EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Okudas Talk Orci Directing Trek, Netflix Rumors, Reveal Role In ST09 & More | TrekMovie.com
jump to navigation

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Okudas Talk Orci Directing Trek, Netflix Rumors, Reveal Role In ST09 & More June 22, 2014

by Kayla Iacovino , Filed under: Interview,ST: Into Darkness Sequel,Star Trek (2009 film),TNG Remastered,Trek on TV , trackback

mike-denise-okuda1

The Trek world has been abuzz since the announcement that Bob Orci will officially take over the director’s seat for the next Star Trek film. TrekMovie sat down with Mike and Denise Okuda in an exclusive interview covering Trek’s past, present, and future. The Okudas have been involved with Trek in one way or another as early as The Motion Picture with Mike having worked on every live action Star Trek production since The Voyage Home, along with the current project of remastering Star Trek: The Next Generation in HD for Blu-ray. Suffice to say that this pair has a unique perspective on where Trek has been and where it is (or should be) going. Hit the jump for more.

 

Interview with Mike and Denise Okuda

TrekMovie.com: What do you think of Bob Orci being named director of the next film?

Mike Okuda: We are cautiously optimistic. Orci is not only a skilled storyteller, but he obviously has a deep fondness for Star Trek. We’re excited to see what he does.

Denise Okuda: Besides, we love Alias, on which Bob Orci served as producer and executive producer. We used to watch Alias all the time in the Enterprise art department!

TM: There has been a lot of buzz about Netflix and Trek in the last week. Do you have anything to add? Have you heard anything, and regardless what do you think of the idea of Trek on Netflix (or other non-broadcast net like Hulu or Amazon)?

Mike: We haven’t heard anything. The Netflix rumor, sadly, appears to be just a rumor. However, we’re fascinated with all of the new methods of distribution and production that have been emerging. We’d love for a new Star Trek series find such a home. Nevertheless, the decision to proceed with a Star Trek series (or any other production) is always a complicated one that must take into account a surprising number of factors that might not be immediately obvious. A new Star Trek series would be a huge financial commitment and a large financial risk, no matter how successful the show has been in the past. At the end of the day, the studio will proceed with a new Trek series only if and when it makes sense for it at that particular time.

TM: Do you think Star Trek works better as a TV series or as a feature film franchise, both throughout Trek’s run since 1966 and in the near-future?

Denise: As much as we love the spectacle and scale of the Trek movies, we think that Star Trek works better as a television series. Weekly episodes lend themselves to far greater variety in storytelling and have the potential for much more depth in characters.

Mike: There’s something magical and intimate about friends coming to your house every week to take us on adventures. Those friends become part of our family, and part of our lives.

TM: If you were in charge of the franchise, what would you do?

Denise: So many things. Mainly, we’d love to see Star Trek return to its roots. To us, it’s not so much about specific characters or ships, as it is about Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a better tomorrow. That’s a world in which we have learned to live together, in which we enjoy the benefits of science and technology, not only to improve our lives, but to improve our understanding of the universe.

Mike: To us, Star Trek is about the firm belief that if we are smart and ethical, if we are hard-working and compassionate, then amazing adventures await us among the stars.

TM: Do you feel that fandom has embraced the reboot?

Mike: Trek fandom is incredibly diverse. Many fans have embraced the new films, which is understandable. Some remain skeptical, which is understandable, too. Remember when ST:TNG was new, how long it took some fans to accept the idea of Star Trek without Kirk and Spock. And how long it took some old-timers to accept the new fans whose first love was Picard and company.

Denise: The point is that the new films have done a wonderful job of making Star Trek cool again, of bringing new fans into the fold. And not surprisingly, a fair number of new fans who have discovered Star Trek through the new films have gone on to discover the rest of Gene Roddenberry’s universe.

TM: You have both been heavily involved in the graphics and design elements of Star Trek. How has Trek’s look and feel evolved throughout the lifetime of the series, and you think the current (JJ-verse) design elements build on those from Trek history or stand alone and define their own, new style?

