Porco Readying To Be ‘Planetary Policewoman’

Carolyn Porco is still hard at work as the leader of the Imaging Science team on NASA’S Cassini mission at Saturn, but readying for her role as a consultant on planetary science and imagery for JJ Abrams Star Trek. In a new interview with CinemaSpy, Porco says she is “imagining a lot of fun brainstorming sessions with J.J Abrams and [special effects supervisor] Roger Guyett.” She also talked about how she sees her role on the film.

Porco on her role

I’m imagining that I’m going to serve the role eventually as “planetary police woman”, where I ensure that whatever is depicted as far as astronomical imagery, and planetary scenes, look as realistic as possible.

Porco on what she would like to see ‘improved’ with her involvement with Star Trek:

Accuracy. Like I said, I’m going to be the Planetary Police Woman, so I’m hoping that we can achieve accuracy in the depiction of otherworldly phenomena, and accuracy in the visualization of the planetary scenes. I presume that’s why they would ask someone like me…to participate. They want to honor, to some degree anyway, reality.

Apparently Porco’s role is also expanding beyond just making sure the planets look right, saying

I’ve also been contacted by other producers on the film, responsible for other scenes, non-planetary scenes, asking me questions. So I may be an advisor on things that are non-planetary in nature.

For much more on Porco and her work with CICLOPS check out the full interview (conducted by Battlestar Galactica science advisor Kevin Grazier) at CinemaSpy.

More: TrekMovie.com 2/11 interview with Porco

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I am really pleased that this level of accuracy is being taken. I have the utmost faith that Carolyn Porco will do her very best to ensure we view the very best.

This is a great angle, Anthony! Glad you’re covering this.

I only wish that NASA could afford to continue ALL the science it does AND the Constelation Program.

As far as policing planetary images, why not start with synchronous orbits? Whenever a captain says to take the ship into synchronous orbit, the planet below usually continues to spin. Just a thought…

First off, yeah… good angle thar’. Having said that allow me to say:

Oh, a globular cluster doesn’t mean I can go all Jackson Pollack wit’ tha’ CGI spots?

That’s Chief Wahoo there… see? A real red dwarf.

Oh! It’s the horse”head” nebulae… oops, me bad thar’.

A binary system doesn’t involve two gals and a guy? And it’ll get the film an “arrrrr” ratin’? Sorry… truly I be.

and inevitably:
What? Ya’ mean that’s not how your Uranus looks?

No sound or colorful explosions in space due to lack of atmosphere.
bet that’s the first rule they’ll break

long gone are the days of the old plastic model of the Enterprise being pushed around a panted ball

:o )

I hope CGI gets better.The Star Wars prequels’ CGI from ILM looked flat.

I hope so too. I just watched Episode II last night and the CG wasn’t as good as I originally thought it to be.

JJ Abrams is really going thru this project with a fine tooth comb!!! I REALLY hope that this movie exceeds my expectations…

To show what a proud geek I am Carolyn Porco is on of my favs! Knowing she’ll be making sure the stuff looks right is a big relief.

Nice touch JJ getting the expert on board.. GO GET EM PORCO!

Anthony, it would be cool if somehow trekmovie.com could provide her with an official Planetary Policewoman badge or something.. no wait that would be too geeky.. wait what am I saying?!?!

soooooo the question of the day is: Sound or no sound?

I say bring on the science!!! No wait!… here we go.. ready? “Science is golden” … dag sometimes im just too good…

As long as we’re on the subject of science, do any of you really think we’ll be using present-day welding equipment in another 300 years?

Accuracy is great….but so is artistic license, especially when the end result makes for a more visually interesting experience. Authenticity is a good thing to have…as long as it stays interesting…but remember, when all the dust settles, it’s still just a movie.

Make those visuals pop off the screen! In a movie with pointy-eared aliens and transporters than scramble atoms, you have creative freedom, …don’t paint yourself into any corners JJ, just for the sake of authenticity.

Sound or no sound? Ooooh, good question!

Things like Firefly with no sound, are great, they feel more real because of it.

Star Trek though… we’re too used to the rumble of the Enterprise overhead and the Pooow-eeeeeeek of the torpedoes. It wouldn’t be Star Trek without that.

If they go down that route though, I shall be seriously impressed by their pluck!

Levels of realism should be good enough so you don’t think “heyyyy, that ship is actually 17,000 miles long compared to that planet” but a little dramatic licence is fine by me.


Absolutely we will.. and i’ll explain why…

the construction crew, right before they started work on the Enterprise, were set the wacky challenge of building it using welding equipment from the late 20th and early 21st centuries…

the crew, never ones to back down from a challenge, heartily accepted!

that my friends, is now ‘canon’….

I like realism to some extent, but artistic license needs to be taken in some instances.

For example, if the Enterprise were really in space, in our solar system, you’d have one side of it lit up by the sun, and the other side would be 100% pitch black except for the windows or whatever other lights are on the ship.

