VIDEO: Herman Zimmerman Talks Difficulties w/ Nemesis Director Baird, ST09’s Big Nacelles & More

Last week at the showing of Star Trek: Nemesis at the Star Trek Summer Screening series at the Royal Theater in West LA, veteran production designer Herman Zimmerman spoke frankly about his career in Trek, issues with Nemesis director Stuart Baird, and gave his thoughts on the look of the new Star Trek. Watch vidoe of that below.


Zimmerman talks Star Trek: Nemesis and designing 2 decades of Trek

Veteran production designer Herman Zimmerman was the guest for last weekend’s screening of Star Trek: Nemesis at the Summer Star Trek screenings at the Royal Theater in West Los Angeles. Here are some highlights of the talk.

  • Zimmerman’s notes some of his favorite movie sets as: Star Trek VI Klingon courtroom, Star Trek Nemesis Romulan Senate and Bridge of the Scimitar, particular proud that the ‘theleron device’ part of Scimitar was done with practical effects instead of CGI
  • Zimmerman on Nemesis director Stuart Baird  "he is a really good editor and as before we started shooting he was charming…as soon as cameras started rolling he became impossible to work with, nothing satisfied him"
  • Notes that Baird didn’t work well with the actors or the crew and was too controlling, leading to a bad relationships on the set, leading to Zimmerman’s set decorator John Dwyer quitting
  • Zimmerman didn’t feel putting the bridge of the Enterprise E set on a gimbal for Nemesis worked or "was worth the money" (another idea of Stuart Baird’s), and they still ended up doing many of the shots with the actors leaning left and right like they had traditionally
  • Zimmerman on production design of Star Trek 2009: "I think it looks great and [Scott] Chambliss is a very good production designer", but he notes that way the movie was shot makes it hard to get a good look at some of the sets noting "I still don’t know what exactly that bridge looks like…the action was so fast and furious that the sets were incidental. I think that is JJ [Abrams] method of telling a story, and that’s good"
  • Zimmerman liked the exterior shots of the new USS Enterprise, but did feel that the nacelles on the redesign too big
  • On TNG Enterprise D design "Gene Roddenberry literally wanted it to look like a Hyatt Regency Hotel literally and there was a point there was no captain’s chair…everyone was going to sit around a conference table…that would be deadly dull and the director of the pilot put his foot down and they went back to having a captain’s chair"
  • On DS9 design: Original design was like a "tower of Babel" with the station being much older with a "hodgepodge of spacejunk" from various cultures, before changed to the "slicker" "gyroscope" design of a sole Cardassian station



Updated schedule – Giacchino for Star Trek 2009

UPDATE: The series wraps up on Saturday the 4th. The guest for the 2009 Star Trek movie will be composer Michael Giacchino .

Date Film Guest
September 4 STAR TREK (2009) Michael Giacchino


What: Star Trek Movie Series

When: Saturdays at midnight in July-September (see above schedule)

Where: Laemmle’s Royal Theatre is located at 11523 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025, (310) 478-3836 

Tickets: $10 for general admission. You can buy tickets at the box office or online at


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The hodgepodge, ancient station for DS9 would’ve been a lot cooler. I always hated the lighting in that show. Effing Cardassholes.

Interesting, would be cool seeing Michael Giacchino

Nemesis would have been awesome, if Jonathon Frakes returned to direct !

always loved the artstyle of the series he was involved in.
carpet floors in tng and voy, awesome !

I remember being reminded a lot of a fancy hotel when seeing the decks and bridge of the 1701-D, before I’d ever even heard it compared to that! But no captain’s chair…? I dunno, I think it’s a staple of the series, a focal point sort of keeping the head guy steadily in view in some essence. So, to not have that might’ve been a bit odd.

With Nemesis’ director – I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone refer to his ‘work’ on that film in anything but a derogatory light… While I actually enjoyed the movie, as well as most of the ‘lesser liked’ Trek movies and series’, I also respect and admire those who had been with Trek a long time’s majority of opinions that he didn’t know what he was doing necessarily. As J.J. proved, you don’t absolutely need to come in with fore knowledge of Trek, but you sure need to respect it, as well he and the folks who put the 2009 flick seemed to.