Mike: One of the most important challenges that Abrams’ production team faced was how to give their new Enterprise a distinctively fresh look while maintaining a sense of design continuity to what’s come before. This is much easier said than done. We call it “keeping it exactly the same, but making it completely different.” While there are certainly things we would have done differently, we think that Scott Chambliss and his team did a wonderful job of putting a new spin on the Trek universe.

Denise: By the way, Mike actually did contribute a fair number of background graphic elements to the 2009 film. We got several calls from different departments asking for previously-established graphic elements. Mostly symbols and alien languages. Some alien stuff that Mike had designed for Star Trek: Enterprise ended up being visible in the bar scene, if you look quickly. Oh, and we also contributed several pages of background chatter and tech dialog for intercom and “walla” sound effects in several scenes. I couldn’t hear it in the film, but we’ve been told that it’s there!

TM: Are there any indications that you will be involved in the next film?

Mike: We’d love to be involved in the next film, but we don’t think we’ll be asked. In fairness, Bad Robot already has a proven team in place which is obviously capable of excellent work.

 

The Okuda Legacy
The Okudas have had a distinct influence on the look and feel of Trek throughout its long history. Mike Okuda worked as Scenic Art Supervisor in every live-action Trek TV series and movie since Star Trek IV and excepting the JJ-verse movies (the latter of which he did contribute to in other ways). His influence has been so pervasive that his ship console designs, dubbed Okudagrams, are iconic in Trek. Mike’s wife Denise was Scenic Artist for the entire run of DS9 and Enterprise and served as Computer & Video Supervisor for the entire run of Voyager as well as contributing to Trek films Generations and Nemesis. Fun fact: Denise made an uncredited appearance as an Enterprise crew member in TMP.

The pair have been deeply involved in the life of Star Trek and have shaped the way it looks and feels on the screen, big and small. They have also authored a number of reference books (Star Trek Chronology, the Star Trek Encyclopedia, the Star Trek Sticker Book). Their latest project is consulting with CBS as they remaster all seven seasons of The Next Generation.

 

Comments

1. Lancelot Narayan - June 22, 2014

Nice little interview. Is there any more of it?

2. I am not Herbert - June 22, 2014

“Alias” was a GOOD SHOW! …too bad it’s all been downhill since… =(

3. I am not Herbert - June 22, 2014

Excellent questions, and I totally agree with the Okudas,
(all except for faith in boborci…) =P

Mike’s LCARS displays are ICONIC!! (I’ve had several as my wallpaper) =)

…and currently use one on my cell (communicator) ;-)

They truly are living the Star Trek life! EXCELLENT! =D

4. Hat Rick - June 22, 2014

The Okudas are virtually an institution. Together with Rick Sternbach, they contributed mightily to the futuristic visual look of starship interiors. They also involved themselves in real-life space exploration issues, pushing for the continued allocation of NASA resources to the means of space travel.

5. VulcanFilmCritic - June 22, 2014

Very interesting article. So the Okudas are “cautiously optimistic.” An interesting choice of words, and not exactly a ringing endorsement.
I suppose they have the same concerns about a non-director attempting to direct a major motion picture. I don’t see why with all of the directing talent out there that a real director couldn’t have been found to helm a Star Trek film that will be released around the 50th anniversary.

P.S. I hope the Netflix rumors are true. Trek has always been able to adapt to the evolution of entertainment technology. First a regular TV series in color, then syndication, then direct-to-syndication, then to film, VHS, digital (with CGI enhancement), and to (*shudder*) 3D. So why not Netflix?

6. FLEET ADMIRAL WILLIAM J KING OF THE STRSHIP GRACE NCC-74737A - June 22, 2014

Thank you Mike and Denise You are the Keepers of the Star trek Legacy well done !!!!!

7. J-Mart - June 22, 2014

Now go ask Doug Drexler what he thinks about the JJ Abrams movies…

8. NX01 - June 22, 2014

Good article. This was a pleasure to read. I can’t wait to meet them at the Las Vegas Star Trek convention.

