Exclusive: Interview with Star Trek: TNG-Enterprise Production Designer Herman Zimmerman | TrekMovie.com
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Exclusive: Interview with Star Trek: TNG-Enterprise Production Designer Herman Zimmerman September 26, 2009

by Anthony Pascale , Filed under: DS9,ENT,Feature Films (TMP-NEM),Interview,TNG , trackback

Yesterday TrekMovie put up our interview with Scott Chambliss, Star Trek’s new production designer. The man who held that position for the last couple of decades was Herman Zimmerman, who will join Chambliss at an event on Sunday honoring the design of Trek over the years. In an exclusive interview with Zimmerman below, we talk to him about his time with Trek, and also get his thoughts on the new Star Trek.

 

Interview: Herman Zimmerman – Star Trek Production Designer from 1987 – 2005

Herman Zimmerman was production designer on three series: “Star Trek The Next Generation”, “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “Star Trek Enterprise”. He was also production designer on six Star Trek feature films, starting with “Star Trek V” through to “Star Trek: Nemesis”.

TrekMovie: This weekend the Art Director’s Guild is celebrating the 43 years of Star Trek. You joined Star Trek in 1987 with Next Generation

Herman Zimmerman: I was working as an art director on the soap opera The Days of our Lives back in 1966, and watched all the old Star Trek shows when they were running and thought they were the best thing on television, never thinking I would work on it.

TrekMovie: Looking back on that era, and then going into the Zimmerman era starting with Next Generation, what do you think are the quintessential things about the look of Star Trek that flow through all of it?

Herman Zimmerman: Well the first thing you need to know is that the Enterprise itself is one of the characters. And everything you invent on the Enterprise, whatever new room or engineering facility, or any part of the ship that hasn’t been shown before, is a new opportunity to re-introduce the character and to bring audience awareness of the advances in technology onto the screen. That is part of the fun of doing a new series. Even on Enterprise, which was going back in time to before the era of Kirk and Spock. I enjoyed it to put a nail on something that would grow to be what we are already really familiar with, from the original Matt Jeffries work and Robert Wise film, to the Next Generation and the Enterprise D and on the the Enterprise E. We had to start from the premise that wherever it is that we start, it must be logical where it ends up. That was a fun exercise, it is literally back to the future. Enterprise was also more fun for me because it
was more present day. It was only 90 years in the future, so we can more readily see HD video screens on the bridge. On Next Generation everything was on black plastic, very slick, everything touch screen. On Enterprise we were able to give the actors knobs and levers and things they can actually deal with. I was able to do a couple of fun things, like putting chairs on the bridge that were on glides. so the operator could turn around and slide, and then slide back. I liked that bridge almost more than the Enterprise E bridge, which was considerably more elaborate.   


Zimmerman oversaw the look of Trek from Next Gen to Enterprise

TrekMovie: Of all the ships and bridges you worked on, can you pick a favorite?

Herman Zimmerman: I was blessed with a crew of people that worked with me pretty much from 1987 until 2005, but I had the most talented people in the industry. It is really hard to pin down what was a favorite, because it was the experience of all of us being creative. Taking the sometimes hair-brained ideas of a script and finding a way to make it happen in a very compressed time period. I can say Enterprise was my favorite because it was closer to our own reality, but I could also say the Enterprise E is my favorite bridge, because Patrick Stewart liked it best. 


Bridge of the Enterprise E – Patrick Stewart’s favorite

TrekMovie: Looking at this another way, of all of the shows (TNG, DS9, Enterprise) and ships, the D, the E, the NX-01, and the original series era movies you worked on, which was the most challenging for you and your team?

Herman Zimmerman: It always boils down to: do I have enough time and did they give me enough money? Even with the films, we were always trying to make a silk purse out of something other. I inherited a lot of stuff from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek II, and III and IV, which had been saved -  most of it in really bad shape. Where possible, I recycled things and I certainly owe a lot of the ideas of the Next Generation ship interior to Hal Michaelson from the Robert Wise movie [Motion Picture], because those things were still physically standing on the stages when I started Next Generation. Every movie that I did owed a lot to the scenery that was left in the warehouses, that I was able to mix and match and re-invent. And then as things went on, things from the movies would wind there way back to the TV series. It is kind of like you are doing crisis management all the time, when you are doing Star Trek.     


Corridors from TOS movies Enterprise and TNG Enterprise – Zimmerman did a lot of recycling

TrekMovie: Did you ever resent that and wish you didn’t have to re-use things?

Herman Zimmerman: We would always want to start with a blank slate, and the only time I was really able to do that was with Deep Space Nine, and then when Enterprise came along. But then they both ended up making their own scene dock full of things, because you cannot make a series television show without recycling.


Cardassian look of DS9 allowed Zimmerman to start with blank slate

TrekMovie: As you worked on the show, both in the fanzine era and the Internet era, how much of an influence did fan feedback have on your work?

Herman Zimmerman: Many of the people in my art departments were, and are, Trekkies…and now Trekkers. When I was watching the show in the 60s, I had the impression that the people that went to conventions and made Star Trek their life, were the lunatic fringe. I have grown to appreciate them as real visionaries, because they were the ones that kept the show on the air between 1968 and 1979. They were the ones that buy all the products. Faithfully millions of them go to the movies, whether it is a good one or not. Yes, we pay attention, but frankly the fans don’t run the show. The producers and the studio run the show. That doesn’t always make for the best that could be, but it is what has been. It is, after all, a business and casual entertainment. It has become a cult of sorts, a philosophy of sorts. It is a byproduct of this casual entertainment.

TrekMovie: You worked with a lot of different feature film directors over the years with Trek, which one did you enjoy working with the most?