Could he sound more bored???

#3 – You’re absolutely correct!

I don’t remember the bridge of the Scimitar at all, but the Romulan Senate was a very good set.

I’d like to watch the video, but either the audio levels aren’t high enough or the guy is mumbling. Or both. Too bad because the first few minutes were interesting info that I’d never heard before. I just don’t think I have the stamina right now after a long work week. I might try again in a day or so.

I like big nacelles and I cannot lie
You otha’ brotha’s can’t deny
When a ship warps in with that itty bitty waste
With those round things in your face
You get sprung!

[Walks away in shame for having thought that up]

Zimmerman likes really big and round sets.

“Zimmerman’s notes some of his favorite movie sets as: Star Trek VI Klingon courtroom, Star Trek Nemesis Romulan Senate and Bridge of the Scimitar, particular proud that the ‘theleron device’ part of Scimitar was done with practical effects instead of CGI”

Yes, no, no and no

I wish Zimmerman was more epic in his favorite sets, the romulan senate was rather dull, the bridge of the scimitar had no imagination/very clunky and tv ish/low budget, theleron device lol umm nothing special, seen this type of effects better on television shows.

Zimmerman is behind in the times, this may have been good 30 years ago, but everything he likes here is way outdated and doesn’t even compare to the 70’s or 80s sci fi movies like star wars or star trek tmp


Interesting comments about Stuart Baird, especially in terms of his picky nature and not getting what he wanted from the art department. I’m reminded of the documentary on the Blade Runner Blu-Ray/DVD where the art director relates a story of pulling aside a set decorator and telling him or her, “Ridley is not going to want ten coffee mugs and a few pens. You go around town and find a hundred coffee mugs and a hundred pens!”

Of course, Stuart Baird is no Ridley Scott. And I doubt the money men at Paramount would let the Trek machine spiral out of control like Blade Runner almost did too many times to count. :-)

Having directed other films, I wonder if Baird could’ve brought in his own production designer. He brought in his own editor and costume designer… who knows?

D’s bridge was one of the worst. The “center seat” needs to be in the center and that bland color scheme was terrible. Enterprise A,B and Excelsior are my favorites in the bridge dept. Darker and more functional in appearance.

Read the “Art of Star trek” books and you’ll see the designs for Phase II and TNG were very over designed like a student would do it. The ultimate in design fantasy, not space opera fantasy.

Critics were complaining about the space hotel look for years. That’s why the old Enterprise was deliberately redesigned to look like a military ship for Trek 6.

The logic behind the fantasy is humans especially love comfort so the Big E should be a womb as much as possible. and the D was an exploration ship and a ship of peace much much moreso than the original 1701, designed as a capable frontier warship which also explored

Speaking of Nemesis…..which ship would win in this fight and why? The Scimitar vs. Narada. Let the bickering begin.

Narada. Devestating weapons. Unless the Scimitar was able to power up its Thaleron delivery system while still cloaked. If Scimitar was able to instantly decloak and fire its Thaleron weapon at the Narada, there’d be nobody left alive on the Romulan ship to fire its devestating torpedoes.

However, if Scimitar had to decloak and deploy its Thaleron projector (and it took as long to do as it did in NEMESIS), Narada would pound it into dust long before Shinzon would be able to fire his weapon.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Frakes could not have saved Nemesis, story was terrible rip-off.

TOS bridge by far the best

Yes, #3 is dead on, and I think had Frakes returned to the director chair there might have been another TNG movie. Also I think what bugged me the most of the new E was the nacelles, too big and they looked almost curved and not too functional. I honestly think Zimmerman is still the best production designer in Trek history, even counting 09.


Matt Jeffries was pretty good as well!

The Star Trek franchise has been blessed with great production designers. Herman Zimmerman did an awesome job, even on “Nemesis” while having to work with an idiot like Stuart “I’m the boss and you’ll do it as I say it” Baird.

