Our last San Diego Comic-Con interview is an extensive, exclusive discussion with Neville Page, creature designer for the three Kelvin-era Star Trek films and the upcoming CBS All Access series Star Trek:Discovery. In the video interview below, Page describes his artistic process, the challenge of updating iconic designs, his favorite creature from the Kelvin films, and more.
Challenge of evolving Star Trek designs
Neville talked about the challenges he faced when he took on the Star Trek feature films:
The challenge has always been trying to do what the director wants and desires and be responsible for their vision, but because it is Star Trek, you are also trying to do what you can anticipate what the fans want. It is not that they are opposing, but they are ever so slightly different. The fans often want what they know so well and a director’s job and a producer’s job is to try and take it to the next level and evolve it a bit.
The impetus for updating the look of the Klingons came from Bryan Fuller:
Bryan Fuller, at the beginning of all of this, he set the tone and trajectory for what we’re doing with the Klingons. And like it or hate it ( I personally love it), he planted the seed for some ideas that I thought, “let me run with that.
Page is mindful of the strong sense of ownership fans feel for Star Trek, and how involved they were in creating parts of the mythology:
As it evolved with the fans, they refined the backstory, particularly with the Klingons. The Klingons are such a complex, well thought out race, and it’s not because the writers originally wrote it that way, it’s because the fans built upon that base. That’s where you realize that the audience owns a portion of this themselves.
He also got into detail regarding how modern film making is part of the driver in evolving designs:
As you evolve something you have to accept that it needs to be updated, whether it is with new makeup techniques or materials – silicone versus latex, for example. Digital and film is now high res and 4K changes everything, because now you can see everything, the detail. So you have to change your approach to the techniques that you have so all of that adds up to stuff just needs to evolve.
Listening to the fans
With regards to fan reactions to the Klingon designs seen for Star Trek: Discovery, Page says they are listening:
Strong opinions are what actually help things evolve…it inspires us creators of these types of shows to really, really pay attention to what the needs are and what the hopes are and address it as best we can…everyone that’s worked on Discovery has done such a phenomenal job of really walking that fine line of canon, evolution and expectation.
He also talked about the process the team have taken:
The end resulting designs that we have are the end result of a bunch of people working on it and also paying attention to the franchise…I am a Trekkie enough so that if detached from this production or any of them, I have the same expectations as everyone else. I want stuff to be like a Klingon, but maybe spiced up a bit. I have the same expectation. And everyone on the show is a Trekkie in that regard. We all want the same thing.
Why is ‘Big Red’ red?
When asked about his favorite creatures for Trek, Page first talked about how his approach (and that of producer/director J.J. Abrams) requires a reason:
Everything is justified…and it is because of the way [director] J.J. [Abrams] and I like to work and is that everything must make sense. The creature needs to have a purpose. The creature needs to have a motivation. So I treat all my characters and creatures the same way an actor reads a script knowing that the character has to have a reason for doing something.
Specifically he pointed to “Big Red”, or the Hengrauggi creature Kirk encountered on Delta Vega in the 2009 Star Trek film as one of his favorites. And it apparently did have a reason for being red.
It seems incongruous for a predator in the snow to be so exposed. It is an apex predator, but it is not a surface-dwelling creature at all, it is an underwater creature. And if you look at Humboldt Squid and other deep sea creatures, the ones that are the most proprietorial or the ones that want to not be eaten, are red. And the reason why is that red is the first color that drops off the spectrum in the ocean. So red was a choice that worked as a nice stark contrast against the white snow, but it has a biological justification.
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And this article wraps up all of our coverage for San Diego Comic-Con 2017, just in time for our coverage of Star Trek: Las Vegas, which begins tomorrow.