The Drex Files #4

By Doug Drexler - April 14, 2011

Here is the latest and fourth D-TV, a time machine if you will, a window looking back to our old-school Star Trek roots... the roots which begat new-school Galactica. Working on Trek those 17 years was some of the best fun I've had. Picture it: A starship right downstairs... calls from Gary Hutzel at Image G to come down and see the D lit up and on the stick, or building a space station out of junk... all as if your life depended on it.

Old school, new school... in show business it pays to be both. At this very moment, a couple of old-school guys and a team of CG madmen are pushing that upper right hand corner of the TV VFX envelope. Some of you know we're working with Gary Hutzel on the upcoming Blood and Chrome, the decidedly new-school spinoff of Battlestar Galactica. B&C, except for the actors, has been built in V-World. The leash is off, and if you think BSG was big before... well, let's just say that we've shifted into huge. Gary and I are old-school guys who are having a new-school blast, and the roots to our metamorphosis are firmly embedded in the firmament of old-school Star Trek.

We are in tough economic times. Even the motion picture industry is feeling the pinch. Today, shows with sprawling sets, like BSG and TNG, are a hard sell. The studio doesn't want to invest millions of dollars in sets for a show that may or may not hit. If you know that you are going to go seven years, then you can amortize the cost over the run of the series. That kind of guarantee rarely happens. Ultimately, you get less science fiction happening on television. The fantastic thing is that television science fiction is being saved by a creation that in itself is the very stuff of science fiction: computer-generated environments. It is now cost effective to build virtual sound stages; in fact it's even desirable. No upkeep or storage, infinitely malleable, and no limits.

First up is some lost handycam footage shot at Image G. It was Gary's task to uncrate the Reliant\Saratoga and see if it still worked, since the last time the Teamsters tossed it on the back of a truck and bounced it along bumpy roads to the storage facility up north. Naturally, it doesn't. In a classic example of roll with the punches, Gary invents another class of ship. Whenever I see old footage like this, I kick myself for not shooting more.

You know that crack about having a starship right downstairs? Second up is a classic illustration of that. Mike Okuda knocked on my door, "... They've lit the Voyager sets one last time before they strike 'em! Grab the cam, and meet me on the bridge!" It's funny the quiet reverence you experience when saying goodbye to a make believe spaceship. The show over seven years becomes a family, and the starship sets are where that family lives. Sure, it's the family you see on the screen every week, but even more so the collection of quirky, talented and lovely human beings behind the scenes that you fall in love with, too. Enjoy!

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A lifelong Star Trek fan, Doug Drexler first made a mark on the franchise as a makeup artist, spending three years with TNG. He later joined the Trek art department, assuming the job of lead scenic artist on DS9, before handling visual effects on Voyager and serving as senior illustrator on Enterprise. Drex, as everyone calls him, has also written Star Trek books, made cameo appearances on TNG and Enterprise, and has even had a Trek character named after him: on DS9, the Klingon son of Martok and Sirella was named... Drex. Post-Star Trek, Drexler has worked on several iterations of Battlestar Galactica, including the upcoming Blood and Chrome.

 

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