Herman Zimmerman: They were all different. Nick Meyer was one of my heroes. He did Star Trek II and I worked with him on Undiscovered Country, and we worked together really well. He was the one who put me onto what was always my philosophy, but I had never articulated, which was "the future is now." Whatever you think about the future in your imagination. What you know is in the past, and what you aspire to is now. The only way you can imagine it, is by collecting things in your consciousness that already exist. So anything that you are inventing that seems futuristic is always couched in something from the present.


Meyer and Zimmerman applied "the future is now" approach to STVI

TrekMovie: The last feature film you worked on, Nemesis, that had a different look…

Herman Zimmerman: Well [director] Stuart Baird was convinced, in his mind, that this was going to be the first Star Trek movie. He wanted to make it such an important movie in the world of movies in general, that all other Star Trek movies would be forgotten. As such, he was not easy to work with or respectful of the things that had preceded him. He made a movie that was darker. It was a darker story and it was OK. It was certainly worth having done it. Personally, we, meaning the art department, didn’t have as good an experience as we had making the other films. Because of the–I am going to say it–the ego of the director, the film had an edge that well, well I hope we don’t do too many films with that dark philosophy. It was certainly against Gene Roddenberry’s philosophy of Star Trek.  


Zimmerman did not have good time working on ‘Nemesis’

TrekMovie: Let’s talk about the new [Star Trek] movie…

Herman Zimmerman: Well, they did a hell of a job. The movie was terrific. The nod or deep bow to The Original Series, is what put it over the top, because that is what the franchise needed–to go back to its roots. JJ Abrams knows that more than anyone. I know he is a huge fan of the show, and it shows. He was careful with the way he re-invented things. He polished them off and gave them a new lease on life. I love Dr. McCoy with the back story that he invented of this young doctor that is so energetic and so willing and knowledgeable, but not quite experienced enough to make the right choice at the right time, and yet he is lovable, like DeForest Kelley made him. The whole cast was perfect. I can find no fault with it at all.

TrekMovie: With your production designer hat on, what did you think of the look of the JJ Abrams movie?

Herman Zimmerman: Well it is a different problem. The movie is an action-adventure in a way that none of the other Star Trek movies had been. They were slow and pondering by comparison, especially the Robert Wise film which took ten minutes to look at the Enterprise. Since he had CGI to work with, and this cast of characters, and a lot of story to tell in a short time, the problems were entirely different. A good many of them were CGI. And there is nobody better than Scott [Chambliss] to solve those problems. I think it was terrific. If I had done it, I would not have done it as well.

TrekMovie: Did you spot any of your own influences in the film?

Herman Zimmerman: Well the bridge looks like all the other bridges we have done. It is innovative in that it is a whole new bridge, but it is made up of same elements that all the other bridges are made of, but they took everything a step further. 

TrekMovie: When I talked to Jonathan Frakes, he too praised the film, but did admit to having some budget envy…

Herman Zimmerman: Well, we all had that. [laughs] Yes we did have budget envy. That again is a function of the times. The studio’s willingness to put that kind of money on the screen is kind of a new thing, but they got a great film out of it. 


Zimmerman impressed with the work of Chambliss on the new Star Trek movie

TrekMovie: So are you now retired?

Herman Zimmerman: Well I am officially retired as I am not looking for work as a production designer or art director. But I am working as visual consultant to architects. I worked for the Army doing Iraqi Villages, which are like sets, at Fort Irwin, for the all the people that go to the Middle East (see LA Times article for more). I am also working on the back lot at Paramount, re-inventing the New York street there. And I am just about to start working on Plymouth Rock Studios in Massachusetts, they have asked me to design the back lot there.


Zimmerman at Star Trek: The Tour opening in 2008 – officially retired, but still designing

See Zimmerman, Chambliss 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). More info at americancinematheque.com, and you can buy tickets at Fandango.

Comments

1. shadow - September 26, 2009

Patrick Stewart really liked the Enterprise-E bridge the best? I think that’s my least favorite bridge, at least out of the Enterprise ones. It felt too narrow to me, although it does mirror the oval saucer section. I guess I’m just biased to the Enterprise-D set-up because that’s what i grew up on.

2. Matt Wright - September 26, 2009

I have a huge respect for Mr. Zimmerman. His reputation for being not only a great production designer, but also a fair and easy going boss who believed in the abilities of his staff are incredibly hard to come by.

3. David - September 26, 2009

I so admire him. I have admired his work for a lot of years now.

4. Chain of Command - September 26, 2009

I always liked his work. Good article!

5. Mr. "There are always possibilities". - September 26, 2009

Zimmerman’s work was outstanding.

As to the bridge sets, IMO they are all memorable. There are some elements of some I don’t like. For instance, I didn’t like the single seat in front of the captain like in VOY, DS9 (the Reliant) and ENT. I prefer having both the navigator and the helmsman sharing a common station between the captain and the front of the bridge. I find it much more pleasing to the eye.

6. CmdrR - September 26, 2009

Did anyone enjoy working with Stuart Baird… or think he knew what he was doing?
Anyone?

The E bridge definitely had the better color scheme, which allowed for more flattering lighting. I can see why it’s an actor’s favorite. The D had the size, but that lighting… yikes.

I love the console, although they were perhaps overused because the same basic asthetic suddenly became the galaxy standard. Still, it’s a cool look.

Chair movement… also very cool.

Anyway… thanks for decades of great eye-candy that has supported great story-telling.

7. Imrahil - September 26, 2009

Classy response re: the new enterprise. I wouldn’t have been as charitable. :)

8. dmduncan - September 26, 2009

“Herman Zimmerman: Well [director] Stuart Baird was convinced, in his mind, that this was going to be the first Star Trek movie. He wanted to make it such an important movie in the world of movies in general, that all other Star Trek movies would be forgotten.”

