet your appetite on 3rd November; the other will come out just before Christmas (add a week or two for UK readers)

80. Where did the production budget dollars get spent? - September 26, 2009

Anthony – THANK YOU for taking Mr. Chambliss to task for the Engineering sections on the Kelvin and Enterprise.

I found his response to be… remarkable:
“Fantastic, well everyone is entitled to their own opinion…I have nothing to say to that.”

Well, Mr. Chambliss, you should have something to say. It was your job to create those production design elements. I saw nothing which evoked TOS in those Engineering sets. Nada. Not even a pre-cursor to what we might have seen in the episodic TV shows or the movies.

I think this response from Chambliss, responding to a different comment, is actually quite appropriate:

“(…) But that set and that location wasn’t. I think I am the only one on the team that feels that way.”

Collect your paycheck and keep your professional friendship with J.J. You don’t give a damn about the CUSTOMER — you know, the ones that buy the tickets, who will show ongoing support for your work? Ignore the tenets of GREAT production design by creating a lackluster bridge set (what the HECK were those red price scanners for anyways?), a lousy transporter set, a horrible Engineering set (HORRIBLE!!) and mediocre Kelvin interiors.

Rick Sternbach and Andy Probert, among others, would have been WELCOME additions to this production, even if only in a consulting role.

Mr. Chambliss – Stick with non-sci fi production design. You’re not a futurist. (Syd Mead – that’s a futurist!)

81. DJT - September 26, 2009

I just want to know if that bridge comes complete with ITUNES and anti-virus, cuz those screen savers in the background look funky.

82. dfgdsfg - September 26, 2009

The only thing i don’t like about this movie is the bridge of the Enterprise, the Kelvin bridge looked so much better

83. David B - September 26, 2009

“60s era Eero Saarinen architecture inspired new Starfleet look”

Well that explains why the big E looks different from the outside, I can’t say I like the reason why he changed it or how it turned out. So the Enterprise has got fins like a Ford Thunderbird then.

So let me get this straight , he wanted the first ship to look like a Star Trek ship so he could blow it up and say, ha your Star Trek is destroyed now this is my Star Trek all mine, and it looks like this. (just kidding).

I understand people wanting to remake something like Star Trek or Bond etc but if you take so much away from the original characters and designs all you have left is the name, you might as well make your own film and call it something else than to take a brand name just to sell it better.

84. 4 8 15 16 23 42 - September 26, 2009

I envy him his job, and I don’t envy him his job: What an opportunity, with all its challenges and rewards, but what a drag to have to face the “it’s never good enough” attitude of the fans. And I don’t exclude myself in that statement; I to have my gripes.

However, although I am critical, and I don’t like the Bud-geneering scenes for the reasons he himself cites (“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.”), I do applaud Chambliss and the production team as a whole for thinking outside the box, or should I say thinking outside the Jeffries tube. I like canon, but I am also not uptight like an archivist about every detail… reinventing stuff can be good, even when the original is fine too (I’ll never stop liking the TOS designs). While “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” holds water, sometimes changing things isn’t “fixing” as much as “shaking things up”.

85. Jack - September 26, 2009

what? oh, sorry, I had this set on automatic.

84. really? equating saarinen’s designs to the fins on a ford thunderbird? his influence was evident in TOS.

85. not trying to be a d*ck, but Chambliss didn’t say the locations weren’t redressed enough, the interviewer did.

And weren’t most of the coolant pipes built (and/or CGId) specifically for that scene?

After all that, the only real gripe I had with engineering is what looked to me like a mid ’70s McDonald’s (or, yes, beer factory) tile floor, which kind of took me out of the movie (although, frankly, I only noticed this on the 6th or 7th viewing… and I’d known from here that it was filmed in the bud plant). But still, couldn’t they have rolled out some shiny futuristic lino?

Maybe we should start a collection here so they have a budget for an engineering set (designed by us, obviously) for the next one. And we should get the ladies out of those anachronistic skirts and into some 23rd century pants!

86. Jack - September 26, 2009

ps. ok, I don’t really know if Saarinen was an influence on TOS design, but they did use his tulip chairs (or knockoffs), didn’t they?

87. Lando - September 26, 2009

You know, Matt Jefferies didn’t want engineering to look like that. He wanted engineering to be a control room, and the magic happens in the warp nacelles.

This is what a control room of a nuclear power plant looks like. That’s actually where Scotty would be all day long.

88. Lando - September 26, 2009

Here’s another one.

89. Lando - September 26, 2009

Here’s the control room of a fusion reactor.

90. Lando - September 26, 2009

And here’s what a fusion reactor looks like.

Since that’s an experimental stage, they would be covering everything, the pipes and frame and stuff, up later on, and they’d end up with an engine room that looks similar to what it looked like in 40 years of Star Trek.

The TOS, TMP & TNG engine rooms definately are realistic for the 24th century.

91. Lando - September 26, 2009

And here’s what the turbine deck of a nuclear power plant looks like. Rather clean and tidy, huh?

92. Lando - September 26, 2009

Sorry for all these posts, but every time I tried to include all these links within one message, the message just disappeared. What’s going on? How does one create a proper hyperlink here?

93. 4 8 15 16 23 42 - September 26, 2009

88 Jack — Oh, geez, you’re right…. what the hell? Why is Chambliss saying less than the interviewer…?

94. JimJ - September 26, 2009

I think Chambliss’s mistake in the interview was his “pooh-pooh attitude” towards Anthony and the fans for their thoughts about engineering. It’s sad, because he can sit there and whine about something he felt didn’t go over well (the bar set), but “ta blazes” with what anyone else thinks about the bar set (like his colleagues who all seemed to like it, along with the fans); or engineering (which includes Anthony and probably 75% or more of the fans). I wish they’d do a new poll on here and ask the fans how they felt about the engineering set, now that we’ve all had 4+ months to see it and think about it.

95. JimJ - September 26, 2009

One last thing, HE KNOWS the engineering set is the problem. he even admitted it when Anthony said:
“TrekMovie: Well, there is one location that has been a little controversial…”
and he responded:
“Scott Chambliss: Is it Budweiser?”

He knows, doctor, he knows…… He just doesn’t want to admit it or he simply does think he knows better than all of us.

96. JohnnyMoo - September 26, 2009

Well, to pass off the criticisms of the engineering scenes as obsessive Star Trek fans being precious is rather disingenuous. It’s a shame they couldn’t make their own sets for those scenes.

97. dmduncan - September 26, 2009

I will say this. Star Trek fans can put on a display of pettiness that would embarrass a horde of stampeding Walmart shoppers on Black Friday morning.

98. Frederick - September 26, 2009

I’ll say again… a mass of pipes do not an engineering set make.

99. Michael Hall - September 26, 2009

*Sigh* Chambliss seems like an intelligent guy, but his work on the film is a testament to the perils of nepotism in Hollywood. I didn’t hate all of it, by any means–but as with so much else in this film, at the end of the day it’s a shame the job couldn’t have gone to someone with a genuine feel for the material. As for budget–well, I just don’t have a whole lot of patience for the notion that a $150 million movie can’t afford to build its own engine room set. Sorry.