9. njdss4 - June 22, 2014

I wonder if they said ‘sadly’ to the Netflix rumor meaning they really want it to be on Netflix, or if they just want a new Trek series no matter where it is. I’d pick Netflix above all, but I really just want it to be approached in the same way that Game of Thrones, House of Cards, or Breaking Bad was handled. Around a dozen episodes per season, tightly focused stories which are decided upon and planned out well ahead of time. Overarching stories that give plenty of room for character development. That’d be perfect, imo.

10. Hat Rick - June 22, 2014

Speaking of old Trek hands and a possible new series, I nominate Ronald D. Moore to be involved in the new Trek TV series in some way. I liked what he did with DS9. BSG was good for a long while. He could be a senior consulting producer with authority over writing and continuity, for example.

I say that because he has a lot of depth as a writer, in my opinion, as well as Trek experience. He can keep a lot of plot threads going in a sophisticated and meaningful way.

Now, I’m sure there will be some who say that we don’t need the gritty style of DS9 and we want more of the enlightened Federation / Starfleet shown. Some may find DS9 to be excessively mystical or Klingon-centric. Some may want entirely fresh blood. However, I still think Mr. Moore would be a good candidate for involvement in the new Trek TV series (if any). Besides, he’s had experience in no fewer than three Trek series: TNG, DS9, and, for a while, VOY.

11. danielcw - June 22, 2014

That interview felt kinda short and on the spot.
Was there not enough time for a longer converstaion.

Anyway, thanks for the interview.

Interesting that they were actually asked for input in Star Trek 2009.
And I share their love for Alias

12. Phil - June 22, 2014

You guys have been kicking out a lot of content lately. Good job!

13. Hat Rick - June 22, 2014

By the way, I’ve run into the Okudas in real life. They’re a sweet couple and very friendly.

Also, another round of thanks to Kayla, et al. for another great article and for the scoop. Feels like old times again at the old TrekMovie forum.

14. Ahmed - June 22, 2014

Excellent interview, Kayla.

I don’t share their optimism about Bob directing the next movie but I agree that Star Trek works a lot better as a TV series.

15. crazydaystrom - June 22, 2014

Thanks Kayla! Always good to hear from the Okudas, “cautiously optimistic” as they may currently be. heh-heh

16. Lurker - June 22, 2014

7. J-Mart – June 22, 2014
Now go ask Doug Drexler what he thinks about the JJ Abrams movies…

Why? is he the end-all-be-all authority on what Star Trek is?

Yeah, he didn’t “enjoy” the new Star Trek movies – we know that…but I doubt JJ Abrams or Paramount are too concerned.

17. Marja - June 22, 2014

9, ndjss4, From your lips to God’s ear … or the Great Bird of the Galaxy’s.

I, too, would love to see it on Netflix, so much more affordable and available to more viewers.

I agree with [and have myself previously stated] all your points about story arcs and depth of character.

With “short” seasons of 10-14 eps, the present NuTrek actors might just be available, which I would LOVE.

18. Marja - June 22, 2014

10, hat rick, support your Ronald D. Moore idea. DS9 was one of the best Trek series; I put it 2nd after TOS actually. Well, it’s kinda neck-and-neck with TNG, but the “grit” was a welcome addition. Not all races are going to want to be “enlightened” by the Federation ….

It would also interest me to see what Moore would do with the NuVerse. It’s kinda “dark,” so it might be right up his dramatic alley.

Moore for showrunner. Orci for producer.

19. Commodore Adams - June 22, 2014

I’ve always loved the Okuda’s and their contribution to Star Trek as well as Mike’s contributions to NASA. I am thankful for all that they have done.

20. MikeTen - June 22, 2014

@16 Lurker, why the lack of respect for Doug Drexler? He’s been involved with Berman Trek from nearly the beginning and had a hand in designing a lot of the Trek that most fans know and love. I my opinion he ranks right behind the Okuda’s in Trek opinions I value.

I like Hat Rick’s idea of Ronald Moore. Another person that might do good overseeing new TV Trek is Manny Coto and/or Mike Sussman.