What?!? That is too funny. Baird gets the Ed Wood award for aiming so high and hitting so low.

9. BlueWaterDreamer - September 26, 2009

Cheers to you sir! For creating the backdrop to my very favorite shows and movies! I wish you well.

10. AJ - September 26, 2009

I think must be rare to have one man helm the PD of a show/movie franchise for so long. Having one vision look forward, to the present, and back (in the future) gives Trek a consistency of vision across its “centuries” that has frankly spoiled us.

He sounds like a terrific guy, and his honesty with regard to Stuart Baird is refreshing.

Thanks, Herman, for all the hard work. Many nerdgasmic dreams take place in your corridors.

11. Norm - September 26, 2009

Okay, I must raise the stereotypical Trekkie geek complaint (please read in a nasally tone): The Favorite Star Trek bridge poll is a unclear as Enterprise refit/A had (at least) two designs: 1701 (ST:I-IV) and 1701-A (ST:V-VI). So, to clarify my vote, the 1701-A bridge is my favorite (ST:VI, specifically) — which seemed to have been reused for 1701-E (ST:VII-IX).

More importantly, the worse bridge set was 1701-D (ST:TNG), which was awkward and boring. It seemed more like a medical office waiting room than a command center (just missing a few ferns and coffee table). Fortunately, I don’t believe Zimmerman was involved in its design (right?).

12. commodore z - September 26, 2009

Zimmerman seems like a class act.

13. Rocket Scientist - September 26, 2009

Definitely a class act and a very talented gentleman.

I really like the NX-01′s lines, but I still wonder why the details had to mirror the Akira class so closely. It would be interesting to hear the reasoning behind that.

Still a cool ship. I should get around to building my model kit of it.

14. TenaciousMC - September 26, 2009

I have to concur that the 1701-D bridge was probably my least favorite of Zimmerman’s designs but only during TNG’s run. However, when Generations came out, I liked it a lot more b/c Zimmerman finally added stations on the port/starboard sides (similar to Yesterday’s Enterprise) and made it more of a command center. Too bad, the Enterprise-D got destroyed but when I see the future version of it from All Good Things…, I’d like to think it had that same bridge instead of what it ended up with. I almost wished it was used instead for the 1701-E.

Although I absolutely loved the 1701-A bridge from ST:VI, the 1701-B version of it was much better b/c it had the TNG-like helm/navigation consoles and I could do without the ceremonial chairs, of course.

15. Muldfeld - September 26, 2009

He does seem like a really nice guy, especially on the bonus feature of the Star Trek V Collector’s Edition DVD, but I wish SOMEONE would have the honesty to criticize J.J. Abrams and company for their complete lack of originality or courage. The story was dumb and ambitionless and insulting. It had nothing to do with the human condition, which was a part of every Trek incarnation until this one. Abrams doesn’t care about elevating his audience to think about the most pressing issues of our time, unlike the great Ira Steven Behr. He only cares about making money. This Trek is unartistic, soulless fluff, and, even on superficial terms, isn’t entertaining. DS9 was much more exciting, tension-driven, and funny.

16. Sci - September 27, 2009

#15; He does seem like a really nice guy, especially on the bonus feature of the Star Trek V Collector’s Edition DVD, but I wish SOMEONE would have the honesty to criticize J.J. Abrams and company for their complete lack of originality or courage.

Has it occurred to you that maybe it’s not that no one has the “honesty” to criticize Abrams and Company, but that they honestly disagree with your opinion of Abrams and Co.’s work?

17. Carlo A. Flores - September 27, 2009

#15: I completely agree with you! I feel like people are blindly loving JJ’s Star Trek. But I ask people this all the time, where was the “message,” or the “moral,” that has been at the heart of every Star Trek story. Coming of Age story aside it was mostly just fluff.

And we can all agree to disagree, it’s part of Star Trek paradigm, and part of the nature of being Star Trek fans.

18. LoyalStarTrekFan - September 27, 2009

I have always loved Herman Zimmerman’s designs and he defined the look of Star Trek for 18 years. I agree with Patrick Stewart that the Enterprise-E bridge was the best. In my opinion it appeared the most functional compared to all the other bridges – new movie included. The same goes for all the Enterprise-E sets with the exception of Stellar Cartography which I think the one used in Generations was better.

It seems no one liked working with Stuart Baird. With that said, Herman Zimmerman outdid himself with the Romulan Senate set which was one of the best sets ever created, imo.

14, I agree that the Enterprise-D bridge got a lot better in Generations as it looked more like a bridge than it ever did in the series.

6, the lighting of the Ent-D bridge got better in Generations.

The Enterprise sets were really cool and did look a lot closer to our time than any other Star Trek set, but then it was set closer to our time so everything fit.

As for the new Star Trek, I loved the bridge as it kept the classic Star Trek look but I wasn’t too fond of the industrial engineering and shuttlebay sets, and I really didn’t like the Narada (sets and ship alike). With that said, while it didn’t match my tastes the sets were well done and looked authentic, something that I’ve come to expect out of Star Trek so that made me happy. Despite that I really missed the “Starfleet clean” look from Herman Zimmerman’s era in Star Trek.

Thanks for all of your hard work over the years, Mr. Zimmerman.

19. Jack - September 27, 2009

Did Andrew Probert do the TNG bridge? I think I remember seeing an early sketch in one of the Trek art books that had planters on the bridge, like in my dentists’ office. I say this as a fan of the TNG bridge.