(And #46 “C.S. Lewis”: I think the battle you meant to refer to was the one at Agincourt. Though why political conservatives insist on venerating these pathetic, wasteful slaughters is a mystery to me; TOS certainly didn’t.)

100. Brian - September 26, 2009

As a long time ST original show fan, I can honestly say;

1. The movie was fantastic. An unqualified success.

2. He screwed up the exterior of the Enterprise. He took a beautiful, timeless design and tweaked it into an mess. Swallow your pride and fix it. Some things just work and don’t need a lot of ‘re-imagining’.

3. Enterprise engineering was ridiculous. Maybe there were time or budget restraints, but his reaction above tells me that he’s heard the criticism more than once. Again, admit the mistake and fix it next time.

4. The bridge was a bit too Star Wars meets iPod for my taste, but it worked.

Looking forward to the next one.

PS -The glasses comment was funny, so lighten up.

101. screaming satellite - September 26, 2009

To be honest I never even realised it was engineering until the end when Scotty is there screaming ‘they canna take it captain!’

I was like ‘oh THATS the engine room’….i mustve missed the line where someone said ‘there are intruders in engineering’ when Kirk and Scot beamed there….

Yeah as someone said it did look like a steam ship engine room or something out of Jules Verne..I guess they were going for something different to the standard warp core style that every star trek ship seems to have had.

Maybe for the sequel they’ll build a proper set – or build more familiar engine room elements to the existing Bud plant. plus redesign the bridge slightly so it looks less Apple store like – actually just lower the lighting somewhat and thatd be fine

102. Locke for President - September 26, 2009

Sure it didn’t look like the original sets, but so what. It’s just a movie — and a fun one at that.

Getting too anal about such things sucks the joy out of life.

103. dmduncan - September 26, 2009

Some of you sound like you’re on the verge of taking hostages until your Star Trek sequel set design demands are met.

104. screaming satellite - September 26, 2009

104 – meh, exterior of the Ent was ok. they couldnt exactly have had the exact same as TOS or the movies – so it was kind of a blend of both with a fresh look…

took a little getting used to at first but it worked fine

105. Balok - September 26, 2009

hmmm, if they should have used Mr. Cawley’s bridge sets, then they would have had time and money to build their own TOS engineering section

106. jonboc@aol.com - September 26, 2009

“60s era Eero Saarinen architecture inspired new Starfleet look”

I always loved that stylistic curvy art-deco view of the future. Loved it in Tomorrowland and love it in my Star Trek.

As far as the engine room. I’ve never been in a brewery, works for me. Engines aren’t pretty.

And the bar. Well, I don”t think they ever really showed enough of the interior in wide establishing shots to make a determination one way or the other.

107. Closettrekker - September 26, 2009

I think it was the more “traditional Star Trek engine rooms” which did not look like something which could really be an engine room. The brewery-style look wasn’t perfect, but it was a legitimate interpretation of what a 23rd Century starship’s bowels might look like, and using locations like that to get that across was quite creative, IMO.

Different fans are focusing on different things when they view the film, obviously. If not for the level of discussion on threads here at TM, I would probably not have given it a second thought…I was far more interested in the actual storytelling and presentation of the characters, some of which I was thoroughly pleased with, and some of which I thought fell short.

I would say that I was, overall, very impressed with what the film offered me visually…and generally very pleased with the film altogether (enough to see it more times than I ever saw another Star Trek film during its initial run).

I don’t think the production designers (assuming they remain on the team for the sequel) should back down and change anything with which they felt comfortable in ST09. I would rather see them uphold the integrity of their art. The question they should ask themselves, as artists, is not “Did the final product please the existing fanbase?”, but rather, “Does the final product do our interpretation justice?”. The former question is futile. The answer to the latter question is ultimately what determines the artist’s true success or lack thereof.

Criticism is going to be there no matter what. There are too many different existing viewpoints for it to be otherwise. There isn’t a production designer on Earth who would have pleased every fan 100%, nor is there one working today who was ever going to please some of the fans at all. It was always going to be either too different from what came before, or not different enough.

108. S. John Ross - September 26, 2009

I’m one of those who have no complaints with Engineering; I liked the contrast between the industrial and the … okay, the soulless.

But I’m among those who wish there’d been no soullessness to contrast, and specifically I mean the iBridge. A contrast between industrial and _beautifully futuristic_ would have been gorgeous. A contrast between industrial and the yuppiedrome was just tedious, but I have no complaints with the industrial end of things.

Would have been interesting to hear his thoughts on the bridge … not necessarily in a confrontational way (I don’t think the bridge was nearly as controversial as engineering among most fans), even just hearing him brag about the process would have been edifying.

109. Jeyl - September 26, 2009

@65: “the whole engineering section debate was decided by the budget and the studio, so cut JJ and Chris some slack.”

No. JJ said in interviews that when he walked into the brewery he thought it looked like a Spaceship. Spaceship from what? Dracula 3000? Space Mutiny?

The Engineering Brewery excuses suck, and Scott’s reaction to the comments are an example. There is no reason why a TV series that ran on a TV budget that got lower and lower as the series went on can make their own engineering room with a ton of cool features and this 150 million theatrical movie can’t come up with their own engineering set.

I ask you. What’s the benefit of making it look realistically industrial? You want to make Star Trek more “down to Earth”? Why would you want to do that? Star Trek is supposed to be what’s out there, not down here. The more you try to incorporate elements from how the stuff of TODAY works in a series that’s unique quality is designing FUTURE elements that we don’t even understand, the less relevant the visual quality of Star Trek will become. This is like making Superman wear a sweater when he goes into Antarctica or wearing short sleeves and shorts on a summer day. Style may not be as important as the story or characters, but when you have a scene where Scotty is working in the tubes of engineering and actually working on stuff compared to NuScotty just running around back and fourth doing nothing, I think a fully constructed set would have given the whole sequence a different mood to it.

110. P Technobabble - September 26, 2009

More typical pissing and moaning from a group of people who think the entire universe should be a reflection of what is inside their own heads. It’s been said before: if you don’t like it, go make your own damned film. But I don’t see any films coming from any of these critics. Hmm, why is that? Could it be that they can’t even operate a video camera? Could it be that they couldn’t draw a straight line in order to design anything? Mr. Chambliss did a fine job, and he got paid for it. I don’t think any of the critics in here get paid to bitch, do they? They only seem to enjoy seeing their snotty, snobbish remarks in print…
#86 you sound pretty arrogant yourself… Surely, you could express your opinion in a more civilized way, no?
#106 I couldn’t agree with you more…

111. AJ - September 26, 2009

In the end, I didn’t care for Engineering. No opinion about the bar in Iowa.

But neither pulled me out of the action in the film. For that quibble, I get that awesome opening scene on the Kelvin, and lots of good stuff from a truly extraordinary team of artists. Who knows? Maybe the regular Engineering room was right around the corner. Case closed.

114: P Technobabble, critics here don’t “get paid to bitch.” Like you, we fans (not critics) pay good money which translates to salaries for Mr. Chambliss, JJ and the rest. Chambliss is aware of the overall fan discontent with the Bud factory. How’d he find that out? Golly! From us! and the flick grossed $400m to boot.