21. dswynne - June 22, 2014

A mash-up trailer/intro parody for a television version of “Star Trek”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ini5sF6iImk

22. Jonboc - June 22, 2014

Trek is never coming back in the form many of us remember it. All this longing for Moore and Bermanized Trek is nostalgic but the numbers of Nemesis vs. the numbers of Trek ’09 and Into Darkness will never let that happen. As the Okuda’s said, any new series will have to have the potential to make money…and at this point, anything that is NOT related to BadRobot’s Trek is way too risky. We may eventually see a new series, but it will be in the nuTrek universe.

23. Hat Rick - June 22, 2014

@Marja, 18, and @MikeTen, 20, thanks and I’m glad we agree. Mr. Moore is very much still involved in science fiction and he has a wealth of new experiences to bring to Trek, which I think might be his first love. He’s proven himself adept at adapting science-fiction tropes to modern sensibilities — which I think is amply demonstrated in the new BSG, especially the first season. (The only problem with the later episodes of the new BSG was that I lost track of the series and became a bit discouraged by the level of violence I saw. I never did finish the series, and while I am stunned by the audacity of the conclusion, I am given to understand that some critics saw it as somewhat of a rush to tie up loose ends. I haven’t made any final conclusion about the new BSG; I still admire it to a large extent.)

My opinion about Ron is from the truly great work he did in regard to the various Trek series, as well as his hand in cinematic Trek. During a personal meeting, I found him genuinely impressive and sincere about the importance of his work.

I don’t know what he would do in JJ’s version of Trek; something tells me that he would make it somewhat more nuanced and focused on character development. Not that Abrams’ Trek movies are anything to scoff at — I’ve always liked them. But, Marja, you raise an interesting question.

Lurker, Manny Coto and Mike Sussman would also be satisfactory choices for me. I wish ENT had had more time to show us what it could do; it certainly was on a hot streak toward the end.

As I see it, what the Okudas, Ron, Manny, and Mike share is not only great talent, but also a fan’s sterling appreciation for Star Trek and its possibilities. There are many talented figures in Hollywood, but it would be difficult to duplicate that certain quality of fanship that makes a great producer, a great producer of Star Trek.

24. Hat Rick - June 22, 2014

^^ Sorry, I said “Lurker” when I meant to say MikeTen.

25. metronome - June 23, 2014

@22 Jonboc

Don’t delude yourself, the Star Trek hating and popcorn eating masses that contributed to the box office success of those Michael Bay movies with the name Star Trek attached to them won’t be turning their TV sets on to watch a new Trek series. So, it’s highly unlikely that the same approach that was taken in making those Hollywood action driven blockbusters would be taken in making a new Star Trek show. You can say whatever you wish about Roddenberry-Berman era Trek, but that Trek was far superior – in terms of intelligent storytelling, science fiction, Trek ideals, etc. – to what we have know in the form of those movies.

A nice interview, by the way. Thanks.

26. metronome - June 23, 2014

oops, spelling mistake. Correction… ‘to what we have now…’

27. Mike Barnett - June 23, 2014

I think if Trek comes back to TV or something like Netflix, it’ll have to be different to what we’ve seen before. I’m not creative enough to know what it should be but I believe it has to stand out from the crowd. Maybe they have to approach it as a drama first with excellent writing and throw in the science fiction elements as second or third in order of concepts. I always thought that nuBSG was excellent because it worked as an excellent drama that happened to be taking place in space.

BTW, love the Okuda’s! It’s always comforting to see them in all the Trek DVD extras.

28. James Rye - June 23, 2014

@20 – Plenty of respect from me for Mr Drexler and the Okudas.

But Doug isn’t the be all and end all authority on Star Trek is all the other poster was trying to say. Doug may criticise the nu-trek Enterprise design (amongst other things) – but plenty criticised his Akira-prise when that came out.

Make no mistake that Enterprise failed to connect with an audience – in my humble opinion – because it was derivative of what had come before.

Abrams’ Trek, whatever some here think about it – has made Star Trek into a viable proposition for a new TV series (as the Okudas note). For that alone, we should be grateful. Hopefully a future TV series will have completely different cast and crew to those of the past.