I liked Zimmerman’s point about being able to put flat panel monitors on Enterprise’s bridge, compared to the lets-not-use-visble-80s-technology screens on TNG, which were a good idea. The visible 80s CRT screens in some Trek films (or in movies like Total Recall) always kind of took me out of the future fantasy.

Personally, the Ent.E bridge always seemed a little like a recycled version of all the various (awesome) Zimmerman movie bridges. I liked it – but it wasn’t my favourite. Just my opinion. I wonder how much influence Rick Berman had on those designs and if Mr. Zimmerman wishes he could have done things differently…

20. captain_neill - September 27, 2009

Herman Zimmerman is one of my favourite designers on Star Trek, what he did on the first season of TNG and his work on DS9 and Enterprise was incredible.

I loved how the Enterprise D looked in Generations and it was down to the lighting and the extra stations. I am a huge fan of his bridge design for the Enterprise E. To mme the Enterprise E bridge is much better than the new bridge for the new movie. In combination with the Okuda graphics Zimmerman’s starfleet ship designs were awesome

I always felt he honoured Matt Jeffries iconic design and show how the tech progressed a century later.

Looking at the poll I am surprised that the new movie bridge gets the highest percentage but I guess its new and shiny and is in the public eye at the moment but to me its not the best.

21. captain_neill - September 27, 2009

Zimmerman’s designs and Okuda’s graphics kept the Starfleet look constant in designs

22. Ben - September 27, 2009

awesome work by a humble man.

I’d love to hear/see more about all the ENT designs and how they came about.

23. Ben - September 27, 2009

@21: totally agree.

24. Baxter - September 27, 2009

Oh, the Ent-E bridge was fantastic. Loved it best.

25. Nick Cook - September 27, 2009

Great interview. Zimmerman’s a class act.

26. Holger - September 27, 2009

Taking ten minutes to look at a new Enterprise rules!

27. Locke for President - September 27, 2009

A good way of understanding his talent is to watch the old Land of the Lost Saturday morning kids show. Sure, it looks cheap and it’s from the 70s. But what he did on a Saturday morning kids’ show budget is amazing.

Just think, all of the time they were walking and running around in the jungle, it was all on the same small set. And somehow, you never got the sense that they were in the same place. In other words, you never could tell it was the same set of trees and bushes. He managed to always mix it up, to make it look like a different part of the jungle.

And regarding Star Trek, it’s easier said than done trying to make alien sets look alien with modern, human materials to work with. On a show that shoots a new episode every week. It’s amazing what they were able to do on a television budget with little time to come up with innovated things week to week.

28. me - September 27, 2009

I make a deep bow of this great designer.
He did a fantastic, a brilliant job. He created what Star Trek looked like and nobody ever would confuse with other Scifi shows. One look, and you instantly know “Ah that is from Star Trek”.

@5″There are some elements of some I don’t like. For instance, I didn’t like the single seat in front of the captain like in VOY, DS9 (the Reliant) and ENT. I prefer having both the navigator and the helmsman sharing a common station between the captain and the front of the bridge. I find it much more pleasing to the eye.”

I agree. It is more pleasing to the eye.
But though I think it was the absolute correct decision.
VOY, Reliant, ENT… those were small ships,
1701,A,B,D,E … those were big ships

Would there be any better possibility to show the audience with only one small detail if they either watch a big, powerful cruiser or a small escort, science ship ;)

29. William Kirk - September 27, 2009

Thank you for all the great work over the years, Mr. Zimmerman…I admire your work.

30. oby - September 27, 2009

Great work, Anthony. Excellent interview.

31. Hat Rick - September 27, 2009

“Well the first thing you need to know is that the Enterprise itself is one of the characters.”

Hallelujah!

32. Balok - September 27, 2009

like this guy…

33. olsojer - September 27, 2009

Umm I think Zimmerman is getting too much credit here. He was the Art Director which meant he had others working for him. I bet if you look, most of the designs mentioned were probaly the brainchild of John Eaves and others that worked for Zimmerman. Just a thought…..

34. Horatio - September 27, 2009

I think its great that Zimmerman takes direct aim and fires at Stuart Baird. Is he the only one who has said it like it is and not pussy footed around it?

Also I agree with #31 – the Enterprise is one of the main characters, if not Kirk’s one true love.

Note to Orci and Kurtzman: Enterprise is a character, NOT a prop.

35. Mike the Mugato - September 27, 2009

Stuart Baird made what is close to the worst ST movie, with the exception of Star Trek V, of course.

36. Ian Fee - September 27, 2009

I had the great pleasure of meeting Mr Zimmerman a few years back on the set of ‘Enterprise’. It was an all too short meeting, I would have loved to get into a good chat with him. I love his work and I hope he enjoys his retirement.

Thanks for everything.

37. Harry Ballz - September 27, 2009

If the collective effort of everyone involved in Star Trek is considered a “body” of work, I think we all know which part of the anatomy of said body Stuart Baird represents.

Hint: the word for this body part begins with an “a”.

Gawd, I hate it when someone is egotistical and arrogant with no discernable talent to back it up!

You ARE the weakest link……GOODBYE!!!

38. Dr. Image - September 27, 2009

Class act. The polar opposite of Chambliss in many ways. (Wish he wasn’t so diplomatic!)
Love the DS9 bridge.
Hell, I think ALL of his work rules.

39. dmduncan - September 27, 2009

We need an interview with Stuart Baird on this site. That would be entertaining.

40. Marian Ciobanu - September 27, 2009

- I really love his work…he was the best trek designer …although the corridors from TOS are looking so damn..futuristic…even now..

41. AJ - September 27, 2009

37:

Harry:

Stuart Baird is an A-list Hollywood film editor. Just seems that successfully directing is beyond his reach. And ironically, scenes which were edited from the final cut would have actually improved the film a great deal. Not quite Shinola, but at least more character driven.