I’d like to thank him, Mike Okuda, Rick Sternbach (and all of the others) for their tremendous work which enriched the Star Trek universe.

And once again, thanks to Anthony for the well-done and imformative interview! I wish you had done a video for the “First Contact” showing.

RE: Rocket Scientist

“I’d like to watch the video, but either the audio levels aren’t high enough or the guy is mumbling. Or both. Too bad because the first few minutes were interesting info that I’d never heard before. I just don’t think I have the stamina right now after a long work week. I might try again in a day or so.”

Same here, RS.

DS9 also suffered from the space hotel look. B5 got it right. Down below looked like it was rundown (despite the budget constraints or maybe because of them). When O’Brien complained about the rattletrap that was DS9 it was disingenuous, because it looked like the frakkin’ Mall of America. The Ent D and E I could settle for the hotel look, but a supposedly rundown, frontier, left-for-dead and abandoned post-haste space station? I just didn’t buy it.


I liked the bird of prey above the doors.

But it was much smaller than the U.S. Senate, British House of Lords, or any “grand” legislative chamber I have ever seen. There was maybe enough seating for 25-30 people and a small viewscreen. And this was supposedly the nerve center of a vast interstellar empire?

Although I suppose that dovetails with the equally underwhelming Federation Council set from ST4. Star Trek has always suffered from budget problems. And the visuals in Nemesis never really match the vision. Everything has to be scaled down because they simply don’t have the money.


The alternate reality scaled up considerably, so the Narada model is absolutely huge compared to the Scimitar. The Narada is shown as anywhere from 8 to 11 km long (that’s as large as some of the Super Star Destroyers in Star Wars). The alternate reality Enterprise from 2258 is also larger than the Enterprise-E in the prime universe.

The sets for the Trek movies always felt a little cheap. Even in Trek 2009, Kirk is promoted to Captain in front of about 100 people. I liked it in the shows where they would have a wide effects shot of 1,000 people standing outside like when Archer landed back at Earth in Enterprise.

I agree Frakes would have made Nemesis better, if only because he respects his fellow actors (at that point, they were like a family), and has more respect for the characters and the overall tone than Baird obviously had. However, as others have pointed out, the story of Nemesis is flawed, and it would have been better if they had come up with something truer to the spirit of Star Trek. Ultimately, what Star Trek needed was a signature producer/director team, as is found in Bad Robot, and if Paramount had invested the resources to give the TNG crew that kind of talent, Star Trek X would have been a great film, say in the tradition of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.


Borg modified romulan mining ship versus a Reman Warbird that was termed a predator. I got my money on the Reman Warbird.

Scimitar > Narada

Narada is good for drilling and launching borg missles
Scimitar is good for melting faces. End of Story.

I wonder how many showed up–does anthony have any data-where all the movies sold out? which guests were most popular? Was Nemesis the least attended-or inurrection maybe?
Ideally in a movie the sets are not the stars–the actors/peoples story should be-jj got it right as the sets should be in the background in a fast paced good movie-and not as imporatant–


I am greedy, I want it all, cheap out on the sets and you cheap out on the viewers. It’s like milk and cereal, or a fine driver in a excellent race car at a great track, you need it all for it to be complete.

pretty good guest you have for star trek 09, Giachchino is great to listen to when he talks about scoring for films

What a fascinating interview. I had no idea Stuart Baird was like that with the cast. hmm

After doing the TNG TV series and movies, Paramount should have chosen a director (and provided the $$) who would of respected Patrick Stewart. He and the cast did not deserve to finish on the terms they did.

If Stewart wanted to succeed or screw things up because he felt the character(s) should have been portrayed differently, then so be it.

Riveting interview. Special thanks to the man in purple who interviewed Mr Zimmerman.


I believe the conflict came from Stuart Baird who wanted a new direction vs the casts established positioning eg. where characters sat/stood. Also his stupid decision to cut out Data and Picards wine toasts which would have resonated at the end when SPOILER Data died and they toast Data one last time.