Don’t discount what the fans have to say. We’re a lot closer to the top guys than one may think. All the “Khan” and “allegory” stuff comes straight from discussions on this very site because it’s lurked by many, and has Bob Orci chiming in regularly to see what we’re thinking.

112. will - September 26, 2009

@80 — hey, before you condemn him for not commenting on the brewery, consider the possibility that he himself may have had strong feelings against that set, and had already argued against it and was overruled. His lack of comment does not necessarily mean he thought the brewery was perfect. Indeed, how could anyone with a design background think it was anything but crap? So I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume that he didn’t like it either.

113. dmduncan - September 26, 2009

110: “More typical pissing and moaning from a group of people who think the entire universe should be a reflection of what is inside their own heads.”

Yup. Everyone seems to think they know what the future looks like. And starship engine rooms apparently have lots of pulsating lights even though the engines are actually separated from the ship entirely. The whole point of Matt Jefferies design was that the engines were so powerful they had to be separated from the habitable section of the ship. If you are routing all that energy through the habitable section up to the nacelles, then what’s the point of having them separate at all? But that seems to have been the idea of engineering beginning with TMP. I’d rather just see a similar return to the TOS engineering, but surrounding the impulse engine section of the ship.

And I’d wager a year’s supply of weekend breakfast donuts that there will still be plenty of nuts and bolts and wrenches used in the 23rd century—and yes, used even on spaceships, the same way that people on those spaceships will still be wearing shoes, pants and shirts—wherever there are things that break and need to be disassembled, replaced, or repaired.

I mean look at Megan Fox. Shes beautiful, is she not? But I don’t think I’d care to see her intestinal pipes. Similarly, the guts of a starship probably won’t be much to look at. They are supposed to make the pretty stuff work, not strut down a runway.

Some people seem to think that because it’s the 23rd century, every single detail should be completely unfamiliar, and that there will be no good ideas from the 20th century that survive that long into the 23rd. I think that’s nonsense. I suppose there won’t be any plumbing at all on starships, even if that’s the most efficient way to route water throughout the ship, which means no flushing toilets. No, instead all starship personnel will crap into a toilet shaped transporter, and it’ll be beamed out into space because that’s “futuristic.”

111: “Chambliss is aware of the overall fan discontent with the Bud factory. How’d he find that out? Golly! From us! and the flick grossed $400m to boot.”

And I’m sure the relevant people all got notice of the fan’s discontent with the engineering department during the first week or two of the film’s release. Yet some people are still flaming the talent like the film came out yesterday.

114. dion1701 - September 26, 2009

I do not see it that way. I see it an people passionate about something they love dearly. Most fans have known this material their whole life. They have grown up with these iconic designs. When an update or dare I say re-imagine is done properly, no one complains. Look at the the following examples. TOS to TMP. Matt Jefferies designs were just improved upon. There was not some big backlash over streamlined nacells instead of round. There was so much that changed from new uniforms, Klingons with ridges, ect. TMP to TWOK Meyer gave it a new look with more military type uniforms. I loved the look and thought It was an improvment. With the new designs, I myslef like Ryan Church’s design for the enterprise. Structurally it makes alot of sense. The designs he did for engineering were awesome, had they used them there would not be an issue. What we got was an industrial nightmare. Plus I still do not understand the plastic car wash looking pieces on the Kelvins shuttle. I think Scott Chambliss is a bit cavilier in reguards to the designs. I also think some of the blame goes on J.J. and even dare I say ILM. J.J. wanted something like the inside of the Titanic, the “gut” of the ship. My problem with that is take the interior of the Titanics engin room and compare it to the engin room of today’s modern crusie ships. Royal Caribbean’s Fredom class ship’s engin rooms look more like a Star Trek engin room then what they showed in the new movie. Then there is the whole size issue with ILM. There is no way the ship is larger then the enterprise-e. If they want to update and give everything a new look great but do not dismiss the talent at hand. John Eaves, Herman Zimmerman, Mike Okuda are masters at what they do. Change for just the sake of change is illogical.

115. Michael Hall - September 26, 2009

Um, bringing up concerns relevant to the thread’s content is not “flaming the talent” so long as it’s done politely and with respect. While there have been exceptions, most of the critical comments posted here haven’t been directed towards Mr. Chambliss personally, but rather refer to the work that everyone had to be a paying customer to see. If Chambliss can more or less gracefully accept the criticism along with the money and the plaudits, his defenders on this thread should do no less.

116. Jim Cude - September 26, 2009

Engineering was bad- no real way around that. Please build a high-tech set next time around, you have the budget for it. And the scene with Scotty stuck in the pipes was straight out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

117. dmduncan - September 26, 2009

115: “Um, bringing up concerns relevant to the thread’s content is not “flaming the talent” so long as it’s done politely and with respect. While there have been exceptions,”

Using the equation x-¥R+IOœ∑´®†¥˙ƒ˙¬˚µ˜ç≈Ω√∫=234.9, I was able to determine that my comment was meant for the exceptions.

118. S. John Ross - September 26, 2009

#109: “I ask you. What’s the benefit of making it look realistically industrial?”

The simplest answer is that it really did make some of us happy with that element.

“Style may not be as important as the story or characters,”

On this we agree. Some improvements in style might have made a better band-aid, but things like (as you put it) “NuScotty just running around back and fourth [sic] doing nothing” or the Charlie & The Chocolate Factory gag are problems to be solved by hiring better writers, and far more important than what the backdrop looks like.

Give me a gut-wrenching,stimulating and ultimately heart-soaringly optimistic storyline set against the backdrop of a yuppiedrome iBridge, and you know what happens next? I fall in love with the yuppiedrome iBridge and stop calling it that.

Still hoping that happens next time. In the meantime, this one had things going ‘splodey and people running around doing backflips through the plot holes while the bad guy chewed the scenery so hard they’ll have to rebuild it next time, anyway.

Maybe add some color.

119. P Technobabble - September 26, 2009

111 AJ

Yes, it is a fact that Bob Orci (and perhaps some others) have checked out various posts here to get a sense of what the fans are thinking. But I do not believe Mr. Orci and his friends are taking anything they read here with more than a grain of salt, simply because art by committee is not art. There is no reason why the writers and producers of Star Trek would take anything the fans have to say and incorporate that into what they intend to do. The writers and producers of TWOK completely ignored all the protests from fans about Spock’s death, and I think that turned out just fine.
If Mr. Orci emailed me or you or someone else here directly about something we said, then I’d think he was more than casually interested in what was being said. But since this is not happening (to my knowledge), my guess is that he and the rest of the Supreme Court are more than confident in their own abilities, and will continue to make the kind of Star Trek they want. No artist creates a work of art with the intention of pleasing the audience first. The artist creates art for him/herself, certainly hoping the audience will like it, but not specifically to please the audience.
I went in to see ST09 armed with very little expectation, as open-minded as I could be, and leaving as much previous Star Trek behind as possible, specifically so I would not superimpose my own ideas onto the film. I was not disappointed, and I enjoyed the film (more than once), and I have no reason to nitpick about the lighting of the bridge, the industrial look of engineering, or anything else. It is what it is. And my hopes for the next film have more to do with story and character, and not about the appearance of things.
I find many of the objections some here are making are so superficial that I wonder if they bothered to watch the film. If someone couldn’t enjoy the film simply on the basis of disliking the bridge or engineering or whatever, I believe it is their loss. I can still enjoy TOS, in spite of the cardboard sets and foam boulders. It’s what’s at the heart of the show that matters, hm?
Just my 2 cents, of course…

120. MJAMESON - September 26, 2009


It seems that the Engine Room design of Trek ’09 seems to be the “Abortion” argument of trekmovie.com. It just never seems to go away.