42. David J - September 27, 2009

15

Sorry, but I think you’re making previous Trek out to be a lot deeper than it really was. Sure it’s had it’s moments (especially on DS9), but for the most part Trek has always been a fairly lightweight adventure show, that only superficially touched on the issues of the day.

I mean, besides the simple, feel-good message of “saving the whales”, what exactly was so deep and profound about TVH? The whole setup was just an excuse to send the crew on a fun and crazy adventure– which is no different than what they did with the NEW movie.

43. Harry Ballz - September 27, 2009

41:

AJ:

I don’t care if this moron can turn water to wine, nobody in a position of authority (director) should bully people around or treat them like crap.

44. David J - September 27, 2009

38

Well he had no problem calling out Baird, so I’m sure if he really had issues with Chambliss or the new movie, he would have said so.

45. Anthony Pascale - September 27, 2009

I have a real problem with those who seem know that people I interview are lying because they don’t agree with them. I was there. Zimmerman (and Frakes and others) are not being ‘diplomatic’ or ‘polite’, they genuinely said what they said, i can tell the difference.

i know it is hard for people to find out that those who they respect don’t agree with them, but that does not mean they secretly do agree with you.

Deal with it

46. david - September 27, 2009

Surprised the Ent bridge was mentioned as a good design – it was clearly just a redress of the Defiant’s!

Zimmerman is a genuis though, his visual style perfectly suited the TNG era. Wonder what he would have done with the 2009 film’s budget!

47. Devon - September 27, 2009

#17 – “But I ask people this all the time, where was the “message,” or the “moral,” that has been at the heart of every Star Trek story.”

Umm no it hasn’t. And of course, most of those “morals” and “messages” were hardly groundbreaking in that it is just telling us stuff we knew in grade school. Oh how useful Star Trek was in telling me that “We should be nice to different people.”

48. Devon - September 27, 2009

#31 – “Is he the only one who has said it like it is and not pussy footed around it?”

No. A couple of the actors have also noted their displeasure in him. In fact that is where I’ve heard about him referring to Levar Burton as “Laverne” or whatever it was.

49. Dom - September 27, 2009

I think Stuart Baird was caught in an awkward situation: there was a desire coming from somewhere to ‘shake things up’. So the film got a new-to-Trek screenwriter and an ‘outsider’ director, presumably with orders to . . . ‘shake things up!’

Much is made of Trek cast and crew being ‘a family’. I think the whole putting ‘outsiders’ Baird and Logan on the project was a big mistake. If a team is entrenched and perceived as getting stale (there was definitely that feeling well before Nemesis), you don’t shoehorn in new people, you do what Paramount sensibly did next: clear out the entire team and bring in new people.

I liked a lot of Zimmerman’s work. It’s a pity he never really got the Enterprise-D bridge seen the way he wanted it. I remember seeing a Generations pre-filming photo of the bridge with all the additions, noticeably the more prominent ceiling beams, but that was all hidden by the moody lighting in Generations.

50. Lando - September 27, 2009

It’s not wrong putting “outsiders” on a Trek project. But it was wrong to put these hack outsiders on the project!

My theory is that Paramount wanted Nemesis to fail. According to John Eaves they already started to discard sets while they were filming. Everyone knew it was going to be the last TNG movie, and I do think that someone at Paramount did the Hudsucker Proxy with Baird and Logan.

51. Devon - September 27, 2009

#50 – “My theory is that Paramount wanted Nemesis to fail. ”

That doesn’t make any sense. Why would they want to invest in something only to purposely lose money in it and cause embarrassment for themselves? If they really wanted to be done with the TNG all they had to do was turn down Star Trek 10 and save themselves about $100+Million and save themselves some grief.

52. LoyalStarTrekFan - September 27, 2009

42 and 47, Star Trek has indeed commented on issues of the day, and issues of today. I will now demonstrate:

From the death penality:
“Where you come from, do you find it necessary to execute people who commit crimes?”
“I regret at one time we did.”
-Edo woman and Captain Picard, about Edo laws
TNG: “Justice”

to the loss of a close friend:
“My thoughts are not for Tasha, but for myself. I keep thinking how empty it will be without her presence. Did I miss the point?”
“No, you didn’t, Data. You got it.”
-Data and Picard, on the memorial for Tasha
TNG: “Skin of Evil”

to the afterlife:
“Some see it as a changing into an indestrucable form…forever unchanging. They believe that the purpose of the entire universe is to then maintain that form in an Earthlike garden which will give delight and pleasure through all eternity. On the other hand there are those who hold to the idea of our blinking into nothingness with all of our experiences and hopes and dreams merely a delusion.”
“Which do you believe, sir?”
“Considering the marvelous complexity of the universe, its clockwork perfection, its balances of this against that…matter, energy, gravitation, time, dimension, I believe that our existence must be more than either of these philosophies, that what we are goes beyond Euclidean or other ‘practical’ measuring systems…and that, our existence is part of a reality beyond what we understand now as reality.”
-Picard and Data/Nagilum, on Picard’s beliefs about death
TNG: “Where Silence Has Lease”

to war:
“Danar, in war, both sides commit atrocities…”
-Sisko to Gul Danar
DS9: “Past Prologue”

“They kill us…We kill them. It’s nothing worth celebrating.”
-Kira to Furel, on the Cardassians
DS9: “Ties of Blood and Water”

on war crimes:
“I’m simply a scientist. Yes, I developed the weapon. But it was the government, and the military leaders, who decided to use it. Not I.”
“That must be a very convenient distinction for you. Does it help you sleep at night?”
-Jetrel and Neelix
VOY: “Jetrel”

This is just a few samples of social commentary in Star Trek. There are many, many more. Star Trek has something for everyone. And that is why Star Trek is the best franchise ever created.