I think Stuart did the best he can considering his only other movie was Executive Decision? The problem as you can see was simply a aging crew trying to do action instead of sticking to what made TNG so good and that was exploring space and the human condition. You can get what you pay for, paramount was investing 75mil into TNG films at best?

If you are going to make a sci fi movie, go big or go home. If say Paramount gave the flagpole treatment they did with ST09 to TNG, TNG would have fared better than it did at the box office.

Imagine a epic sci fi story about humanity and exploration, with a fantastic A plus director and creative minds that wow us with sci fi set pieces and special effects.

We are so lucky to have JJ/Orci/Alex/Lind etc. as the new masters to Trek.

Everything is fresh and they have gained so many new Trek fans because of ST09.
Zimmerman got stale and so did Berman and the cast, it was like watching and smelling a retirement home.

Kinda sad how Best of Both Worlds episodes and All Good Things… was 1000x times better than the garbage they put on the big screen, except for maybe First Contact which was good.

Zimmerman was great. He was a million times better than the stuff they did for JJTrek like the iBridge or Beer factory engineering. I agree with him JJ moves the camera far too much to let the set designs actually sink in. I suppose it has to do with the ADD generation always wanting things too fast and to look cool.

Oh, I agree the audio levels were terrible. A lot of mumbling going on there.

Well I stand by my feeling that everthing I watched of ST where Berman was in the credits was genius. The only ep. I found questionable was the last episode of Enterprise. It was fun and all to see Troi and Riker back in action, but it felt as if the original Ent cast was … forgotten, not real, something.

ST Future Begins is awesome, but personally I dont like the new Enterprise shape, not to mention the pulse phasers, and engineering. The thing that made ST FB great was the new cast. Also, the next enemy ship should have clear cut shaping, the Scimitar and Narada are too exotic in terms of shapes.

As Nemesis was touted as the last next generation film regardless of critical and finanical sucess, they really should have gone with a big epic ‘Q’ story imo as to me Q is more synonymous with TNG then that of the Romulans. I’ve always thought that NEM having a romulan plot line was mirroring TUC featuring a Klingon story, Klingons being synonymous with TOS crew and both films knowingly being the last adventure for both crews I mean, yeah, the Romulans featured in a lot of TNG but they weren’t as exculsive.They started with Q and should have ended with Q (again) If FC hadn’t be a Borg movie and VOY hadn’t pinched them then a Borg film would have been a good bowing out for them also. That said, perhaps they should have just stopped TNG at FC and gave DS9 and VOY a shot at the big screen.

So Giaccino is the next interview huh? Could someone please ask him if he understands/agrees with various award shows giving him nominations/awards for his scores in the movie “UP” instead of Star Trek?

Seems to me his music was far more sophisticated and emotionally provocative in ST.

I saw bring back Q and the Borg in the next movie, or TV show (please CBS please!)


Nope. “Up” was the supremely better score. That’s why it won an Oscar and a Golden Globe.

# 17 Johnny and # 27 somethoughts:

The borgified Narada is not canon. With all the canon information, the Narada fire ordonary Romulan Rockets. Of course 24th century weapons would do great damage on 23rd century ship. And the size of the Alternate-Enterprise doesn’t really matter, nor does the Narada’s size (oil tankers are bigger as aircraft carriers. Gues who would win?). The Narada rockets could even be shot down by the Enterprise’s phaser-cannons. Enterprise-E would have easily handeld the Narada and destroyed it (it’s still a mining ship, not a warship). So, the Scimitar would have destroyed Nero’s Narada within seconds, because it even could fire in cloaked-mode. The use of the Thalaran-weapon wouldn’t be needed. Narada is no match for Scimitar – in no way.

So much from Captain Rickover, the starship-nerd.

And about Nemesis: It isn’t so bad, but for 2002-movie it was really outdated. The movie was too static, too slow and every surprise-moment was foreshadowed too soon (beside all the stuipid stuff like the useless turtle-face-aliens). I guess it would have been cooler, if Paramount and Berman would have hired a younger director and not such an old stubborn one as Baird. I dare say, even Frakes would have been the wrong director for Nemesis.

