Designing Star Trek With Picard’s Dave Blass

Star Trek has inspired throngs of people to serve in the military, become astronauts, take up STEM careers, recognize a general sense of duty within, and just dream bigger in whatever their enterprise may be. But in order for any star treks to occur, the universe its stories inhabit has to be built… literally. The guy currently tasked with the tall order of making the 25th Century come to life is Production Designer David Blass.

Star Trek is an international icon as much as it is an entertainment franchise. For many, it represents far more than just another science fiction show. With the better part of thousands of hours of screen time spanning over five-and-a-half decades, one could argue it is the granddaddy of medium-spanning interconnected entertainment ‘universes.’ Now, after a long hiatus, Star Trek is back in force via streaming with multiple shows running at once, but the one that is getting all the buzz at this moment is the highly anticipated third and final season of Star Trek: Picard. And rightfully so. It’s the long-awaited — or more like dreamed of for many fans — reunion of The Next Generation (TNG) crew, and so far it has been very well received.

The beloved TNG crew is back after a twenty-year stretch in Star Trek: Picard‘s third and final season. (Paramount)

While the truly legendary cast, as well as some colorful newcomers and other familiar faces, are the stars, the year 2401 setting — with all its future tech, new starships, and cool outfits — is the other star of the show. This is where David Blass has stepped in and has realized a lifelong dream of his own in doing so. His job is no small undertaking or without its risks and pressures. He has a massive fandom to satisfy, which knows every morsel of past Star Trek canon and lore, as well as the casual viewer. Beyond that, one could argue that this isn’t just another season of TV, it’s more of a cultural event for all those who grew up yearning to be part of the Enterprise-D’s bridge crew.

With our own stage now set, let’s get into The War Zone’s wide-ranging exchange with Blass, discussing everything from how he brought it all together — from new starships to transporter rooms — to what Trek can still mean and the impact it can still have so many years after its debut.

Red Alert! Spoilers lie ahead:

Let’s start at the beginning. What was your level of interest in Star Trek before joining Picard? How has Star Trek impacted your life leading up to that point?

“As a lifetime Star Trek fan my goal in coming to Hollywood was to work on Star Trek, so to say it was an important project is an understatement.”

Can you explain to our readers what exactly production design is?

“The Production Designer is the person who brings a script to life. We start with the words on the page and then it falls on me and my team to figure out the best way to create what’s written on the page.” 

“In a hospital drama, we would find a hospital Location to go shoot at, or we would design and build the hospital on a studio soundstage. In the world of Star Trek I work with the ‘shooting crew’ to design the ship sets that the actors work on, I work with the VFX team that creates the visual effect ships, and coordinate all departments from props to set dressing to make sure that everything looks properly [curated] and that the director/producers are getting the set that they want.”

What was your basic reaction when you learned The Next Generation (TNG) cast was reuniting for season three? Clearly this was going to raise the stakes for all involved, including production design, right?

“When we found out that they were bringing the whole cast back it really upped the intensity of everything. We knew we were creating a legacy product that would be judged even more.  Picard seasons one and two stood on their own as an offshoot to The Next Generation, similar to Voyager or DS9. This would be more like another TNG movie, and we all wanted to give these characters the send-off they deserved.”

The cast of season three of Picard is a reunion of epic proportions. (Paramount)

The Boys, which is fantastic by the way, was an entirely new live-action world that needed to be created from comic book source material. Star Trek is a very different animal. The fictional and semi-fictional technological and design elements that underpin it are such a big deal to so many fans. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that those elements may be the biggest star of the show for many Star Trek aficionados. It’s an entirely unique technological universe. Taking on the role to carry that forward had to come with some serious pressure. Can you give us an idea of what that has been like?

“I would tell my team that we are not doing a ‘fantasy show’ or a ‘science fiction show,’ we are doing a historical drama that takes place in the future. What I mean by this was that it requires the same research that you would do with a WWII film. The details have to be right as the fan base is similar. You can’t just put the character in any car, it has to be the right period car with the period-appropriate license plate and details. The information is out there, it has to be researched.” 