Entertaining arguments on both sides of the fence though, so keep it up.

121. Cervantes - September 26, 2009

Can I get ANOTHER ‘alternate TOS timeline’ storyline for the sequel too, please?

One that doesn’t have ANY of the production design choices of J.J.’s ‘vision’ where the exterior / interior of that fugly new ‘Enterprise’ is concerned….and that more closely resembles the original TOS series / original TOS movies better, without a ‘NEXT GENERATION’ design ethic….

Just askin’.

122. Anthony Pascale - September 26, 2009

I am really dissapointed in some of you. I even had to delete a couple of comments. There is discussing something, and then there is flaming and over the top personal attacks. I really think some people have really lost perspective. However, we can debate and disagree, without being disagreeable. Also, I do thank Scott for taking the time to give an interview.

And as for the interview saying that critiques are not valid, i am not sure what that is about, read my review, which I stand by.

I note where I didn’t like this or that. But as some have noted here, things are not always that simple. Cost is a major factor that cannot be ignored, and altough Abrams spent more than any other Trek film, he also did his best to not let the budget go crazy and end up putting the movie into a position where it couldn’t make a profit. The Engineering sets were an example of where they saved some money. I thought they worked some times, but a few times it didn’t. But I am not going to get all worked up over it and certainly not attack someone, especially in light of all the other good work on the film.

123. Closettrekker - September 26, 2009

#119—“…art by committee is not art.”

At least not good art, anyway. The best art is that which comes from the passion of the artists themselves.

“No artist creates a work of art with the intention of pleasing the audience first. The artist creates art for him/herself, certainly hoping the audience will like it, but not specifically to please the audience.”

I do think that *some art* is, unfortunately, done that way…but again, the *best* art is done in the manner in which you have described.

With that said, I do think that, in this case, the writers are more willing to act upon input from the fanbase to a certain degree…or at least Bob is willing to make we as fans feel that way. I certainly wouldn’t want to suggest that he is insincere. But specifically when it comes to something like production design, the artist is already limited enough by the constraints put upon him/her by the producers and director…He/she certainly doesn’t need to be hamstrung further by the futile goal of pleasing a fanbase that can barely agree upon anything other than the fact that each of them likes Star Trek in some form or another. That would be a recipe for disaster, or at the very least, for something that isn’t at all provocative in any way…if it could be accomplished at all (and it couldn’t be). And what is art supposed to be if not provocative?

124. Hat Rick - September 26, 2009

Seriously, folks — I think it’s time we get a ruling from SOMEONE about how big the alternate Enterprise is. It’s as if we have a World War II-like movie based on an aircraft carrier and it seems in some scenes to be 300 feet long and in others to be 3,000. If it’s 3,000 feet long, then it can’t be a WWII movie but something else entirely — and that makes a difference. I wonder if Chambliss might say something about this discrepancy.

I wonder, but I’m probably not going to get an answer.

125. Alexa - September 26, 2009

122- how sad that the site owner has to come in here and talk to grown adults acting like 7 year olds. Get over the design people, it is over and done with. I have never hated a movie over one 2 minute set seen in a film, I was watching the characters and the story. I thought the guy did a great job, good for him for taking on this story. Great interview by the way.

126. THX-1138 - September 26, 2009

Just to throw a different take on this “art by commitee” argument:

As a jazz musician who performs much of his music as an improvisation within the format of a group, I can tell you that you can make beautiful music (art) by commitee. And that some of the ugliest most distasteful art I have seen has been made when the artist thought of only himself and not what the viewer or audience thought of it. But that could have been a matter of talent.

127. Sci - September 26, 2009

I think it’s amazing how self-righteous pricks on the Internet can react to a man listening to a commonly-held creative disagreement, politely explaining that he disagrees with the other opinion, and then praising the people who care about the thing they’re critiquing for their level of dedication to the work of art being created, as though he pretty much told them all he’d just finished fucking their mothers.

The guy disagrees with you on the engineering sets. Hell, he disagrees with me on the engineering sets; I thought they were a bad location choice. That doesn’t mean that he was being rude by not commenting or that he thinks he’s better than people who disagree with him, and it doesn’t mean he has any obligation to satisfy the fans (especially since this film was successful because of non-Trekkies). It means that he understands that he has a creative disagreement with some fans that is simply never going to be resolved, because it stems from fundamentally incompatible aesthetic tastes.

128. dmduncan - September 26, 2009

Star Trek (2009) was a forest of beautiful depth and detail, and some people are complaining about the bark on one tree.

129. Michael Hall - September 26, 2009


Great take on that question; thanks for pointing it out. I think it’s a little silly to to bring up the whole “art by committee” argument in this context anyway, since by my lights the screenplay for Trek ’09 was not so much art (by committee or otherwise) as a successful instance of pandering to the sensibilities of one’s perceived audience.

“Using the equation x-¥R+IOœ∑´®†¥˙ƒ˙¬˚µ˜ç≈Ω√∫=234.9, I was able to determine that my comment was meant for the exceptions.”

In that case, pity your use of language isn’t as precise as your math.

“Give me a gut-wrenching,stimulating and ultimately heart-soaringly optimistic storyline set against the backdrop of a yuppiedrome iBridge, and you know what happens next? I fall in love with the yuppiedrome iBridge and stop calling it that.”

Yep. I liked the bridge somewhat better than you did, disliked the brewery somewhat more–but in the end, those are trifles. Give us a great story next time out and I’ll gladly put aside my reservations about the production design, even if I never come to truly love it.

130. I am not Herbert - September 26, 2009

Great interview Anthony! …and I’ll bet it took some guts for Scott to accept the invitation…!

The design of the Kelvin was EXCELLENT IMHO. (Kelvin TV series anyone?)

Reading this interview confirms some suspicion that I’ve had: that a lot of the “design” that we have seen (and perhaps been unhappy about), has probably come about mostly a result of JJ’s input and/or decisions.

Case in point: JJ’s decision to use the Eero Saarinen design style on everything Starfleet, especially the Enterprise. Big mistake IMHO. I believe that style will date the movie (infamously) as we look back: Starfleet’s Edsel.

JJ did a GREAT job of making Star Trek popular, but maybe he should hand-off the directorial duties on the next one? A LOT less of the Mission Impossible sensibility MIGHT bring me back…

131. CarlG - September 26, 2009

@126: Very true. One guy working by himself can get some very… exaggerated ideas about how good he is. And then he becomes allergic to constructive criticism. I don’t know about art by commitee, but art with feedback, at least, is always a good idea.

Another thing: it’s a movie set. Nobody works in a vacuum, especially not on such a complicated beast as a Star Trek movie.