*: All quotes, with the exception of the quote about the death penalty that I recited from memory, are from the book “Quotable Star Trek” written by Jill Sherwin © 1999 from Pocket Books.

53. Jim Cude - September 27, 2009

Loved the TNG sets for their day but go back and watch now, especially early seasons and it looks like Space Hilton…

54. Horatio - September 27, 2009

#48 – yeah, a few of the actors (Frakes and Burton come to mind) have made their displeasure with Baird known but they were still really diplomatic about it.

Zimmerman just came right out and basically said he was an egomaniac.

55. Lord Garth, Formerly of Izar - September 27, 2009

How bout a Q&A with our very own beloved Trekweb family member
Rotten Rick Sternbach??

I enjoy his insight and he is never one to hold back his opinions!!!

56. Rick Sternbach - September 27, 2009

55 – I was going to say something, but thought better of it. :)

57. Lord Garth, Formerly of Izar - September 27, 2009

HA!!

58. I'm Dead Jim - September 27, 2009

I like the Enterprise E bridge but, as with the whole ship, I don’t feel I really had enough time to warm up to it.

59. Magic_Al - September 27, 2009

The TNG bridge is my favorite for showing technological progress realistically. For all the criticism that it doesn’t look like a bridge, it does look like a bridge in the 24th Century. Sci-fi should challenge our assumptions a bit and make us think about WHY things are not what we expect.

If your ship has a virtually sentient computer with an in-errantly comprehending voice interface, probably all you need to see is the big holographic screen and a few workstations with a one or two small display and control surfaces each. The Enterprise-D is the iPhone of starships. Subsequent bridges that reverted to blinking lights everywhere went backwards in that respect.

The Enterprise-E bridge seems very disjointed to me. It’s lit nicely and the closeups look good but in wide shots its layout fails to make the impact of the TOS bridge and the TNG bridge. I’ve seen the movies several times and I could not draw a diagram of the Enterprise-E bridge.

60. Tony Whitehead - September 27, 2009

I have always enjoyed the production design work of each incarnation of Trek shows, from TOS all the way through ENT. Sometimes the stories and the casting fell short, but the production quality never did. Kudos to talented artists like Zimmerman, Sternbach, et al.

61. Duane - September 27, 2009

Great work Mr. Z. Nice interview. Agree with others that we need to hear from S. Baird himself. He deserves his day in court.

Signed,

Not a Nemesis fan

62. Captain Hackett - September 27, 2009

I enjoyed reading your interview with Mr. Zimmerman!

Thanks!

63. VZX - September 27, 2009

#59: I agree about the Enterprise-E bridge. It seems like the Ent-D bridge was more advanced than the Ent-E bridge because it had less exposed hardware and computer screens. I know the lighting made it look cheesey and 80s shtick, but the layout was far-more advanced than any of the bridge designs in Trek history. Voyager bridge looked even futher dated than the Ent-D bridge. The only post-TNG bridge that made sense was the DS9 Defiant bridge because it was meant to be a military ship first, so it was primarily function over form (which is why it is my favorite bridge).

Also, I’m glad that Zimmerman said what he said about Baird. It was he that killed the movie, more so than Berman, Logan, or Spiner’s influences. Why hire someone who knows nothing about Trek to direct a Trek movie? He never even bothered to watch a single episode. Even Nick Meyer caught up a little bit before doing Trek II. I mean, it’s like hiring someone who knows nothing about policework to direct a cop drama.

64. CarlG - September 27, 2009

@11: Andrew Probert designed the bridge, Mr. Zimmerman supervised construction of the set. God bless Memory Alpha. :)

Stuart Baird sounds like a victim of the Peter Principle: he was promoted to a task just one level abouve his competence zone. Great editor, but he still sounds like a deeply unpleasant guy to have as a boss.

Anyways, thank you for the interview, and thank you, Mr. Zimmerman, for such an incredible job on Trek over the years. You are a gentleman, sir.

65. CarlG - September 27, 2009

@63: Maybe they were trying to re-create the success they had with Meyer, the first “outsider”.

66. Devon - September 27, 2009

#52 – I didn’t say they tried commenting, but they often times weren’t anything ground breaking, which is what I said.

67. Lord Ravenwood - September 27, 2009

#15

Mudfeld:

Agreed!

68. Lord Ravenwood - September 27, 2009

Herman Zimmerman is a class act, as well as a hard act to follow. His work on “ST: Deep Space Nine” was simply incredible!

69. Spockish - September 27, 2009

Lord Grath in message #55 you said it would be a nice and interesting thing to have interviews or decision topic boards with TrekMovie staff.

I agree it would be nice, but there is one aspect you may have failed to see. Such events could detract from the quality that these staff members provide to us readers and yakers every day.

Did you notice how things slowed down with the Las Vegas event. Not that I blame them, I understand how the change of new a new world takes time to understand and then give us readers quality writings to understand what experiences are happening in the real world.

I do not know how the experiences effected them but it would be nice if they could do more behind the walls of Trek Conventions in the future, and maybe one day have it become a regular feature.

I can not recall if I posted comments publicly or to just Anthony that someone needs to start a company that does the behind the wall of star Trek Conventions.

P.S. If you notice typos, in most cases you are able to figure out what was ment, but if you’re unable to, the first hint would be look at the letter typed, in most cases it was just a misplaced finger so look at all the letters around the mistyped one and odds are it was one of those they meant to type. In my dyslexic typo of i and p it takes a little knowledge of the topic. In all cases deductive intelligence is used best, if that is no help there is the old solution, just ask.