“That was the starting point. From there we moved onto the theoretical world of how do we enhance things and bring them 20 years into the future from what we had seen in Star Trek: Nemesis.”

A lot has changed since Nemesis over two decades ago, in terms of Hollywood magic and the characters themselves, as well as the universe they inhabit. (Paramount)

Your team had a very unique challenge, building a universe that has to keep some continuity with hundreds of hours of canon that came before it, with a show taking place a couple decades beyond anything else in live action from that universe (aside from Discovery’s huge time jump of course). The last installment prior to Picard was Star Trek: Nemesis 20 years ago. How did you go about envisioning what the 25th Century looks like in this expansive but deeply rooted fictional galaxy?

“The real trick with Star Trek is balancing expectations and technology. When TNG was on, Picard had this clunky clamshell-looking desktop computer with a square screen. That was supposed to be 400 years in the future and now that is incredibly dated. Things like iPads were not [a] reality in the TNG era, now every six-year-old has one. The biggest challenge is creating technology that doesn’t overpower the story and yet allows the characters to get information across. And, do it for a budget that we could afford. The idea of floating holograms everywhere quickly became a budget issue. So we had to be creative. Hard to create the ‘new’ tricorder when our smartphones are far more tech-savvy than anything Spock ever carried.”

Did the off-screen story of the Federation up until this point — basically the unseen last two decades or so — influence those choices?

“It’s hard to tell too much in backstory as it then makes things that aren’t the story… the story.  Worldbuilding for a 22 episode series is much different than doing it for a 10 episode series that you know is coming to an end.” 

“A scene has people walking off a transporter pad. Well we know Transporter tech has evolved.  We now regularly ‘beam directly to the bridge,’ so you can transport someone from somewhere without a transporter pad to somewhere without a transporter pad. We have transporter arches, why the heck do you need a whole room and giant pads for people to stand on? Because that’s what people expect.” 

“So as far as the evolution of Starfleet and the wars, we addressed it a bit with the ships. Why would you have 100 of the same type of starship? Well it makes sense if your fleetyard got blown up and there were potential threats that you would pump out a bunch of the same ships as it would be faster. These ships could reuse parts from each other so the redundancy makes sense.  But that story isn’t told on screen, so you just get lots of question and a lot of opinions that spiral around the internet. Fans like the idea of Starfleet being a peaceful science-based exploring world. But they also like phasers and ship battles, so it’s a challenge to wrangle both.”

Starfleet is a quasi military-scientific-diplomatic organization, but it certainly has direct parallels to military service above all else in its structure and execution. This is probably even more true with the current state of the Federation and Starfleet as seen in Picard. How did the military — everything from ships and other vehicles to uniforms and props — influence your production design on Picard?

“I always liked the military aspect of Star Trek. There were orders and you had to follow them or you could die. Our heroes often didn’t and that created much needed conflict, but I don’t think you can go into space and do what these folks do without the military aspect.” 

“I think it’s the balance between science and military that is the key element to balance.  Science has always been the pawns of the military as David Marcus said, and I think that is true. The audience always likes a good space battle, but I think it’s the search for hope and new civilizations that really needs to be at the core of any Star Trek episode.”

It seems that there have been roughly eight ‘generations’ of Star Trek production design. The original series, the motion picture era, and then The Next Generation. Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and The Next Generation films shared much with The Next Generation the show but they had their own combined twist on the visual ‘language’ of Star Trek. Then Enterprise, the Abrams Star Trek universe, Discovery, and now Picard. How would you sum up your overall design concept? Your unique twist on the franchise — the feel, look, and overall ‘texture’ of 25th Century Star Trek as seen in Picard?

“I wouldn’t say there were eight generations really. I mean the original series for sure stands on it’s own. Then you get into the TOS (The Original Series) era films. There is a flow from Star Trek two to six for sure, but I think Star Trek The Motion Picture is really a bit off on its own. The uniforms, the tone, the whole thing changed when Wrath Of Khan came in. Then you get to the TNG era and Herman Zimmerman and Richard James really did all of the series and films for that era from TNG, to Voyager, DS9 and EnterpriseEnterprise had a different feeling but so did DS9, but the design aesthetic was very similar across the board and they had most of the same team working from one show to another for over 10 years.” 