@123: Why does it matter so much? Honestly, name a single episode of TOS where it really, really makes a difference if the Enterprise is 300 feet long or 3000, or 637.503.

As long as it’s big enough to carry Kirk, Spock, and a bunch of expendable guys wearing red to where the plot need them to be, it’sthe right size.

132. CarlG - September 26, 2009

@127: “…some people are complaining about the bark on one tree.”

We’re Star Trek nerds on the Internet.

We will pick apart the bark, pore over the very molecules that make up the bark, and if we find one soliary, sub-atomic particle that offends our sensibilities, we shall run (nay, sprint!) to the peak of the highest mountain, where we shall drop to our knees, rent our vestments asunder, and wail to the very heavens our time-honored battle cry of..


133. I am not Herbert - September 26, 2009


134. dmduncan - September 26, 2009

128: “In that case, pity your use of language isn’t as precise as your math.”

Oh my use of language is fine. It’s your careless attention and comprehension of English that needs remediation. Or, to quoth myself from 113:

“Yet some people are still flaming the talent like the film came out yesterday.”

You see that word between “yet” and “people” Mikey? Yeah, I realize it’s only 4 letters long and thus easy to skip over, but just the same, I put it there on purpose to express preCISEly what I wanted to express and, amazingly, what you wanted to misunderstand. And that would be the same idea that Anthony Pascale expressed in 122:

“I am really dissapointed in some of you. I even had to delete a couple of comments. There is discussing something, and then there is flaming and over the top personal attacks.”

135. The Angry Klingon (without a trenchcoat) - September 26, 2009

I dont blame Chambliss for Engineering…Im guessing the reason he didnt comment was because he didnt have that much say in it. Ryan Church’s prepro drawings of Engineering were very ‘Enterprise’ like. I believe Mr Chambliss was handed a turd and told to polish it.
And whereas those of us ‘stuck’ in the 21st Century may not know what an antimatter driven warp drive engineering room WILL look like suffice to say we know what it WONT look like and that is a Brewery. It took me out of the movie because it didnt fit IN the movie NOT because it didnt look like TOS. The Engine room for this new E (especially given its thrice revised size) should have been a set that inspired AWE instead of groans. As I stated before the Bridge was an apple store and the engineering room was the Titanic.
Im ALSO guessing that an Engineering room that immense and covered with handwheels would actually be OCCUPIED by engineers as opposed to EMPTY. It was impossible to get your bearings and you didnt feel like you were in a SHIP. It came off like exactly what it was…an empty brewery.
It was a Roger Corman style money saving feature hidden behind a facade of ‘believeability’.
A lot of my issues with things like the bridge come down to lighting more then anything else. If you look at Church’s drawings the bridge looks sweet UNTIL it is overlit and lens flared to death. The bridge is the tactical and operations center of the ship and in real life youd be clawing your eyes out in that over lit environment. Id keep the design but but tone down the lighting and give it a color palette. LOVED the Kelvin bridge BTW and would have been happy to see that as the Enterprise bridge.
I liked Vulcan and Starfleet and most of the design work. Costumes were fine (except for the godawful and thankfully deleted trenchcoated Sam Brown belt wearing leather masked Klingons).
Heres hoping that the next movie learns from this one and we get something even greater.

136. dmduncan - September 26, 2009

135: “And whereas those of us ’stuck’ in the 21st Century may not know what an antimatter driven warp drive engineering room WILL look like suffice to say we know what it WONT look like and that is a Brewery.”

How do you know it won’t look like a brewery? How do you even know there will be an engineering room at all? How do you know that the ship’s engineering functions won’t be totally controlled from a central bridge? That was Matt Jefferies idea. How do you know he’d be wrong?

“Ryan Church’s prepro drawings of Engineering were very ‘Enterprise’ like.”

I haven’t seen them. Are they online?

137. The Angry Klingon (without a trenchcoat) - September 26, 2009

Try ryanchurch.com
I would have preferred NOT seeing an engineering room to seeing something that anachronistic and completely out of place with the ‘feel’ of the rest of the ship. Science progresses it does not regress. In just over half a century we went from rolling in to Yokohama bay in steam powered wooden vessels with cannons to the nuclear bomb and giant aircraft carriers. In the half century since our science has increased again geometrically as has our engineering. If you truly believe that the engineering room of a giant warp powered craft will be comprised of copper pipes and handwheels then theres not much left to discuss. It was a money saving move no more and no less and it seems that my lack of appreciation for the ‘design’ is shared by the majority. Even if I didnt have TOS to compare it to (or Next Gen, DS9, Voyager) I STILL would have been ???? during that scene as that design, or lack thereof, is anachronistic and incongruous with the rest of the ship. I feel like certain things in this movie were done ‘on the cheap’ (like the Klingons for example. Black leather double breasted off the rack trenchcoats with masks and Sam Brown belts. Really???? How is that not ‘cheap’? This wasnt a 60s era TV show done on a small budget this was a 150 million dollar movie so the blame can only fall in one of two places:
A. Ran out of money
B. Complete lack of imagination from the director on down
I enjoyed the movie but I wont make excuses for its shortcomings or give any credibility to revisionist history as to why things changed from what was intended to what was ultimately filmed and Mr Chambliss himself seems to allude to that point himself.
I can enjoy a movie without taking the party line on everything in it and I think that when we have a forum like this one wherein we can express both the good and the bad it is with the hope, at least in my case, that the powers that be are LISTENING and taking in to account those things we DIDNT like in to account for the next movie. Trek ’09 was an enjoyable movie but it had faults both in the story and execution and I think from reading these talkbacks that this is hardly debatable. So, we speak our minds and hope that we are heard and that the bar is raised.

138. cd - September 26, 2009


139. dmduncan - September 26, 2009

137: “Try ryanchurch.com”

First place I went. He has a few pics up but nothing on engineering. Probably in the book coming out.

“If you truly believe that the engineering room of a giant warp powered craft will be comprised of copper pipes and handwheels then theres not much left to discuss. It was a money saving move no more and no less”

I’m with Matt Jefferies. I think engineering won’t be a room, it’ll be a station on the bridge. Other than that there’ll be tubes, and crawlspaces, and plenty of places throughout the ship where the plumbing shows and technicians need to go to check on things and fix broken stuff. I think that’s how things will actually really look.

And while it was a cost saving measure, why shouldn’t they have gone with a prexisting location if JJ wanted the look of the guts of a ship? If that’s your vision, then why would you spend a whole lot of money building it from scratch when you can save a bunch of money and shoot it on location? Are we down to complaining about handwheels now? Never mind that you’d want redundant systems so that you can manually close or open valves—had they built a gutsy engineering section from scratch with pipes and NO handwheels and it was the most expensive set they made, would the complaints cease? No. So that it was a redressed location doesn’t make a good argument.

ALIEN is one of my favorite movies. And they built a dark dirty engineering set for the Nostromo that consists of pipes, some of which carry steam. Never once has it crossed my mind that all those pipes should not be on a starship. I can’t imagine the Nostromo without them. And it is totally believable. So whether you manufacture a set full of pipes or shoot already existing ones on location doesn’t much matter to me. I had no idea that was a redressed location in ST.09 until I heard tell of it afterwards. Certainly not while I was watching it.