To succeed, Trek will need to be relevant, dynamic and not limited to the old five-act story telling structure. No – it will need to be like Game of Thrones – contemporary story telling at it’s best.

29. ME!! - June 23, 2014

Denise is in TMP? Where? Which scene? You didn’t ask her?!?!?

30. TUP - June 23, 2014

They seemed to very very politically admit to not liking the Abrams-verse films.

31. Elias Javalis - June 23, 2014

I don’t think there is anything prettier that the LCARS menus on the Enterprise D Bridge!

32. NuFan - June 23, 2014

Only the trekkies could start a fake rumor and then start believing their own fake rumor.

33. Jon - June 23, 2014

A most classy couple indeed! My deepest appreciation to their significant contributions to the Trek universe.

But I would say that it is again obvious, if you read between the lines, that they were at the very least not too thrilled with the re-boots, particularly STID. The best example of this is seen in Denise’s response to TM’s question:

*********************************

If you were in charge of the franchise, what would you do?

Denise: So many things. Mainly, we’d love to see Star Trek return to its roots. To us, it’s not so much about specific characters or ships, as it is about Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a better tomorrow. That’s a world in which we have learned to live together, in which we enjoy the benefits of science and technology, not only to improve our lives, but to improve our understanding of the universe.

***************************************************

One wonders what they would *really* say about STID if they could be 100% candid. As it is, they really cannot be that honest and a) Remain classy, and b) burn some bridges that are best not burned with the powers-that-be.

Bring Trek back to TV! The latest STC effort is again nothing short of amazing…what a great opportunity to get these guys to do a Netflix series or something like that!

But I imagine getting past CBS would be a major stumbling block…

34. danielcw - June 23, 2014

@Jon (post 33)

At best (or worst) one might think, that STID is not the Star Trek they wanted.
They did not say anything about the movie’s qualities or whether it “thrilled” them, not even between the lines.

I get the feeling you are looking for a bad opinion about STID, and may have a confirmation bias

35. Lurker - June 23, 2014

MikeTen – I have no disrespect for Doug Drexler. His design work is very impressive for what is now the prime universe version of Star Trek. However, that was the past.

Paramount wanted a new, modernized Star Trek to present to the masses – and they got that with JJ Abrams’ team. There was no way they were going to keep the “old” version of Trek – especially after Nemesis.

36. Jon - June 23, 2014

Daniel,

Maybe…maybe not…but I consider myself to be pretty good at seeing “behind the masks” that people often put up (and not necessarily in a belligerent way which is definitely the case with the Okudas…they exude class and then some :) ).

I must disagree with your assessment (and I have no problem with your assessment), but IMHO it doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to see they are being somewhat polite here. If I were in their shoes, I would do the same.

And for the record, I am certainly no fan of STID and consider it to be Star Trek in name only (and again, I’m being polite here :) ).

Jon

37. swpinsent - June 23, 2014

I was hoping that there would be a glimmer of hope for DS9 on blu ray… alas there was none.

38. ironhyde - June 23, 2014

Their thoughts on what Star Trek is are absolutely perfect. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it said so well and so succinctly. Wow. Mr. Orci, take it to heart. That mentality is why the Okudas were geniuses and such a large part of the best of Trek (IMHO)… Love them!

39. Marja - June 23, 2014

23 Hat Rick, something tells me that [Moore] would make it somewhat more nuanced and focused on character development.

More power to him then! That was mostly what drew me into my love for BR Trek, the CHARACTERS and their new shadings. This was of course due to Orci, Kurtzman and Abrams, but I’d love to see what Moore would bring into the mix.

Agree on Coto and Sussman also. “Enterprise” became really really good and ’twas a shame it was cancelled.

40. Marja - June 23, 2014

26 metronome the Star Trek hating and popcorn eating masses that contributed to the box office success of those Michael Bay movies with the name Star Trek attached to them won’t be turning their TV sets on to watch a new Trek series.

I’m sure it simply shocks you to see that some of us love both.

I’m not a big fan of all the super-duper-blockbuster-action sequences in either BR movie but I loved the character writing.