However, in past Star Trek movies, they have added fill lighting to the other side of the Enterprise, so that you can see it as well. I hope they follow a similar lighting scheme with this film, instead of it being 100% realistic. Heck, if the Enterprise were in deep space, there would be no lighting on it AT ALL except for the windows and nacelles. So you’d have a black silhouette against stars. That wouldn’t be very cool.

I also hope they keep sound and explosions in space, even if it is inaccurate. It’s just something we’ve grown used to, and it would feel strangely absent were it not there.

Can’t beat them miracle workers, creating a universe out of thin air… :)


Not sure how I feel about this one… I think the Remastered TOS episodes prove that TOO much “accuracy” has drained the Original Series episodes of some of their gaudy charm. As has been noted before, almost ALL of the planets look the SAME in these “new” episodes.

I’d just add: Sure, strive for accurate depictions of planets, but try to be imaginative about it at the same time. If every class-M planet in STAR TREK XI looks just like Earth, then where’s the fun in that…?

#15 –

Actually, I’d like to see MORE instances of a black sillouette of the Enterprise against a star field… sort of like what they did with the Cygnus in THE BLACK HOLE. Bring some MYSTERY back into STAR TREK!

I FINALLY watched MI3 and I have to say I was impressed. I actually thought that was the best of the MI movies. JJ got solid performances and great action that I found to be more believable hen the previous. If he’s bringing Porco in I dont think hes doing it so he can have technicolor outer space scenes complete with sound effects. Im thinking more 2001 crossed with new BSG then what we’re used to (with a little science channel thrown in).

I found her last statement to be interesting. I wonder which other producers Miz Porco is refering to, and what other scenes, since principal photography is done. Will they do re-shoots if she takes issue with a given line or plot point? I sort of thought she would have been given the script prior to shooting anything, but it doesn’t sound like it was handled that way.

As far as the sound or no sound debate, I can’t decide. No sound is great when it’s done properly, especially when contrasted with a sound-rich environment like the bridge, for instance. On the other hand, I like hearing the rumble of the engines also. Really, though, by the time May ’09 comes around I’ll be happy with whatever I get.

I do think lighting the big E in a more realistic fashion could be more dramatic though I think that they guys at ILM will want to keep *some* fill light. Boy, to be a fly on the wall at ILM right about now…

You know that creative team is having the time of their lives – would love to hear Porco speak at a con in the future concerning her experiences within the Trek universe.

#17 – In defense of. well whatever, there wouldn’t be a class called “M” if the planets varied in their appearance and characteristics. Just sayin is all… ;)

You guys have to remember that magazines have a lead time of a few months. When most of these interviews were condicted shooting was still taking place.

The calls she was getting were while shooting was still taking place.

@23 – Yeah, that makes sense. I didn’t really think about how long ago the interview took place.

I presume that’s why they would ask someone like me…to participate. -Porco

Im sorry.. what?
what were you hired for, when were you told what that was. this line nakes it sound like you dont now why your there even by the time of this article. olease explain . give details.


the planet below usually continues to spin. Just a thought…

keep thinking

comb the desert

forget the badge. get her a guest part on phase II or farragut

sorry. but ive seen all 3 and they get worse with each one. just mho

is that anything like a spider under the table

well just ask her.
at what date did these persons contact you?

The interview was done on 4/17 and took a few days to transcribe.

there it is. i found it.

Kevin: With what sort of specific responsibilities has J.J. Abrams tasked you on this film?

Carolyn: Well I haven’t been tasked in detail with anything yet, because my role hasn’t begun yet. They just wrapped up filming and now they’re just getting into post-production and they’re not ready for me yet, they say. We haven’t sat down and figured out exactly what it is that I’m going to do.

4-17 realy? i dint read that part.

3. That’s the constellation known as the Cleveland Indian…

Hope she’s ready for the canon issues…


I know that the Trek Movies have had science advisors before… But I like Carolyn. She’ll find a nice balance between what we expect from Trek’s creative license and true reality.

I think they’re just making sure we’re going to the proper amount of realism,a la Huygens’ descent and landing on Titan a few years back – extrapolating from what we already know, and using it so the effects don’t become too Saturday morning cartoonish. I agree with JC, tho – I’d love to see them go the direction of 2001 with those aspects, but studio suits know that blowing shit up in space puts people in the seats.

One comment I remember from an article about scientific anomalies in Trek movies referred to the unintentional repeal of the law of inertia when the whale probe deactivated all power systems in and near Spacedock in ST:IV. Evidently, the instant that that occurred, one of the nearby space pods that was in flight seemed to decelerate as if its forward motion depended on its maintaining power. In the real universe, since objects in motion tend to stay in motion, the mere loss of power wouldn’t have caused the space pod to decelerate. I think that Dr. Porco might be very helpful in making sure that similar laws of physics aren’t violated by mistake.

Oh, and about that space pod: We could rationalize its behavior by surmising that the pod in question was actually being tractored along some kind of beam, and that when the power went out, the beam automatically decelerated the vehicle as a safety precaution. Or that the pod had some kind of failsafe thruster that decelerated it to avoid risk of collision. (Retconning is fun!)