I was disappointed with the Scimitar’s interior design. All those steps? Really, in a warship, would that be a good idea? Star Trek’s bridge designs always made a certain amount of ergonomic sense – to the point where various militaries have even taken some of the ideas and applied them in the real world. For that reason, I think it would’ve been nice to revisit the TOS Romulan Bird of Prey bridge design from Balance of Terror for Nemesis.

The Picard/Shinzon and Riker/Reman Viceroy fights were much more satisfying to watch than any of the fights in Star Trek (2009).

The fight between Kirk and Nero was pointless and anticlimactic. A wasted opportunity for an amazing and action-packed fight which would have made Kirk’s triumph at the end all the more emotional and uplifting. He didn’t seem to care about avenging his father. After shooting Ayel, it would have been good to have done something similar to Get Carter (2000) and Star Trek: Nemesis (2002). In Get Carter, Sylvester Stallone has a vicious fight with Mickey Rourke, losing at first only to find him on the dancefloor, say the classic line “You should finish what you start” and beat Rourke to a pulp in front of everyone. They should have had Kirk go to the Narada bridge like Picard went to the Scimitar bridge and shot the remaining Romulan henchmen before fighting and overpowering Nero.

I hope that J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman will improve on this in Star Trek 12.

In the Enterprise ep in a Mirror Darkly we do get to see what happens when a 23rd century Vessel like the U.S.S Defiant fires on a Nx Class Ship and other Ships from the 22nd century. Just like the Narada being in the 24th firing on the U.S.S Kelvin. Not much of a match. Now when the Enterprise took on the narada almost the same but the Big E had better Shields and Weapens. That is why after the first volly from the Narada the Enterprise shilds were at 30%.

Nemises was a good Movie But it should have been a lot better. I agree that a better Director and Writer should have been brought in and let loose. The Clone Story was to close to Star Wars Attack of the Clones. I think if Frakes had been allowed to Direct or dare I say J.J Abrams then nemises would have been a lot better.


It is SOFT canon

AS for your size comparison, the Narada was 5 miles long (or 8,047 Meters), while the Enterprise-E was about 685 meters long. I have yet to see a fuel tanker that is about 14 times longer than an aircraft carrier and much taller.

And I have yet to see a fuel tanker that well armed or with that much empty space inside.


Except that was a battleship not a modified mining ship.

Picard and the Enterprise-D crew look pensive as they deal with an incoming Romulan warbird.

Picard: Raise shields, and my aren’t these scones delicious! (passes plate of snacks around the bridge command table.)

Riker: Yes, I’m glad you have them on Tuesdays at the morning meeting. Lock phasers, Ensign.

Worf: No prune danish… again!

Troi: I’m sensing increased tension on the ship, Captain. Maybe we should have a conference call.

Data: The warbird is firing. Now, if you’ll all check the handout Geordi and I have prepared, you’ll see where we’re wasting time and energy that could go to the shields, and —


*end of series*

The TNG design succeeded in saying that more advanced technology would be less in-your-face. There are fewer control panels because the computer is smarter. They went backwards from this idea with subsequent bridges so there would be more blinking and beeping, switches, lights, and knobs (to paraphrase Shatner’s great scene in Airplane II). Why does the Voyager bridge look more complicated than the bridge of the Enterprise? Doesn’t really make sense.

Nemesis: Really good script – flat direction – better film than people assume.

Zimmerman Vs. JJ: Yes, Zimmerman’s designs were better than what a whole team came up w. for ST-2009.

I still want to know how Baird even got hired, was he having lunch at the same restaurant and Rick Berman was, so they bumped into each other and that’s how he got the job. Would have been a lot better if Jonathan Frakes or LeVar Burton was at the helm.

I do like what Scott Chambliss did with the new film, but have to agree we need to see more of it in the next film.

As for next week, Giacchino at ST09, that would be an AWESOME birthday present if I could be there (his work on that film was the best any composer has done for Trek since Goldsmith on TMP).