John Eaves On Designing The Enterprise-E
January 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the conceptual stage of the U.S.S. Enterprise-E. Flashback to 1996 and Star Trek First Contact was ramping up to full production all across the Paramount Pictures lot. Meanwhile, back in the Deep Space Nine art department, we were serving double duty on both the television production and trying to get the look of the second Next Generation movie's architecture designed. Herman Zimmerman (the production designer) had received a beat sheet for the film several months earlier. In the beginning, the film’s title was Star Trek Resurrection. However, over at 20th Century Fox, the fourth Alien movie was being made… with the same name. It took several months to see which film would keep the title, but in the end Alien won out and our film was to be called First Contact.
Back to Herman and his beat sheet, which is a short draft of what the film will be about, with the script to be written from the high points mentioned. One of the first things the beat sheet referred to was a brand-new Enterprise. For a short while, the Enterprise-D was considered to be renamed the E, but as time went on the decision was made to design a new ship. This was probably back in October of 1995, and Herman and I talked about some drawings for one of the DS9 episodes. As he started to walk away, he said, "Hey, we're starting on the new film soon and we need a new Enterprise. So, why don't you start thinking about some new concepts?" I said, "Sure," but it took a few minutes to really sink in. When it did, I almost couldn't believe the task that had just landed on my desk...
I didn't sleep at all that night. I just laid there trying to think of ideas and concepts to put down on paper. For the next few days, I did a lot of doodling in between the DS9 drawings and I must have developed two dozen ideas that just didn't work.
Now, prior to working in the art department, I was a model maker and on many occasions we’d fix the D model when it got damaged. At one point we had to make a four-foot version of the ship. It was a tough model to work on and I remember that every time we had it on stage the cameramen would gripe because it was such a difficult model to shoot. They’d argue that there were only a couple of angles they could use that looked good and they’d already used them… over and over again. I so thought about those comments while I was trying to think of how to handle the situation.
Andy Probert did a fabulous job designing that wonderful ship, and the many views and angles he drew of her for production were just too cool and were remarkably rendered. Sometimes, though, art vs. the practical world has conflicts -- and it was interesting to hear firsthand what some of the technical problems were with filming the D miniature. I knew that whatever I was going to do I wanted it to be camera-friendly. Being a huge fan of the original Matt Jefferies Enterprise, along with Andy's refit and Bill George's Excelsior, I wanted to use these concepts as the roots. The first concepts had a mix of oval and round saucers, but nothing was looking right.
One element that was going to make this Enterprise different from the previous ships was that it was designed to fight the Borg. That meant that it had to be more of a battleship than an exploration vessel. So, with that, more sketches came along. I remembered that in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the E got hit pretty hard with a long phaser blast across the neck of the ship. I thought that if Khan had kept firing for just a second longer the saucer would’ve been blown clean off from the rest of the ship. That started the idea of a thick neck that tapered into the saucer, effectively eliminating that danger zone on the new E. I finally rendered a few sketches I liked, and one in particular was a profile that started the path to what the final ship would soon look like. It was a profile drawing in blue pencil with a rough sweep of the ship with short nacelles.
Herman liked this look -- and so did Rick Berman. From there, a variety of new sketches came to be, but the balance of the ship seemed off with too heavy of a front end. So, somewhere along the way, I threw in a version with long nacelles. This did the trick and the sketch felt really well-proportioned, as the ship took on a very sleek look. The overall shape was there, with the oval saucer facing forward as opposed to sideways. The struts were going through a forward-sweep phase and this went until Fritz Zimmerman (Herman's son) made a comment that it looked like a Thanksgiving turkey in the pan...
Fritz was so right, and from that day on, the rest of the designs had reverse-facing struts. Christmas and New Year's break came and the ship was almost done. During the first week or so back, Herman and I delivered a black and white drawing of the ship in view form and it got the green light for a color pass. The next day, we presented a finished drawing that got the seal of approval and the E-E was off and flying....
What a fantastic project to be a part of, and the greatest part was the collaboration that took place throughout the entire design process. Input from Herman Zimmerman, Mike Okuda, Rick Sternbach, John Goodson, Bill George and, of course, Fritz made the Enterprise-E what she is. Hard to believe that was 20 years ago... Sheesh!
Well, with all of that said, we come to the finale of this piece – and, yes, that means the latest in the Red Dress Series. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Mrs. Brittany Hollinshead. Brittany is Mrs. Ivins 2015 and she had never modeled before. This was her first shoot and she did a fantastic job. Effortlessly, she took on the Trek theme with great class and style. Above and beyond her title and newly found modeling talents, she stands up for something special. Brittany became ill and after years of suffering and misdiagnoses, she learned that her symptoms of increased heart rate upon standing, dizziness and fatigue were caused by Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome or POTS for short.
As a team, with my wife, Tara, and our daughter Alyna, who was also diagnosed with POTS a year ago, they have set out to make the public aware of this debilitating syndrome that affects 1 out of 100 people, mostly adolescent girls. It is a very life-hindering illness and our Red Dress photo shoot was meant to help bring this syndrome to light so others do not suffer misdiagnosed needlessly. Despite its effects, Brittany pushes through with strength and courage and shines a light for those that also are suffering from this usually misdiagnosed illness. So, thank you Brittany for sharing your talents and thanks to everyone that had a part of working on First Contact.
John Eaves is veteran artist and illustrator who has lent his talents to too many films and television shows to count. Actually, he's at 60-plus and counting. Over the years, he's made a tremendous mark on Star Trek, as he's worked on The Final Frontier, all four TNG films, DS9 and Enterprise, Star Trek: The Exhibition, Star Trek Online, Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness.
Check out John Eaves' website, Atomic Johnny's Pin-Ups.