All that said, it would be cool to actually see the innards of the Enterprise’s impulse engines. Since they are part of the primary hull—and the warp engines are NOT—that set actually makes sense to do. Although it would also be cool to see Scotty suit up and crawl up the pylon from the inside of the Enterprise to fix something in the warp nacelle. That would offer some spectacular visuals and nick of time dangerous escape ideas. And going up to the nacelle through the pylon would create the mother of all Jefferies Tubes.

140. Jack - September 27, 2009

110. P Technobabble – September 26, 2009
More typical pissing and moaning from a group of people who think the entire universe should be a reflection of what is inside their own heads. It’s been said before: if you don’t like it, go make your own damned film. But I don’t see any films coming from any of these critics. Hmm, why is that? Could it be that they can’t even operate a video camera? Could it be that they couldn’t draw a straight line in order to design anything? Mr. Chambliss did a fine job, and he got paid for it. I don’t think any of the critics in here get paid to bitch, do they? They only seem to enjoy seeing their snotty, snobbish remarks in print…
#86 you sound pretty arrogant yourself… Surely, you could express your opinion in a more civilized way, no?

Sorry, man – didn’t mean to be arrogant, snobbish or uncivilized and I apologize to all if it came off that way. Just mentioning that it seems to me (and I’m not an expert in design, architecture, propulsion, breweries, beer or star trek) that the very-cool-and-popular-in-the-60s Saarinen look was there in the original series.

TOS is what first turned me on to Saarinen’s cool tulip chairs. I’m not sure what offended you — I didn’t mean “knock-offs” to sound snotty, or to attack anyone personally. I was trying to say that I have no proof that Saarinen was an influence (I was trying to not sound arrogant, since I really don’t know), and I just wondered aloud whether they used cheaper copies, as they would have been on a budget (and they modified the chairs after the Cage to look more future-y). Sorry, I was just trying to get my details right. Maybe they weren’t tulip chairs at all.

My lame joke about voting on the engineering set was because I was a little bothered by the (and I paraphrase) that-&*&*&ing-arrogant-designer-must-change-the-brewery-or-else slant to some of the comments. They were getting pretty mean. I wasn’t meaning to insult you or anyone else, or anyone’s personal opinions on the sets… just to share my own lame two cents (just as I like to see other’s views here).

It’s really not very fun here today.

141. MJPENG - September 27, 2009

43, 59, 80, 135
Well said….The big problem for me is JJ & Co don’t see the problem with engineering. I would feel allot better if one of them actually said something like we could have done that better. Scott’s lack of any comment on the matter says it all

142. Miki - September 27, 2009

I do like the engineering section but I can’t stand the iBridge. It’s not functional at all and too flashy.

143. Hat Rick - September 27, 2009

131, thanks for your response, but I think I’ve said why I think it matters to me. While it may not have mattered in TOS, there’s been a lot of backstory developed since TOS and knowing how big this current, alternate ship is affects how future stories should proceed.

144. Tony B - September 27, 2009

I really appreciated the interview with Chambliss; it was interesting to hear his viewpoint on the designs and I wanted to hear what he had to say.

I don’t care much for the design of the nu-Enterprise but I enjoyed the movie. My Moms, who feel asleep during Star Wars IV, really liked the film as well; that says a lot about this Star Trek film connecting to people who are not die-hard St fans.

Nasty comments aside a sci-fi visual designer has to pull the viewer into the film and make what the viewer sees plausible enough so they can relate to what they’re seeing (a good example being able to associate X-wings as fighters).

The engineering sets were distracting because they weren’t believable enough – they were obviously redressed and that pulled me out of the film a bit. It’s like when you recognize a part on sci-set that you got at a hardware store, it breaks the suspension of disbelief.

Let’s see what they do with the next film, hopefully the designers will address these concerns and give us an even better movie next time out.

145. Lando - September 27, 2009

Citing the Nostromo of the Alien universe as to how a Starfleet ship in the Star Trek universe needs to look like… great.

146. VZX - September 27, 2009

While I loved the film as a whole, the Enterprise sets bothered me as well. I agree that the Bud-engineering sets really took me out of the film experience. It was like: I was totally in the flow of the film, the pacing, action, etc., then BANG! PIPES! and I’m like WTF? And then, I thought: Oh yeah, this is where they went to the beer factory,

It was a really, really poor decision on JJ’s part. While I wasn’t crazy about the bridge design, at least it looked like a spaceship. The beer factory just took you out of the film. It did not work, at all.

147. P Technobabble - September 27, 2009

125 Alexa
I’m willing to bet there are fewer adults here than we’d like to think…

126 THX
I appreciate the point of view you bring, as I, too, am a musician (with 2 cds of original music and a 3rd on its way). I also recently co-authored a sci-fi novel with an old friend, and we went back and forth for the better part of a year trying to make the best book we possibly could. This was a deliberate collaboration. When I talk about “art by committee,” I am not talking about a deliberate collaboration.
As Closetrekker mentioned earlier, art begins with passion… an artist’s passion for what he/she is doing. To this extent, an artist is a lone figure, working to fulfill that passion, somewhat oblivious to an audience that may or may not exist. You do it simply because you can’t NOT do it, the work is the means of fulfilling that passion. The end result is whatever: a recording, a painting, a novel, a film, etc. If the artist was doing this work simply with the intention of pleasing an audience, he/she wouldn’t know where to begin, knowing full-well you cannot please everybody. But the artist follows that passion, which is also full of intention, and that guides the direction of the creation.
When you are collaborating with others, you are making a conscious decision to “play” with others, preferably like-minded, and then you persue the goal of creation. In this situation, Mr. Orci and his friends are a collaborative team who work together to create. We, the fans, are not specifically part of that team, apart from the fact that Mr. Orci does hang around here to get a sense of what’s going on (and he does this of his own free will, he certainly doesn’t have to). But none of us have been invited into that collaborative team, and we need to recognize this.
People bitched about Bob Dylan putting down his acoustic guitar in favor of an electric, but that didn’t stop him. People bitched about the Beatles letting their hair grow even longer and abandoning the “She Loves You”-style songwriting, but that didn’t stop them. George Lucas couldn’t get a studio to get behind Star Wars, but that didn’t stop him. We all know the story of a Paramount executive who wanted Harlan Ellison to include Mayans in his proposed story for TMP, and Ellison walked out. It is all about passion, and the path it takes you on.
I think some fans overestimate their place just because they paid a few bucks to see a movie, buy a cd, whatever. If the fans don’t like something, they are free to pass, and – maybe – if enough people pass, the artist MIGHT consider making some changes. Otherwise, the artists must simply be allowed to do their thing, without trying to specifically please an audience. If the audience is pleased with the results, then jackpot. If the audience is not pleased, they will quickly be on to something else.
So, I do not think “art by committee” should be confused with “collaboration.” The two things are very different.
Finally, Anthony pointed out that budgetary constraints are a major part of decision-making on a film. Yes, a great deal of money went into the making of Trek09, but we do not know specifically how each dollar was spent. Making use of available sets, props, costumes, whatever, allow film-makers to focus their money toward aspects that require more money. If they saved a few million dollars by shooting the engineering sequences in a brewery, that means those few million dollars went toward something else, perhaps effects, or whatever. Fans should not be so quick to jump on things they know nothing about. Sure, it is fine to say, “I didn’t care for this or that,” but the way some people around here go at things with profane machine-gun mentality is disgusting.