Star Trek has seen major updates over its decades-long legacy. Here we see the bridge and the Enterprise crew in Star Trek: Wrath Of Khan. (Paramount)

“Then you get a break to the JJ Abrams films and what Scott Chamblis did which was completely different than what had been done before. Those three films really stand alone, then you get into the Discovery, Picard, Strange New Worlds era. I think all three shows are different, but because they are all under the Secret Hideout banner there is an overall ‘feel’ that they have that is driven by the company.” 

“They are a bit darker, more gloss and more intense. Integrated lighting is now a huge deal.  LED Technology has been a game changer. My design aesthetic is to evolve what had been done before. If I have done my job it looks like our characters are walking around on sets similar to what we are used to them being on and there is nothing that takes you out of the world. There are too many people trying to put their ‘stamp’ on Star Trek. My stamp was to evolve what had been done before and not draw attention to the sets.”

Star Trek: Picard and its sister shows certainly have their own unique ‘texture’ with far more moody lighting and a blingy vibe. (Paramount)

You and showrunner Terry Matalas are very active on Twitter. It is engagement with the fan base to a degree unlike I have ever seen for a show like this. From those exchanges, it seems clear you have come up with little backstories for virtually every design choice to justify it in your own mind and to align it with existing canon. How do you go about that process, which seems bewildering considering there are so many small details in this show?

“Star Trek has a very unique fan base. They love the details and they love the tech. I would tell the cinematographers that there aren’t any books on the lighting of Star Trek, but there are hundreds on the starships, so let’s make sure to give the fans what they want.” 

“It’s important to interact with the fans as it gives you a chance to add footnotes to the work.  Tolkien had entire appendixes for the Lord Of The Rings, because there was always more depth to add. Interacting with fans gives you time to address issues before they become complaints. I had a whole post ready for the first time we saw the USS Stargazer to address the ‘viewscreen vs window’ debate. If you have it thought through, fans will, for the most part, accept it. But if you don’t interact and let them know you are hearing them it becomes an echo chamber for their irritation.”

“It’s a hard thing to wrangle and not getting frustrated. But it’s worth it when the fans get that you are trying to create the best version of Trek and understand their concerns.”

How does modern filming technology like ultra-high definition cameras and massive background screen projection, similar to The Volume, have to be factored into your design choices?

“Everyone talks about how 4k impacts, but really it was HD that made the difference. You see it and people notice. It’s more the streaming and people having computers where they can freeze-frame and pick out details. Gone are the days of the VHS pause lines. Fans can get crystal clear images off their HD feeds. So we’ve known for years that you can’t do the little jokes on the capsule labels on the set like they used to. Now fans will see it. They catch spelling mistakes and everything.” 

“The 4k makes VFX harder as you are rendering at a much higher rate and with things like The Volume, that becomes a huge deal as it takes MUCH longer to create/render assets to put on the screen. Everything has to be done before you shoot unlike green screen which then just pushes the problem down the road.” 

“The biggest issue with The Volume is it means you have to start designing 10 weeks prior to shooting to have those assets ready. That means the script has to be done 12 weeks prior to shooting. It’s a huge shift, as often on shows, scripts are written days before shooting. It’s a game changer for sure.”

What actually goes into the production design of such an ornate sci-fi show like this? Can you give us a basic idea of the process, timelines, and the personnel involved?

“That’s a bit of a book of a question. It starts with the script. What is the story? For example, the show starts on the SS Eleos, a retired medical vessel run by Beverly Crusher. We needed to determine what the era of the ship was? What did ships from that era look like? A ton of research and then we use those things as a starting point.”

“In this instance, we had the complication that we were still shooting season two of Picard, so then comes the logistics. I need to build a spaceship interior. Where do I have space? Ok… well I have Soong’s basement lab, and Kore’s apartment that we are just finishing up [sets from season two]. That’s the only space I have. Ok, so we have to build it there.” 

