Wheaton Recalls Exploring The Enterprise Set

By Christian
June 29, 2005 - 4:07 PM

Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher) yesterday revealed that when he was still working on The Next Generation, he was as big a Star Trek geek as any fan ever was.

"From 1987 to 1989, I spent about fifteen thousand hours up in the art department, asking Mike Okuda and Rick Sternbach questions just like yours, because I wanted to make the technology on TNG as real as possible," Wheaton said in a Q&A with Slashdot visitors, answering a long question about the design process of the Enterprise-D sets. "If you'd asked me at the time, I would have sworn that it was because I was so dedicated to making the show as good as it could be... but the truth is, I did it because I was a geek, and it was super fun to hang out with really smart and talented futurists who didn't treat me like the idiot teenager I was."

Wheaton said that the ship was designed not only to look cool on television, but also to fit within a logical structure. "For example, I remember Mike telling me that the Enterprise computer system was all about the software, so the design could very logically be the same, even if the consoles were supposed to do very different functions, with the same style and color scheme all over the place. This was also financially prudent, because the art department could quickly duplicate the same series of buttons if they ever needed to. According to the writer's bible, the LCARS always knew who was talking to it, and what functions that person usually needed. The idea was that Geordi would usually need engineering functions available to him, so the LCARS would wake up wherever he was, and the keys would reconfigure themselves appropriately. Wherever Wesley went, he'd get access to /usr/bin/outsmartthegrownups and /usr/lib/dialogue/stupid."

The actor remarked that the LCARS concept ended up being prophetic, as many of these functions would be technologically possible today. But Wheaton also admitted that the sets were also filled with many in-jokes, such as a schematic showing a hamster wheel instead of the main engines, and indicating the ship had only two rest rooms. At least for his own character, Wheaton revealed he always tried to remain as consistent as possible. "If you watch any TNG episodes where I send the ship to warp speed, you will notice that I always use the same series of commands," Wheaton said. "I don't know if anyone else cared about it as much as I did, but because I was such a huge geek, it brought a "playing cowboys and indians" element to my job. When I went to Star Trek: The Experience in 2001, which I recounted in Dancing Barefoot, one of the first things I looked for was my initials on the security panel, and some other inside jokes on the science stations. After confirming that they were there, I sat in the CONN, and sent the Enterprise to warp 6, using the same series of commands I'd used for years on the show. It was pretty cool."

In the remainder of the interview, Wheaton answered questions about doing voice-over work for cartoons, the effect of movie piracy on actors, and what kind of movie he would make, if given enough money. But he also talked about the cancellation of Enterprise. "I know this will be unpopular, but I think it was time for Enterprise to go," Wheaton said. "I also think that it's time for The Simpsons to go, and I thought that even Seinfeld went on about 12 episodes too long. I'm a firm believer leaving the audience wanting more. [...] I think that a break from being in production will give the next generation (har. har. har.) of Star Trek creators an opportunity to get some perspective on Star Trek, and let whatever the next thing is return to what made Star Trek so great: Captains who bang green chicks in mini-skirts."

For the full interview, follow this link to Slashdot. More information on Wheaton can be found on his official web site, Wil Wheaton Dot Net, where he also recently revealed he will be an official participant in the World Series of Poker event.

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