70. Mike Okuda - September 27, 2009

#64: Andy Probert provided a brilliant series of sketches that defined the style and the overall look of the Enterprise-D bridge. However, Herman Zimmerman and his team did far, far more than simply supervising the construction. Herman was ultimately responsible for the design of the set. He was responsible for not only satisfying the producers’ and director’s requirements, he also needed to design a set that was buildable within a severely constrained schedule and budget. (An elegantly curved railing might take a few minutes to sketch, but it could take a team of highly skilled craftspeople two weeks to construct.) Without taking anything away from Andy’s genius, Herman was the one responsible for making that set happen, and he was responsible for more than a small part of its visual elegance, as well. I was there. It was no small task.

-Mike

71. Cervantes - September 28, 2009

The ultimate STAR TREK production design (in all areas) for me will always be the colourful original series.

Personally I disliked EVERYTHING that the makers/designers came up with for the ‘spin-offs’ that followed….

It a pity that even the latest makers/designers of a ‘TOS’- inspired movie decided to alter the look and colouring of so many elements that were done so terrifically in the first place, and that would have been magnificent if given a big buget ‘light-touch’ upgrading.

Just my own ‘old school’ opinion.

72. Cervantes - September 28, 2009

Just to add, that I didn’t want a ‘NEXT’ generation crew and designs when I heard a new ‘STAR TREK’ show was coming back to television….no, I wanted either the ORIGINAL characters (albiet recast) to continue on in their adventures in the ’5 year mission’….OR a totally different Starship crew set in the SAME timeframe as the original series!

The original may have been designed in the 60′s, but THAT was the overall ‘futuristic’ look that caught my imagination as a youngster.

Guess I was never gonna like too many changes to that vibrant look, lol.

73. Cervantes - September 28, 2009

One last thought – That shot of the iBridge with Scott (‘Brains’) Chambliss sitting on it, is the most flattering and cinematic shot that I’ve seen of it.

The guy that took that photo should have been the one in charge of filming it….

74. MJAMESON - September 28, 2009

Thank you Mr. Zimmerman for a great interview. I’ve always been a fan of your work. I particularly loved your designs for Star Trek VI.

Anthony, I really enjoy the interviews you do for this site and wish that you’d continue doing them in the future. The people being interviewed offer great insight on the making of Trek for those of us out there interested in hearing opinions different from our own concerning the Trek universe.

To everyone else, remember that there are people out there who disagree with you concerning Trek and its various designs, story lines and such. REMEMBER that they feel as passionately about their favorite incarnation of Trek that you feel about yours. To attack them or label them for having differing opinions, or to just spout opinions off as facts in order to justify you own preferences, is just idiotic and rude. Just because they like or dislike your favorite Trek (ahem, Original Series) doesn’t mean they hate Star Trek in general. There is a difference between critiquing and criticizing. One is respectful the other is not.

75. Lando - September 28, 2009

“51. Devon – September 27, 2009
#50 – “My theory is that Paramount wanted Nemesis to fail. ”

That doesn’t make any sense. Why would they want to invest in something only to purposely lose money in it and cause embarrassment for themselves? If they really wanted to be done with the TNG all they had to do was turn down Star Trek 10 and save themselves about $100+Million and save themselves some grief.”

They couldn’t take the movies away from Berman and replace him with someone else while he’s was still more or less successful.

Nearly EVERYONE of the involved I know of agreed that they didn’t like Nemesis, and that it had problems from the start. Paramount knew that, when they greenlit that hackjob of a script and greenlit an action movie editor to direct a scifi movie.

76. Gummy - September 28, 2009

Herman Zimmerman’s work is second to none.

77. AJ - September 28, 2009

If I recall from the TNG Writer’s Guide, the Enterprise-D was supposed to form a substantially less “military” living space for its officers, crew, and their families. The original intention was that the ‘D’ would spend much longer sojourns exploring space than any of its predecessors before returning home, so the lives of its inhabitants were meant to be spent in advanced 24th century comfort. The “Hilton” Bridge was a reflection of that. And the “Battle Bridge” was its polar opposite.

Of course, we all know that The Ent-D never truly stayed away that long, so it looks like the “E” was designed to be a standard exploration/battlecruiser without families. Hence, more sheer functionality than creature comfort.

78. Steve - September 28, 2009

Star Trek V Enterprise Bridge is the best with the Nemesis bridge either tying or coming in a close second.

79. star trackie - September 28, 2009

I never really liked Zimmerman’s style on the Trek series and movies. It’s just a personal preference, but I prefer the lines and aesthetics of the new movie, I feel it has more of a futuristic feel to it. But to give credit where credit is due, he does have a very unique style that is instantly recognizable and a lot of people like it. Although I must say the sets on Enterprise grew on me after awhile and were, by far, my favortie of his.

80. Scott - September 28, 2009

I also recall the ‘Hilton’ analogy used by the designers very early on, in an issue of Starlog (way before the ‘Net). It seemed really wierd to me then, but what a great idea. I still love that original D design, it holds up far better than most of the other ship designs, inside and out.

81. Rick Sternbach - September 28, 2009

So, anyone go to the event yesterday?

82. THX-1138 - September 28, 2009

How cool is it that people like Mike Okuda and Rick Sternbach just drop in and give an opinion or offer their $.02. That’s just neat..

I always liked the design for TNG. It was a good reflection of the time it was created and if you watch, the design did change with the times as the show progressed without being too jarring from the original concept. Herman Zimmerman is as responsible for the continued and sustained success of the Star Trek franchise as anyone. I know that it has become fashionable to diss on TNG and the subsequent spin-offs, but that was some great TV for the time it was produced and I know that as time goes on, it will pass the test.

