Guest Blogger: John Eaves Recalls DS9

By John Eaves - January 07, 2011

It is hard to believe that Deep Space Nine is 18 years old. It seems like only yesterday that we were all working on the third television series with a Star Trek theme. StarTrek.com asked if I’d like to share some memories of getting into the DS9 art department, and it is such a pleasure to go back and revisit a fun time from long ago. 

It was 1992/1993 and I was just making the transition from the model shop to the art department when DS9 was in the works. My friend Phil Edgerly was working with production designer Herman Zimmerman on some side projects, and he set up a meeting between Herman and I. Herman had me bring in some movie miniatures and a handful of drawings from SeaQuest DSV to show him. Sadly, the art department was already full, but he told me he’d keep me in mind if anything changed and they needed somebody else. A year later, Herman needed some models and again Phil jumped in and reminded Herman about me, and I wound up doing a side job making a bunch of the Enterprise model kits for something Mr. Zimmerman had going with a Trek tour of some kind. A short time later, Herman called again and asked if I’d like to join the art department for the film Generations. I gave him a very big yes and my buddy Clark Schaffer, who was a model builder and incredible artist on the side, also got to join the team. It was a short but awesome job and then I went back to the model shop.

It wasn't too long after and the phone rang with another call from Herman, this one about an opening in the DS9 art department. Their illustrator, Jim Martin, was moving from TV to films and thus there was an empty chair. Herman asked if I’d like to join the DS9 art department for the beginning of the show’s fourth season. I was belt sanding a giant 747 model for the movie Executive Decision when he called and it was honestly a hard choice to say yes because I dearly loved working in the model shop. But it was evident that the CGI world was making the craft of movie miniatures obsolete. I had a long talk with my boss, Grant McCune (who unfortunately just passed away), and he made it easy for me by pushing me out the door as long as I would come back occasionally.

That led me to call Herman back and utter an even bigger “yes” than before. And it was off to Paramount Pictures. The art department there was a windowless cove upstairs adjacent to the Marathon Mill and plans were all set to move us to a new office built out of the old canvas and drapery loft directly above the mill. It was a busy time with all this going on, to be sure. The crew of the art department was a group of incredibly talented individuals headed by Herman Zimmerman and art director Randy McIlvane. Mike and Denise Okuda headed up the graphics department with Doug Drexler, Anthony Fredrickson and Jim Van Over as their graphics team. Fritz Zimmerman and Anthony Bro handled all the set design work, and Laura Richarz took on the set decoration, and myself and P.A. Berndt Heidemann handled all the concept art. It was a family that grew out of a shared fondness for Trek and we all became very close friends.

DS9, followed by Enterprise -- which was with all of the folks mentioned above -- was most fun I’ve had in my entire 25 years working in Hollywood. Great times. And it’s fun to look back at my so very amateur artistic skills from my first days there. I was so thankful Herman had given me the opportunity to be a part of the crew, and to grow and learn. Prop concepts for prop master Joe Longo were the main drive of my job duties, with an occasional spaceship, set or location sketch.

The episode "Far Beyond the Stars" was one of my favorites. For this installment, Commander Sisko gets taken back in time by the Founders to experience what it was like to be a black writer for a science fiction magazine in the racially discriminatory days of the 1950's. The editor of the magazine would bring in a folder of drawings and throw them on the table. The writers would then pick a drawing and the writers would compose a fantastical story about the sketch. Sisko gets a drawing of a space station that remarkably looks like a retro version of the DS9 station (which was drawn by Jim Van Over) and he proceeds to write the story of DS9 (and its black commander). Sisko gets beaten and shunned for his shocking tale and thus the lesson of the violent and discriminatory past is taught. He’s then brought back to the future, a far wiser man from the experience.

Creating the drawings for the folder was such a hoot and the experience of doodling 50's era art really started my passion for retro science fiction and the classic pin up art I often share here on StarTrek.com. For the season-seven episode "Penumbra," we needed a new attack ship for a race of aliens called the Breen. This was an extra special assignment because the architecture and shape of the ship was based on the letter "T," which was the first letter of my then-fiancé’s name, Tara. Doug Drexler made a massive skills jump from graphics to CG model maker with this ship, and what fun it was to watch him learn something new. And now he’s a master of CG modeling and animation with unlimited talent! Really, I have such great memories from the 90's and our wonderful series, DS9.

Here is a mish-mash of illustrations from DS9, including one of our art department Christmas cards. And now for what you all have really been waiting for… this month’s installment of the fabulous Red Dress Series. My friend Katy Awful is today’s lovely model and she did an awesome job of capturing the style with sleek and beautiful elegance. Katy has an incredible talent and passion for modeling, and working with her was such a pleasure. She really got into the part by doing research on 60's hairstyles from TOS and concocted quite a wicked “do” for the shoot. She also played location scout and found this cool desert location outside of Tucson to use as the backdrop. Be sure to keep your eyes open for more of Miss Katy in future posts.  

God Bless,

John Eaves

 

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