“Next, how much time do I have and how much money? Then you open up a big bag of creativity and figure out how to turn a funky apartment into a spaceship and hope the audience doesn’t notice. The idea of turning one thing into something else is a thing. Some people just get it. They can walk into the irrigation section of Home Depot and just grab a bunch of stuff and turn it into some cool sci-fi prop. It was like that every day.”

What new technologies have been brought to bear that allow you to do things that were more or less impossible 20 years ago when Nemesis hit theaters, or maybe even impossible just a few years ago? Which ones have been the most exciting for you to deploy?

“The innovations in 3D have truly been a paradigm shift in the design world. The ability to create a set in the computer and do virtual walk-throughs of the set and then send those files [to] both the VFX and the construction team is amazing. It was a lifesaver as much of the design work on Picard was done during the height of the pandemic with everyone working from home. We had to share files and do Zoom meetings with the director and cinematographers, show them what we were creating, get their notes, make changes and share models and such with a whole team all separated. Can you imagine doing that with pencil-drawn blueprints and white foam-core models?”   

“Now with Unreal Engine and The Volume wall you are designing not just the set, but the virtual models as well. It’s all very exciting and with AI rearing its head, that will be another game changer.”

Easter eggs! Season 3 of Picard is like the Cadbury factory. What goes into coming up with all these callbacks? How do you choose what makes the cut? What about which ones get positioned directly in front of the viewer and which appear in just a frame or two or far in the background? Is there a Star Trek Picard easter egg committee or something to handle this great undertaking?

“The easter eggs have gotten a huge spotlight on them, only because it’s an easy marketing tool, and fans seem to love them. In reality, I just look at it like historical artifacts. If any of us look around our homes, we have items from our past. A trophy we had as a kid, a painting that was done by a friend, a piece of furniture we’ve moved to a couple apartments because we like it or are too lazy to get another. They are part of our past and when we created [Picard’s] chateau it was about Picard’s place where he was resting from his adventures and we just put the stuff he would have brought back and unpacked it.” 

“He always had the Shakespeare books in his ready room, why would they not be in his library?  He kept the Mintakan tapestry on his chair in his office, why would he toss it? It becomes an easter egg because fans notice it. When we were doing his chateau and we were seeing ‘young Picard,’ I thought it would be fun to show his ship in a bottle as he referenced building them as a kid.”

Is that an ‘easter egg’ or a piece of the character’s history, I don’t know, but fans like them.  When we get to the Daystrom Vault, it was a repository of all of Section 31’s crazy stuff. Some items like the Genesis Torpedo, the Tribbles, and the remains of Captain Kirk were in the script, and we just went into Trek’s past to find other interesting items that they might have stored there. In the script and in shooting they walked down a ton of hallways so we had to have like 40 different doors, so we just went with it.” 

“The ones in the script are seen, the others go to the background. Usually, I just create the sandbox and then the director and shooting team come in and decide where to put the camera. I don’t always know what they point the camera at till later.” 

“In Season two they did a trailer and focused on the ‘Reckoning Tablet’ that we had added in the background of the set as just a cool piece of history. When the trailer came out, as it was highlighted fans went down this whole rabbit hole of what it meant and how it was central to the whole plot of the season. Then it was barely seen in the series itself.”

Is there cross-talk between production designers from all the currently airing Trek shows — Strange New Worlds, Discovery, Lower Decks and Picard? Is there some sort of working group there to deconflict so much canon and visual detail and share best practices?

“Not really and I wish there was more. Picard is done in Los Angeles, Discovery and Strange New Worlds are in Toronto and the animated shows are done… wherever.  Back in the TNG days it was all in one corner of the Paramount lot with everyone in the same area and using the same folks. I would love to have that again.”

All this work included everyone’s favorite element for a galaxy-spanning show of this genre and especially Trek — starships. This has to be the hardest area to please all fans in terms of production design. It also has to be the most fun. It seemed like there was some criticism about this from season one and now your team has gone all out in the opposite direction, putting great detail into new starship classes, and many of them. What was the process like coming up with the ships that would fill out this new era? 