As far as comparisons between Herman Zimmerman’s designs and Chambliss, I didn’t have a problem with much of what Chambliss came up with. But I just can’t stand the Budweiser Engineering section. I just can’t buy that it was a budgetary problem when they apparently spared no expense in other facets of the production. MAYBE if they didn’t make the ship a half mile long they wouldn’t have had to “design” an engineering section that was the size of a dirigible hangar, and look like it was more apt to power the Lusitania than the Enterprise.

83. VZX - September 28, 2009

#70:
Mike: what is your favorite bridge design?

84. Mike Okuda - September 28, 2009

Rick, we missed you last night!

85. Shatner_Fan_Prime - September 28, 2009

#78 “Star Trek V Enterprise Bridge is the best”

Agreed. Next to the TOS bridge (which beats all), that one was the best!

86. Robert Bernardo - September 28, 2009

I got to the event yesterday. It was a nice evening, followed by the Director’s Cut of Star Trek: The Motion Picture on the big screen. Much better to see it that way than on a relatively small television.

87. LoyalStarTrekFan - September 28, 2009

82,

I agree the spinoffs will pass the test of time. In many ways they already have. The only reason everyone is obsessed with TOS right now is because of several factors:
1) TOSR
2) The new movie being based on the original
3) TOS being the first Star Trek show on Blu-ray

The time will come for the spinoffs.

For me, TOS was the worst of the Star Trek series, not because it wasn’t excellent, it was, but because I grew up on TNG/DS9/VOY and those three shows will always be my Star Trek. Those were the shows that inspired my imagination and made me a life-long Trekkie. I love everything about the TNG era; the sets, the costumes, the equipment, the characters, the stories, the graphics, the ships, etc. Herman Zimmerman was a large part of that and he will always have my thanks, along with the entire cast and crew of all the Star Trek shows and movies.

88. Lt. Bailey - September 28, 2009

I will always favor the TOS bridge above all. While now it does look a bit aged, we all thought at that time in 1966 that it was the hottest thing around. Enough so that the military contacted Matt Jefferies to work up some ideas. Even I would love to have that replica TOS captains chair. Just so I can hit the red alert button every time I need another Warp Core Breach drink….

Next would be the NX01 bridge, maybe not all modern or as future tech as TNG or VOY but its simple and it works. We in the 21st century are used to that and it is the familiar style we know. But one bridge that has been overlooked but it is just as stunning in its workmanship and design is 1701-B from ST-Generations.

89. CarlG - September 28, 2009

@70: Thanks for clearing that up! Didn’t mean to shortchange anyone. :)

90. Charles H. Root, III - September 29, 2009

Anthony,

Perhaps you can clarify something since you were present at the interview.

Mr. Zimmerman mentioned that JJ is a “huge fan of the show” when Mr. Abrams was consistently beginning his interviews and speeches by stating he was never a fan, or not much of one.

Is your sense that Mr. Zimmerman meant that Abrams has since become a fan or is it something else?

Thanks.

91. Charles H. Root, III - September 29, 2009

@ 70. Mike Okuda:

The Karpeles Manuscript Library and Museum (www.karpeles.com) acquired much of Mr. Probert’s wonderful work you speak of for ST:TNG some time ago. The collection has been touring their various facilities for almost 10 years. For those unfamiliar with The Karpeles, it is the world’s largest, private collection of rare and historically significant documents, manuscripts, letters and art.

My company, Oculente, Ltd., leases office space from The Karpeles Porter Hall location in Buffalo, NY. I believe the Probert drawings are in secure storage in my building now.

The Karpeles makes digital scans of selected documents in their possession and publishes them on their website. However I don’t see the Probert collection online.

Star Trek fans should see this work!

I’m on the Karpeles Advisory Board and have done volunteer work for them for probably a decade. I’ll check with the museum director and offer to scan the Probert collection at no cost. Perhaps there is a way to legally publish and share them online since not everyone can get to one of their locations.

I used to work for Applied Graphics Technologies in Rochester, NY. We did all of the document scanning and digital media asset management for the National Holocaust Museum as well as archival work for Steven Spielberg.

Oculente has the equipment to do it and I’ve got the background. Let me see if I can make it happen!

92. Zaku - September 29, 2009

@90
from wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek_(film)#Marketing

“The director preferred promoting his projects quietly, but concurred Paramount needed to remove Star Trek’s stigma. Abrams would exaggerate his preference for other shows to Star Trek as a child to the press, with statements like “I’m not a Star Trek fan” and “this movie is not made for Star Trek fans necessarily”. “

93. AdamTrek - September 29, 2009

TNG is what made me a fan, especially the enterprise. It was, in my mind, suppposed to be over-the-top in excess, hence the giant wood arch on the bridge, cutting off the command chairs from the operations stations in the back, and being so far away from Conn and Ops. You can’t tell me those two wouldn’t get motion sickness from being at those stations, with that giant holoscreen and all taking up their entire view. That bridge was perhaps the least practical out of any Star Trek show or movie, but it symbolized the 80′s I think. The entire ship was made frickin huge to show that humanity was not only being utilitarian in the 24th century, but also allowed artistry to be a greater part of their lives. In my opinion. I would defer to those that know better, such as Mr. Zimmerman or Mr. Sternbach, but I’m guessing that I’m at least partially right.

=A=

94. Dom - November 8, 2009

Actually, of Zimmerman’s work, I liked the Enterprise-D redesign for Generations the best. Unfortunately, the moodier lighting prevented us from seeing some of those modifications, especially on the ceiling with it’s bigger support struts.

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