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    Interview: Designer Doug Drexler Talks Illustrating ENTERPRISE and Responds to NX-01 Criticism

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    Posted: 07:02:46 on April 02 2002
    By: Steve Krutzler
    Dept: TrekWeb Features

    Written by Steve Krutzler

    Doug Drexler has been in the STAR TREK fold for quite some time, serving as scenic artist on DEEP SPACE NINE for seven years, but it wasn’t until Rick Berman and Brannon Braga wanted to travel back in time for the next TREK series that Drexler had the opportunity to fulfill a life-long dream: designing a new Starship Enterprise.

    The NX-01 was designed with an old P-38 Lightning in mind and it was Drexler’s unique experience with computer graphics that helped him land the job of designing TREK’s newest addition to the Enterprise family.

    ”Usually when our producers and production designer need to see something on a little more realistic scale they call on me, especially when they need to see a design in motion. If a device unfolds it's often hard for the director to visualize. I can build the item in the computer and animate it in action. The same is true for surface textures,” Drexler explained to TrekWeb. “In the past, a sketch had to suffice, something that can be interpreted many ways. Using the computer I can show our leaders what a surface looks like in three dimensions, in motion and with interactive light. It removes a lot of the guess work.”

    With the encouragement of Enterprise-E designer and friend John Eaves, Drexler interpreted the desires of Enterprise's producers to fashion the newest (and oldest) Starship Enterprise.

    “Because of my involvement with the design of the exterior and layout of the NX-01 with [production designer] Herman Zimmerman, Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, whenever a question has to do with the workings of the ship I usually take the call. How do the phase cannons or grappler work? Light Wave and I focus the producers’ desires,” Drexler says.

    We asked Doug about one of the more obvious continuances in the design from the NEXT GENERATION era – the blue and red nacelle coloration absent in Kirk’s era. “As a matter of fact, this is something that Gene Roddenberry wanted to do on the original series ship but they could not afford it; we had the opportunity to fulfill his original vision,” he says, defending the decision some fans have criticized as “too sophisticated” for this era starship.

    Drexler continues: ”What I would find offensive is if we went back and redid the effects on TOS and changed Kirk's ship's nacelles. Since no one has ever seen a ship from the NX era we felt a freedom to do this.”

    The designer also feels strongly that while there is an inevitable schism between the look of Kirk’s original Enterprise and the NX-01 due to the enormous advantage of contemporary techniques, the NX design still succeeds in conveying a more primitive feel: “The baby smooth surface of Kirk's ship, in my opinion, looks more advanced than the ironclad look of the NX-01.”

    In his capacity as Computer Graphics Artist/Illustrator, Drexler continues to design new starships for the series. “I fully built the Conestoga which was designed by John for Terra Nova, although it was only seen as a still image,” Drexler says, noting that currently the art department is still waiting for a script that calls for the design of other Starfleet vessels. He also contributes original sculpture for the series. “I sculpted the Zefram Cochrane in Archer's quarters and the Surak statue in ‘Fusion’.”

    The new Surak Class Vulcan ship, which has been featured prominently in several episodes, was a job that job fell to Doug. “I've always been in love with Matt Jefferies ring ship design which was never realized. I suggested it to Herman Zimmerman, Rick Berman and Brannon Braga and they liked it a lot. I just think it's great that the three alien vessels--Starfleet, Klingon and Vulcan—are all Jefferies thoroughbreds.”

    One starship that drew criticism from fans was the Klingon battle cruiser seen early on in the fifth episode, “Unexpected.” Many felt that this ship was merely a redress of the same Klingon design used since the days of THE MOTION PICTURE; some even went so far as to suggest the silliness of having the Klingons rely on the same starship design in the 22nd century as during Kirk’s era.

    ”The ship seen in the episode was not exactly the TOS ship, I've seen it up close. Let's face it, Klingon design evolution is being decided by what is presented on air, but disagreeing with the fact that the stealth bomber looks just like the Northop flying wing of 50 years ago doesn't make it any less true,” Drexler argues with regard to the issue.

    The STAR TREK COMMUNICATOR recently published a John Eaves drawing of a retro version of the Klingon ship, which has thusfar gone unused in the series. “I have no information on why the retro design wasn't realized for the show,” Drexler says, indicating that there’s no reason the producers might not decide to use it at some point.

    ”From a medium shot, John’s retro ship is not that distinguishable from the TOS ship. The model that was used in ‘Unexpecte’d (and hey, how about that outstanding Xyrillian ship?) was neither exactly like the TMP or the TOS ship although much closer to TOS, obviously. I personally was thrilled to see that old configuration again,” the designer continues.

    ”Enterprise does strive to be from a prequel standpoint (May I direct your attention to the Klingon ship in the episode Sleeping Dogs),” he explains. “But this does not mean that every design is going to be a radical departure.”

    Drexler says we only need look to the real world to explain why the Klingon ship might not have evolved significantly between ENTERPRISE and TOS. “Consider that the B-52 that are bombing Afghanistan are more than 50 years old with no significant change in geometry; the Pentagon plans to use the B-52 at least until 2043 and perhaps beyond. That's 100 years! It isn't true [that designs change enormously] in real life, why should it be on ENTERPRISE?”

    Rick Berman has stated in a recent interview that ENTERPRISE will have its first run-in with the Romulans within the year. “We haven't touched on that yet in the art department,” Drexler says, suggesting that at least for now, a new prequel-era Romulan warbird hasn’t been designed.

    Prequel Romulans or not, they’re already sure to show up in one place, though Drexler isn’t spoiling a thing about this fall’s STAR TREK: NEMESIS. “Officially I was not on the feature, but I was. I was involved with designing a pivotal device that is seen in two different scales and how it deploys. I had some involvement with the Scimitar [the villains super-warbird]. That's all you are getting out of me. Go to the movie and have fun. It's gonna be a good one!”

    © 2002 TrekWeb.com. All rights reserved.

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