#11 **** “As long as we’re on the subject of science, do any of you really think we’ll be using present-day welding equipment in another 300 years?” ****

If old-fashioned welding equipment becomes part of the film, then you may have something to argue about. However, so far I have no reason to believe we will actually be seeing this old welding equipment in the film, therefore there is no reason to complain about it.

There have been many “strange” things seen in Star Trek teasers before, such as Borg ships that are in the shape of the “Delta Insignia” and scenes from the TV show projected on the side of the Enterprise, like it was a drive-in movie screen; but everyone realizes those were just tearser trailers and those images were simply metaphors not to be taken literally.

As for Carolyn Porco — I’m just glad that any ‘working’ planetary scientist is part of this production.

I am suddenly reminded of Phil Farrand’s Nitpicker’s Guide to Trek books, for some reason. Those were pretty neat. Too bad he’s not writing any new ones, since they could point out “anomalies” (mistakes) that Dr. Porco could especially watch out for! Come to think of it, the ones he did write could still come in handy, dated though they might be by now.

Cleve-land? (sounding like howard the duck)

Canon? we dont need no stinking canon!
I jest

Hmmm. I dunno. Reality is great, but fx these days tend to be more impressive to the eye. Hope they find a good mix.

please i would love to see constant stream of positivity just once.

scientist on board for authenticity?!

sounds good to me

i also recall her being very good with the crowd at a recent event,can we not just be thankful?

i hate accuracy this movie is going down the toilet!


It’s a good thing to have someone who knows what they’re talking about on-set. Porco is also fairly reknowned for her work.

This movie is going to shape up nicely.

41, I don’t agree with the latter half of your statement, but your grammar certainly proves the former half. I commend you on being true to your word, however unclear because of syntax errors it might be.

I want a scientific rationale for bright purple planets.

#15 – actually, there was an illustration of the Enterpreise silouetted against stars done during the development of TMP; this is why they added the running lights to the refit Enterprise. You can see it in the Art of Star Trek.

Additionally, If you look at the effects shots in early DS9 and late TNG you’ll see that often the dark sides of the models *are* totally black.

#44: Amen.

39. shat hands –
“Please i would love to see constant stream of positivity just once…..”

I would like to answer that — with an answer to this:

15. Daniel Broadway –
“…..I also hope they keep sound and explosions in space, even if it is inaccurate. It’s just something we’ve grown used to, and it would feel strangely absent were it not there.”

This lady will likely be one of the GREATEST assets to ST XI that we will find out about (later, after the film is released and she can REALLY TALK about it. One thing that she may be asked to comment on, in a scenario that might take place in deep space (or in a vacuum, such as space), may be what SOUNDS (–if any–) are “heard.” That can actually be done quite realistically. First, let’s consider a variation on the question about audio stimulation: “If something blows up in space and there is no air to hear it in, does it make a sound?” MAYBE IT DOES—if you hear the explosion’s shock wave striking a nearby space vessel which you happen to be in as that shock wave hits.

We have seen many news footage of explosions of various types—chemical plants exploding, volcanoes erupting violently, bombs going off, etc. etc. What we also see, when a videographer/filmer is really on his/her P’s and Q’s, is the SHOCK WAVE expanding outward in all directions—usually VERY fast. Let’s apply that to an explosion in space: ILM can easily create a violent shock wave from something blowing up near the Big E, and actually show shock waves approaching, even at a high rate of speed. The initial explosion may not be “heard,” but when the Enterprise is hit with that shock wave, LOOK OUT……HOLD ON……and get those ear plugs in if you can!

Think of the Praxis explosion: we did “hear” the BOOM! as it blew, as well as the shock waves passing the camera. But here’s where it got more “realistic” — when those shock waves approached Sulu’s starship. The first “small wave” blasted around the hull and we HEARD it (the camera seemed to shudder, too!), then the BIG ONE hit hard, and it was continuous, like the freight-train sound of a tornado, or a prolonged earthquake.

That kind of thing can be made incredibly realistic by the amazing, expert design teams at ILM, and if this lady has input as well, I for one suspect we will witness one of the most amazing space-based feature films ever created. Now, THAT’S POSITIVE THINKING!

Even Firefly, when it went to the big screen (in Serenity) added spaceship whooshing noises. I guess they decided it was just necessary for a big-screen adventure.

In my opinion, sound in space is not a big issue. Let’s say that the sound is what we would hear if atmosphere was present.

#14 – Good answer.

#35 – I agree that not everything in a trailer winds up in the finished movie, but it sure looks like they’re constructing the Enterprise with present-day welding equipment to me. I merely point this out because many thing in TOS have already been invented. For example, Spock was constantly writing on his notebook-sized wireless electronic clipboard. Will he now be using a palm pilot or some other even smaller device? This is why I think JJ could really use some gifted science advisors.