148. dmduncan - September 27, 2009

145: “Citing the Nostromo of the Alien universe as to how a Starfleet ship in the Star Trek universe needs to look like… great.”

The Enterprise doesn’t “need” to nor even should look like the Nostromo. The simple point was that seeing the uncovered guts of a starship and it consisting of pipes and cables isn’t incredible. It’s totally believable and what I would expect you’d find on a real starship. Unless the people of the 23rd century are energy hogs who just beam everything everywhere, including water, then you are going to need pipes, and LOTS of them on a ship the size of a small city, to move water, waste, coolant, whatever, to where it all needs to go.

Even if they create an engineering type set around the impulse engine section in the future, I don’t want them to lose the Budweiser set. There should be places like that on the Enterprise, and I thought it was cool to see them. It didn’t take me out of the movie. It gave the Enterprise more depth that not everything is covered by some fancy 23rd century facade.

And I thought the iBridge was really cool. I did think it was a bit too crowded. For instance, the two stand up consoles next to the Captain’s chair were speed bumps in the flow of the design. But making the viewscreen ALSO a window whose opacity could be controlled was a stroke of genius. Why didn’t anyone think of that before? And the glass partitions that you could hand write equations on were really cool ideas too.
It also made perfect sense that the doors behind the Captain’s chair led directly into the ship so that you could get off the bridge without taking the turbo elevator. The monitors and controls looked awesome, red alert looked awesome. I liked how bright it was on that set. A great contrast to the stumbling around in the dark look of the previous TOS movies.

149. Hat Rick - September 27, 2009

I must say that the longer the producers take to address some of the technical complaints of fans, the less of a fanbase they may have.

To quote a certain infamous leader: Let me be perfectly clear. I do not think that the future of Trek hinges on how big the alternate Enterprise is. However, I DO think that it’s very important to realize that a large part of the appeal of Trek is to the geeky fanboy crowd, including yours truly, that is quite interested in whether the technological speculations set forth in previous instantiations of Trek could make sense in this alternate universe.

Again: Let me be perfectly clear: I am a big fan of Trek and of THIS MOVIE in particular. But I am increasingly stumped by the failure of various individuals to give a final ruling (“Supreme Court,” where are you?) on a very basic fact of the Trek universe — viz., the size of the goldarned SHIP!

I can forgive the alleged transgressions re: the Budweiser engine room. I can forgive a dilithium-load of other things. But what I find interesting is that there isn’t the same level of attention to detail that many Trek fans have expected over the years.

I’ve said, in my blog, that the shock of the new always has an effect and that I am in favor of the new versus the old. However, when the new owes the new a certain something, I don’t think it’s all that weird to expect the debt to be addressed, if not, indeed, fully paid.

150. Hat Rick - September 27, 2009

I mean to say, “when the new owes the old a certain something.”

151. dmduncan - September 27, 2009

149: “Again: Let me be perfectly clear: I am a big fan of Trek and of THIS MOVIE in particular. But I am increasingly stumped by the failure of various individuals to give a final ruling (”Supreme Court,” where are you?) on a very basic fact of the Trek universe — viz., the size of the goldarned SHIP!”

You can use the Star Trek teaser Trailer which shows workers on the saucer section. If you estimate their height at around 6′, you should easily be able to calculate the dimensions of the radial panels on the saucer section, and from there, the other dimensions.

Alternatively, you can use Chris Pine’s and/or Zach Quinto’s known heights as they stand by the view screen/window and use that to calculate the length of the window, and then use THAT measure to calculate the height, length, and width of the ship from one of the replica Enterprise models available at Target.

It won’t be exact but it’ll be a good estimate. If several people do it and post the results on here we can see how closely several different calculations agree and average the result for a good idea.

152. dmduncan - September 27, 2009

And by the why, I..ahem…do happen to have not only one of the new Enterprise models, but a caliper as well. The window length of the bridge measures about 6 mm. The length of the same model measures 37.1 cm. The diameter of the saucer measures 17.8 cm.

Good luck.

153. Hat Rick - September 27, 2009

I realize that, but there really should be an official figure.

154. Lando - September 27, 2009

The philosophy of Star Trek set design has ALWAYS been, from TOS to ENT, that all that technological stuff is hidden behind panels, because Starfleet is like a dog licking its balls: it CAN do it, do it DOES do it. If you want to access anything you crawl into the jefferies tube or remove some panels.

So all the piping is ridiculous in the Star Trek universe. It’s simple. They did a Star Trek movie, not an Alien movie, not a Star Wars movie. In 40 years of Star Trek, engine rooms have been tidy. Simply as that. It’s a visual trademark, it’s the Trek look. The look is “Starfleet clean”, as – I believe – Herman Zimmerman or Rick Sternbach put it.

155. Lando - September 27, 2009

“it CAN do it, do it DOES do it.”

It can do it, SO it does do it.

We really need an editing function, for God’s sake.

156. They call me Stasiu - September 27, 2009

“I never take it for granted that I will work on the next one.” -Chambliss
A good, honest view of working in the entertainment business.
Thanks for these great interviews you conduct, Anthony!

157. OneBuckFilms - September 27, 2009

Okay, I may as well give my 2 Quatloos ;-)

– Enterprise –

I LOVE this version of the ship from the outside. It is pretty fresh and new, and incorporated ideas from the Refit and the TOS versions that made her large, real and amazing.

– Engineering –

This was a mixed bag, but for me worked overall. A couple of wide shots gave the game away, and where exactly this vast interior would fit in the hull would be interesting to figure out, but it still worked overall.

The indistrial design, as well as the primary-colored lighting, definately evoked TOS without directly copying it. On the whole, it felt right.

– Bridge –

The contrast with Engineering worked well, and I loved the idea of the viewer/window combination to connect the outside world to the characters on the ship. The iStore look and UI also made for a believable, new-looking environment for events to happen.

– Kelvin –

This is a fan favorite for very good reason. To me it DID evoke TOS. The Bridge was closer to TOS that the new Enterprise Bridge, but more 50s than 60s, with a few arials, and the vaguely 50s hairstyles and uniforms, vs. the 60s enhanced TOS uniforms fo the Enterprise a generation later.

– Shuttles –

I loved that the Shuttlecraft, especially for the Kelvin, were reminiscent for the boxy TOS shuttlecraft, with added details.

– Narada –

The water may not have made sense from a realistic viewpoint, but the design work was fantastic for providing a sense of a powerful alien menace.

– Phasers/Communicators/Tricorders –

Slightly flash gordon, but actually pretty good. Interesting visual gimmick with the Stun/Kill swivel.

Very well done everyone on this. Not perfect, but nothing ever is.

158. dmduncan - September 27, 2009

@ 153: In the meantime, it would be interesting to see if the numbers match the figures given here:


And here:


159. dmduncan - September 27, 2009

ILM’s figure come out to 718.4 meters in length, which is 6.9 meters shorter than io9’s figure.