“Season one ended with the Zheng He fleet showing up to do battle with a Romulan fleet. Both sides had a ton of nearly identical ships and fans didn’t like it. I wasn’t involved but I understand the budget and time issues they were dealing with. When I took over season two, I set out to solve that. I still had to deal with the issues of time and money and you just have to find a way around that. The best solution at that time was a partnership with the Star Trek Online game that already had dozens of cool ships that ‘existed’ in the Picard era, and were designed by people who really know Star Trek. It wasn’t a bunch of random spaceships, these were amazing designs or, in some cases, upgraded designs that fans already liked, and we had a synergy opportunity that would solve a bunch of problems. That way we could focus on the USS Stargazer, the new USS Excelsior, and the Borg Queen’s ship.” 

“You never have enough time and money to do what you want, which is why they constantly re-used ships and shots in the TNG era as well.”

USS Titan-A is the hero ship of season three of Picard. There has been a bit of nerd controversy over how it came to be and why. Can you set the record straight and give us the definitive backstory of how this hybrid refit-new build hero ship was settled upon and why Riker’s Titan, the Luna class ship, was not used? Basically, how was Titan-A born?

“When we were getting ready to do season three, Terry said he wanted a new ship and we were going with the USS Titan. He had seen Bill Krause’s design and wanted to see it with the USS Stargazer-style nacelles. He felt that there should be some continuity there. So we did a mockup, and he loved it.” 

“We had weeks, not months to get things ready, so we moved from there quickly as the graphics and tech for all of the screens had to be built and programed to be ready for a long season of shooting. Add to that we had to create the Eleos, the Shrike, a new Space Dock and a ton of new sets. It’s an awesome design and I love that fans are enjoying it.”

Why was this design chosen over the Riker-era Titan? What changes were made to the original design?

The Titan is a Terry [showrunner Terry Matalas] deal and I support his decisions. My design approach was simple. I put a photo of Bill’s design next to a 1964 Ford GT40, and then put a 2006 Ford GT on the board. I said, the Constitution class, is this, I want the evolution of that.  And that’s what we delivered. A bit sleeker, a bit more powerful, but with similar lines that you could instantly recognize. I didn’t want to change it to be a Lamborghini or Ferrari, I wanted a Ford GT so it felt like an evolution. I think the team took those marching orders and did a great job with it.

Does Titan-A have a unique starship sound?

“Good question. No clue. I am sure it does as Terry is very meticulous.”

What about the villain Vadic’s ship? What was the inspiration for its design?

“Terry said he wanted a ‘predator’ ship — something that you instantly looked at it and knew it was the bad guy and also one that you wanted to buy the model and put it on your desk. It had to be badass… but really what does that mean?”

“Then you start designing and it has to ‘feel’ like Star Trek, and not some generic ship. It can’t feel like a Star Wars or a Babylon 5 ship. So you start playing around and coming up with concepts. We had every designer who works with us and then a bunch of others take a crack at it. Finally we had Darek Zabrocki come up with something that we liked. That was given to Doug Drexler who then worked with that adding some more aggressive details. Gil Hibben makes some amazing knives and a few have been used in Star Trek. He has a knife called ‘The Widow’ that I loved the shape of. We combined Darek’s ships with Gil’s knife and Drexler’s magic and came up with something cool.”

Only second to the ships are the bridges. People really feel remarkably tied to these sets and they have been very different over the years. For instance, the Enterprise D was a huge departure from bridge designs we saw in the original films, and those were a much higher-fidelity take on The Original Series bridge. They are literally a grand stage unto themselves, aren’t they? What goes into designing a bridge set that will literally be the very heart of the ship and thus the show? 

“Bridges are a giant challenge in the new era as they need to do and be everything to everyone. They need to have enough integrated lighting to light the set, change moods, and facilitate any type of situation. They need to be big enough to allow for at least two wide-screen cameras to work and not see each other. That means bigger bridges.” 