So don’t call me a Star Trek hater.

Interesting choice of moniker, by the way, “metronome” — the same steady beat, over and over.

41. Disinvited - June 23, 2014

#32. NuFan – June 23, 2014

You mean like when Bad Robot claimed and apparently fervently believed that absolutely no STAR WARS’ news whatsoever could EVER EVER EVER have an impact on STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS marketing and then JJ/Disney/Lucas worldwide pantsed them?

42. Jamziz - June 23, 2014

I don’t think I’d describe Bad Robot’s team the same way Mike.

43. Mad Mann - June 23, 2014

I wonder if they will ever update/finish their Star Trek encyclopedia. This couple is really a driving force in Star Trek, and real space exploration. I think they designed some real space mission patches or something.

Anyway, I greatly appreciate their work and dedication to Star Trek.

BTW: Do DS9 in HD!!!!!!!!

44. Admiral_Bumblebee - June 24, 2014

Maybe Star Trek needs a more grounded approach for a new TV series. More character driven, less exotic aliens and no techno babble.

Different characters in different locations facing their own dilemmas/adventures. And if the ship explores a new world let it be something more like in Forbidden Planet. A human colony but no blue aliens with ridges. Instead more mystery about the aliens.
There have been way too many aliens in the series, aliens that I felt ashamed of being a Star Trek fan. It’s cheesy.
Having just one or two alien factions in the galaxy would suffice – but that would be hard to implement into the already established universe of Star Trek.

Star Trek as it has been in Voyager and Enterprise is not attractive to nowadays viewers, especially women. The producers should look more towards The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones or Vikings in how to make a “nerdy” setting interesting to a broader audience.

45. Marja - June 24, 2014

Sorry, Admiral Bumblebee, but I disagree with your idea that “Enterprise” was not attractive to women. T’Pol was a strong character and there were plenty of attractive, interesting men who held my attention, and I loved Dr. Phlox because he was so much the “scientist.”

What makes you think women would dislike “Voyager” either, with its female captain. I can’t figure out what you even mean there. I myself didn’t care for Voyager after they veered into terminal technobabble, but before that I really liked Janeway.

“Game of Thrones” has a few too many T&A scenes for my taste, and soooo much horrid violence. It does, however, appeal to audiences worldwide. I do like those of its female characters who are not “just whores,” there solely for Littlefinger’s and the audience’s titillation. Danaerys, Aria, Breanne, sicko Cersei and Sansa, among others, interest me greatly, but I just can’t handle all the violence.

46. TUP - June 24, 2014

Janeway was a pretty good strong female character, I admit. Credit where it’s due.

47. Disinvited - June 24, 2014

#45. Marja – June 24, 2014

Ditto the babble.

I was on board with Bujold – still wonder what about the production scared her off. Mulgrew, I felt did an excellent job on the opportunity to pinch hit as MRS. COLUMBO when the squabble among Falk, the studios and network left the time slot with a gaping hole, and I felt certain she’d rise (as she in fact did) to the occasion again on VOYAGER.

48. Finnigan - June 24, 2014

If there was a Star Trek Hall of Fame, the Okudas would be inducted on the first balloting. These people have always been there for Star Trek and for those of us who love Trek.

49. Steven Maines - June 24, 2014

I love those two!!

50. Dave R - June 24, 2014

Classy these two are! Right up there with Bob Justman, Leonard Nimoy & Dorothy Fontana.

51. Fuba Mushu - June 25, 2014

Apparently “modernized” now means “dumb downed.”

52. Keachick (Rose) - June 26, 2014

#52 No, “modernized” means just that. Most people calling these films “dumbed down” are the ones too dumb to understand them and repeatedly call out the films for the stupidest of reasons, mainly because of their capacity to comprehend is severely limited.

53. Greg2600 - June 27, 2014

Mike Okuda is correct, Star Trek has to get back to Television and telling stories that relate to life. No more blockbusters.

TrekMovie.com is represented by Gorilla Nation. Please contact Gorilla Nation for ad rates, packages and general advertising information.