160. RD - September 27, 2009

#137. The Angry Klingon (without a trenchcoat) wrote: Try ryanchurch

Search Google Images for “Ewarpdrive”

161. S. John Ross - September 27, 2009

Honestly, I don’t get all of this that’s being read into his polite refusal to discuss the engineering decision.

All I read in that is “I don’t feel like putting puppet strings on that particular dead horse.”

162. Chris Pike - September 28, 2009

I was expecting far more of a wow factor from the production design in this movie than what we finally got. The thing is that the movie was SO enjoyable that the shortcomings became almost insignificant, until looking back and looking at stills out of context – the brewery and E design being the biggest problems as well as a lack of a futuristic feel to the piece. I think there is more scope for some truly inspired future tech design in a Trek film that we yet to see, and there hasn’t been anything as groundbreaking as MJ’s original designs were to the early 60’s, and no film as groundbreaking as 2001 in future designs were to the late 60’s. All sci-fi since seems to have had a grunge or gritty look/feel which is a pity, and a tad lazy.

163. KingDaniel - September 28, 2009

I loved the Enterprise Brewery. This new film was the first time I actually believed that we were watching people on a giant spaceship (that goes for the Kelvin too – Robau’s walk to the Shuttlebay was a “wow” moment for me, and i loved the guys rappelling down during the evacuation).
If STXII has a generic room with a stupid blue lava lamp i’ll be sorely dissapointed.

I loved the shiny bridge too.

The Nerada was the coolest ship ever. Five miles of mean.

164. LordCheeseCakeBreath - September 28, 2009

The bridge was a cluttered mess. All of those ultra bright spot lights that served no purpose. It was annoying. Those glass wall things that were all over were a bit over the top too. Get rid of the color and get a light dimmer….at least for red alert. Star Trek II and VI had the best look to me. Anyone else agree?

165. Eric Saussine - September 28, 2009

I love the look of Star Trek VI, one of the best no doubt IMHO. But I thought this eleventh movie had a great production design and I wasn’t even bothered by the Budweiser factory whch made engineering look like the bowels of a Titanic plus – something truly gigantic.

166. C.S. Lewis - September 28, 2009

Dear Mr Hall, thank you for pointing out my spelling error. I did of course intend to reference Agincourt. Sadly, my arms are no longer long enough and that presents a difficulty to a hunt-and-peck typist such as myself.

Why venerate pathetic, wasteful slaughters? I certainly do not think of Agincourt as pathetic or wasteful. Not in the least. I certainly do not venerate it.

Shakespeare’s “Henry V” is a work of fiction, much as Star Trek is a work of fiction although many are distracted from that reality. I might have been more careful to make explicit reference that I compared one fictional heroic sacrifice to an earlier, (generally acclaimed as a) classic fictional heroic sacrifice. Please I was not comparing fiction to reality!

However, there is an underlying thread to your question that bears address: self-sacrifice for a greater good is what separates Man from the animal kingdom. It is the essence of the Christian character, beginning with the example of our Master himself.

Mere life is, in and of itself, irrelevant to a certain degree. What matters is how we face the challenges life throws at us and to face them well.

Perhaps this is an English or Anglophilic concept but the Stoics also embraced it. I think I even heard something like this from the pen of one Gene Roddenberry, albeit in his youth, “A man either takes on life as he meets it and licks it – or he starts to wither away and die” or something very near to that.

Food for thought if nothing else.

C.S. Lewis

99. Michael Hall – September 26, 2009

(And #46 “C.S. Lewis”: I think the battle you meant to refer to was the one at Agincourt. Though why political conservatives insist on venerating these pathetic, wasteful slaughters is a mystery to me; TOS certainly didn’t.)

167. Lord Ravenwood - September 28, 2009

Post # 164:

I agree!

I’ve been watching “Star Trek” (The REAL “Star Trek”!) since the first episode aired WAY back in September 1966, and I was NOT impressed by anything in this so called “reboot” in the least.
Scott Chambliss’ attitude seems quite arrogant in terms of “his designs,” and I really don’t care for that.
The entire production of this film dropped the ball on the whole concept of “Star Trek” anyway, so I don’t even consider it a part of Gene Roddenberry’s original vision at all.
Chambliss is not worthy of kissing the hem of Matt Jeffries’ bath robe!
This film was bad in all aspects. Bad story, bad production design, bad cinematography, and above all, bad direction!

I have written it off as a nightmare that Ambassedor Spock has after imbibing in some tainted Romulan Ale.

Until someone at Paramount realizes what a mess they let Jar Jar Abrams create, then “Star Trek” is dead.

Star Trek: 1966-2009: R.I.P.

168. quinones - September 29, 2009

ST had some of the most best designs in any film i ever seen oin my life, where is all this demonic hatred coming from!

169. Jack - September 29, 2009

163, 168 – I agree, generally and about that thrill when Robau comes down the lift in the Kelvin scene.

I’m still a little puzzled by the “these guys can’t know Star Trek!” fervor. Like or don’t like the final product or specific decisions – but, come on, it’s not like we’re the only people who’ve ever seen the darned TV show or who can look up Trek stuff in libraries and on the Internet. There was a lot of Star Trek expertise handy during the whole project, at least from what I’ve read. One could argue that these guys could know Trek better than some of the folks working on TOS — it’s now an inescapable part of our culture, and every aspect of the darned show, from design to continuity, has been nitpicked, dissected and probed for decades. They made the reboot their own, and I think some pretty ballsy choices were made.

170. S. John Ross - September 29, 2009

#168: ” where is all this demonic hatred coming from!”

From your imagination, mostly. Only post #7 (out of, currently, about 170 posts) expressed hatred for any specific element of the film, and post #99 implied by omission that there were elements he hated. So, that’s two posts, containing “all this demonic hatred.”

Of course, there are other posts _accusing_ others of hating, but that’s just more hobgoblins.

“Eat your beets or the HATERS will get you, little Billy!”

171. Rusty0918 - September 30, 2009

Well, the iBridge wasn’t that bad, although it could definitely do without some of the rather tacky elements in it (the barcode readers, etc.). Clean it up some and it’ll look better.

I can get the point of a more “industrial” look, but re-dressed Budweiser brewery was laughably BAD. Heck, I know some people who serve in the military who couldn’t stand it either. I’m not saying there should be pipes and stuff, but not the kind that were seen in the movie.

And that gives me another point – WATER TURBINE CONTROL…serioulsy, does the Enterprise run on hydroelectric power or something? You know how friggin’ impractical that is? This is a part where the story fails…big time.

I’m not saying there shouldn’t be pipes and such, but not the kind we saw in the flick.

172. kmart - October 2, 2009

This ‘big = better’ mentality is the same kind of nonthink that had folks drooling over that dumb ILM-designed spacedock in ST III that belonged in a SW flick … stuff that has no extrapolation from what you might actually get in a future space construct, stuff that is totally earthbound in its shape. Congrats, you’re getting the Trek you deserve, which is not really trek at all except in branding. s

173. Best Designer Yoga Bag | Exercise Yoga - October 4, 2009

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