“Then there needs to be the updated tech. In the TNG era, they created the iconic LCARS and “Okudagrams,” mainly because they couldn’t afford dozens of screens and the playback to put on them. No time, no money. So they created static displays that did the trick… and they completely worked because of the elegant design and functionality. But now viewers won’t accept a touch screen that doesn’t move because we all now have touch screens in our pockets and they move and do a ton of things. So the technology was key.” 

“We used the newest technology available with transparent OLED screens that are just a piece of glass with video playback on them. We also used curved screens and backlit projection to create these huge tech consoles on either side of the bridge that were a real challenge. The overall shape echoes the Enterprise D with swooping ramps and three command chairs. I keep waiting for that third person to show up and ask why Riker is sitting in their chair.”

The bridge of the USS Titan-A. (Paramount)

Which actor geeked out the most being on all of these Titan-A sets? Was there also one that was the most inquisitive about the reasoning behind the production design choices? Who is the biggest starship nerd out of the bunch?

“I think it was harder to impress people as they had all come from Star Trek: The Next Generation or other shows. How do you impress someone who was on the Enterprise D for almost a decade?” 

“I think probably Todd Stashwick [Captain Shaw] as he is a major nerd in real life and the idea of being captain of a starship is just every kid’s dream. Getting to walk onto the bridge of a starship in a uniform and sit in the captain’s chair, that was pretty special, and he was thrilled.”

What about crafting a battle in space? How do you take a script and figure out how to create the elements needed to convey action on this scale with all the right visual elements? And often in space environments that mankind has never even been in or seen before? Oh and it all actually has to fit together to make sense! 

“Whether it’s a spaceship or a car chase, it’s the same dynamic. You need to convey the idea of the story in the most exciting way possible. In space it’s easier to do cool panning moves and such, but if it distracts from the story or does something that costs too much — you have to keep it simple.” 

“It’s a dance of making sure the audience can follow the action, usually keeping the motion going in one direction or another and then telling the story in as few shots as possible, as each VFX shot costs money.”

What inspirations from cinema did you and the Picard production team use to create the feel of these major ship-on-ship engagements? Certainly some of the great submarine films played a role inspiring this season.

Crimson Tide and Master And Commander were big influences for this season. The ducking and hiding that the HMS Surprise did in Master And Commander was key to the battle of the Shrike and Titan, as was the obvious, Star Trek II: Wrath Of Khan.” 

“The VFX supervisor Jason Zimmerman and his team have pre-vis artists that create animatics which are like 3D moving sketches of ideas of how things can play out. You look at things and determine what looks best then move to the full render environment with clouds and lighting.  It’s a massive process.”

Some of the best and most celebrated Star Trek episodes had to do with the horrors of combat and how it affects people. We definitely saw this creep into this season with the fantastic, arguably spin-off ready, Captain Shaw character, where he recounted a tragic defining moment in his life — the notorious battle against the Borg at Wolf 359. What are your thoughts on how these issues not only can be dealt with uniquely in Star Trek, but also how production design can bring them to life?

“I think Shaw carries the brunt of the PTSD in this season, but it really shows across all the characters. All the adventures they have been through and all the times where they almost lost their lives. At some point, it catches up to you and I think there is that real feeling in episode four that this time they are done, there is no fancy way out of it. I think it’s important to recognize the older characters have given up a bit. It’s Jack and Seven that really motivate the push for survival and the desire not to give up.”

“I think Shaw’s arch is important to show not only his relationship with Picard, but his relationship with Seven of Nine and why there is a bit of tension there.  She wouldn’t be his ‘number one’ if he didn’t think she was right for the job, but clearly the Borg issue is something that he has difficulty getting over.”

Captain Shaw is a new spin-off-ready character that has a unique command style a lot of past trauma to sift through. (Paramount)

What about dealing with other military and national security issues, including those that mirror what’s happening in our world today? This has been a staple of Star Trek and sci-fi as a whole, but it seems like the franchise is more primed now than ever to confront these topics in a thoughtful manner and convey them in visually compelling ways.

