Trek Designer Wanted To Fly Sideways, See BathroomsBy Michelle
June 22, 2005 - 5:05 PM
Designer Andrew Probert, a production illustrator on Star Trek: The Motion Picture and consulting senior illustrator on Star Trek: The Next Generation, finds it curious that Star Trek "has this fixation of always showing everything heads-up" and would have liked to see the ships rotating or gliding sideways, but adds that there's almost nothing that he would change about the refurbished Enterprise from the first film.
"What we ended up with is a very good look, and apparently a lot of people agree with that," Probert told Trekplace. "I lengthened the ship to a thousand feet, just a few feet longer than it was, and enlarged the saucer, eventually adding an updated superstructure to the top and bottom of it. I came up with new photon torpedo tubes and redesigned the whole navigational deflector dish area, updated the impulse engine, and added phaser banks around the ship, visible for the first time, along with a reaction control thruster system to the ship -- those were there for the first time too, designing them in a way that the ship could operate as two independent entities, being the primary and secondary hulls, or as a combined Starship unit."
Probert worked on Star Trek: The Motion Picture with art director Richard Taylor, who asked him to design all the spacecraft for humanoids, so that there would be "a perceived visual continuity between all the hardware." Though he can speak fluently about Reaction Control System thrusters and secondary hull systems, he said that he had no notion of how the warp core of the ship was supposed to operate: "I was sort of fumbling for a way of showing how the power would work, and it didn't occur to me that the impulse engine would have its own reactor and its own independent systems."
After the developments on Next Gen, he added, the movie design "now seems kind of lame, because, while my thinking was that the antimatter would be in magnetic containment, centered around the keel at the bottom of the engineering hull, sending antimatter up into the chamber in the engine room, the shaft above the engine room really doesn't make sense, because I wasn't combining the antimatter with any particular matter...my thinking wasn't complete until [Rick] Sternbach came along."
Probert actually designed a rare Star Trek bathroom for Picard's ready room, but the producers opted to put in a food dispenser instead. "It gives a new meaning to 'eat and run' doesn't it?" he joked. He was also sorry that the crew of the Enterprise-D was never shown using bridge food dispensers that he specifically put in after watching Kirk and various other crewmembers drinking coffee and eating on the bridge in the prequel series. "Another thing they didn't use was the window at the top of the bridge. In the pilot episode, I especially thought that, since the two entities were rising above the Enterprise, Picard would have leaned back and looked up through the window to see them continue on above the Enterprise. And they never did any shots coming from that high window down into the bridge, which they could have done."
Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry told Probert personally that starship warp engines were meant to operate in pairs, "only in pairs because they're codependent. If you had one warp engine, you'd probably go in a circle, I don't know," he laughed. He is planning to write a book of designs in which he would like to correct some of the errors he says appeared in previous books about Star Trek history, and is currently working on a new line of model kits.
The full interview with illustrations on the technical points is at Trekplace.