“In season two we had a very unique situation where we were traveling back in time to our present day. It’s a classic Star Trek trope that they did in Star Trek IV and also in Voyager, but interestingly in the DS9 two-part episode ‘Past Tense,’ which aired in 1995, they come back to the year 2024 or basically our present-day.” 

“For them in 1995 it was 30 years in the somewhat dystopian future. There were areas of homeless encampments in the streets, whole city blocks covered with tents and homeless and fences keeping them in. These ‘Sanctuary Districts’ were a key point to the episode and it was after a riot in one of these districts that changes happened and people started to realize they needed to do better. Well, here we are in basically 2024 with a homeless crisis and parks in Los Angeles filled with homeless tents surrounded by fences. So Star Trek warned us and we didn’t do better. Season two addresses it a bit but doesn’t lean too heavily into it.” 

“I think people forget how political Star Trek was back in the 1960s and that carried into the ’90s. At its best, Star Trek holds a slightly warped mirror at ourselves so we can see a version of our problems in a science fiction allegory. It was easier to do in an episodic format as you could hit a topic, but didn’t need to wrap it into a lengthy story.”

What are three things you wish you could have done in terms of production design and what we saw as viewers this season but just couldn’t make it happen? 

“I wish we had more time to change crew quarters around. We had this great modular design with different windows. Some would be for the Upper part of the saucer with windows leaning out and another part angled back. We ended up in crew quarters of a bunch of people and didn’t have time to switch them out as much as I would have liked. You never have time.” 

“I would have loved to spend more time tweaking the Titan bridge to change out some elements from season two, but we had days, not weeks, so it just wasn’t possible.” 

“The biggest thing is I wish we weren’t in a pandemic. I brought the band back together as they say. We had Doug Drexler, Mike Okuda, John Eaves, Geoffrey Mandel, Jim Martin, and Dan Curry came back to design Worf’s new weapon… and everyone worked from home. We never had that whole group together in the same room, working together, sharing the energy and passion of Star Trek. I think that would have been amazing.”

Who else is doing sci-fi production design right on TV right now? What shows do you appreciate in this regard?

With the rise in streaming services in the last five to six years everyone is doing science fiction. There is so much of it out there, and even I can’t watch it all. Andrew Jones and Doug Chiang are doing groundbreaking work on The Mandalorian. The Volume alone is going to change how we all work and that one show was at the forefront of that.”

“Then you have Rory Cheyne’s work on Foundation which is stunning, and not getting enough credit. I liked Raised By Wolves and Westworld but HBO pulled both of them.” 

“Science fiction is expensive and I think we are seeing a big pullback from streaming services. They can’t keep spending that kind of money. The Design work on the other two Star Trek shows is also stunning. Jonathan Lee [production designer on Strange New Worlds] really did a beautiful job with translating the TOS era into the modern day. It’s so hard to take a classic and do anything with it. If you make it too slick people complain or if you make it look just like the old show people complain, but I think Jonathan nailed it.”

Finally, where are you warping off to next? Are we going to get more of this time and place in Star Trek’s future history from you and the Picard team? Is there a spin-off you think would be the most exciting for you to work on? Are we at least getting that technical manual you teased?

“It’s called show business for a reason. It’s a business, and right now we are looking at the potential of a massive writers guild strike, so there are not a ton of shows going into production because they don’t want to have huge soundstages filled with scenery and office spaces just sitting for months if the strike doesn’t work out. The last writers’ strike is what basically created the whole reality TV business, so it’s going to be a rough year for a lot of folks, especially coming out of the pandemic.” 

“So you hope the phone rings with anything at this point. I would love to do a technical manual and I have spoken to a bunch of the team about it. The team who did it on TNG had 88 episodes and four years together before theirs came out. That’s a ton of time to work on it as you go and compile diagrams and such. We have barely scratched the surface of the Titan, so it will continue to be a side passion project that I would love to complete.”

Contact the author:

Tyler Rogoway Avatar

Tyler Rogoway


Tyler’s passion is the study of military technology, strategy, and foreign policy and he has fostered a dominant voice on those topics in the defense media space. He was the creator of the hugely popular defense site Foxtrot Alpha before developing The War Zone.